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Cuomo reopens beaches for Memorial Day, but with restrictions

Cuomo at May 15. 2020 corona virus briefing
Governor Cuomo's office
Cuomo at May 15. 2020 corona virus briefing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s beaches will be open for Memorial Day weekend, along with beaches in New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, but at 50% capacity and with strict rules about social distancing.

The governor says the beaches will open on May 22, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Parking areas will be limited to half of usual capacity, and beachgoers will have to adhere to a number of rules.

No group contact activities will be allowed , including volleyball and football, and picnic areas and playgrounds will be off limits. Masks must be worn by employees. Visitors will have to wear masks when they cannot remain six feet away from others. Concession stands and pools will also remain closed.

Cuomo says the beaches where social distancing rules are not followed will be immediately shut down.

Cuomo made the announcement one day after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced his state’s beaches would be open for Memorial Day. Cuomo says he’s been coordinating with the other governors to avoid any conflicts between neighboring states about what is open and what remains closed.

“If other states were opening and New York wasn’t, you would have millions of people from New York flooding those beaches,” Cuomo said. “There would be a problem.”

The governor spoke on a day when five regions of the state were in phase one of reopening and could proceed with restarting manufacturing and construction companies. Retail stores were also allowed to reopen but only for curbside or in-store pick up.

Cuomo also said ome personal care services, like hairstylists and barbers would likely reopen in phase two of a region’s reopening, but he warned of the risks involved in getting a haircut. He cites the example of a barber in the Hudson Valley who opened his shop and cut hair in defiance of the stay at home orders, who then tested positive for COVID-19 and helped spread the virus.

“(He) infected I think over a dozen people,” Cuomo said. “You can’t really socially distance and do a haircut.”

Cuomo also signed an executive order Thursday night that extends the shutdown until May 28 for regions not yet authorized to reopen - all of downstate, the Hudson Valley, the Capital Region, and Western New York. But, if a region does meet the all of benchmarks for reopening before that date, including declining rate of new cases and adequate bed capacity in hospitals, then those regions could begin to reopen earlier.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.