‘Light at end of the tunnel’: New York mayor envisions full reopening by July 1

A person sits in Times Square after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidelines regarding outdoor mask wearing and vaccination during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., April 27, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Peter Szekely and Maria Caspani

New York City aims to “fully reopen” on July 1 after more than a year of closures and capacity restrictions, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday, citing satisfactory progress in its vaccination campaign.

“We are ready to bring New York City back fully on July 1,” de Blasio told a news briefing. “Now we can see that light at the end of the tunnel.”

De Blasio said he had not discussed the city’s reopening date with Governor Andrew Cuomo but his announcement comes a day after Cuomo lifted restrictions that would clear the way for a revival of the city’s nightlife. The state has the power to impose or lift restrictions on restaurants and other venues.

“I think the best way to proceed here is to set out the city’s vision,” de Blasio said.

Even though the July 1 date is still aspirational, the mayor’s announcement is significant in that New York is the country’s most populous city and was the early epicenter of the pandemic as the virus began sweeping across the United States last spring.

The mayor said his optimism on the city’s imminent return to normal reflected the success of a massive drive to get New Yorkers vaccinated. He said 6.4 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the city of more than 8 million residents.

While the mayor acknowledged the city needed to make more progress on vaccinations, he said more than 70% of New Yorkers have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

“People are showing up,” he said. “We need to keep the momentum going,” he added. “This is exactly how we get to the full reopening we’re all looking forward to.”

Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have trended lower in New York City since the beginning of the year. On a seven-day rolling average, the city reported over 7,000 new cases a day at the outbreak’s peak in January. By March new infections ebbed to 4,000 a day and now average about 2,000 a day.

De Blasio did not provide clear guidelines on whether those attending shows, dining indoors or frequenting gyms and salons would have to adhere to any specific requirements, such as presenting proof of vaccination.

“There certainly will be particular institutions that may choose to have rules around a vaccination or testing,” de Blasio told reporters, adding that the city will keep monitoring COVID-19 data and adjust its approach accordingly.

Currently, the New York Yankees and Mets require those attending baseball games to take a rapid COVID-19 test or show proof of vaccination before gaining admission to their ballparks in keeping with New York state guidelines. Attendance is limited to 20% of capacity.

New York City theaters have started to reopen this month for special events in front of limited indoor audiences. Some producers have targeted June 1 for their reopening dates, though many Broadway shows are not expected to pull back the curtains until September.

On Wednesday, Cuomo set a date for the end of a curfew that had forced city restaurants to end their bar and food service by midnight.

The curfew would end on May 17 for outdoor dining areas and on May 31 for indoors, he said. The governor also allowed seating at bars across the state to reopen for the first time on May 3.

In addition, Cuomo said capacity limits would increase starting May 15 for several businesses outside of New York City, including gyms and casinos. Offices across the state, including in the city, will be able to increase capacity from 50% to 75%, the governor said.


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