As Virus Ebbs, NY Loosens Restrictions on Houses of Worship

In this image from video provided by the office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Gov. Cuomo briefs the media on New York’s COVID-19 response and the gradual reopening of the state, June 6, in Albany, NY. (Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP)

New York’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is moving faster than expected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday, allowing the state to loosen some restrictions on gatherings in houses of worship.

Religious buildings will be allowed to operate with 25% of their usual capacity once the region they are in reaches phase two of the state’s reopening plan.

“We’re going to open the valve more then we originally anticipated because the metrics are so good,” Cuomo said.

All of the state, except for New York City, is now in the second phase of loosening restrictions put in place in March, meaning larger religious gatherings can begin in most places immediately. New York City starts the first phase Monday.

COVID-19 killed 35 people in the state Friday, Cuomo said, down from a peak of more than 700 per day in April.

“This is really, really good news. Compared to where we were, this is a big sigh of relief,” Cuomo said, though he noted that caution is still needed.

Cuomo urged people to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing, something that has been collapsing in many parts of the state as people have watched tightly packed crowds of thousands of people protesting racial injustice.

“People still have to stay smart. With this virus you learn something new every week, and sometimes what you learn is different from what they told you in the first place,” Cuomo said.

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