Movie theaters in the state outside of New York City will be allowed to reopen with limited capacity beginning next Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
Theaters will only be allowed to operate with 25% capacity or no more than 50 people per auditorium, Cuomo said during a coronavirus briefing in New York City, where he criticized the federal government’s response to the pandemic and unveiled a new strategy to contain the virus’ spread.
Only theaters in counties with an infection rate below 2% over a 14-day period and do not have any cluster zones will be allowed to reopen.
Masks would be mandatory except when eating or drinking.
Theaters will also have to hire additional staff to control occupancy and ensure all safety protocols, including social distancing, are being followed. Enhanced air filters will also have to be installed before theaters can reopen.
There will also be assigned seating to ensure adequate space between parties.
Movie theaters across New York have been closed since March, when the state shut down in order to contain the spread of the virus. They’ve remained closed ever since, even as theaters in neighboring states like New Jersey and Connecticut have been allowed to reopen.
Cuomo, however, remained hesitant to reopen movie theaters in the past, citing concerns about an increase in transmission.
The pandemic and ensuing shutdown have hit the movie industry hard.
Several expected blockbusters had release dates pushed back until next year, and small theaters across the country have been forced to shutter their doors permanently due to a lack of revenue.
Large theater chains, too, have felt the pinch. Regal Cinemas announced it would shutter 526 locations throughout the country earlier this month, citing the loss of major markets like those in New York.
It’s unclear if the theater chain has any plans to reverse course now that theaters in New York will be allowed to reopen.
Regal operates a movie theater in Aviation Mall in Queensbury.
Meanwhile, Cuomo said the state will be taking a new approach to contain the spread of the virus.
Rather than a regional or statewide approach like those utilized in the early stages of the outbreak, the state will be implementing a “micro-cluster” strategy as the winter months approach.
The new strategy is similar to the one currently in place for 20 COVID hot spots, located mostly in New York City and parts of the Hudson Valley, where the virus has been surging in recent weeks.
Using detailed data, the state will identify COVID clusters and implement a series of mitigation efforts in parts of the state where cases are on the rise.
The new approach will allow officials to take the needed action to contain the virus where cases are rising without impacting areas where the infection rate remains low.
“We actually have data that is so specific we can’t show it because it will violate privacy laws,” Cuomo said.
The governor also criticized the federal government’s response to the pandemic and accused President Donald Trump of dividing the nation, which he said led to the virus spreading.
“The division aids and abets the virus, and it comes down to the mask. How this became a political symbol, in this nation, I have no idea,” Cuomo said.
- Warren County reported no new cases, for a total of 380 confirmed cases. Two people have recovered, but three people are still mildly ill. The county reported no new hospitalizations.
- Washington County reported no new cases, for a total of 313 confirmed cases. Twelve people in the county are still sick.
- Saratoga and Essex counties do not report publicly on the weekends. Saratoga County reported a total of 1,186 confirmed cases since the outbreak began on Friday.
- Essex County reported a total of 231 confirmed cases as of Friday.
On Friday, the most recent day the following data is available:
- The Capital Region reported 42 new cases, for a positive test rate of 0.6%. Albany and Columbia counties had an infection rate above 1%.
- Statewide, a total of 156,972 tests were conducted, the most in a single day since testing began in March. The infection rate was 1.11%. The state’s hot spots had an infection rate of 4.34%.
- There were 929 people hospitalized on Friday and nine people died.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.
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