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New York State releases new Phase 4 guidelines; gyms, malls, movie theaters not included

'Categories or entities or industries that have not been addressed will be continued to be studied. And that information will be forthcoming.'

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As New York State continues to reopen in phases, we're learning more information about what is and what is not included in Phase 4.

During a news conference Tuesday in Western New York, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced gyms, malls and movie theaters may not reopen in Phase 4.

"Not everything will be out," Hochul said. "So if you see a category that does not fit, it's possible that it's not going to make Phase 4. But I also want people to know that the after Phase 4, we won't be having official phases anymore. But the categories or entities or industries that have not been addressed will be continued to be studied. And that information will be forthcoming on a different basis for gyms and health clubs."

Instead she says the focus will be on cultural institutions and larger gatherings in open spaces. The lieutenant governor also says that Phase 4 will have sub-phases, which means not all businesses expecting to open in Phase 4 will open right away.

As promised, New York State released guidance regarding low-risk indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment Tuesday evening. The state also issued some guidance for places of higher education. 

In particular, it said each institution must develop and submit a plan that covers reopening of the campus, monitoring of health conditions, containment of potential transmission of the virus and shut down of in-person operations on the campus if necessitated by widespread COVID-19 transmission. Also, masks must be worn anytime you're within six feet of someone who doesn't belong to the same residence.

For low-risk outdoor activities, the state says "patron/visitor presence is limited to no more than 33 percent of the maximum occupancy or capacity for a particular area at any given time." Masks will also be required, and common seating areas are discouraged.

The state also encourages the minimal use of handling cash, credit cards, reward cards, and mobile devices where possible.

Low-risk outdoor activities include outdoor zoos, botanical gardens, nature parks, grounds of historic sites and cultural institutions, outdoor museums, outdoor agritourism/agricultural demonstrations, and other related institutions or activities. 

For low-risk indoor activities, the patron/visitor guideline states responsible parties must limit the building to no more than 25 percent of the maximum occupancy. Again, masks will be required and social distancing measures must be in place.

Low-risk indoor activities include indoor museums, historical sites, art galleries, aquariums, and other related low-risk indoor arts and entertainment businesses and organizations.

New York State's website has a look-up tool, which helps determine which businesses are eligible to reopen. You can also find guidance in each phase at that link.

Both the Finger Lakes and Western New York regions are on track to reach Phase 4 soon.

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