Cuomo: Most COVID Capacity Restrictions in New York State to Be Lifted on May 19

Though the majority of restrictions will be lifted or greatly eased, social distancing orders will remain in effect.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that many of the COVID capacity restrictions that have been in place throughout the pandemic will be effectively lifted on May 19.

So you say you want to go to the races this summer, maybe catch a concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) and top it off with a big backyard barbecue with all of your closest friends and family members? According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, it sounds like you’ll have a really good chance of hitting that social trifecta.

In a press conference on May 3, Governor Cuomo announced that the majority of the capacity restrictions put in place on businesses and at outdoor/indoor venues back in March of 2020 will be either fully lifted or greatly eased as early as May 19.

Per the governor’s office, as of the 19th, the majority of capacity limits on businesses will be removed in New York, as well as in neighboring New Jersey. Once those capacity limits are lifted, though, businesses will still have to provide patrons enough space to maintain six feet of social distancing. This list includes all retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services businesses. It will also apply to churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship.

Additionally, starting on May 10 in New York, the outdoor social gathering limit will be increased from 200 to 500 people. Nine days later, on the big day for businesses, the indoor social gathering limit will increase from 100 to 250 people. Also, the outdoor residential gathering limit of 25 people will be removed and be, thenceforth, included as part of the social gathering limit of 500 people with space for appropriate social distancing. The indoor residential gathering limit will also increase from 10 to 50 people. For event gatherings that exceed the 500-person limit, everyone present must provide proof of full vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Speaking of which, venues that host sports competitions, performing arts and live entertainment, and catered receptions will be allowed to increase their social gathering limits beyond 500 people outdoors or 250 people indoors if all their attendees, over the age of four, can present either proof of full vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test result. Obviously, the social distancing rules will still apply here as well. Additionally, starting on May 19, large-scale indoor event venues can begin operating at 30 percent capacity, while large-scale outdoor event venues will be able to operate at 33 percent capacity (the assumption here is that the former refers to venues like SPAC, while the latter refers to venues such as Saratoga Race Course, though neither Live Nation vis-a-vis SPAC, nor the New York Racing Association has released a formal information on capacity restrictions for summer events). In both cases, social distancing and masks are required at all time, with attendees needing to provide proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test result.

“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,” said Cuomo. “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. 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. If we let up now, we could slide backwards and that is something nobody wants.”

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.


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