Northeast States Prepare for Reopening at Full Capacity


The Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey governors announced plans to return to full capacity again.

Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont all announced a further easing of restrictions by stating that beginning May 19 businesses can open up to full capacity.

On that date, the 3 states will allow everything from small businesses like barber shops, retail stories, and gyms to other venues like museums, movie theaters, and amusement parks to open at full capacity. There will be some limitations at indoor social gatherings and the capacities at large outdoor venues.

These 3 northeast states not only share borders but much of the hardship during the same time period last year during the pandemic. With the states interconnectedness, they suffered a high incidence and mortality rates in the spring of 2020.

With shared borders and many people commuting for work and leisure back and forth between these states, this easing of restrictions and coordinated efforts reflect the changing approach to COVID-19 because of vaccinations and the decreasing number of cases.

"With our COVID-19 numbers, particularly hospitalizations, trending decisively in the right direction and our vaccination goals within reach, now is the time to take major steps to reopen our economy and loosen both indoor and outdoor gathering and capacity restrictions,” Murphy said. “We've done this the right way, in partnership with our neighboring states of New York and Connecticut, and by allowing data, science, and public health to guide our decision-making.”

The vaccination rates in those three states are among the highest in the country with Connecticut having 93,168 total doses delivered per 100,000; New Jersey with 84,088 per 100,000; and New York following closely behind having 82,581 per 100,000. Connecticut has administered over 3.3 million doses, NJ has given 7.4 million doses, and NY has delivered over 16 million doses.

In addition, the United States reported 29,000 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, which is the lowest daily number since September of last year.

For New Jersey and New York, on May 19, most business capacities—which are currently based upon percentage of maximum occupancy—will be removed in both states. Businesses will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet. This new distance-based maximum capacity will apply across commercial settings.


This past Saturday, May 1, the state eliminated outdoor restrictions including limits on table sizes, and the requirement that food be served with alcohol. On May 19, the state will eliminate all remaining business restrictions including those on capacity limits at large event venues in the state.

New Jersey

Governor Murphy announced reduced restrictions and increased capacities with some limitations. Here is a listing of what those look like:

Outdoor Gatherings

The outdoor gathering limit will be raised to 500 persons from 200 persons. COVID-19 metrics will continue to be evaluated with the hope of raising the limit again, perhaps considerably, prior to Memorial Day.

Large Venue Outdoor Capacity

Outdoor capacity limits will be raised to 50% capacity for venues with 1000 fixed seats or more. The current limit is 30% capacity for venues with 2500 fixed seats or more. All attendees at these events are required to be six feet apart from other attendees, except that individuals who purchase or reserve tickets together may be seated together, but must be six feet away from all other groups or individuals in all directions.

Maximum Capacity for Indoor Certain Indoor Activities

Capacity limits for indoor private catered events, including proms, will be raised to 50% capacity of the room in which the event is being held with a maximum of 250 individuals. The current limit is 35% capacity of the room in which the event is held with a maximum of 150 individuals. These events must continue to follow all indoor dining protocols.

The limit for political events, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and performances occurring indoors will similarly increase to 50% capacity with a maximum of 250 individuals. Indoor religious services will continue to operate at 50% capacity, without a numerical cap.

Dance Floors at Indoor Catered Events

Dance floors will be permitted to open at indoor private catered events, including proms with masking and social distancing requirements in place. Dance floors will remain closed at bars and other related businesses, such as nightclubs.

Graduations and Proms

Schools and universities will be able to utilize the newly-raised outdoor gathering and large venue capacity limits to hold more robust graduation ceremonies. Proms will benefit from the increases to indoor private catered event capacity and the allowance of dance floors at such events. The Department of Education (DOE) and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) will be issuing guidance to assist schools and institutions in preparing for these end-of-year events.

Carnivals and Fairs

Effective May 10, carnivals and fairs are explicitly permitted to operate at outdoor amusement business capacity limits, which currently stand at 50% capacity.


An Executive Order and guidance will be issued on both day and overnight camp operations on Wednesday, April 28.

New York

The state has some limitations with gatherings and social events including the following:

  • Outdoor social gathering limit Increases to 500 on May 10; indoor social Gathering Limit Increases to 250 on May 19
  • Outdoor residential gathering limit is removed and indoor residential gathering limit Increases to 50 on May 19
  • Large-scale indoor venue capacity increases to 30% and large-scale outdoor venue capacity increases to 33% on May 19, proof of vaccination or recent negative test still required in the state.

"The tide is turning against COVID-19 in New York,” Cuomo said. “And thanks to our increasing vaccination rates, as well as our successful, data-based regional approach, we're able to take more steps to reopen our economy, help businesses and workers, and keep moving towards returning to normal."

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