May 4, 2021 -- As COVID-19 cases fall and vaccination numbers rise in the U.S., governors are making plans to reopen businesses, resume public transportation, and lift public health restrictions.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended all of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, according to The Hill. He also signed a bill passed by the Legislature last week that allows him to overrule local emergency orders starting July 1 and said his executive order that suspends restrictions immediately will “bridge the gap” between now and July 1.
“I think that’s the evidence-based thing to do,” he said during a news conference. “I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point ... don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in the science.”
On Monday, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut released a joint announcement that many restrictions will be lifted on May 19, including limits on subway service, theaters, and retail stores.
“The tide is turning against COVID-19 in New York, and thanks to our increasing vaccination rates, as well as our successful, data-based regional approach, we’re able to … keep moving towards returning to normal,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in the statement.
In 2 weeks, most businesses will be able to fully reopen, and business capacity limits will be removed as long as customers or household parties can maintain 6 feet of distance. The new rule will apply to many industries, including retail, food services, gyms, amusement parks, entertainment venues, hair salons, and houses of worship.
Outdoor social gathering limits will increase from 200 to 500 people on May 10, and indoor social gathering limits will increase from 100 to 250 people on May 19. At event venues, social gatherings can surpass the limits if attendees have proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. The New York City subway will also resume 24-hour service on May 17.
Several states are also beginning to ease mask mandates to align with CDC guidance and give people an incentive to get vaccinated. Nevada announced Monday that those who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks outdoors, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
California also updated its mask guidance on Monday to allow those who are fully vaccinated to remove their masks outdoors, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. In California and Nevada, vaccinated people still need to wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, such as festivals, sports events, and performances.
During Monday’s announcements, state officials encouraged more people to get vaccinated to slow the spread of the coronavirus and prompt additional easing of restrictions this summer. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a “Shot and a Beer” program that allows people over age 21 to get a free beer at participating bars and breweries this month if they get their first shot in May, according to ABC News.
Last week, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced a similar promotion that allows people to get a free drink at certain Connecticut restaurants May 19-31 if they show their vaccine card. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has also announced that residents ages 16-35 will receive a $100 savings bond for getting vaccinated.
“We need that push,” Perry Halkitis, PhD, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told ABC News. “You have to find a way to motivate people. This is one way to do it.”