Times Square.
Unsplash/Luca Bravo

If a restaurant mandates that customers be fully vaccinated or show a negative test, then it doesn’t need to use social distancing. 

New York to Lift Capacity Restrictions on May 19

Masks will still be enforced. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that most restrictions across the state will end May 19, including capacity limits on restaurants. 

The move is being made in conjunction with New Jersey and Connecticut, which are also removing capacity limits. Indoor dining in New York City has been limited to 50 percent since March, and will switch to 75 percent starting Friday, bringing it up to date with the rest of New York. Cuomo also recently announced that seating at bars will be allowed in New York City starting May 3 and that the midnight curfew will be removed for outdoor dining on May 19 and removed for indoor dining on May 31. 

The mask mandate is still in place, and restaurants must still enforce social distancing by keeping customers 6 feet apart or by using barriers between tables. However, if a restaurant mandates that customers be fully vaccinated or show a negative test, then it doesn’t need to use social distancing. 

Another good piece of news for restaurants is that the subway system, which has shut down from 2 a.m. to 4.am. each night for disinfection, will return to 24/7 service on May 17. 

“The tide is turning against COVID-19 in New York, and thanks to our increasing vaccination rates, as well as our successful, data-based regional approach, we’re able to take more steps to reopen our economy, help businesses and workers, and keep moving towards returning to normal,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers and our partners in government, we are now able to increase capacity limits for businesses, event venues and residences to reflect what we’re seeing in the COVID data.”

The move comes as COVID rates and vaccinations float in the right direction. Cuomo reported a statewide rolling positivity rate of 1.79 percent, which is the lowest since November 5 and a 50 percent decrease compared to last month. Hospitalizations have fallen to 2,539, or a 44 percent decrease since April 1. The seven-day hospitalization average is 2,839, a number that New York hasn’t seen since Thanksgiving. At the same time, more than seven million New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated—35.2 percent of the statewide population and 32.3 percent of New York City. 

“Maintaining this progress is critical and in order to keep moving in a positive direction, New Yorkers must continue to take all the proper precautions,” Cuomo said. “If we let up now, we could slide backwards and that is something nobody wants. So, let’s be safe and for anyone who has yet to be vaccinated, please do so as soon as you can. With the addition of walk-in appointments, we’ve made it as easy as every to get your shot, so there are truly no excuses.”

A growing number of states have revealed plans to lift COVID restrictions in the coming weeks and months. California, arguably the most restrictive state in the country, said it will reopen its economy June 15 if there's enough vaccine for anyone 16 years and older, and if hospitalization rates are stable and low.