New York will loosen some virus restrictions on gatherings

Patient Susan Maxwell Trumble displays her vaccination card after being inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at South Shore University Hospital on Wednesday in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

NEW YORK — New York will loosen restrictions on private gatherings and clear the way for some public performances that have been banned for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

Arts and entertainment venues will be allowed to open at a third of their capacity and welcome up to 100 people indoors and up to 200 people outdoors starting April 2, an increase that won't be enough to open closed Broadway theaters but could allow some small plays and concerts to resume.

Limits would be slightly higher — 150 people indoors and 500 outdoors — if venues can implement a system in which attendees show proof of a recent, negative COVID-19 test before entering.

The Democrat said the limit for outdoor private gatherings at people's homes will rise from 10 to 25 starting March 22.

Cuomo cited improvements in the daily count of new coronavirus cases since January and the rollout of the vaccine as justification for loosening restrictions.

That improvement has stalled in the past two weeks. About 7,500 people per day are now being infected in the state, up 7% from a week ago and roughly 10 times worse than the daily average in mid-September.

In addition to the phased reopening, Cuomo said New York state is receiving an initial shipment of 164,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Three state-run vaccination sites, including one at Yankee Stadium, will temporarily shift to 24-hour operations in order to schedule appointments for the new vaccine, he said.

“I know there’s a pent-up demand,” Cuomo said. “I believe people will show up in the middle of the night to get the vaccine.”

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