New York City is canceling concerts, festivals and all other nonessential events through May and perhaps June as the city seeks to drive down coronavirus infection rates, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday.
De Blasio said this means the cancellation of the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which had been scheduled for May 16, and SummerStage in Central Park, which had been scheduled to begin June 22. Such events, he said, go "against everything that we need to do to fight back the coronavirus." He's also weighing whether to keep public beaches closed, saying "I can't see" opening them up yet because the outbreak isn't contained.
"This is an important decision to make, whether it really makes sense to have those giant gatherings, and some of them are huge in June," he said.
"We have to be smart. We love those things, we'll miss them when we don't have them, but they will be back," he added. "They will be back and by knowing when it's time to temporarily let them go so we can get to a greater goal, we're going to actually look back and say that was the smart thing to do."
He said the decision applies to community and cultural events, but the city will continue to issue permits for medical sites like field hospitals and "anything related to food," including farmer's markets. He added that a decision will be made about June events "quickly."
"Can I envision as early as June mass gatherings like some of these huge events that are beautiful events but they're really mass gatherings, hundreds of thousands of people, in some cases more than a million?" he said. "I can't see it, but I want to talk to the event organizers. ... I don't see it for June."
The announcement comes a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the extension of the state's shutdown of nonessential businesses to May 15.
If there is "substantial spread" in the community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends canceling all events of any size. Covid-19 has infected more than 123,146 people in New York City, killing at least 11,477 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The number of new Covid-19 hospitalizations in the city dropped to 329 on Wednesday, down from 386 on Tuesday, de Blasio said.
"This was a good day, definite movement in the right direction, not a perfect day yet," de Blasio said.
De Blasio also said the city is setting up five new coronavirus "community testing sites" for vulnerable people. One will be in each of the city's five boroughs. To be eligible for testing, he said, people must have preexisting conditions and be 65 or older. The center will conduct 2,500 tests per week, he said.
He also announced a city partnership with One Medical to establish five additional testing centers — one in each borough — for essential workers and "other vulnerable populations." Those centers will conduct 3,500 tests per week, he said, adding that widespread testing throughout the city will be key to lifting restrictions and reopening the city's economy.
"One chance to get the restart right," he said. "If you rush it, if you ignore the warning signs, if you minimize the dangers, you're going to end up with a boomerang effect."