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It’s been a momentous day for reopening news. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that most restrictions will be lifted throughout New York state on May 19, allowing restaurants, stores, gyms, salons, amusement parks, and offices to reopen at 100 percent capacity for the first time since last March. In anticipation of the “major reopening,” subways will resume 24/7 service beginning on May 17.

The MTA will bring back subways 24/7 from May 17. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

“The tide is turning against COVID-19 in New York, and thanks to our increasing vaccination rates, as well as our successful, data-based regional approach, we’re able to take more steps to reopen our economy, help businesses and workers, and keep moving towards returning to normal,” Cuomo said during a news conference. “Today is a milestone for New York State and a significant moment of transition,” he later added. 

Social distancing and indoor mask-wearing will remain standard, so space constraints will still provide some limitations. However, businesses will be able to get around them by requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results, or by erecting physical barriers. 

For Broadway, Monday’s announcement is welcome news that they can begin bringing their workforce back to prepare shows for the fall. “Today’s remarks by the mayor give us further optimism that Broadway productions can resume this fall, beginning in September, and we look forward to providing more details about reopening in the coming weeks,” the Broadway League said in a statement shared with NBC.

Just like the tri-state area coordinated efforts during the shutdown last year, New York is working with its neighbors in New Jersey and Connecticut for this reopening process, particularly by establishing capacity limits for large-scale indoor and outdoor gatherings. From May 19, indoor event venues will operate at 30 percent capacity (an increase from the current 10 percent limit) and outdoor event venues will operate at 33 percent. Outdoor and indoor social gathering limits will increase to 250 on May 10, and 500 on May 19, while the outdoor residential gathering limit will be entirely lifted and indoors will increase to 50 on May 19. 

Reopening plans will be facilitated by the return of NYC’s round-the-clock subway service on May 17. Service was initially shut down last May between 1am and 5am to allow for disinfection of the train cars, a window of time that was shortened to 2am to 4am in February. Going forward, the MTA will continue deep cleaning efforts during operating hours.

Monday’s announcement comes as new daily cases are down by 41 percent over the past seven days compared to last month, but all New Yorkers should remain vigilant as new variants continue to arrive and vaccination rates have slowed down. 

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