NY, NJ and Connecticut will let many businesses fully reopen in mid-May and NYC’s subway will resume 24-hour service

Visitors at Times Square in Manhattan on Thursday. Photo by Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
[nytimes.com – May 4, 2021] New York and its neighbors, New Jersey and Connecticut, will welcome back crowds on May 19, state officials said Monday, a major step for a region that was once a center of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurants, offices, retail stores, theaters, museums, barber shops, amusement parks and gyms and fitness centers will all be allowed to operate at full capacity for the first time since restrictions were adopted last year to prevent the spread of the virus.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced the easing of pandemic restrictions on Monday as part of broader efforts to increase economic activities, including lifting curfews for food and beverage service. New York City will also return to 24-hour subway service on May 17.

“Today is a milestone for New York State and a significant moment of transition,” Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said during a news conference in his Manhattan office.

Mr. Cuomo, in announcing the sweeping changes to pandemic restrictions, seemed to be trying to accelerate New York’s recovery and once again upstage his political rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Last week, the mayor had set a goal of July 1 for fully reopening the city.

Businesses in New York will still have to abide by federal social distancing guidelines, which require a minimum of six feet of space between individuals.

So the size of crowds will still be limited by space constraints, but businesses won’t need to abide by the six-foot rule if they require that all individuals present proof of full vaccination or a negative coronavirus test result, Mr. Cuomo said. Restaurants can also get around the six-foot rule by erecting barriers between tables.

For people who have received the vaccine, Mr. Cuomo said, “life should be returning to normal. You’re vaccinated. And it’s an incentive to be vaccinated.”

According to a New York Times database, the average number of new cases a day over the last two weeks has dropped by 44 percent or more in all three states, as of Monday. More than a third of each state’s population has been fully vaccinated, as of Monday.

But experts warn that in New York City, the slowing pace of vaccinations, the prevalence of under-vaccinated areas and the spread of worrisome variants mean that the pandemic is far from over.