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NY COVID-19 Rules Ease Wednesday

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo holds a briefing July 1, 2020.

Many COVID-19 pandemic restrictions will end on Wednesday in New York, including capacity restrictions for some sporting events, indoor gatherings, and offices. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who set the date for the reopening earlier this month, is not yet ready to abide by new CDC guidelines that say fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in most settings.

On May 19, stores, restaurants, gyms and offices will no longer have capacity limits, but will still need to enforce 6 feet of social distancing for everyone in an indoor space. Larger indoor events will still be capped at a maximum of 250 people.

Fully vaccinated people will be able to sit together at outdoor events, like baseball games, but there will still be 6-foot social distancing limits for unvaccinated people.

Large outdoor stadiums will continue to be restricted to just one-third of total capacity; other public outdoor events will be capped at 500 people.  

The rules will also be eased for gatherings inside private homes; up to 50 people can be together indoors and there will be no more restrictions on how many people you can invite to an outdoor gathering at your home.

When he announced the partial reopening, Cuomo said he wanted to do proceed with some caution.

“The key is smart reopening. Reopening is not a light switch. We said this from the beginning, it's not fully closed. Close the light switch, fully open the light switch,” Cuomo said. "It's a smart reopening. It's a measured reopening.”

Since that announcement over two weeks ago, the state’s infection rate has continued to decline, with Thursday’s rate at 1.01%, the lowest since October 10. There are 1,767 New Yorkers in the hospital, and 25 died from the disease. Vaccinations are increasing, with 40%, or 8 million state residents fully vaccinated though the vaccination rate has slowed in recent weeks.   

The CDC has also eased mask restrictions for fully vaccinated people — fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in most situations, including outdoors, in most indoor settings and they no longer have to socially distance.

But Cuomo, in a statement issued after the CDC announced the changes, said he wants to consult with his health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, and talk to neighboring states before adopting the federal guidelines.

Connecticut and Pennsylvania promptly lifted their outdoor mask mandates. New Jersey and Massachusetts, like New York, are waiting a little longer.  

The CDC says vaccinated Americans will still have to follow the rules in their states, and follow regulations established by businesses or their workplaces.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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