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Cuomo reopens beaches for Memorial Day, but with restrictions


Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s beaches will be open for Memorial Day weekend, along with beaches in New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, but at 50% capacity and with strict rules about social distancing.

Cuomo said the beaches will open on May 22, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Parking areas will be limited to half of usual capacity, and beachgoers will have to adhere to a number of rules.

No group contact activities will be allowed , including volleyball and football,  and picnic areas and playgrounds will be off limits. Masks must be worn by employees, and visitors will have to wear masks when they cannot remain six feet away from others.

Concession stands and pools will also remain closed.

Cuomo said beaches where the social distancing rules are not followed, will be immediately shut down.

Cuomo made the announcement one day after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced his state’s beaches would be open for Memorial Day. Cuomo said he’s been coordinating with the other governors to avoid any conflicts between neighboring states about what is open and what remains closed.

"If other states were opening and New York wasn’t, you would have millions of people from New York flooding those beaches," Cuomo said. "There would be a problem."

The governor spoke on a day when five regions of the state were in phase one of reopening , and could proceed with restarting manufacturing and construction companies. Retail stores were also allowed to reopen but only for curbside or in store pick up.

Cuomo also has decided when some personal care services, like hairstylists and barbers could reopen. He said that would likely come in phase two of a region’s reopening. But he warned of the risks involved in getting a haircut. He cites the example of a barber in the Hudson Valley who opened his shop and cut hair in defiance of the stay at home orders, who has now tested positive for COVID-19 and who helped spread the virus.

"(He) infected I think over a dozen people," Cuomo said. "You can’t really socially distance and do a haircut."

Cuomo also signed an executive order Thursday night that extends the shutdown for regions not yet authorized to reopen until May 28. That now applies to the regions of the state not yet reopening- all of downstate, the Hudson Valley and Capital Region, and Western New York. But if a region does meet the all of benchmarks for reopening before that date, including declining rate of new cases and adequate bed capacity in hospitals, then those regions could begin to reopen earlier.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.