In his State of the State address earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo indicated his administration is planning to allow live events with fans in attendance beginning as soon as February. The plans are centered around the ramping up of rapid testing sites in the state, coupled with rising rates of vaccinated population as those two efforts go in tandem.
“Testing is the key to reopening our economy before the vaccine hits critical mass,” Cuomo said. “Rapid testing poses great possibilities, as it can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. We will be entering a time where more people are vaccinated, and this will allow us to reopen more businesses safely. We piloted our strategy in last week’s Bills game, where testing was done in a drive-thru, at approximately five minutes per car. The New York State Department of Health is monitoring the contact tracing results, but all early indications suggest this model was successful.”
New York was one of the hardest-hit states of the early part of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. March and April saw huge numbers of fatalities as authorities scrambled to contain the outbreak, shutting down almost all gatherings of any size. That has continued into 2021, despite many business owners pushing back against restrictions in the courts, citing the economic hardship brought on by eliminating things such as live entertainment and indoor dining.
As Cuomo mentioned, the first round playoff game in Buffalo was the first large-scale event in the state since March 2020, following the team playing the entire regular season in front of an empty building, save for gameday staff and other necessary personnel. 6,000 fans were allowed for games in the playoffs, though the state granted an exception to its law requiring tickets to transferrable due to the public health concerns it felt were a part of allowing an open ticket resale ecosystem. Those who were able to purchase tickets had to agree to a COVID test, with positive tests resulting in a refund and forfeiture of the tickets purchased.
These plans are similar to a system piloted by the Wynn in Las Vegas to use rapid testing to allow fans back through the doors at live events at its properties.
The success there buoyed hopes of a return to live events for New York organizations, which include many of the foremost venues and cultural events in the world.
“We must act,” Cuomo said. “We cannot wait until summer to turn the lights back on for the arts. We will not let the curtain fall on their careers or our cities. New York state is launching New York Arts Revival, a private-public partnership to bring the arts back. We will organize a series of pop-up events to bring the arts back. We will use flexible venues, adapt with social distancing. All events will follow state guidelines, serving as a model for safely reopening arts venues across the country.”