CityWatch: NYC cleared for Phase 4 of reopening, but indoor attractions like museums and malls are still off limits

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Theaters, museums, malls and indoor dining will remain closed when New York City enters the fourth and final phase of economic reopening on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed on Friday afternoon. 

“That is a hallmark for us. Every region of the state will now be in Phase 4,” Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters. 

Phase 4, which in other regions of the state included all low-risk cultural attractions at reduced capacity, will instead only apply to outdoor venues, such as zoos and botanical gardens. Monday also paves the way for schools and higher education to reopen, although with new health guidelines, and the Yankees and Mets can resume games without fans. 

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TV and film production—a multibillion-dollar industry in the city—will also restart across the five boroughs for the first time in four months. 

Although there are no more designated phases left, major parts of the city’s economy are still shuttered or only partially open. Museums, galleries, theaters, the opera and other live performance spaces—bedrocks of the city culture—are closed until further notice. Restaurants are limited to outdoor seating only. The governor gave no timeline for when those pieces of the economy might open.

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“When the facts change, we will let you know,” he said on Friday, as he announced less than 1% of 78,000 COVID-19 tests statewide on Thursday were positive, or a total of 776 new cases. Ten people died on Thursday.

Some institutions are nonetheless planning for opening dates later this year. The city’s Metropolitan Museum of Art said it will welcome visitors on Aug. 29, while the Metropolitan Opera said its next season will begin Dec. 31. Broadway theaters will remain shuttered for the remainder of the year. 

Factors largely out of the city’s control are now playing the biggest role in how it moves forward, with New York concerned that outbreaks in the South and Southwest, including in Florida, Texas and Arizona, will come to the state.

“We’re standing on a beach and we’re looking out at the sea and we see the second wave building in the distance, so I want all New Yorkers to be on high alert,” Cuomo said. “It will have an effect on New York. How bad, we don’t know.”