New York Gov. Cuomo says Barclays Center, other large arenas in the state, can reopen starting Feb. 23

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters during a news conference at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination site in William Reid Apartments in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S., January 23, 2021.

Altaffer | Reuters

Large stadiums and arenas in New York can reopen beginning Feb. 23 with limited capacity if preapproved by the state’s department of health, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

Stadiums that seat 10,000 or more people will be limited to 10% capacity and everyone entering the buildings must present a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of the event, he said. Face coverings, social distancing and temperature checks upon arrival also will be required, Cuomo said.

The first major event that state health officials have already approved will take place at New York City’s Barclays Center, where the Brooklyn Nets will play against the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 23, Cuomo said.

“Any large stadium or arena — hockey, basketball, football, soccer, baseball, music shows, performances — any large arena can open on Feb. 23,” Cuomo said at a press briefing.

Source: The State of New York

This will be the first time since mid-March, when the coronavirus first ripped through New York state and overloaded its hospital system, that stadiums will be allowed to reopen to fans across the state. Cuomo said on Monday that reopening the state’s economy, including theaters and large venues, through Covid-19 testing is “something where New York wants to lead the way,” 

Much of the state’s plan to reopen arenas is based on a pilot program it conducted in January, where nearly 7,000 football fans were allowed to attend the Buffalo Bills’ home playoff game as long as they presented a negative Covid-19 test. Cuomo called the program “an unparalleled success.”

“This hits the balance of safe reopening,” Cuomo said.

The Democratic governor has gradually started to lift more restrictions on businesses in recent weeks as the state rolls out more doses of Covid-19 vaccines and its positivity rate, or the percent of all tests returning positive, continues to decline from a post-holiday surge.

New York’s positivity rate was 4.3% as of Tuesday, below the 5% threshold experts have previously suggested for reopening. That’s down from a near 8% rate New York reported on Jan. 4 following the December holidays.

Beginning on Friday, New York City restaurants will be allowed to reopen their indoor dining sections at limited capacity for the first time since mid-December. Cuomo said the state is aiming to allow weddings capped at 150 people, or at 50% of a venue’s capacity, starting on March 15.

The events will have similar requirements to those imposed on arenas and stadiums, including negative tests among guests and approval from the health department.

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