Massive New York venues can reopen with trials on February 23rd. Barclays for followers that day – NBC New York
What to know
- Governor Andrew Cuomo launched a pilot called the Buffalo Bills to receive fans at two playoff games in January. They had to provide evidence of a negative test and follow certain rules in the stadium
- Cuomo declared these efforts an “unprecedented success,” saying on Wednesday that other major arenas and venues in New York will be able to return to the public with testing and other requirements starting February 23
- The governor has said for months that testing is key to reopening entertainment, offices and more faster, before vaccination reaches critical mass. He says NY can’t be closed that long
Governor Andrew Cuomo declared the New York State demonstration with the Buffalo Bills an “unprecedented success” and announced on Wednesday that he would expand the test-based program to any major stadium or arena later this month.
Fans who test negative PCR within 72 hours of an event can attend music shows and performances, as well as baseball, soccer, football, and basketball games. Arenas can open to the public on February 23rd.
Certain rules and restrictions apply to the launch, Cuomo said. In arenas and stadiums with a total capacity of more than 10,000 people, there is a strict capacity limit of 10 percent. Venues must submit their plans to the State Department of Health for approval. Core efforts such as wearing masks, temperature checks, and mandatory seat assignments to ensure social distancing are also required.
Government inspection efforts for eligible venues are ongoing, which is why the Barclays Center was cleared for reopening on the first day, February 23rd. Brooklyn Stadium will host fans for the Nets game against the Sacramento Kings.
“The success of these and similar events at approved venues in the coming weeks will help inform the reopening process for smaller venues going forward,” said Cuomo.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday he had spoken to the state and the Nets about his hopes of turning Barclays into a mass vaccination site for the city. So it is not clear how Cuomo’s announcement could affect his plans.
In the meantime, the governor would like other venues that may have to reopen sooner rather than later “let us know”.
New Mets majority owner Steve Cohen said Wednesday that he would be the next to bring on board Citi Field, which is currently used as a municipal mass vaccination site. He hopes to have the stadium ready for fans for the home opener of the 2021 season against Miami on April 8, although capacity is expected to be limited.
“I think there will be fans. We’re not sure what percentage of the stadium will be filled, but it will probably be at least 10-15 percent,” said Cohen. “We’re hopeful – people are getting vaccinated and maybe things will loosen up over time.”
MSG said the garden would reopen to fans as well, roughly 2,000 per game, starting with the Knicks on February 23 and the Rangers on February 26.
The Yankees issued a statement welcoming Cuomo’s decision, but the team ignored his plans for when and how many fans could attend the games.
People are starting to enter the Citi field, which opens its doors to the public today as a mass vaccination site, reports Katherine Creag
According to Cuomo, testing is the most critical key to the reopening equation in these early stages.
“I can go to the President of the United States, take a test, and if I pass the test, go to the Oval Office,” said the governor. “Why? If you’re negative, you’re negative. Testing is key.”
He added that the plan he revealed on Wednesday “hits the balance of safe reopening. A PCR test is as safe as possible.”
Cuomo has been saying for months that testing is key to reopening entertainment and sports venues, offices and more before vaccination reaches critical mass. He has said the state and city of New York cannot stay closed until herd immunity is achieved, which is likely many months away.
The governor laid the groundwork for the plan when he started a pilot program with the Buffalo Bills to host two playoff games in January. The fans had to prove a negative test before the game and follow certain rules in the stadium. This will be the model for the safe and smart reopening of New York, whose positivity rates have plummeted in the last month after the holidays.
National hospital stays stood at 7,593 on Wednesday, the lowest level in two days after Christmas.
Monday was the first day people over 75 and key workers – including police officers, firefighters and teachers – were allowed to receive the vaccines in New York. Gaby Acevedo from NBC New York reports.
Could Broadway be next? What about concerts at Madison Square Garden? The dilemma between inside and outside is a real one, Cuomo said, but continues to claim that testing is key to a more immediate revival of the arts, culture and sport that are so fundamental to the vibrancy that New York was before Pandemic. New York City can and will be so alive again, says Cuomo.
To further accelerate the resurgence, Cuomo announced the launch of NY PopsUp, an arts festival with hundreds of free pop-up performances across the state, including New York City. It starts on February 20th and runs through Labor Day.
Daily percentage of positive tests by New York region
Governor Andrew Cuomo is dividing the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracking positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Find the latest tracking data by region and for the five counties. Click here for the latest county-level statewide results
“Cities have taken a real blow during COVID and the economy is not going to return fast enough on its own – we need to bring it back,” Cuomo said in his announcement earlier this week. “Creative synergies are vital to the survival of cities. Our arts and culture industries have been shut down across the country, putting a terrible strain on workers and the economy.”
“We want to be aggressive about reopening the state and getting our economy back on track, and NY PopsUp will be an important bridge in reopening our world-class venues and institutions more fully,” he added. “New York has led the way through this entire pandemic and we will take the lead again by bringing the arts back.”