What to Know
- A plateau of new coronavirus cases has kept New York among the highest caseloads in the country, and concerns about upcoming reopenings are growing louder, especially with the spread of a new COVID-19 strain new New York City.
- Increased indoor dining capacity, indoor fitness classes resuming, weddings and lifting cluster zone restrictions are some of the economic recovery steps Gov. Andrew Cuomo has allowed the state to take in recent weeks. With another round of restrictions set to disappear in April, local leaders and health officials are calling on the governor to hold off.
- To date, New York City has administered 3,537,937 vaccine doses. Vaccination is extremely important to, not only curtail the spread of coronavirus and avoid deaths, but also to bring a sense of normalcy back to everyday life, including bringing back the vibrancy of the theater industry back to New York City.
A plateau of new coronavirus cases has kept New York among the highest caseloads in the country, and concerns about upcoming reopenings are growing louder, especially with the spread of a new COVID-19 strain new New York City.
Increased indoor dining capacity, indoor fitness classes resuming, weddings and lifting cluster zone restrictions are some of the economic recovery steps Gov. Andrew Cuomo has allowed the state to take in recent weeks. With another round of restrictions set to disappear in April, local leaders and health officials are calling on the governor to hold off.
"Right now, New York is in a race between vaccines and variants. It's neck and neck. And rushing to reopen, getting ahead of ourselves, will only help the virus get ahead of us in that race," NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said in a statement on Wednesday. "In this moment, when the majority of new cases of COVID-19 in New York City come from highly contagious variants and only 14% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, we need to continue to scale up vaccination while scaling back these reopenings."
To date, New York City has administered 3,537,937 vaccine doses.
Vaccination is extremely important to not only curtail the spread of coronavirus and avoid deaths, but also to bring a sense of normalcy back to everyday life, including bringing back the vibrancy of the theater industry back to New York City, hopefully by September, according to the city.
With this in mind, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that in the coming weeks there will be a dedicated COVID-19 vaccination site on Broadway for the theater industry, which will be staffed by workers from the theater industry. There will also be a mobile unit for off-Broadway.
“It’s time to raise the curtain and bring Broadway back,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a virtual press conference Thursday. “The work we have to do now to get the theater community ready to make sure that this extraordinarily wonderful and important industry is good to go for the fall, we’ve got to do that now.”
Additionally, there will be pop-up COVID testing sites organized by theaters.
However, these measures are not the only ones the city is taking. De Blasio announced that the city is developing plans to manage crowds before and after shows.
"[Theaters] need guidance now so they can come back in the fall, and lead the comeback of New York City," de Blasio said.
Anne Del Castillo, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), said that although certain venues can begin opening up April 1, these plans will provide a much needed guidance as the time nears for their reopenings.
In a statement, the Broadway League said they are "pleased" to be working alongside state and city officials "to raise Broadway curtains once again."
“We are pleased that the City and the State are working with us to help get people back to work and to raise Broadway curtains once again," the statement reads. "Vaccination and testing sites for theatre workers are a great step towards recovery and bringing Broadway back. Our community has suffered catastrophic losses, and the sooner we can return to share our stories in a safe and secure way, the better our city will be.”
The theater industry employs roughly 100,000 people in the city, and generates around $15 billion in a typical year. People inside the industry are excited to get a chance at potentially returning to work some time soon.
"It has been very, very difficult if you imagine an entire industry being at or near 100 percent unemployment for a year," said Kate Shindle, President of the the Actors Equity Association.
Tony Award-winner Actor André De Shields joined de Blasio at the briefing and said, “New York is on its way back, but it will not completely arrive until not only Broadway but all theater across this great city has returned.”
He added, “We’re ready. We’ve stayed in shape. Our voices are strong. All we need is a stage, and from what you’ve shared with us just now you’re going to take care of that.”
The city's plans won't change the state's rules around vaccine eligibility, which currently allows residents 50 and older to sign up for shots, as well as those in certain job categories or with certain underlying health conditions. The mayor said he's looking for more complete guidance from the state regarding testing and vaccination protocols to get the shows back on stage.
Theater performances is not the only thing that the city wants to bring back. The city previously announced that the Open Streets Program will be made permanent after a successful launch last year. However, on Thursday, the mayor announced the city would be accepting applications to join the program. Those interested can apply at nyc.gov/openstreets.
These latest announcements comes at a time when, just over the last seven days New York City has averaged 62 new cases per 100,000 people, according to New York Times data. If the city was a state, it'd be the highest rate in the nation - and as it is, it's still among the highest in the country.
One of the biggest reopenings yet is on track for April 1 when outdoor sports stadiums and concert venues across New York will be allowed to reopen at 20 percent capacity. While Cuomo said that attendees will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination before they're allowed to enter, opponents say the state can wait just a little longer.
Citing the third round of lockdown in parts of Europe over the spread of COVID variants, New York University epidemiologist Dr. Céline Gounder echoed Williams' call.
"We need just a few more weeks to vaccinate the most vulnerable: the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions," Gounder said, adding that the U.S. is about four weeks behind Europe in terms of a resurgence in cases.
On the same day that fans can return to venues, New York will also lift restrictions for domestic travelers. They will no longer be required to quarantine after entering New York from another U.S. state or territory. International travelers will still be required to quarantine. On April 5, Cuomo said curfews for casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, billiards halls, and gyms and fitness centers can end.
Mayor de Blasio has previously expressed his anger at Cuomo for not consulting such big reopening steps with local governments first and he didn't mince words again this week.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
"We have some of the best health leaders in all of America right here in New York City, and they've been consistently clear about the fact that there are some things that can be done safely and other things that can't be at this point, especially while we still have the real questions about the variance," de Blasio told reporters Wednesday.
He brought up his health advisors' concerns over indoor fitness classes how they can contribute to further spread of the virus, but also said that there's not much that can be done because the state has the control. Senior health advisor Dr. Jay Varma and the city's Health Department Commissioner Dave Chokshi both hammered home the point that the public has to take regular precautions and be mindful of the risks.
"We've talked about some of the things that contribute to risk and how we can lessen it. Outdoors is better than indoors, situations where you're able to wear a mask consistently and properly are better than those where you are not, and smaller groups are better than larger groups," Chokshi said.
Across the river, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has similar concerns about reopening too much and too soon. With the state ranking first in the country in new virus cases per 100,000 residents, the governor announced this week that he's slowing down the steps to recovery. The Garden State's latest move was joining New York in increasing restaurants' indoor capacity to 50% last Friday.
"My guess is, we won't be opening up further capacity for some time now because of the caseload," Murphy said, adding that he thinks things should improve as the weather gets warmer and more people in the state get vaccinated.
New Jersey will expand its vaccine eligibility once again on March 29 to essential workers in food production/distribution, elder care and support, warehousing and logistics, social services staff, elections personnel, hospitality, medical supplies, postal/shipping services, clergy and the judicial system.
On Wednesday, Rutgers University, the state's largest university, announced that it will require all students attending classes in the fall to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
"In support of Rutgers’ commitment to health and safety for all members of its community, the University will be updating its Immunization Requirements for Students to include the COVID-19 vaccine. This health policy update means that, with limited exceptions, all students planning to attend in the Fall 2021 semester must be fully vaccinated. In parallel, we continue to strongly urge all Rutgers faculty and staff to get immunized against COVID-19 at the earliest opportunity," Jonathan Holloway, President and University Professor, said in a letter to the Rutgers community.
Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here
New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers
Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC
As of Thursday, nearly 3.8 million doses of the vaccine has been given out in the state and more than 1.3 million people are fully vaccinated. In New York, more than 2.9 million people are completely vaccinated. That's about 14.6% of the population, which is still a long way to go from herd immunity.
The Empire State is one step closer to allowing all 15 million New Yorkers over the age of 16 to get a shot after people 50+ were added to the list this week. However, Gov. Cuomo said he hasn't opened up eligibility for all yet because he doesn't want to make projections and promises based on supply estimates.
Connecticut is one of a few states that are moving ahead with vaccinating all adults. With the state lifting all capacity restrictions for most businesses last week, Gov. Ned Lamont said on Thursday he will open up vaccine eligibility for residents 16 and older on April 1, four days sooner than previously announced.
Lamont said an increasing supply of vaccines into the state, particularly Johnson & Johnson, will allow for around 200,000 doses to be distributed next week. The state is also having conversations with some health care systems about possible prioritization within the April 1 eligibility group for residents with specific medical conditions, according to the governor. Lamont said details would be released on Monday.
More and more states are also announcing reopening measures, despite warnings from health officials who noted the rise in COVID-19 in places like Europe where the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant is rapidly spreading.
While vaccines are expected to work against the new variants, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged all Americans to remain "vigilant" because the U.S. is far from reaching herd immunity.
"We are at a critical point in this pandemic," Walensky said during a White House news briefing. "I'm worried that if we don't take the right actions now we will have another avoidable surge just as we are seeing in Europe right now."
New numbers show that 44.8% of Americans ages 65 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.