NEW YORK — Professional sports stadiums, venues and large outdoor performing arts spaces that hold more than 2,500 people can reopen statewide at 20% capacity starting next month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
Outdoor sports stadiums and venues will resume games and professional sporting events at limited capacity starting April 1. All attendees must show proof of a recent negative PCR or rapid COVID-19 test or coronavirus vaccination.
Regional sports venues that hold up to 1,500 people indoors or have an outdoor capacity of 2,500 people or more can also reopen at 10% indoor capacity and at 20% outdoors.
“As those numbers keep coming down, which we believe they will, you’ll see those capacity numbers go up,” Gov. Cuomo said during a press conference in his Manhattan office late Thursday morning.
State Coronavirus Task Force officials may increase crowd capacity as the state’s COVID-19 infection rate continues to decline to a seven-day average of 3.28%, down from a peak of 7.94% on Jan. 4 after the holiday surge.
The state Health Department will release detailed guidance the stadiums and large performing-arts spaces must follow to reopen. Health Department officials will re-evaluate testing and vaccination entry requirements in May. They may be discontinued in mid-May if the public health situation continues to improve, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Attendees must wear masks or face coverings, maintain social distancing and comply with state-required health screening.
Reporters were allowed to digitally attend Cuomo’s Thursday COVID-19 briefing — a deviation from his typical Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule — on a Zoom call, but were not permitted to ask him questions.
Only about four reporters each have been allowed to ask the governor questions at a few telephone calls with the press, who Cuomo’s staff hand-picks, regularly excluding dozens of outlets. Executive chamber press aides have grown increasingly less responsive to inquiries over the last several weeks.
Gov. Cuomo has recently skipped several regular coronavirus briefings as the state Assembly Judiciary Committee begin an impeachment probe and state Attorney General Letitia James investigates sexual harassment and misconduct claims against the governor from several former and current Executive Chamber employees. Federal prosecutors and the U.S. Department of Justice continue to investigate Cuomo and his administration’s underreporting of COVID-19 nursing home deaths for several moths and early pandemic restrictions in congregate facilities.
Several representatives from the New York Mets and New York Yankees — the state’s Major League Baseball teams — spoke at Thursday’s briefing to celebrate resuming games with spectators in the stands.
“But I see this in relation to, not as tragic with what transpired in 9/11, but I was also with the Mets when we came back, we were the first team in New York to play the infamous Mike Piazza home run, how scared we were and nervous,” said former New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter, who also works as the team’s baseball operations adviser. “...And there’s no doubt about it, when you play in front of a big crowd and they’re cheering you or booing you, man there’s nothing like it, and there’s no better place than New York. ...Play ball, man. It’s opening day, no better place than New York and New York sports fans.”
Yankee Stadium can hold 10,850 fans at 20% capacity, with Citi Field permitted to host 8,384 fans to start at events.
Vaccinations will continue to be administered at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field throughout the season. The Yankees’ home opener is April 1.
“So we’re going to play ball and we’re going to play ball with a crowd which I tell you is just so good for the psyche,” Cuomo said. “Getting out of the house, getting out of the apartment, getting out of this entrapment that we’ve been in and going to a game and getting outside and seeing a new season start and just hope springs eternal.”
Thursday’s changes follows several announcements the governor loosening COVID-19 restrictions over the last two weeks, including lifting the 10-day mandatory quarantine on domestic flights April 1.
The statewide 11 p.m. curfew will be lifted April 5 for casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, billiard halls, gyms and fitness centers, Cuomo said Wednesday.
The state’s 11 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants and 12 a.m. curfew for catered events remain in effect.
“We’re evaluating both now and we will have an announcement on them in April,” Cuomo said Wednesday.
More than 7.1 million New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, or about 24% of the state population. About 12.4% of New Yorkers have completed the immunization, according to the governor’s office.
COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline to 4,582 New Yorkers, down 88 people, and a consecutive flattening from a peak of 8,991 people Jan. 21.
The state reported 57 New York residents died Wednesday from coronavirus complications, bringing the total confirmed fatalities to 39,748 people.
“...But it’s coming to an end,” Cuomo said. “Spring is upon us. Seasons change. Times change. Spring is upon us and spring is a new season and it is a new attitude and that’s where we are and we have to start thinking spring.”
The state’s final five COVID-19 yellow precautionary zones, which had additional pandemic restrictions, will be lifted March 22. The last remaining clusters are in the East Bronx, West Bronx, Manhattan, Newburgh, New Windsor, Queens, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills in New York City and the surrounding area.
The Capital Region’s COVID-19 rate is 1.85%, up from 1.75% Monday.
Coronavirus infection rates also increased slightly in the north country at 1.53% from 1.39% Monday, and 1.72% in the Finger Lakes compared to 1.66% at the beginning of the week.
Western New York is about flat at 1.92% from 1.88% Monday, according to the governor’s office.
To see if you are eligible to receive a COVID vaccine or to schedule an appointment, visit ny.gov/vaccine or call 1-833-NYS-4-VAX.