People ride a tandem bike wearing face masks along the Coney Island boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lags on May 4, 2020.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters
New York is pushing ahead with reopening more businesses after seeing a drop in post-vacation Covid-19 cases. However, the governor said the state is “keeping an eye” on problematic variants of the virus that could reverse its progress.
Indoor family entertainment centers such as arcades, trampoline parks and laser tag facilities are allowed to reopen from March 26 at a 25% capacity with additional precautions such as social distancing, wearing masks and frequent cleaning, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.
Outdoor amusement parks can reopen on April 9 with 33% capacity and similar requirements, and parents can plan for the summer camps to return overnight sometime in June, the Democratic governor said on a call with reporters.
“That won’t happen until June,” said Cuomo to the summer camps, “and we hope that the current development remains until June – keep an eye on these interesting variants. But they can plan a reopening.”
The governor has gradually started lifting restrictions on businesses in recent weeks as the state rolls in more doses of Covid vaccines and cases continue to decline due to a post-holiday spike.
According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the state reports a weekly average of 7,949 cases of Covid per day, a decrease of more than 8% from the previous week and the lowest since early December.
Last week, Cuomo said major stadiums and arenas in New York will reopen in late February with the necessary testing ahead of time, a strategy the state “wants to lead the way” with. At the weekend, New York restaurants were allowed to reopen their indoor restaurants with a capacity of 25%.
However, new and highly contagious Covid-19 variants could reverse New York’s progress or hinder its planned reopening. The governor said the state has now identified 82 Covid-19 cases with variant B.1.1.7 first identified in the UK in December, with 12 cases added since Saturday. He said most of these new cases were found in the New York City area.
Federal health officials have repeatedly asked Americans to remain vigilant amid the highly contagious varieties first found in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
So far, the US has identified at least 1,277 Covid-19 cases with variant B.1.1.7 discovered in South Africa, 19 of variant B.1.351 discovered in South Africa and 3 cases of variant P.1 in Brazil according to the latest data from the CDC.
“I think we should assume that the next wave of case growth, as far as we have it, will happen with B.1.1.7 and I think everyone needs to be even more careful.” Andy Slavitt, a senior advisor to White House Covid, told MSNBC on Monday.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that nationwide Covid cases have declined for five consecutive weeks and new hospitalizations have also declined since early January.
However, the spread of communicable variants of coronavirus could “jeopardize the progress we have made over the past month if we lose our vigilance,” Walensky said during a press conference for the Covid Response Team at the White House.