Most COVID capacity restrictions, some mask mandates lifted across NY, NJ, CT

More than a year after coronavirus shutdowns across the Tri-State Region, most COVID-related capacity restrictions were lifted Wednesday. Indoor mask mandates were eased up in New York and Connecticut. 

Vaccinated New Yorkers can shed their masks in most situations, and restaurants, stores, gyms, salons, and many other businesses can go back to full capacity if they check vaccination cards or apps for proof that all patrons have been inoculated.

But this new guidance really means a new batch of confusion.

At Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop in Harlem, anyone who comes inside must still wear a mask, despite changing guidance in New York.

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"We are not going to change policy. We’re a huge barbershop where anything can spike," said Dennis Mitchell, Jr, owner of the barbershop. 

Omar Abouzaid, the owner of Omar's on East 55th Street, called it a "good day, a great day."

"Private businesses have property rights," said business attorney Mark Gross.  "Among those property rights, they get to decide who gets to come in or stay out of their business and what the rules are for operating their own business."

But Bruce Silverglad, the owner of Gleason’s Boxing Gym in Brooklyn, says relying on the honor system or checking vaccination cards at the door just isn’t practical.

"So what I will do is to have people continue to wear their masks until they no longer have to, until the pandemic is over or everyone is vaccinated," said Silverglad. 

With continued declining rates of the coronavirus, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this month that it was time to allow retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barbershops, and offices to fully reopen.

The indoor catered gathering limit in New York is also allowed to increase to 250 or 500 with testing and vaccine on May 19.

Subways resumed running round-the-clock this week. Midnight curfews for bars and restaurants will be gone by month's end. Broadway tickets are on sale again, though the curtain won't rise on any shows until September.

In New Jersey, with continued declining rates of the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy said it was time to allow houses of worship, retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barbershops, and offices to fully reopen as long as they can ensure a minimum six-foot distance between groups.

"We will simply require that all attendees at any outdoor event keep social distances of at least 6 feet and current mask requirements will remain in place," said Murphy earlier this month.

The limit on outdoor gatherings was also lifted Wednesday.

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Connecticut, which was the first among the states to begin a robust reopening, is allowed restaurants to return to full capacity. People are now allowed to gather in groups, houses of worship can return to regular services. People can also attend a ballgame. 

Vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks, but some businesses may still require them. Health care facilities, schools and public transportation, will require masks.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health is expected to update its guidance for large gatherings. Commercial venues were limited 200 people outdoors and 50 percent occupancy or 100 people indoors. Indoor capacity at private events was 25 people and the outdoor cap was 100 people.

With The Associated Press.