With COVID cases dropping, Cuomo eases more restrictions in New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing more fans to go inside museums, movie theaters and big indoor sports arenas as the latest data suggests the state's massive vaccination campaign is curbing COVID-19 infection levels.

The state recorded 43,000 new cases in the week that ended Saturday. That's the lowest number in a seven-day period since Thanksgiving.

"The numbers are stable and going down so we can start to open up more economic activity," Cuomo said.

Hospitalizations are also slowly dropping: Hospitals in New York reported 3,754 patients with COVID-19 as of Saturday, down 14% from two weeks prior.

"We look at the trend of the numbers and where we are now is the lowest we've been since Nov. 13," said Cuomo.

New York has recorded among the nation's highest levels of infections and hospitalizations in recent months, as cases surged across upstate New York in the winter and then throughout New York City and its surrounding suburbs in the early spring.

The state has expanded vaccine eligibility in recent weeks, and opened up mass vaccination sites with help from the federal government. It's now ranked the 13th highest in the country for its percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated: 28.7%, or 5.5 million of roughly 19 million residents.

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Museums and zoos in New York can open up their doors to 50% of their normal capacity starting Monday, while movie theaters will expand to one-third of normal capacity.

And on May 19, large indoor arenas with more than 10,000 seats can increase their capacity to 25%, up from the current 10% limit.

Cases and hospitalizations are now surging in western New York: Hospitals in the region reported 346 patients as of Saturday, up from as low as 137 in mid-March. That's more patients than any time in spring 2020, but fewer than a winter peak of 548 on Dec. 10.

"Your community determines your positivity rate," said Cuomo during a briefing from Albany.

Public health experts have worried that New York has eased COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining and gatherings too quickly this spring, as the state sees signs of potentially more contagious variants spreading.

State health officials haven't offered any reason for the uptick in western New York, though Cuomo said they're investigating it. He put the blame on human behavior.

"We don’t believe there’s anything that accounts for that than the variant in human behavior and the precautions people take," said Cuomo.

The governor, who eased restrictions last spring in parts of the state with lower levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, said his administration is not considering reimposing additional restrictions in western New York.

"But we do have to get it under control," he added.

With the Associated Press