THIS STORY WAS UPDATED AT 6:30PM, OCTOBER 17, 2020
By Barrett Seaman—
Despite the slow but worrisome climb in COVID infection rates around the state, Governor Cuomo has now given the green light for movie theaters to re-open, starting October 23rd.
Not all of them; those in New York City and a dozen upstate counties, including Rockland and Orange, may not re-open yet. And for those that do, they are limited to 25% of capacity and no more than 50 people at a time, even if they can hold 200 or more. “This is outside of New York City in areas that have infection rates below two percent on a 14-day average and have no cluster zones,” proclaimed the governor.
State guidance on the reopening of theaters includes the following conditions:
- Masks will be required at all times except when seated and eating or drinking.
- Assigned seating will be required in all theaters.
- Social distancing between parties will be required at all times.
- Additional staffing will be required to control occupancy, traffic and seating to ensure compliance.
- Enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards must be met by theaters.
Cuomo defended this soupcon of normalcy by citing the state’s overall positivity rate of 1.1%, despite the continuing problem of “Red Zone” flare-ups, and the continued expansion of testing (4,305 were reported just yesterday). Westchester reported 110 active cases yesterday; the four rivertowns had 46 cases collectively.
Later on Saturday, Gov. Cuomo articulated a new strategy for dealing with outbreaks, which he and state health experts believe are inevitable heading into the colder months. Calling it his “micro-cluster strategy,” he described a policy whereby more stringent restrictions will be applied to specific hotspots, instead of the wide scale lockdowns used in the early days of the pandemic.
“We now have more sophistication because we’ve been at it for seven months,” he said. “So rather than looking at COVID-19 data on the state level, regional level, county level or even neighborhood level, we are now going to analyze it on the block by block level. The micro-cluster strategy is not just to calibrate the state or the region, but to calibrate just those specific geographic areas. Target it and target your strategy down to that level of activity. It requires more testing, more targeted testing, and then you have to be responsive to the situations in that specific locality with mitigation measures. It has the advantage of causing less disruption.”