No More Social Distancing? CT to Ditch All COVID Rules But One as NY Eyes More Crowds

New York state is easing COVID restrictions as its virus numbers ebb, while Connecticut is poised to lift all remaining rules but its indoor mask mandate in less than a month

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What to Know

  • New York has seen improvement in its core COVID metrics, specifically around hospitalizations; statewide hospitalizations total just shy of 3,800, a 16% drop from two weeks ago
  • The improvement gives Gov. Andrew Cuomo more confidence in proceeding with a safe reopening; museums and zoos in New York can boost capacity to 50% Monday; movie theaters go to 33%
  • On May 19, large indoor arenas can increase their capacity to 25%, a boon ahead of the NBA playoffs. On that same day, Connecticut will lift all remaining restrictions except for its indoor mask mandate

Connecticut is poised to ditch all COVID mandates except for its indoor mask requirement in the coming weeks, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to allow more people inside New York museums, movie theaters and indoor sports arenas.

Both states have seen their viral numbers slough off following the latest surge, with the governors pointing to recent data that suggests their vaccination campaigns are helping curb COVID-19 infection levels.

New York recorded an average of 5,927 new daily cases over the last seven-day period, a drop of 21 percent over the average two weeks earlier. That's the lowest number for any seven-day stretch since Thanksgiving.

Hospitalizations are also slowly dropping. Statewide hospitalizations as of Tuesday stood at 3,873, the lowest total since early December November and a 14% drop from two weeks prior.

"The numbers are stable and going down so we can start to open up more economic activity,” Cuomo said as he announced his next reopening steps.

Starting on Monday, April 26, museums and zoos in New York can open up their doors to 50% of their normal capacity, while movie theaters will expand to one-third of normal capacity. On May 19, large indoor arenas with more than 10,000 seats can increase their capacity to 25%, up from the current 10% limit.

That same day, Connecticut will move to lift all remaining COVID-19 business restrictions except for its indoor mask mandate. Social distancing will be left up to business owners as far as whether or not to make it a rule. The state's health department will issue recommendations for the safe operation of indoor and large outdoor events, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

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Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC

New York had recorded among the nation's highest levels of infections and hospitalizations in recent months and still ranks in the top third for most infections per capita.

The state has made significant progress in vaccinations in recent weeks, but the majority of New Yorkers are still not protected. About 5.5 million of its roughly 19 million residents are fully vaccinated. That's about 28.4% of the state population.

Some public health experts have worried that New York has been easing COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining and gatherings too quickly. There are still hotspots for the virus. Hospitals in western New York reported 346 coronavirus patients as of Saturday, up from as low as 137 in mid-March.

State health officials haven't offered any reason for the uptick in western New York, though Cuomo put the blame on human behavior.

“We don’t believe there’s anything that accounts for that than the variant in human behavior and the precautions people take,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said his administration is not considering imposing restrictions again in western New York.

“But we do have to get it under control,” he added.

And the state's chief judge ordered all judges and court staff to physically return to work in their assigned courthouses by May 24, a change that may help deal with a backlog of postponed trials.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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