Get Out Your Vaccine Passports, Y’all, New York Is Coming Back!
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that he's lifting most COVID-19-related restrictions in the state effective May 19. Cuomo, who should still resign, also speaks for New Jersey and Connecticut, as the three states have coordinated their pandemic response. Mayor Bill DeBlasio said last week that he wanted New York City fully reopened by July 1, but Cuomo, who actually sets the reopening timeline, jerk-blocked him and declared that in just two weeks executive-ordered limits will cease on how many people can pack themselves into stores, theaters, museums, restaurants, gyms, hair salons, barbershops, offices, and yes, theatrical venues. That's right, baby, Broadway's coming back!
Yes, it'll take some time. They can't open shows in just two weeks, even though I have several scripts polished and ready for Bebe Neuwirth, Donna Murphy, and Audra McDonald. The Broadway League is pleased as punch that capacity limits are lifted, but it says that fall-ish is a more realistic timeline for mounting productions and selling tickets.
"We look forward to reopening at full capacity and are working to safely welcome audiences and employees back to Broadway this fall," the Broadway League said in a statement.
Capacity limits will remain on large-scale indoor and outdoor venues, but they will increase to 30 percent and 33 percent max capacity on May 19. Proof of vaccination and a recent negative COVID-19 test are still required for entry. New York's outdoor social gathering limits will increase to 500 on May 10, and indoor social gathering limits will shoot up to 250 on May 19. You can also host up to 50 people at indoor residential gatherings, presumably if you're one of those New Yorkers who don't feel “rich" but live in a 2,000 square-foot Upper West Side apartment.
Today, @NYGovCuomo, @GovNedLamont, and I announced a significant easing of #COVID19 restrictions on businesses, ven… https://t.co/wInH5Xbttm— Governor Phil Murphy (@Governor Phil Murphy)1620074646.0
Bar seating returned to New York City on Monday, and 24-hour/seven-day-a-week subway service will resume on May 17. However, if you've ever tried to catch the N(ever) or R(arely) trains pre-pandemic, you'll appreciate that around-the-clock transit service was always aspirational.
Cuomo said yesterday:
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.
The one, slight catch is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social distancing guidelines are still in effect. Keeping six feet away from other people is especially difficult in most New York City spaces. I'm not even sure it's possible if you live alone in a Manhattan studio. Restaurants can bypass the six-foot rule if they put up barriers between tables. When I lived in New York pre-Bloomberg, these barriers were usually clouds of smoke, but that's only slightly healthier than contracting COVID-19.
Businesses can ditch the social distancing guidelines all together if they require proof of full vaccination or negative coronavirus test results. Yes, the vaccine passports, much maligned in rightwing circles, is a ticket to normalcy. New York and New Jersey bring in roughly $44 billion annually from tourism. "Vaccine skeptics," or dummies in layman's terms, can freely endanger lives in GOP-run states, such as Florida, which is constantly walking into its own rake, but if they want to fully enjoy what New York and presumably New Jersey have to offer, they might consider getting the vaccine, like adults who live in a society.
Cuomo has attributed New York's declining COVID-19 infection rate to its steadily increasing vaccination rate:
Every single day, New York State is moving forward in the footrace between the infection rate and the vaccination rate.
More New Yorkers are getting vaccinated and hospitalizations are declining, which is good news, but we need New Yorkers to stay vigilant to make sure we don't lose any of the progress we've made.
The governor added yesterday that with the addition of walk-in appointments, getting a vaccine is now easier than ever, so there's no real excuse for not protecting yourself and others (unless you're a Tucker Carlson-viewing asshole, which is inexcusable).
And in other good news, the FDA is set to approve the Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12. Now, let’s go beat this and enjoy some theatre.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."