What to KnowMayor Bill de Blasio says he’s planning for NYC to reopen at “full strength” come July 1, though it’s not yet clear what that might look like in terms of continued COVID protocol such as masks indoorsImprovement in core health metrics and increased vaccinations are fueling more reopenings at the state and national levels, too; NY hospitalizations are down 31 since April 1 aloneOfficials keep trying to simplify the vaccination process to encourage people to get shots; all state-run mass vaccine sites now accept walk-ins for anyone 16+ while all city-run sites did that a week ago
New York City is aiming for a full reopening on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, suggesting a total removal of COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place for well more than a year by early summer.
That 100% reopening means full capacity for restaurants and bars, stores, shops and small businesses, hair salons and barbershops, gyms and fitness classes, arenas, stadiums, music halls, museums and theaters, de Blasio said.
“Our plan is to fully reopen New York City on July 1. We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theaters, full strength. We have poured over the science and the data,” the mayor added. “This is going to be the summer of New York City. You’re going to see amazing activities, cultural activities coming back. I think people are going to flock to New York City because they want to live again.”
It’s not clear if additional COVID requirements — like proof of vaccinations — will apply or whether the reopening could be expected in stages. Broadway hasn’t been expected to return until September at the earliest, while smaller theaters could reopen over the summer. Schools will be back to “full strength” come September.
The mayor has said indoor masking will remain the norm for some time — a statement he reiterated Thursday as it relates to the full reopening.
This is going to be the summer of New York City. You’re going to see amazing activities, cultural activities coming back. I think people are going to flock to New York City because they want to live again.MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO”I want people to be smart about, you know, basic – the rules we’ve learned, you know, use the masks indoors when it makes sense, wash your hands, all the basics,” de Blasio said. “But what we can say with assurance now is we’re giving COVID no room to run anymore in New York City. We now have the confidence that we can pull all these pieces together and get life back really in many ways to where it was, where people can enjoy an amazing summer.”
The July 1 start would mean events that typically draw huge crowds — like the city’s annual Pride and Puerto Rican Day parades — would have already passed.
De Blasio has taken a necessarily cautious approach — at times voicing disagreement with state reopening decisions — to bringing back the one-time epicenter of the pandemic.
But increases in vaccinations have helped fuel declines in core viral metrics, especially around hospitalizations and deaths, in recent weeks. The mayor acknowledged the city still has work to do but says he’s confident in the timeline.
“Help us out by going out and getting vaccinated if you haven’t already, and it’s free and it’s all over the city and now we’re doing walkups at sites all over the city,” de Blasio said. “We’ve got some work to do but I’m quite confident we’ll be ready for full strength by July 1.”
New daily case, hospitalization and death averages are down in the city — by 38%, 43% and 37.5%, respectively — over the last seven days compared with the daily average for the prior 28 days, health department data shows. And the number of New Yorkers getting vaccinated continues to rise even as the rate slows a bit.
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De Blasio is expected to hit the halfway mark to his goal of fully vaccinating 5 million New York City residents by the end of June on Thursday, the same day New Yorkers of any eligible age will be accommodated on a walk-in basis at all state-run mass sites.
The walk-ins at state-run sites are for first doses only, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Most of the state-run mass vaccine sites administer the Pfizer vaccine, which can be given to anyone age 16+. The second dose of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be scheduled automatically after the first shot is administered, according to the governor.
Previously, the state walk-in option only applied to those age 60 and older and was limited to 16 sites. Cuomo expanded it this week as he seeks to keep vaccinations on pace with his reopening plans, which have accelerated considerably in recent weeks.
City-run vaccination sites will now offer vaccines to New Yorkers 50 years and older without an appointment. NBC New York’s Adam Harding reports.
De Blasio opened all city-run sites to walk-ins of any eligible age last week as he seeks to hit his goal of fully vaccinating 5 million New York City residents by June’s end. He should hit that goal Thursday. As of the state’s latest data, 2.48 million New York City residents, 29.5% of the population, are fully vaccinated. Statewide, nearly a third of New Yorkers report a completed immunization series.
Both Cuomo and de Blasio have called on community health centers and private providers to open up walk-in appointments as well. The mayor wants pharmacies to do the same. He says making the process easier will help persuade skeptics.
“We may have, all of us, mistaken hesitancy for lack of convenience. There is definitely hesitancy too,” de Blasio said. “There’s definitely some people just don’t want to get the shot right now or maybe ever, but I think as we’ve made it more and more convenient, sort of incentivized folks more, we’re seeing lots of folks coming forward.”
The walk-in expansion comes as infection rates are decreasing in most of the state. New York has averaged about 4,000 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past seven days, less than half the daily number of cases it averaged to start the month. State hospitalizations are down 31.3% since April 1 alone, while the daily death average is down 25% over the previous 14-day period, New York Times data shows.
Improved health metrics and increased vaccinations have prompted the governors of New York and New Jersey to announce steps to relax restrictions practically every week, sometimes more than once, as of late. They’ve led to changes nationally, too, with the CDC easing outdoor mask guidance for fully vaccinated people.
A day ago, Cuomo said his longstanding statewide food and beverage service curfew will end next month for both indoor and outdoor dining areas, while bar seating can return to New York City starting Monday for the first time in more than a year.
The announcement comes amid a series of recently announced capacity limit expansions for offices, large-scale outdoor events, concerts and non-NYC gyms and fitness centers by the governor of New York.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made some reopening news across the river this week, too, announcing indoor capacity limits for weddings, proms, performances and more rises to 50% on May 10. Outdoor carnivals can return at 50% capacity the same day, while outdoor gathering limits will increase to 500, Murphy said.
Asked Wednesday, as he revealed new state guidance for day and sleepaway camps this summer, for a response to Cuomo’s latest move on bars, given the proximity between New Jersey and the city, Murphy said to expect developments next week.
In NJ, indoor caps for weddings, proms, performances and more rises to 50% (250 people max) on May 10; outdoor carnivals can return at 50% capacity the same day while outdoor gathering limits rise to 500. NBC New York’s Ray Villeda reports.
“It is now quite clear this thing has turned — and turned for the better,” he added.
He is scheduled to get his second vaccine dose along with his wife on Friday, which will make them both fully vaccinated. They’ll join nearly a third of New Jerseyans who can say the same.
Nationally, 37.8% of U.S. adults age 18 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. That number is even higher among adults age 65 and older, 68.3% of whom have completed their shot series. More than half of U.S. adults have had at least one shot.