Cuomo considers lifting capacity limits at beaches, pools by July Fourth

Originally published in Newsday on May 12, 2021.

Beaches and pools across New York State could open at 100% capacity by July Fourth if COVID-19 infection rates continue to decline, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday.

State regulations currently stipulate that beaches and pools can open in time for Memorial Day with at least 6 feet of social distancing between visitors and without a hard capacity cap on each location.

But with the state's positivity rate falling Tuesday to just over 1% — and half of all New Yorkers 18 and older statewide completing their vaccination series — Cuomo said the state is on track to lift limitations at all summer hot spots.

"We need to get ready for a great summer," Cuomo said during a briefing in Buffalo. "The weather is turning. The winter is over. We need to get on with life and we want to have a great summer."

Long Island lawmakers, including Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), have urged the state to consider opening beaches at maximum capacity, citing CDC guidance that shows the transmission of the virus on the beach is exceedingly rare.

"I have called for a full reopening of our beaches, and today’s guidance is an important step toward that goal," Kaminsky said Wednesday. "Envisioning a normal summer on the beach means that we can expect businesses and coastal economies to thrive again, and for families to enjoy the beautiful, natural resources that make Long Island special."

Curran said "we can get to 100% sooner rather than later given our high vaccination rate, the low risk of outdoor transmission, and importance of the beach and recreation to our local economy."

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said he's ready to reverse course on limiting the town's three beaches in Point Lookout and Lido Beach to Nassau residents once Cuomo lifts capacity limitations.

"We always planned for operations at full capacity and we’re ready to welcome all residents to our beaches," Clavin said. "We’re expecting huge crowds because people are getting vaccinated and we know we can open safely."

Long Beach officials said expanded capacity could increase the city’s revenue by $696,000 and potentially lower city taxes. The city’s proposed budget anticipates $4.2 million in revenue from July through June 2022, contingent on increasing capacity and beach fees. Last year the city had to limit beach access to residents only on weekends while capacity was limited to 50% and city beaches were closed.

"Until July 1, we are comfortable we can manage the beach with 6-foot guidelines without having to restrict passes," said city spokesman John McNally.