Throughout the enormously challenging spring and summer months, New Yorkers have been wondering when exactly it will be safe for them to visit their favorite institutions and establishments. Individual museums within the state have been releasing tentative plans for their own re-openings for weeks, but on Friday, governor Andrew Cuomo officially stated that museums, aquariums, bowling alleys and other certain cultural centers in the state will be permitted to open their doors again beginning on August 24.
There are certain caveats, of course: museums will have to operate at 25% capacity for the foreseeable future, and stringent disinfectant protocols and universal use of face masks must obviously be ubiquitous, but the announcement is sure to be welcome all the same.
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“Low-risk cultural activities, museums, aquariums, other low risk cultural arts can reopen in New York City August 24 so they can get their protocols in place,” Cuomo told reporters on a conference call, according to CNBC. Additionally, Cuomo shared on the call that over the past seven days, the state of New York’s positivity rate (the amount of positive coronavirus tests compared to the total amount of tests conducted) had been less than 1%. “That is fantastic,” Cuomo added. “On the numbers, it’s been extraordinary, congratulations to all New Yorkers.”
Of course, the governor and the mayor of New York City’s staunch insistence that things are essentially getting back to normal flies in the face of the devastation wrought by the virus this year. Thus far, 33,465 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19, and there are still a great many questions about whether the reopening of schools and offices in the fall is premature.
Plus, since the pandemic began to wreak havoc upon the art world, mass museum staff layoffs and drastic loss of income have forced artists and institutions alike to scramble in order to survive. Even the Metropolitan Opera, one of the most iconic cultural institutions in New York City, is relying upon a letter of credit backed by the enormous Chagall murals kept in the Lincoln Center lobby in order to confirm it can pay off its debts; and that’s just one example.
Ultimately, despite the enthusiasm being shown by Cuomo and de Blasio, New Yorkers know better. As we begin to make tentative visits to our favorite museums once again, there’s no amount of optimism from elected officials that can erase the collective trauma that’s been experienced by all.