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Cuomo says venues can reopen, at 10% capacity. Barclays Center introduces new safety protocols. But "success" is based on Bills game outdoors.

The Barclays Center and other venues can open in two weeks with 10% capacity, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday. That means 1,173 people at the Brooklyn arena (capacity for basketball 17,732), but likely fewer for the first game on Feb. 23. (One reporter said 200.)

The arena is offering new safety protocols, including digital tickets, face masks (no single-layer cloth), plexiglass, 450 sanitizer stations, remote food ordering, and six-foot distancing.

But it will allow masks to be removed for eating and drinking in designated areas and, as per disclaimer, can't make safety guarantees: "Despite the protocols and requirements we have put in place, no precautions can eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19."

And other questions persisted, including about the state's required testing protocol. Also, Barclays Center may become mass COVID-19 vaccine site, de Blasio says, the New York Post reported, which raised quesetions about potential conflict with arena events.
Emma G. Fitzsimmons Twitter
The announcement

The announcement yesterday, Governor Cuomo Announces Sports and Entertainment Events in Major Stadiums and Arenas Can Reopen with Limited Spectators Beginning February 23:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that, building off of the successful Buffalo Bills pilot program, sports and entertainment events in major stadiums and arenas with a capacity of 10,000 or more people can re-open with limited spectators beginning February 23. Following the model established as part of the successful Buffalo Bills pilot program, venues and events must follow similar guidelines, including Department of Health approval for venues and events, capacity limitations, testing requirements, mandatory face coverings, temperature checks, and assigned, socially distanced seating.

The Department of Health's work to inspect eligible venues statewide is already underway, and thanks to that work, the Barclays Center has been approved to re-open on February 23 for the Brooklyn Nets home game against the Sacramento Kings. The success of this, and similar events in approved venues over the coming weeks will help inform the re-opening process for smaller venues in the future.
Of course the Bills game was outside and other venues are indoors. But there are requirements:
  • Obtain DOH approval for both venues and events
  • Institute a 10 percent capacity limit in arenas and stadiums
  • Ensure all staff and spectators receive a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the event
  • Mandate face coverings, social distancing and temperature checks for all those in attendance
  • Mandate assigned, socially distanced seating
  • Collect contact information from all those in attendance to help inform contact tracing efforts
  • Meet enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards
  • Ensure retail, food services and athletic activities abide by all state-issued guidance
Testing questions

Public health experts urge caution with rapid COVID-19 testing, reported City & State, noting that such rapid testing--with 15-minute results--was not what was required for the Bills games:
Cuomo touted the Bills games as an “unparalleled success” on Wednesday, as the testing caught some positive cases and the events did not lead to a spike of new cases in Erie County. It could be held as a model for the new arena rules, but Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, questioned the efficacy of performing a test days in advance. “If it’s done three days ago, that doesn’t mean one is not infected now,” El-Sadr said. Other public health officials questioned whether including indoor venues in the new announcement is wise, given that the Bills games were outdoors.
One expert told City & State that a rapid test would be safer. 

Note that the AP said the state hadn't provided evidence of the success with the Bills, though Spectrum cited this.

The Times quoted Cuomo as saying his goal was to “get this economy open intelligently and in a balanced way” and that concerts would be allowed--though promoters said 10% capacity wouldn't make economic sense. (Also, don't people shout, sing, and scream at concerts?)

From the Nets

BROOKLYN (Feb. 10, 2021) - New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that Barclays Center has been approved to reopen beginning Tuesday, Feb. 23, when the Nets take on the Sacramento Kings at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following State guidelines, the venue will be limited to 10 percent capacity until further notice.

Barclays Center will employ robust health and safety protocols that have been developed in coordination with the New York State Department of Health, the National Basketball Association and the Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC). These protocols include: a negative PCR test for all patrons, administered within 72 hours in advance of the game; mandatory temperature checks; social distancing and use of face masks; and thorough cleaning and sanitation procedures. To help further ensure the safety of Barclays Center fans and employees, the venue will also continue to provide COVID-19 testing to all arena employees prior to each game. Barclays Center has achieved GBAC STAR™ accreditation, the gold standard for prepared facilities. To read more about the venue’s health and safety measures, please click here.

“Thank you to Governor Cuomo and his team at the Department of Health for collaborating with us in creating a robust health and safety plan that allows fans to return to our arena,” said BSE Global CEO John Abbamondi. “The Governor has played a tremendous role in getting New York businesses back on their feet and we are proud to announce that for the remainder of the season we are donating a portion of ticket proceeds to support vaccination efforts here in Brooklyn. We would also like to thank our fans for their support this season and we are looking forward to bringing their energy back to Barclays Center!”

Based on availability, Nets season ticket members and suite holders will be given priority access to the limited number of tickets available for the 2020-21 season. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets to upcoming Nets games is encouraged to visit

Those who click regarding tickets are told that existing season ticket members and deposit holders will receive priority.