New York State to Open Large Venues Like Arenas for Vaccinations, and Concerts

In a press conference this morning and stating “We Simply Cannot Stay Closed,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that New York State will open arenas and other large capacity venues to the public with only 10% capacity and assigned seating, on Feb. 23rd, provided they receive a negative (PCR) COVID-19 test within 72 hours before an event. This is meant to open up venus to not only shows and concerts but to continue to grow for use as mass vaccination centers, sports games, and other events. This has been the first ray of light for the concert and touring industry since the pandemic broke out, even though major concert agencies and even the worlds leading infectious disease doctorspredicted shows would comeback in fall 2021 or sooner. Declaring New York state’s demonstration with the Buffalo Bills an “unparalleled success,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday he will extend the testing- based program to any large stadium or arena later this month. Barclays Center, the site of concerts from Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Tool, and others, has been cleared to reopen on that day and has been granted approval to host fans for the Nets game against the Sacramento Kings, Cuomo said, adding, “Anyone else who is interested should let us know.” Watch the video below.

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New Mets’ majority owner Steve Cohen said Wednesday he hoped to include Citi Field in those discussions — and have the stadium, currently being used as a mass vaccination site, ready for fans for the 2021 season home opener against Miami on April 8th.


“I think there’s gonna be fans. We’re not sure exactly what percent of the stadium is gonna be filled, but it’ll be at least 10 to 15 percent, probably,” Cohen said. “We’re hopeful — people get vaccinated and maybe things loosen up over time.”


Certain rules and restrictions apply to start, Cuomo said. There is a strict 10 percent capacity limit in arenas and stadiums with more than 10,000-person total capacity. Venues have to submit their plans to the State Department of Health for approval. Core mitigation efforts like mask-wearing, temperature checks and mandatory assigned seating to ensure social distancing will also be required.


“The testing to me is key. I can go see the president of the United States, take a test and if I pass the test, walk into the Oval Office,” the governor said. “Why? If you’re negative, you’re negative. Testing is the key.”


“This hits the balance of safe reopening,” he added. “A PCR test is as safe as you can get.


Cuomo has said for months that testing is the key to reopening entertainment and sports venues, offices and more before vaccination reaches critical mass. He has said New York state and city can’t stay shut down for as long as it will take to reach herd immunity, which likely remains many months away.


The governor laid the foundation for the plan when he launched a pilot program with the Buffalo Bills to host two playoff games in January; fans had to show proof of a negative test before the game and adhere to certain rules at the stadium. That will be the model for the safe and smart reopening of New York, which has seen its positivity rates decline for the last month post-holiday surge.


Hospitalizations statewide stood at 7,593 as of Wednesday, the lowest total since two days after Christmas.


Could Broadway be next? What about concerts at Madison Square Garden? The indoor vs. outdoor dilemma is a real one, Cuomo has said, but continues to claim that testing is the key to a more immediate revival of the arts, culture and sports that are so foundational to the vibrance that was New York City before the pandemic. New York City can — and will — be that vibrant again, Cuomo says.


To further accelerate the revival, Cuomo announced the launch of NY PopsUp, an arts festival featuring hundreds of free pop-up performances throughout the state, including New York City. It launches Feb. 20 and runs through Labor Day.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here’s the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here


“Cities have taken a real blow during COVID, and the economy will not come back fast enough on its own – we must bring it back,” Cuomo said in his announcement earlier this week. “Creative synergies are vital for cities to survive, and our arts and cultural industries have been shut down all across the country, taking a terrible toll on workers and the economy.”


“We want to be aggressive with reopening the State and getting our economy back on track, and NY PopsUp will be an important bridge to the broader reopening of our world-class performance venues and institutions,” he added. “New York has been a leader throughout this entire pandemic, and we will lead once again with bringing back the arts.”