ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday eased COVID-19 restrictions on houses of worship and will allow religious ceremonies to commence with a congregations of up to 25 percent capacity for all areas that are in Phase II.
Before Friday, religious gatherings were not allowed until Phase IV, which would have been the end of June in the eight-county Capital District region.
“This is an acceleration for us because we are doing so well on the metrics,” Cuomo said during his daily press briefing, while urging people to maintain social distancing and to wear masks while attending religious services.
On Saturday there were just 35 deaths statewide, with nine being nursing home residents, and 2,600 people hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Churches were open for private prayer and special religious ceremonies prior to Saturday with a 10-person limit.
The Capital District, which includes Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga Washington, Warren, Columbia and Greene counties, entered Phase II on Wednesday. That includes the largest chunk of the workforce returning to employment in professional services, real estate, barber shops and salons and retail with in-store shopping.
On Thursday, the governor allowed restaurants to offer outdoor dining at their establishments provided social distancing between tables could be maintained.
New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, is slated to enter Phase I on Monday.