NYC Enters Phase Four, With Big Caveats. What You Need to Know.

Editor’s Note: No city is more important to America’s economy than New York, and none has been hit harder by the coronavirus. “NYC Reopens” examines life in the capital of capitalism as the city takes its first halting steps toward a new normal.

It was supposed to be the final leap back to normalcy.

But with thecoronavirus raging out of control in much of the country, New York City’s last official step in reopening comes with more than a few caveats.

On Monday, the city enters Phase Four. In some ways, it marks a significant step in its efforts to contain the outbreak, which ravaged entire neighborhoods and killed thousands in the spring.

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But in a sign of how tenuous those hard-fought gains have been and how concerned officials are about a second wave sweeping back into the city, many indoor activities are still barred. New Yorkers will need to wait a little longer for gyms, museums and shopping malls to reopen. And indoor dining? Postponed indefinitely.

“All our numbers are good. The bad news is, we’ve got to keep them that way,” Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Friday. “If you don’t do it, the virus will increase.”

Here’s what you need to know:

What does ‘Phase Four’ reopening mean?

With the latest phase, New Yorkers can expect the return of low-risk outdoor arts and entertainment — think zoos and botanical gardens — at reduced capacity. Professional sports will resume, albeit with one major caveat: no fans. Television, music and film production can also restart.

(Check out our roundups for Phase One, Two andThree.)

What’s still closed?

Indoor restaurant dining is still a no-no. Gyms, cinemas and theaters will also remain shut for the foreseeable future. Museums and shopping malls, which were originally part of Phase Four, won’t reopen until future notice, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday.

We’re tracking everything you need to know as New York reopens after the Covid-19 shutdown. Read our explainer and sign up for alerts sent directly to your inbox.

When will schools reopen?

It’s perhaps the biggest question on the minds of New York City parents these days. Specifics, however, have thus far been in short supply. De Blasio has said public schools will open in September with a “blended” schedule, with mix of remote and in-person learning. Parents who aren’t comfortable sending their children to school can also opt for a full-time remote schedule.

Cuomo, in a long-running game of political one-upmanship with the mayor, has repeatedly asserted that he alone has the authority to reopen schools in the state. He said earlier this month the state will announce its initial decision by the first week of August.

At the very least, an area must be in the last stage of reopening and the daily infection rate must average 5% or below over a 14-day period for schools to reopen — which all regions have cleared. If the rate creeps above 9% over a seven-day period any time after Aug. 1, school reopenings will be postponed, Cuomo said Friday.

The state’s education department is requiring districts to create reopening plans on a school-by-school basis — whether instruction is happening in person or remotely — and the plans will be posted publicly for review.

Can I go to Citi Field to catch a game?

Major League Baseball resumed spring training this month and will kick off its abbreviated, 60-game regular season on July 23 with a series between the reigning champs, the Washington Nationals, and the hometown Yankees. Crowds won’t be permitted at games, but true Mets fans can order cardboard cutouts of themselves to be seated in the stands to show their support.

Sorry, Yankees fans, but that’s not something the Bronx Bombers are offering yet.

Will I start seeing film crews on the streets again?

TV and movie production will be allowed to resume, but shows are prohibited from inviting live audiences unless they consist only of paid employees. Audience capacity is capped at 25% or 100 individuals, whichever is lower. Actors can remove their face masks for hair, makeup and wardrobe, but they must keep them on before and after.

Comcast Corp.’s NBC said The Tonight Show — hosted by Jimmy Fallon — is the only production currently with plans to return to its studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Sorry to all the SNL fans out there.

Can I finally go to a restaurant?

The city continues to expand outdoor dining, but indoor dining is still off the table. Cuomo said last week that many establishments will be subject to additional restrictions and tougher penalties if they violate state guidelines, like serving alcohol to customers who don’t order food or flouting the statewide ban of standing bars.

— With assistance by Henry Goldman

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