Schools, colleges and universities will be allowed to hold in-person graduation and commencement ceremonies for their students across New York state starting next month, though coronavirus-related rules depend on the size and location of each event, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced late Monday.
Effective May 1, both indoor and outdoor graduations are OK, to varying degrees. Certain requirements apply across the board: attendees must wear face masks, socially distance, accept health screenings and provide event organizers with their personal information in the event contact tracing is needed.
People who attend events that exceed social gathering limits (100 people indoors, 200 people outdoors), must present proof of a completed vaccination series or recent negative COVID test, which aligns with earlier guidance for such events. Event organizers must also notify the local health department in advance.
Here are some of the varying rules based on event size and location:
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- Large-scale ceremonies of over 500 people at outdoor venues will be limited to 20 percent of capacity, applicable to venues with a total capacity of 2,500 or more
- Medium-scale ceremonies of 201-500 people at outdoor venues will be limited to 33 percent of capacity
- Small-scale ceremonies of up to 200 people or 2 attendees per student at outdoor venues will be limited to 50 percent of capacity. Proof of recent negative test result or proof of completed immunization is optional
- Large-scale ceremonies of over 150 people at indoor venues will be limited to 10 percent of capacity, applicable to venues with a total capacity of 1,500 or more
- Medium-scale ceremonies of 101-150 people at indoor venues will be limited to 33 percent of capacity
- Small-scale ceremonies of up to 100 people or 2 attendees per student at indoor venues will be limited to 50 percent of capacity. Proof of recent negative test result or proof of completed immunization is optional
Earlier Monday, the governor announced a new state program to provide vaccine allocation directly to SUNY and private universities. The goal is to get as many students vaccinated as possible before they leave campus for the summer.
The subject of vaccinations -- specifically, whether students should be required to be fully vaccinated before they return to campus in the fall -- has been a key point of debate for U.S. colleges and universities across the country.
Universities including Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and Northeastern recently told students they must get vaccinated before returning to campus next fall. They hope to achieve herd immunity on campus, which they say would allow them to loosen spacing restrictions in classrooms and dorms.
But some colleges are leaving the decision to students, and others believe they can't legally require vaccinations. At Virginia Tech, officials determined that they can’t because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only allowed the emergency use of the vaccines and hasn't given them its full approval.