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New York state is lifting occupancy limits for vaccinated fans attending professional baseball games — including Blue Jays games in Buffalo and minor-league teams throughout the state — as part of a major reopening push, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
The new rules allow vaccinated fans, and their children under age 16, to sit in special seating sections at professional baseball games, including the Rochester Red Wings, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Syracuse Mets and Toronto Blue Jays games scheduled at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. The fans would still be required to wear face coverings.
Unvaccinated fans attending the games will be seated in sections with a 33% occupancy limit and a six-foot social distance rule, as well as mandatory face coverings.
The new rules take effect May 19.
Free! Mets, Yankees fans can get vaccinated at games, get tickets
Cuomo assured fans the new vaccinated and unvaccinated seating sections would be separate but equal.
"It’s not like you get the nosebleed seat because you're unvaccinated," he said.
The move comes after New York, New Jersey and Connecticut officials announced occupancy limits would be lifted for restaurants, gyms, retail stores and other businesses beginning May 19.
On Wednesday, Cuomo also announced Broadway theaters will reopen Sept. 14, with tickets going on sale Thursday.
The new capacity rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated fans will apply to all baseball stadiums in New York, according to top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa.
On Wednesday morning, the Toronto Blue Jays announced they would return to Buffalo's Sahlen Field for games in June. The initial plan, announced a couple hours before Cuomo relaxed the capacity requirements, was to sell tickets at 24% capacity. It wasn't immediately clear if the Blue Jays' planned to pursue separate seating for vaccinated and unvaccinated.
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Last season, Major League Baseball's 30 franchises played games without fans while adhering to local guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. The return of fans this spring began slowly with most teams restricting capacity to between 20% and 30%.
Minor League Baseball canceled its 2020 season entirely.
New York's latest plan to get more fans into Mets and Yankees games comes as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continued to drop statewide. The test positivity rate was 1.49% Tuesday, the lowest level since late October. Hospitalizations declined to 2,458, drastically down from about 9,000 during the winter surge peak in mid-January.
"It is really great news all along, and that is congratulations to New Yorkers. It is a function of the collective, the behavior of the collective," Cuomo said, referring to the COVID-19 numbers.