Museums and aquariums will be allowed to reopen in New York City later this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, as the state reopens additional indoor spaces after maintaining low coronavirus infection rates.
Museums and other indoor entertainment spaces were originally part of New York's Phase 4 of reopening but were stalled in New York City as concerns over national coronavirus spikes prompted a slowdown from state leaders. Now, the governor says, they can reopen on August 24.
The American Museum of Natural History has been preparing to reopen door to visitors in early September. The museum said it hoped to open to the public on Sept. 9, and to members a week earlier on Sept. 2. The museum said it planned to be open five days, from Wednesday to Sunday, instead of the seven it had been before the pandemic force a shut down in mid-March.
According to the state, museums must keep capacity to no more than 25 percent. Visitors need to make advance online reservations for specific times. Staff must enforce the use of face coverings and control the traffic flow of museum-goers.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art also previously announced tentative reopening plans for August 29 if allowed by officials.
In addition to museums, Cuomo said bowling alleys in New York will be allowed to reopen Monday with specific modifications. Alleys must separate bowling parties by a lane and all food and drinks must be ordered and delivered to bowlers at their lanes to minimize movement. Occupancy must be capped at 50 percent and masks are required inside, Cuomo said Friday.
Guidance from state officials on gyms will come Monday, he said.
According to the governor, New York's statewide infection rate has stayed below 1 percent for seven straight days, a "fantastic" achievement, Cuomo said. Still, an average of 74 new COVID-19 patients are entering hospitals each day over the past week, up from 67 in the week ending July 8. And 670 New Yorkers have been testing positive for COVID-19 everyday on average since mid-June, when the number of daily positive tests began to plateau.
New York is continuing to see an average of three new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents — a figure that hasn’t changed since mid-June, according to The Associated Press’s analysis of state COVID-19 data. But New York’s rate of new cases adjusted for population is much lower than most states — Florida, Georgia and California have each seen about 30 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week.
New York allows certain low-risk, outdoors recreation including tennis, canoeing, golf, badminton, shuffleboard, zip lining, batting cages, shooting ranges and swim classes. Gyms and fitness centers can also offer outdoor activities.
But owners of bowling alleys and gym, fitness studios and movie theaters had held a press conference Thursday calling on New York to release health and safety guidance for their industries.
"Since the start of Phase 4, these businesses have been totally left behind, and I am hearing from countless constituents who are at a loss as the state has gone radio silent, refusing to answer questions or provide even a timeline for when they can expect to receive guidelines that would allow them to plan for a safe reopening," state Republican Sen. Sue Serino said in a statement Thursday.
Cuomo also announced he's sending mobile testing sites to rural farms ahead of the fall harvest in light of "several clusters" at farms.
Several farmworkers are calling on lawmakers and Cuomo to pass stronger workplace protections in light of the coronavirus, and the New York Farm Bureau said it asked the state for increased testing in April.
"More accessible testing and additional housing support for incoming guest workers will better protect farm employees who are already working on farms as well as help to prevent the spread of the virus," New York Farm Bureau spokesperson Steve Ammerman said.