NY eases state COVID restrictions, while cases surge in WNY
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing more fans to go inside museums, movie theaters and big indoor sports arenas, as the latest data suggests the state's massive vaccination campaign is curbing COVID-19 infection levels.
The state recorded 43,000 new cases in the week that ended Saturday. That's the lowest number in a seven-day period since Thanksgiving.
"The numbers are stable and going down, so we can start to open up more economic activity," Cuomo said Monday.
Hospitalizations are also slowly dropping. Hospitals in New York reported 3,754 patients with COVID-19 as of Saturday, down 14% from two weeks prior.
New York has recorded among the nation's highest levels of infections and hospitalizations in recent months, as cases surged across upstate in the winter and then throughout New York City and its surrounding suburbs in the early spring.
The state has expanded vaccine eligibility in recent weeks and opened up mass vaccination sites with help from the federal government. It's now ranked the 13th highest in the country for its percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated: 28.7%, or 5.5 million of roughly 19 million residents.
Museums and zoos in New York can open up their doors to 50% of their normal capacity starting Monday, while movie theaters will expand to one-third of normal capacity. On May 19, large indoor arenas with more than 10,000 seats can increase their capacity to 25%, up from the current 10% limit.
As state restrictions ease. cases and hospitalizations are now surging in Western New York. Hospitals in the region reported 346 patients as of Saturday, up from as low as 137 in mid-March. That's more patients than any time in spring 2020, but fewer than a winter peak of 548 on Dec. 10.
Public health experts have worried that New York has eased COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining and gatherings too quickly this spring, as the state sees signs of potentially more contagious variants spreading. State health officials haven't offered any reason for the uptick in Western New York, though Cuomo said they're investigating it.
He put the blame on human behavior.
"We don't believe there's anything that accounts for that than the variant in human behavior and the precautions people take," Cuomo said.
His administration is not considering reimposing additional restrictions in Western New York.