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Cuomo: Many COVID-19 restrictions to soon end in NY

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference in New York City Monday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that some remaining COVID-19 restrictions in New York will end in a couple of weeks, including capacity limits on most events, and in some cases, the 6-foot social distancing rule.

He also announced that 24-hour subway service will return to New York City.

The easing of restrictions that have been in place for over a year paves the way for a fuller reopening of offices, restaurants and indoor gatherings, including Broadway theaters and other arts venues.

The lifting of capacity restrictions also applies to retail stores, gyms and fitness centers and barbershops and hair salons.

“We are at a point now where we are going to take a major step forward in reopening,” Cuomo said.

The governor said everything can’t be reopened all at once – it’s not like flipping a “light switch,” he said -- and some restrictions will remain for now.

The 6-foot social distancing rule will still be in place, unless everyone at the event or in a workplace is fully vaccinated. That will limit whether some indoor spaces can truly reopen at 100% capacity. And restaurants also still have to follow the 6-foot rule, unless they have erected physical barriers between tables.

For now, large outdoor stadiums will still be restricted to a third of total capacity.

Cuomo said New Jersey and Connecticut also will be lifting their capacity restrictions. 

Limits on outdoor social gatherings will be eased, too -- on May 10, up to 500 people can gather outdoors.

Indoor social events will increase to a maximum of 250 people on May 19. On that date, restrictions on outdoor gatherings at private residences will end, and up to 50 people will be allowed to gather inside a private home.

The announcements come as the state’s positivity rating for infections, at 1.9%, has reached its lowest rate since early November, and there are 38% fewer people in hospitals since the mid-winter surge.

About 9 million New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 7 million -- more than a third of the adult population -- are now fully vaccinated. Thirty-seven people in the state died of COVID-19 on Sunday.

Cuomo said the vaccination rate has slowed, though, and he admitted the state needs to do better to reach out to those who are hesitating.

“Young people have to get vaccinated,” said Cuomo, who added he also wants to address concerns of what he called the “doubtful population.”

Cuomo’s announcement also comes just a few days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would fully reopen by July 1. Cuomo, at the time, said it would be “irresponsible” to make predictions on when there might be a broader easing of restrictions.

The governor said his reversal is not politically motivated -- it’s a decision based on science.