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NY will lift most business capacity limits on May 19

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, fist-bumps a young man getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot at a press conference Thursday in Buffalo. (Provided photo — Darren McGee, governor's office)

NEW YORK — New York City’s subway will begin rolling all night again, and capacity restrictions for most types of businesses will end statewide in mid-May as COVID-19 infection rates continues to decline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

City subway service will return to 24-hour operation on May 17 after being closed for cleaning during overnight hours since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the Democratic governor said.

Capacity restrictions on businesses — including restaurants, offices, beauty salons, gyms — will be lifted in New York and its neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut on May 19, Cuomo said.

Businesses in New York will still be required to operate in a way that guarantees that unvaccinated people can keep 6 feet of social distancing space, even after the occupancy limits go away, the governor said.

New York City’s subways, famous for all-night operation, were shut down between 1 to 5 a.m. on April 30, 2020, so trains and stations could be disinfected. The change was also intended to make it easier to remove homeless people from trains where many had been spending the night. The overnight closure was scaled back to 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. in February.

Cuomo’s announcement came the day after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the resumption of around-the-clock subway service.

“The city that never sleeps is slowly — but surely — living up to its name again and waking up from the COVID-19 pandemic, but so should the subway system, and ASAP,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said at a news conference Sunday.

The decision to close the subways for cleaning was made a year ago when scientists placed greater weight on surface contamination as a vector of coronavirus infection than they do now.

Speaking at his New York City office near Grand Central Terminal, Cuomo said cleaning the system is still important though “not as urgent as they said it was initially.”

Cuomo, who controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that runs city subways and buses, said standards of cleanliness should remain high when the overnight closure ends. “You’re trying to build confidence for people to get back on the subways,” he said. “I want to know the subway is going to be clean.”

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