New York governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the state will allow large venues to reopen from February 23 at reduced capacity with safety measures in place.
A testing pilot with the football team Buffalo Bills last month, which allowed 6,700 fans into 70,000 seater stadium, was declared an “unparalleled success” by Cuomo. Attendees were required to produce a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before kickoff and were allowed to sit in spaced out groups of two and four, with contract tracing afterwards.
Now this same testing program is set to be extended to all large stadiums and arenas in under two weeks time. This accounts for any stadium or arena with a capacity of more than 10,000 people, and they will be allowed to open at 10% capacity to host events such music shows, performances and sports.
Fans providing a negative PCR test 72 hours in advance is again a requirement, and other mitigating measures such as mask-wearing, temperature checks and mandatory, assigned, socially distanced seating will also be in place.
Venues wanting to reopen under the guidelines must submit plans to the State Department of Health to be approved.
Governor Cuomo said: "The success of this, and similar events in approved venues over the coming weeks will help inform the re-opening process for smaller venues in the future.”
He added that testing is the most important cog in the move towards safe reopening of venues, saying: "I can go see the president of the United States, take a test and if I pass the test, walk into the Oval Office. Why? If you're negative, you're negative. Testing is the key."
However, Scott Weisenberg, an infectious diseases specialist and director of the travel medicine program at NYU Langone Health, warned that people testing negative for COVID-19 on one day but being infected and able to transmit the virus on the day of the event remains possible.
Last month in his State of the State address, Cuomo said reopening cannot wait until everyone is vaccinated because “the economic, psychological, emotional cost would be incredible.”
He added: “We must begin increasing economic activity and using science to do it, making COVID testing and vaccinations available, so that we can reopen restaurants and art spaces and theaters and commercial businesses.”
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While coronavirus infection rates are in decline in New York, they are still relatively high, with an average of 8,588 recorded cases in the past seven days. Last month saw the highest peak in cases recorded throughout the breadth of the pandemic, with 14,791 cases recorded in one day on January 12.
CUNY School of Public Health epidemiology professor Denis Nash warned New York’s approach lacks a scientific basis when “community prevalence is very high”, adding: “To think about bringing people into large groups and mass gatherings including in indoors arenas, right now, seems cross-purposes with our efforts to really maximize the impact that the vaccine roll out will have in controlling the pandemic.”
[Via: NBC New York]
Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter
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