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When will New York City reopen and what are the latest social distancing rules?

Everything you need know about how to protect yourself as the city begins to reopen

By Shaye Weaver and Collier Sutter

New York City is slowly reopening, giving New Yorkers some hope that we'll return to some version of normal soon.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has outlined the state's four-phase reopening plan, "NY Forward," which requires regions to meet seven health-related benchmarks to begin. 

Thankfully, the city has met these criteria in order to restart — it reduced the rate of new hospitalizations to at least two per 100,000 residents a day, or about 170 a day in the city; reduced the hospital-bed vacancy rate; reduced the intensive-care bed vacancy rate; and have at least 30 working tracers per 100,000 residents among other improvements.

So while we wait for our beloved city to fully reopen, here's what you need to know.


NYC reopening FAQ

When will NYC reopen?

News City Life

New York City finally started reopening on June 8, but it will be several weeks until we're fully open.

The reopening doesn't mean everything will immediately open back up—it just means phase one begins, which means employees of construction jobs, wholesale, manufacturing, agriculture and retail companies (with safety procedures in place) can go back to work.

What is Phase 1?

News City Life

The reopening doesn't mean everything will immediately open back up—it just means phase one begins, which means employees of construction jobs, wholesale, manufacturing, agriculture and retail companies (with safety procedures in place) can go back to work.

With the return of Phase 1 businesses, anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 people will be returning to work at once, de Blasio said on Thursday.

Retail businesses, such as clothing, office supply, furniture and sporting goods stores, will be back but will only be allowed to do curb side or in-store pickup because those are quick transactions with limited contact. That means you'll have to make your purchase online or over the phone before you head over to pick it up.


What is Phase 2?

News City Life

Phase 2 marks the return of many things we love: outdoor dining, in-store shopping, getting our hair done and more. To help understand what's coming up, we've answered a few big questions you might have:

When can we begin Phase 2? Summer is here, so when can we start acting like it? Possibly by June 22, but probably not before July.

New York State will continue to monitor whether New York City meets meet 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, then NYC will be set to start Phase 2 in about two weeks. (The New York Forward Plan establishes a minimum of two-week intervals between a region's transition from one phase to the next.) International experts look at our data and determine if its best to move forward. Once they do, the governor authorizes Phase 2.

What is Phase 3?

News City Life

Unlike Phase 2, where a lot of businesses returned, only one category is set to return under Phase 3: personal care.

Unrelated to Phase 3, the city's public libraries will also open around the same time, but with a different model in place until it's safe to resume normal functions. Can we dine inside like we used to? No. Read why here.


Do I have to wear a mask?

News City Life

Yes. Governor Andrew Cuomo made it a requirement to wear a mask or face covering in public when it's not possible to distance yourself from others, like when you're on a bus or at a busy intersection.

The mandate went into effect on Friday, April 17.

By having everyone wear a mask, it keeps asymptomatic people (those without symptoms) from spreading it to others through speaking, coughing or sneezing, according to the CDC.

Can a business deny me entry if I don't have a mask on?

News City Life


Gov. Cuomo signed a new executive order allowing businesses to deny entry to those not wearing masks. 

"People have a right to jeopardize their own health (I don’t recommend it). People don’t have a right to jeopardize other people’s health," said Cuomo. 

The number of New Yorkers not wearing masks could continue to increase as the weather warms up, and people become less vigilant about donning face coverings. But this new order allows establishments like supermarkets, bars, restaurants and other businesses to legally deny entry to anyone not following current public health protocols. This new measure comes alongside the announcement of Mayor de Blasio's crackdown on outdoor bar hangouts, where customers have been seen congregating and ignoring proper social-distancing norms.


Will I be arrested for not wearing a mask?

News City Life

No, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced some changes to social distancing practices in the five boroughs. The good news is that the NYPD will no longer arrest you for not wearing a mask. The bad news as that access to parts of Central Park and other NYC green spaces will be limited.

New York's finest had been kicking up a fuss with regards to the former, as they seemed to be disproportionately targeting New Yorkers of color who didn't have face masks or were wearing them improperly. The new, relaxed posture appears to have been a direct result. "We want to make this a positive approach," De Blasio said. "We do not want to revive the mistakes of the past. We think we can strike a balance."

De Blasio also announced that the city will be fielding 2,200 social distancing "ambassadors" and supervisors to enforce (gently, we hope) other regulations along with the police. This will include restrictions to entering Central Park's Sheep Meadow, as well as Piers 45 and 46 at Hudson River Park. Crowds at Domino Park in Brooklyn will also be monitored.

What will outdoor dining look like?

News Eating

The City Council introduced an outdoor dining bill, and now we’ve begun seeing what the future of al fresco dining may look like across the city.

The Rockwell Group, one of the most prolific firms responsible for designing numerous New York restaurants (including the recent Peak Restaurant at Hudson Yards), worked with the NYC Hospitality Alliance to offer up renderings of what restaurants and bars could consider moving forward. The sketches were part of yesterday’s press conference and showed designs incorporating social distancing protocols, hand sanitizer stations and even flexible designs that allow businesses to set up on sidewalks, streets (the city keeps rolling out more temporary closures) and even parking lots.


When can we dine indoors again?

News Eating

Indoor dining across the five boroughs is delayed indefinitely. “I want to make it very clear: we cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio during a Wednesday morning press conference. “Even a week ago, honestly, I was hopeful we could. But the news we have gotten from around the country gets worse and worse all the time.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo echoed similar sentiments, even as indoor dining has begun in other parts of the state already in the middle of Phase 3. 

How do I exercise outside?

News City Life

Is it safe and legal to run outside? Yes, it is safe and legal to exercise outside, although there's more to know about doing it safely. You can continue doing it unless you are feeling sick or have tested positive. The only time you need to wear a mask in New York City is if you cannot maintain social distancing of six feet—that goes for anyone. The best idea is to carry a mask with you when you go out and put it on when you come upon a busy intersection or cannot stay away from others. If you don't, you may be fined since it's required when social distancing isn't possible. There is currently no credible proof that exercising spreads the illness any more than just walking, though always be courteous on sidewalks and refrain from spitting near passerby.  


Can I go to the beach?

News City Life

Yes, beginning July 1.

"The lifeguards are ready to go, training is being will be a great day for New York City and another part of our comeback and a great opportunity for people to stay cool," the mayor said this week. "It will be wonderful to be able to go back in the water ... and we are able to do it because this city got healthier and healthier over the past few weeks."

While beaches will be fully open to swimming, there will still be rules to follow: Beach-goers should only visit with members of their immediate household; They must keep six feet from people while swimming and on beaches and boardwalks; They have to keep beach blankets and chairs at least 10 feet apart from others; and they have to wear a mask.

Can I go to the park?

News City Life

Yes, but as the weather gets warmer, the New York Police Department will limit the amount of people in some NYC parks, a policy that's already in place for Central Park, Domino Park, Hudson River Park Piers 45 and 46 among other places.

This is the latest measure the city has taken to keep people apart—on Thursday it opened more streets to pedestrians around parks so that they could spread out more. We've also started seeing social distance markings around the city to show people how to properly social distance, like these circles in Domino Park.


Can I take an Uber in New York?

News City Life

While you cannot currently take a pool ride on Uber, Via or Lyft in NYC, where you pick up multiple people, individual rides are still available. It's best to only ride for something essential such a grocery shopping and picking up medication. But if you do need a ride, wash your hands before and after you ride, sit in the back seat, open the window to improve ventilation, and tip your driver well.


When can I take the subway again?

News City Life

Well, it's looking like the days of overcrowded trains and platforms may be a thing of the past. Currently, New York City's MTA is considering all options to reduce density. For starters, the MTA is already testing social distancing markers at some stations in New York to show riders where they can stand, six feet apart. You can currently find these Xs already set up at the Lexington Avenue/53rd Street station on the Queens-bound E/M platform and at the 51st Street station on the 6 line.  The MTA is also considering amping up surveillance systems in subway cars, stations and buses to further control crowds, says MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye during an interview on 1010 WINS.  "We've got cameras on almost every station," says Foye. "They can be used to determine passengers on a platform, passengers on a mezzanine, and we will be looking at that. And we will be looking at ways to control the number of passengers." Foye suggested that riders in the future could even be asked to reserve a spot on a bus or train ahead of time in order to reduce crowd density and mandate safe distance. “I think agencies around the world have done things like metering,” Foye said on the Wall Street Journal’s The Journal podcast earlier this week.


When will hair salons reopen in NYC and what will it be like to get a haircut?

News City Life

Essentially, salons will reopen when New York City reaches Phase 2 — so officially they can be open now.

They must follow state regulations, which include making sure employees keep six feet away from each other, reducing occupancy to under 50 percent, keeping confined spaces to one person only (that means one person at a time on elevators and behind cash registers), limiting in-person meetings and doing them in a well-ventilated area with social distancing, providing protective gear like masks for employees, doing daily healthcare screenings, constant cleanings, and putting up signs and markers to help employees keep their distance. 

The state has released recommended best practices, too, which many New York City salons are ready to follow.

International salon Warren Tricomi and Astoria-based Natura Spa have plans in place on how to service clients.

When can I go back to my place of worship?

News City Life

Governor Andrew Cuomo now says faith centers can hold gatherings of up to 10 people, so long as they wear masks and maintain their distance and President Donald Trump this week called houses of faith "essential services” and urged governors to reopen them immediately.

This week, both Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn announced their phased reopening plans, which include health and safety protocols, from limiting gatherings to keeping holy water and baptismal fonts empty. The first phase of both plans opens churches for private prayer and confession.


When will gyms reopen in NYC and what will it be like to work out?

News City Life

Gyms will open under Phase 4, but one thing that is certain is that gyms will look a lot different when they reopen than they did before the shutdown. The next time you visit your local gym, you can expect to find a lot more cleaning of equipment as well as new signage and strict rules to help you social distance.


When will offices reopen and what will they look like?

News City Life

Offices can begin opening during Phase 2, although they may not, given safety protocols they'll have to follow and the logistics of getting thousands of workers to an office. It will depend on the company.

WeWork and commercial real estate firm Cushman Wakefield predict the post-shutdown office space will be all about cutting down worker density, constant sanitizing and getting workers on the same page about safe behaviors they'll need to adopt.

Those already working are also shedding light on practices already in place, including daily health checks before heading into work and new elevator etiquette.

The open-concept office may be no more, or at the very least, could be broken up.

Where can I go for free testing in New York City?

News City Life

There are at least 150 testing sites, including seven outdoor sites by One Medical and 27 from NYC Health + Hospitals, where anyone who needs one can get one. (CityMD locations make up 123 locations also offering tests, both diagnostic and antibody and are not charging co-pays.)

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, there is "a tremendously large universe of people who can get tested." The only requirement is that you either have symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of appetite or smell)—regardless of age, chronic conditions, or—or that you've come into contact with someone who has been infected. You can also get one if you congregate in a residential setting (nursing home, shelter, or adult care facility).

You don't need an appointment if your test is with NYC Health + Hospitals, but you'll need one if you go through One Medical.


When will tattoo shops reopen in NYC?

News Shopping & Style

New York City’s tattoo shops are not considered to be essential businesses, which means that all parlors are currently closed. And while they may be some of the last to be granted the green light to reopen again, many tattoo artists and studios are already thinking about the best ways to operate in a safe manner. Almost a dozen tattooers all told Time Out New York that studios that formerly encouraged walk-ins would be moving to an appointment-only policy—at least until there's a vaccine.

When will movie theaters reopen?

News City Life

Theaters are not set to reopen until phase four of New York’s reopening plan.

Vice President of National Association of Theatre Owners, Patrick Corcoran, says that while he hopes to have most theaters in other parts of the United States open by late June/early July, for New York, there are no dates set.

"It will depend on the course of the pandemic and when public health official give the go-ahead on the reopening phases. The late June, early July target is within the realm of possibility."

As of right now, movie theaters are currently in phase four, but Corcoran thinks they should more appropriately be included in phase three. Local independent movie theater Nitehawk Cinema thinks reopening in July seems like a stretch for NYC movie theaters.


When can I go back to the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

News Art

In May, the museum announced that its three locations — The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Cloisters and The Met Breuer — could open "in mid-August or perhaps a few weeks later," depending on New York City's phased reopening. On Wednesday, the museum confirmed that it is planning an August 29 opening.

"The safety of our staff and visitors remains our greatest concern," its president and CEO, Daniel H. Weiss, said in a statement. "We are eagerly awaiting our reopening as, perhaps now more than ever, the Museum can serve as a reminder of the power of the human spirit and the capacity of art to bring comfort, inspire resilience, and help us better understand each other and the world around us." 

How can I be hired as a contact tracer? What does it entail?

News City Life

Contact tracers identify people who have been exposed to the virus and call them with instructions on how to quarantine themselves.

To become a contact tracer, you'll need to pass the six-hour, free online course from John Hopkins and apply online if you have a number of skills outlined in this article.

What the application doesn't say is that you'll need a basic understanding of the transmission of infectious diseases and the ability to communicate clearly and with empathy, according to the Wall Street Journal.



When will schools reopen?

When it comes to reopening NYC Schools this September, Chancellor Richard Carranza is keeping an open mind.

He believes there is a 50-50 chance of NYC public school buildings reopening in the fall, allowing for the possibility that remote learning will continue into the next academic year, according to the New York Post. The chancellor is also open to students attending schools on alternate days so that classrooms have enough space for social distancing, according to NY1.

Press Secretary Miranda Barbot confirmed that NYC Schools will consider all options. Essentially, everything is on the table in these unprecedented times. For now, remote learning will be the new normal.

When can I see a Broadway show?

News Theater & Performance

The Street will not reopen this year at all. All Broadway performances are officially canceled through at least January 3, 2021.

"The Broadway experience can be deeply personal but it is also, crucially, communal," said Thomas Schumacher, the Chairman of the Board of The Broadway League. "Every single member of our community is eager to get back to work sharing stories that inspire our audience through the transformative power of a shared live experience. The safety of our cast, crew, orchestra and audience is our highest priority and we look forward to returning to our stages only when it’s safe to do so.”

If you already have tickets for Broadway performances through January 3, 2021, you should receive an email from your point of purchase soon with information about refunds and exchanges. If you haven't received such an email by July 13, reach out to your ticket source directly at that time.


Can I take a day trip from New York?

News City Life

Yes, but there's a lot to know before you go.

With PAUSE still in effect, New Yorkers are urged to stay at home, so going out in the first place is not encouraged. But if you are going to leave anyway (you shouldn't), there are a few outdoor places and activities you can do while social distancing.

Right now, all New York State roads, bridges and tunnels are open, so yes, but essential travel is the only kind government officials want to see.

You can cross state lines but some states have been stopping out-of-towners to make sure they quaratine themselves. 

Can I sail or cruise around NYC right now?

News City Life

Many of New York City's cruise lines, touring vessels and party boats are open for business and ready (or getting ready) to take on passengers for the summer. But your excursion out on the water will still involve masks and social distancing.

Classic Harbor Line, opened last weekend with various trips available including a sightseeing cruise, an evening sunset cruise and two-hour daytime sails and sunset sailing excursions in New York Harbor. Hornblower Cruises and Events, which has dining cruises, tours and sightseeing, has tickets available beginning in July, while Circle Line, which has several sightseeing cruises, has plans to open late July. Clearly, summer isn't canceled and we will get back out on the water. It just comes with a few caveats. To operate, each cruise line must follow CDC-compliant guidelines set by the Passenger Vessel Association.


When can I start flying again?

News Transport & Travel

It depends on where you plan on going and what airline you'd like to take you there. After the U.S. Travel Association released guidelines to show the public what flying during—and after—the virus might look like, certain companies have announced that they will resume international trips as early as this summer, albeit following social distancing rules.

Here, we break it down on an airline-by-airline case, focusing on U.S.-based companies.

Can I stay in a hotel?


Yup, as many are indeed open. CNN points out that initiatives such as electrostatic sprayers for cleaning, contactless check-ins and shutterings of communal areas like buffets are in effect at many hotels. Be sure to call the hotel to learn about their cleaning and check-in policies. 

According to USA Today, Airbnbs are potentially a safer option, as there are likely less interactions, not to mention less common spaces like lobbies and elevators. You can still book them, but it's also worth considering bringing your own cleaning supplies and doing a quick clean after check-in—here’s how to do that—and, before booking, seeing how the area you’re planning to stay in (or live in) is doing with cases. Finally, we highly recommend booking  an “entire place,” not a “room,” as the former will demand less human interaction. 


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