NEW YORK — Play ball, New York, but roll up your sleeves first.
For the next month, New Yorkers can get a free ticket to a Mets or Yankees baseball game after getting a one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine at either stadium, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the Mets’ Citi Field in Queens have served as state-run mass vaccination sites for many weeks.
The Yankees will offer ticket vouchers to the first 1,000 fans who get vaccinated against COVID-19 on each full day of vaccination operations and to the first 700 fans on each half-day of vaccination operations from May 7, or Friday, through June 6.
Ticket vouchers to Mets games will be given to the first 250 people who get a COVID vaccine at Citi Field the day of each scheduled home game from May 24 through June 17.
“Thanks to the generosity of the Yankees and the Mets, if you get a vaccine they will give you a free ticket to the game, and next time you go to the game and you’re vaccinated, you can enjoy the game sitting next to your friends, sitting next to your family, which to me, is a big part of the enjoyment,” Cuomo said Wednesday during a coronavirus briefing in Manhattan. “The crowd energizes. The crowd brings rhythm, the crowd brings the dynamic to the stadium. So much of sports they talk about momentum — they build it.”
Ticket vouchers can be redeemed for two seats to select 2021 or 2022 regular Yankees or Mets regular season home games, subject to availability.
Fans may also get vaccinated at a game. The Yankees and Mets will offer the program in partnership with the state Health Department.
The free ticket vouchers are an incentive to encourage New Yorkers to get the coronavirus vaccine.
“If you’re vaccinated, that will determine where you sit,” Cuomo said. “It’s an added advantage.”
About 58% of eligible New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine to date, but vaccination rates are slowing. The state is prioritizing vaccinating New Yorkers ages 16 to 25 and those skeptical of its safety.
The state and nation cannot reach herd immunity against a disease until between 70% and 75% of its residents are vaccinated. Some have started to question if, at under 60%, herd immunity is attainable against COVID-19.
“I’m not willing to give up,” Cuomo said. “I think we have to get more creative. Today is creative. It’s an incentive — you get a free ticket. We’re going to have more incentives for people to get a vaccine. I think we can still appeal to more [people]. I think we have to do better.”
Fans will be seated in vaccinated or non-vaccinated designated sections in the stadium depending on vaccination status.
People who are fully vaccinated against COVID may be seated together at full capacity and do not have to be seated 6 feet apart, but must wear face masks.
Unvaccinated fans will be in a section with socially distanced seating in compliance with the state and federal 6-foot recommendation.
Children under age 16, who are ineligible to receive a COVID vaccine, can sit with their vaccinated family.
Fans must provide proof of full immunization status via paper or digital form of the state’s Excelsior Pass. Negative coronavirus tests are not required for entry for any fans.
Cuomo said the decision to separate vaccinated and unvaccinated people is based on the legality of public health rules.
“It’s not segregation,” he said Wednesday. “We have social-distancing rules, we have requirements now in restaurants, etc. ...They are based on public health parameters, federal and state. From a public health matter... This is the necessary public health parameters.”
U.S. Centers For Disease Control & Prevention recommends all people over age 2 wear face masks or cloth coverings to reduce the community transmission of COVID-19, except people who are completely vaccinated in outdoor spaces.
The agency recommends everyone remain at least 6 feet apart, unless with a group of people vaccinated against the virus.
The state also released updated guidelines for large outdoor events Wednesday. Large outdoor event venues will only limit patron capacity to maintain required social distancing space of 6 feet starting May 19. The rule applies to outdoor sporting events, performing arts and live entertainment, horse and auto-racing venues and others.
The state’s mask mandate remains in effect for public spaces.
Cuomo also announced Broadway performances will resume in September at 100% theater capacity as the state’s coronavirus rate declines and vaccination rates climb.
Tickets will go on sale Thursday for dozens of shows. Tickets are already live for December and January performances.
The state will begin relaxing social-distancing requirements at large indoor event venues with assigned, seated sections for vaccinated people June 19.
The state’s overall coronavirus infection rate decreased to 1.49% Wednesday — the lowest since Oct. 28. New York’s positivity rate is 1.71% over a seven-day average, according to the governor’s office.
Positivity is highest in Western New York at 3.12%, compared to 2.84% in the Finger Lakes, 2.09% in the North Country and the Capital Region at 1.49%.
New York City, the original epicenter of the virus, had an infection rate of 1.61% Wednesday.
Statewide hospitalizations declined 115 patients Wednesday to 2,458 people down from 8,991 virus patients on Jan. 21.
Thirty-one New Yorkers died from COVID complications Tuesday — the state’s lowest number of daily virus fatalities in 2021.