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Niagara County residents are anticipating the return of the Lewiston Art Festival in August - but the Lewiston Council on the Arts is still awaiting further guidance from New York state. (File photo)
Niagara County residents are anticipating the return of the Lewiston Art Festival in August - but the Lewiston Council on the Arts is still awaiting further guidance from New York state. (File photo)

Cuomo: Decision on festivals coming soon

Thu, Apr 22nd 2021 07:00 am

Will large-scale outdoor festivals and concerts be back this summer – and if so, what will the safety requirements look like?

Toward the end of a press event Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked when coronavirus guidelines for such outdoor events will be made public. He commented briefly, before handing the question off to his staff.

“Let me just say outdoors is safer than indoors. That is true,” Cuomo said. “You have people now talking about, ‘Well, why do we even need to wear a mask outdoors?’ As I said before, let's not get cocky with COVID. If we do what we have to do, we do the vaccines, we’re safe. As we get into the summer, I think you're going to see more progress. But the big if – I F – we've been there, done that. It's only if we do these things. So let's stay sharp; let’s stay committed.”

New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica said, “We've been revising the guidance periodically. The most recent revisions actually went into effect this week, and the guidance for outside has been increasing. We just did revisions for large arenas that were actually indoors; we expect to now follow that over the next week with revisions to the guidance for outdoor events.

“And we are increasing the numbers outdoors but, as you point out, this is largely tied to the number of people that are getting vaccinated, and the infection rates and the testing in those areas. But we are increasing the amounts on the outdoor events. But as you point out, governor, just because it's outdoors, there are other restrictions in place and there are still people gathering, and there’s still the possibilities of infection. So, it really relates to the number of people that are being vaccinated.

“But at the pace that we are vaccinating – if we continue along that pace – then those numbers can get revised. If there's a drop-off, which I think is what we're seeing, then it will take longer.”

Cuomo said restrictions ease as better behavior is seen – and he doesn’t see that right now in Western New York.

Highest New Infection Rate in Western New York

The governor again singled out this region for having the highest percentage of new coronavirus cases in all of New York.

Though the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped to 2.14% – the lowest level since Nov. 5 – Western New York registered a 4.47% on Tuesday.

“(You) have a variance among regions in the state where some regions are three times the positivity rate of other regions – four times the positivity rate of other regions. Why?” Cuomo asked. “One state – everybody hears the same message; everybody has the same resources; everybody gets the same proportionate share of vaccine.

“It comes down to that community's behavior. ‘Well, you're … pointing fingers.’ I'm not pointing fingers. As complicated as this is, is as simple as it is: It's a virus. If you don't take precautions, you spread the virus. If you get the flu and you go home to your household, and you don't take precautions, you're gonna make the whole family sick. That's COVID. If you don't take precautions, you're gonna make the whole family sick. If you don't take the vaccines, you will get sick, when someone who's infected contacts you.”

He added, “I don't believe that government is going to fundamentally change human behavior. I think the better path at this point is facts about the vaccine, facts about the safety of the vaccine, and access to the vaccine – make it easier, make it easier, make it easier; make people feel more comfortable.”

He added, “I think, when they see that variance of positivity, you have to ask yourself, ‘Why? Why is it higher here than it is 50 miles away?’ ”

What Is Allowed

Cuomo has recently permitted:

√ Indoor family entertainment centers and places of amusement to open with a 25% capacity limit.

√ Outdoor amusement parks to open at 33%.

√ Performing arts and entertainment venues to reopen at 33%. Venues can host up to 100 people indoors or up to 200 people outdoors. If all attendees present proof of completed vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test result prior to entry, capacity can increase up to 150 people indoors or up to 500 people outdoors.

√ Residential gatherings of up to 25 people outdoors. Indoor residential gatherings remain capped at 10 people to reduce the continued risk of spread. Also, nonresidential social gatherings of up to 100 people can occur indoors and up to 200 people can occur outdoors.

√ Collegiate sports with fans back to the stands. Intercollegiate sports at large-scale venues that hold more than 1,500 attendees indoors or 2,500 attendees outdoors can host up to 10% indoor or 20% outdoor capacity. Small-scale college venues that host intercollegiate, intramural or club sports can host spectators at either two fans per player, or the social gathering limit of 100 attendees indoors or 200 attendees outdoors. However, if the school or venue require all attendees to present proof of a recent negative test result or completed immunization prior to entry, capacity can increase up to 150 attendees indoors or 500 attendees outdoors. Maximum occupancy limit of 50% remains in effect, pursuant to the state guidance for sports and recreational activities.

√ The New York Yankees and the New York Mets to start their seasons with fans in the stands at 20% capacity.

√ Horse and auto race venues to have spectators at 20 percent, beginning Thursday, April 22.

√ Movie theater capacity to increase to 33% starting April 26. Also on that day, low-risk, indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment – including museums, aquariums, zoos and botanical gardens – can increase to 50% capacity.

√ Beginning May 19, spectator capacity will increase to 25% at large-scale arenas, and event venues, including professional and collegiate sports, and major performances.

Of course, for all of these public events and activities, social distancing, face coverings, health screenings and other health protocols remain in place and are required by all attendees. That’ in addition to strict adherence to all applicable Department of Health guidance, which is available here.

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