Looking ahead to warmer months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said outdoor amusement parks, indoor family entertainment centers, and overnight summer camps in New York will be allowed to reopen. If the state’s coronavirus positivity rate continues to trend downward, indoor entertainment centers can reopen starting March 26 at 25 percent capacity, outdoor amusement parks and rides on April 9 at 33 percent capacity, and eventually, overnight summer camps in June.
All facilities that plan to reopen must submit plans with health protocols to the local health department. Customers will be required to have a health screening and temperature checks and face coverings and social distancing will be mandated. More specific details for sleepaway summer camps will be released by the state’s Department of Health in the coming weeks.
Indoor entertainment centers, which Cuomo has not yet laid out which businesses fall into this category, and amusement parks must disinfect high-touch areas throughout the day, have staff enforce compliance, and sell timed tickets in advance. If attractions cannot ensure distancing or frequent sanitation, they cannot reopen.
“With continued decreases in the infection and hospitalization rates, we have been able to take steps toward beginning our post-COVID recovery and we are excited to now be in a place where we can bring back our recreational industries with safety protocols in place,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As we’ve said time and time again, our success will be dictated by our actions and as long as we stay united and keep carrying this momentum forward in a positive direction, we will be able to see more and more sectors of our economy reopen.”
The announcement is especially good news for outdoor amusement parks, which remained one of the few industries in the state unable to reopen since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Even last August as bowling alleys, gyms, indoor museums, and cultural institutions were permitted to reopen at limited capacity, outdoor rides and attractions remained closed.
Coney Island amusement operators have urged Cuomo to release reopening guidelines since last summer, but until Wednesday, there has been little information from the state, except that amusement parks are a “unique risk” for spreading COVID-19.
Caitlin Girouard, a spokesperson for the governor, told Politico last August: “Places of public amusement remain closed under current State policy as they present a unique risk for transmission of coronavirus due to the high-traffic, high-touch, shared machinery and equipment, and opportunity for congregation.”
Last summer was meant to be a big season for Coney Island, following a $13 million renovation of Luna Park and the 100th-anniversary celebration of Deno’s Wonder Wheel. In January, Council Member Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, wrote a letter to Cuomo that laid out ways to reopen the outdoor park for the 2021 season, which typically begins on Palm Sunday.
“While indoor activities such as casinos, gyms, museums and spa services reopened to the public during the summer, the state refused to lift the ban on outdoor amusements, eliminating any opportunity for the businesses to operate during the peak tourist and visitor months,” Treyger said, as the Brooklyn Eagle reported. “It is reported widely that this past season resulted in an estimate of at least $100 million in revenue loss for the Coney Island amusement district.”
As New York’s COVID-19 data continues to trend in the right direction, Cuomo has announced a number of reopening plans. This month, the subway will resume some overnight service, indoor dining returned, the curfew at restaurants and bars was extended, and large arenas and stadiums will reopen to fans.
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