New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will allow businesses to operate at full capacity for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the governors of the three US states have announced.

Capacity restrictions will be lifted for businesses, including restaurants, theaters, museums and gyms, marking a return to normal for an area that was once the center of the coronavirus pandemic. Combined, the three states have seen more than 85,000 deaths over the course of the pandemic.

“Today is a milestone for New York state and a significant moment of transition,” New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said at a recent press conference. The governor said that “life should be returning to normal” for those who are vaccinated, and those who are not vaccinated should see a return to normalcy as an incentive to get inoculated.

Cuomo also announced that New York City’s subway system will return to its 24-hour service beginning on 17 May, the first time since it ended the around-the-clock service in May 2020. Monday marked the first day when New Yorkers could sit at a bar after Cuomo lifted restrictions on food and beverage services last week.

While businesses like movie theaters and museums have been allowed to reopen in the tri-state area, restrictions have kept capacity as low as 25% at certain places. The states initially planned to lift restrictions more gradually, but the governors cited confidence in the area’s declining case numbers for the acceleration of reopening.

The three states saw decreasing hospitalizations and case rates in April, and almost half of their adult populations have at least one dose of the vaccine. On Monday, the Connecticut governor, Ned Lamont, said that the state was the first to get half of its adults fully vaccinated against the virus.

“That’s an extraordinary achievement that allows the reopening to continue in a prudent way,” he said on Monday.

Indoor mask mandates will still remain in place in the three states, and restrictions will still be in place for larger indoor venues, which must require a proof of vaccination or negative Covid test from attendees. Businesses will also need to abide by federal social distancing guidelines that require at least 6ft of space between people, though they can skirt the rule in New York if they require proof of vaccination or a negative test. Restaurants can separate guests less than 6ft if they place barriers between tables.

Cuomo’s announcement comes on the heels of New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, saying he expects the city to be “fully reopening” by 1 July. Cuomo, who has the ultimate say in restrictions as governor and has often clashed with the mayor, had called the projection “irresponsible”.

“I’d like to get the hopeful date before that. I don’t want to wait that long,” Cuomo said last week.

In a statement to the New York Times, the mayor’s office responded to Cuomo’s announcement by reiterating that “this will be the summer of New York City” and “we look forward to seeing more details and are excited to have the city fully reopened in the summer”.

This content first appear on the guardian

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