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Governor Cuomo removes capacity limits, except 6-foot social distancing

Going, but not gone

Photo courtesy Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference Monday.

Capacity restrictions on most New York businesses will end on May 19 — though 6 feet of social distancing will still be in effect.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced capacity restrictions on businesses — including restaurants, offices, beauty salons, gyms — will be lifted in New York. Effective May 19, most business capacities–which are currently based upon percentage of maximum occupancy–will be removed in New York and New Jersey. Businesses will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet.

“In New York, we’re going to keep the 6-foot CDC requirements because we do err on the side of safety,” Cuomo said during Monday’s news conference. “CDC keeps the 6-foot social distancing requirement. That is still in effect, so our capacity restrictions are subject to the six feet, right? So this room has a capacity restriction and the capacity restriction applies. Up to the point where you can afford 6-foot social distancing. If the CDC changes their guidance, then we’ll change our guidance. “

The distance-based maximum capacity will apply across commercial settings, including retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services, among other settings. It will also apply in houses of worship.

Beginning May 10, the outdoor social gathering limit will increase from 200 to 500 people. Beginning May 19, the indoor social gathering limit will increase from 100 to 250 people. Also, the outdoor residential gathering limit of 25 people will be removed, reverting to the social gathering limit of 500 people with space for appropriate social distancing, and the indoor residential gathering limit will increase from 10 to 50 people.

Photo by Nikk Holland Joe Taylor is pictured Monday afternoon at the Cherry Lounge in Jamestown enjoying a beverage after finishing his lunch. Gov. Cuomo announced Monday that starting May 19, capacity restrictions on restaurants, offices, beauty salons and gyms will be lifted.

Existing capacity rules for sports and entertainment events at large indoor and outdoor venues , such as baseball games and Broadway shows, will also ease in the coming weeks. Congregate commercial and social events in New York–such as those at venues that host sports competitions, performing arts and live entertainment, and catered receptions–can exceed the social gathering limits of 500 people outdoors or 250 people indoors if all attendees over the age of four present either proof of full vaccination status or recent negative COVID-19 test result and the required social distancing can be accommodated.

Starting May 19, large-scale indoor event venues will operate at 30 percent capacity, which is an increase from the current 10 percent capacity limit. Large-scale outdoor event venues will operate at 33 percent. Social distancing, masks, and other applicable health protocols will still apply, including the requirement of attendee proof of full vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test result.

“We started this with the playoff games in Buffalo,” Cuomo said. “If you are vaccinated, you are in a different situation. If you have a recent PCR test, then you are in a different situation. I prefer vaccinated. We’re also starting to talk to other countries about if a person is vaccinated in New York and a person is vaccinated in another country, then those people life should be returning to normal. You’re vaccinated. It’s an incentive to be vaccinated.”

Monday’s change comes after last week’s repeal of three of Cuomo’s executive orders by the state Legislature, including the much-panned order requiring food to be served if someone purchased alcohol. State Sen. George Borrello has been an outspoken advocate for removing restrictions on businesses, and said Monday that Cuomo’s announcement is just another sign the legislature needs to remove Cuomo’s executive authority.

“We will see what this latest alteration entails but ultimately, New York lags behind nearly every other state in the economic recovery,” Borrello said. “So to continue to have to hang on the governor’s erratic and unscientific alterations to the restrictions only serves to further confuse everyone. We have needed a clean repeal of the governor’s executive authority and the restoration of transparency and accountability in state government. Instead, sadly, we are seeing the same disfunction continue in Albany.”

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