NEW YORK (TNS) — Nearly all of New York’s Covid-19 capacity limits on businesses will end May 19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
Starting that date, houses of worship, bars and restaurants, museums, retail stores, gyms and fitness centers, amusement parks and family entertainment centers, hair salons, spas, barber shops, offices and more will no longer be subject to any limits on the number of people they can welcome inside, Cuomo said.
The good news comes with a big caveat: Businesses must continue to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet between patrons.
Tables in a restaurant, for example, must continue to be spaced 6 feet apart.
So while the state’s capacity limits are officially ending, the spacing requirement will likely continue limiting the number of people many businesses can have inside.
If a business, event or gathering requires negative COVID tests or vaccination for all customers or guests, the 6-foot social distancing rule does not apply, Cuomo said during a press conference in New York City. So a restaurant or business could choose to test all customers or require vaccines and have people closer together.
Restaurants with appropriate physical barriers in place are also allowed to have tables closer than 6 feet.
New York is coordinating the end of the capacity limits with New Jersey and Connecticut, which will lift their rules at the same time, Cuomo said.
The end of capacity limits is a major step forward for New York, Cuomo said.
“We’re going to make this a moment of opportunity,” he said. “We’re going to build a totally different New York. It’s going to be a New York that never existed before. It can be a moment for a New York renaissance.”
In addition to the end of capacity limits at businesses, Cuomo said the limit on gatherings in private homes will increase to 50 people indoors on May 19, up from 10 currently.
The limit on outdoor gatherings at homes will end completely. Limits on general outdoor social gatherings will now apply to homes as well.
The outdoor social gathering limit increases to 500 people on May 10, up from 200. The indoor social gathering limit rises to 250 people on May 19, up from 100.
Those limits apply to a range of events including weddings and other celebrations, receptions and parties. They also apply to sporting events, live entertainment and the performing arts in smaller venues and theaters.
But the state is also opening the door to gatherings with even more people. Events are allowed to exceed the social gathering limits if testing or vaccines are required, according to Cuomo’s office.
Other industry-specific rules remain in place, including air handling requirements, extra cleaning, health screening and more.
The increases on capacity limits come a few days after Cuomo announced the end of New York’s bar and restaurant curfew. The current mandatory closing time of midnight ends May 17 for outdoor dining areas and May 31 for indoor dining.
Along with the end of the curfew, Cuomo said 24-hour subway service will resume in New York City starting May 17.
Cuomo previously announced the capacity limit on large outdoor stadiums and event venues that can seat 2,500 people and up goes to 33% starting May 19, up from 20% currently. The 33% limit will remain in place, for now, starting that date, Cuomo said.