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Everything you need to know about Phase 4 reopening plans in NYC

Botanical gardens, zoos, and sporting events can return.

By
Shaye Weaver
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It feels like NYC just entered Phase 3, but Phase 4 begins on Monday.

"Arts and entertainment," which is the beating heart of New York City, has been relegated to Phase 4 of the state's reopening plan — so many of these institutions have been sorely missed. We've patiently waited, and we can now almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Entering Phase 4 means more of a return to normalcy than ever before during the current crisis, and while trips out will still look very different, we'll still take what little bit of New York City fun we can get while staying safe.

Here's what you need to know about the next step:

When does Phase 4 begin?

Monday, July 20. 

New York State has been monitoring whether New York City meets seven health-related benchmarks. Basically, hospitalization and infection data must not show that more people are being infected with the virus than hospitals can handle. If those markers remain in check, as they are right now, and international experts determine its best to move forward, then NYC will continue though the reopening plan.

The New York Forward Plan establishes a minimum of two-week intervals between a region's transition from one phase to the next. As a result, since Phase 3 began on July 6, we'll begin Phase 4 on July 20.

That being said, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned New Yorkers to be cautious.

"I want all New Yorkers to be on high alert," he said on Friday. "We are still in a precarious position, not because of anything we have done, but the negligence of the federal government and the states that listen to the federal government. I am very worried about the spread that we see across the country and the inevitability that the spread will be here. There will be a second wave. I would wager on it, but the question is how high is the wave?"

He said he thinks New York is attracting people from other states because "we we are now seen as the 'safer' state."

"There's no time to be relaxing what we're doing when we know there's a wave coming from the southwest," he said. "You can see it if you look."

What will reopen?

  • Low-risk outdoor arts and entertainment: Outdoor zoos, botanical gardens, nature parks, grounds of historic sites and cultural institutions, outdoor museums, outdoor agri-tourism, local agricultural demonstrations and exhibitions. (The New York Botanical Garden has announced that it plans to open under Phase 4, for example.)
  • Media production: All activities undertaken in motion picture, music, television, and streaming productions on set, on location, or at any production or recording site. This means we will have new shows and films to watch in the future!
  • Professional sports competitions with no fans: Stadiums or arenas with professional sports events, except for collegiate sports, horse racing or auto racing. (The US Open is already planned to start on August 31 with no fans allowed.) 

Indoor museums can't open?

No. On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said indoor activities would not be allowed to restart under Phase 4 like it had originally called for.

Previously, Phase 4 had allowed low-risk indoor arts and entertainment—museums, historical sites, aquariums—to reopen. The Empire State Building had announced its reopening for July 20, the Museum Of The City Of New York had planned to re-open on July 23 and Fotografiska was planning to open on July 29. Now, they can't.

"Outdoors has proven to be the area where we're seeing a lot of things work successfully," the mayor said. "Indoors is where we have concerns. Some indoor activities can exist with the proper restrictions. Now that we've gotten this far, let's hang on to it. Let's stay focused, let's stay disciplined."

Cuomo echoed the mayor's caution: "I'm so proud of what New Yorkers have done," he said on Friday. "But we must continue to be on alert."

While there is no Phase 5, both men said the city and the state would work together going forward to determine when they'd be ready to reopen indoor arts and entertainment.

"We don't have anything else to do; there's nothing else to phase except in New York City—the cultural institutions and malls in New York City," Cuomo said. "For that, we're going to watch the data."

What about indoor dining?

Restaurants and food service had been part of Phase 3, but on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that NYC would not reopen indoor dining.

"Indoors is the problem, the science is showing it more and more," the mayor said then. "We cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City. Even a week ago we were hopeful we could but it keeps getting worse and worse around the country."

"It is not the time to forge ahead with indoor dining," he added.

What is still closed?

Broadway said it won't return until 2021 and other cultural institutions including the Met Opera and the NYC Ballet have announced that their fall seasons are canceled.

The city's stores, restaurants, bars and shows have taken a big hit, so some will not return, including Gem Spa, Nishi and Gotham Bar & Grill.

And don't expect to return to shopping malls, movie theaters or your gym any time soon.

As for colleges and NYC schools, each high education system and the NYC Department of Education will ultimately determine how they will resume classes in the fall.

Do we still have to wear a mask? What about social distancing?

Yes, and each business, museum and event has guidance by the state that they must follow, including keeping occupancy at 50 percent, doing daily health screenings of employees, requiring everyone to wear masks or provide barriers if six feet cannot be maintained between people, putting up signs and distance markers, and refraining from the communal sharing of food and drinks, among other protocols.

How will public transportation work? Is the city still going to clean the subway?

The MTA's subway and buses have been back to full service since Phase 1 started. You can expect to catch a train as you used to, however, there are new protocols in place:

  • The subway will still remain closed overnight, between the hours of 1am and 5am, for cleaning. Crews will "remove trash, clean spills and biohazards, spot-clean seats, floors, and other surfaces, and disinfect common touch points." Stations, especially end-of-the-line terminals, are being cleaned throughout the day; trains will be cleaned overnight at subway yards.
  • It’s mandatory to wear a mask while in the station and on the train. If you forget to bring a mask, one will be provided to you for free as will small bottles of hand sanitizer.
  • Yellow floor decals in the shape of footprints have been installed to mark the optimal space for social distancing along with other signage (also in yellow) reminding you to wear a mask and take other precautions.
  • On buses, rear door entry and exiting is still in place, which means you will get to effectively ride local buses for free. Riders on Select Bus Service, however, still must pay at curbside fare-boxes.
  • As with the subway, wearing a mask while riding the bus is mandatory, and vehicles are being regularly cleaned and disinfected.

You can read more about what to expect on public transportation here.

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