New Jersey

NYC, NJ Ease Restaurant & Bar Rules as Core Viral Metrics Fall to 6-Month Lows

In New York, 47.7% of the population has had at least one vaccine dose and 37.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to state data

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What to Know

  • Starting Friday, restaurants, bars and personal care businesses in New York City join the rest of the state in welcoming back patrons up to 75% capacity
  • Bar seating returns in New Jersey the same day, while capacity increases for outdoor carnivals and fairs; indoor dining stays at 50% in the Garden State
  • But that'll change soon -- the tri-state area is 12 days away from lifting nearly all business capacity restrictions as the region charges forward in its recovery effort

Restaurants, bars and personal care businesses in the city finally join the rest of New York in welcoming back patrons up to 75% capacity Friday. It's the same day the five boroughs' recorded their lowest rolling positivity rate in half a year and a day after the state reported its lowest single-day COVID death toll (23) since Nov. 10.

At this point, the capacity bump is truly a phased means to an end, with the entire tri-state area planning to lift nearly all remaining capacity limits in less than two weeks as part of a coordinated reopening effort by the governors of the three states.

New Jersey won't budge its indoor dining capacity limit, which remains at 50%, but that'll evaporate completely by May 19 anyway. Gov. Phil Murphy had planned a series of reopening measures for this coming Monday but moved the date up to this Friday.

Effective immediately, people can sit at bars again in New Jersey (Gov. Andrew Cuomo permitted New York City to do the same earlier this week), while capacity at events like proms and weddings and other indoor gatherings like funerals, memorial services and political events increases to 50% or a maximum of 250 people.

Restaurants and bars in the five boroughs are moving to 75% capacity Friday and personal care businesses doing the same. In New Jersey, bar seating opens up again. NBC New York's Jen Maxfield reports.

People can also gather in groups up to 500 people outside. For outdoor venues with 1,000 or more fixed seats, capacity increases to 50% as long as social distancing is maintained. Outdoor carnivals and fairs are included, Murphy said.

Social distancing will be required in New York and New Jersey once the tri-state pulls its major reopening lever on May 19, but the governors of both states have said they are open to changing that rule if the CDC adjusts its guidance on the matter. Indoor masking, however, will remain the norm for some time to come.

The tri-state governors say improvements in core viral rates along with increased vaccinations have fueled their reopening strategies.

In Connecticut, which became the first U.S. state to fully vaccinate half its residents, average new daily cases are down 33% over the last 14 days, while hospitalizations and deaths are down 30% and 4%, respectively. Gov. Ned Lamont had set May 19 as the date for Connecticut to lift all remaining business restrictions prior to Cuomo's announcement earlier this week.

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

New York's declines have been steeper, with 46%, 28% and 7% declines in new daily case, hospitalization and death averages despite an increase in testing (19%), according to New York Times data. New Jersey's daily hospitalization and death averages have fallen as well, by 29% and 15%, respectively. New daily case averages have dropped dramatically -- by 60% -- but are accompanied by 17% fewer tests.

Vaccination rates have ebbed across the tri-state area and the nation in recent weeks, prompting states and cities, even counties, to launch creative means of expediting the process.

About two dozen New Jersey breweries are giving a free drink to people who show proof of vaccination in May, while the Yankees and Mets will offer free tickets to upcoming games to fans who get vaccinated at one of their stadiums while at a game.

New York City, state and New Jersey have all opened their government-run vaccination sites to walk-ins of any eligible age and more pharmacy providers, from CVS to Rite Aid, are doing the same -- a powerful last push to encourage vaccinations among the less motivated.

To date, New York state has fully vaccinated 37.5% of its total population (47% of its population age 18 and up), while nearly half (47.7%) of residents have received at least one shot. Among those age 18 and older, more than 59% have had at least one dose.

Roughly 57% of New York City residents age 18 and older can say the same, while 43.5% of that group (and 34.7% of the city's entire population) is fully vaccinated.

Even as it looks to boost its own vaccination rates, the city is pitching a novel concept -- free vaccines for tourists via mobile van at popular attractions -- to expedite the process. The idea is simple: The more vaccinated people in the city, the better. And if they're here to funnel cash into the pandemic-starved economy, that's a win, too.

In New Jersey, more than 3.4 million (about 39%) of residents are fully vaccinated, putting Murphy roughly 74% of the way to his goal of fully inoculating at least 4.7 million Garden State adults by June 30. People age 18-29 have accounted for just 10% of total doses administered, while those age 16-17 are just 1% of the total.

Vaccine eligibility could soon open up to those younger than 16, with the FDA expected to authorize Pfizer's vaccine for use in kids between the ages of 12 and 15 as early as next week. The company applied for full FDA approval of its vaccine Friday. Pfizer is also the only vaccine approved for those 16 and 17 years old.

Nationally, the latter accounts for just 0.7% of the fully inoculated U.S. population, while those age 18-29 represent 10.4% of U.S. adults who have completed their series.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have requested the FDA expands the emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents aged 12 to 15.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of administering at least one vaccine dose to 70% of U.S. adults by July 4. Right now, the country is around 57% on that metric.

Nearly 42% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated to date, though the ratio is higher among those 65 and older, 70.2% of whom can say the same.

Copyright NBC New York
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