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COVID-19: Protocols

COVID-19: NYS' Response

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On March 22nd, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a mandated New York State on Pause order and as of May 15th, the state had begun to reopen by region and in phases.

By late September, early October 2020, COVID cases in NYS had begun to surge. Governor Cuomo implemented the Cluster Initiative, which places new restrictions on businesses and schools in light of this surge and is based on the number of cases in zones. Beginning November 13, state-wide initiatives on bars, restaurants, gyms and State Liquor Authority-licensed businesses went into effect.

Visit: for comprehensive information on NYS’ response to the Coronavirus.

Current Initiatives

Beginning November 13th the following initiatives went into effect:

  • Bars, restaurants, gyms, as well as any State Liquor Authority-licensed establishment must close for in-person service from 10 pm to 5 am daily.
    • Restaurants are still allowed to provide curbside, foo-only pick-up or delivery after 10 pm, but are not permitted to serve alcohol to go.
    • o For more information on restaurants, see below, Additional Information, Open Restaurants.
  • Indoor and outdoor gathering at private residences are limited to no more than 10 people.
  • Movie theaters outside of NYC can reopen starting October 23rd at 25% capacity with no more than 50 people allowed in front of each screen.
    • Theaters can only open outside of NYC in counties that have COVID-19 positivity rates of less than 2% on a 14-day average and do not have any cluster zones.

The Cluster Initiative

With a surge of COVID cases in NYS, in late September/early October, Governor Cuomo implemented the ‘Cluster Action Initiative,’ which places specific restrictions on businesses and schools according to the number of COVID cases in zones across the state. The Cluster Initiative places the most significant restrictions within clusters designated at red zones, moderate action in the area surrounding the cluster to stop the spread (designated as the orange zone or the warning zone), and precautionary action in the outlying communities (designated the yellow zone or the precautionary zone). Clusters not designated by one of these colors are not a designated hot spot. To look up a hot spot by address visit:

The enforcement of these restrictions took place beginning Friday, October 9th.

The chart below is a summary and is not exhaustive. For full details please see Empire State Development’s Guidance Related to New York’s Cluster Action Initiative or visit:

Type of Activity Red Zone Orange Zone Yellow Zone
Non-Essential Gatherings Prohibited 10 people maximum, indoors and outdoors 25 people maximum, indoors and outdoors
House of Worship Lesser of: 25% of maximum capacity or 10 people, whichever is fewer Lesser of: 33% of maximum capacity or 25 people, whichever is fewer 50% of maximum capacity
Businesses Non-essential businesses closed; Essential businesses remain open Certain high-risk non-essential businesses closed (eg. Gyms, hair & nail salons, spas, personal care services) Open, but must follow COVID-19 requirements for their sector
Dining Restaurants, bars, cafes and other food services can provide takeout or delivery only Outdoor dining only, takeout or delivery only, 4 person maximum per table Outdoor and indoor dining open; 4 person maximum per tableOpen, but must follow COVID-19 requirements for their sector
Schools Closed – remote only Closed – remote only May remain open, mandatory weekly testing of students and school personnel in accordance with DOH guidance

Where permitted to operate within the cluster action initiative, businesses and other entities must continue to follow the relevant industry-specific guidelines provided by Department of Health as available on the New York Forward website for their applicable operations and activities.

NYC Cluster Initiative

NYC also provides information on a neighborhood’s zone designation and restrictions:

New York Forward Business


NYS created a New York Forward Business Reopening Lookup Tool to help businesses determine the public health and safety standards with which it must comply. To access the tool, visit The guidelines accessible via this tool apply to both non-essential businesses in regions that are permitted to re-open and essential businesses throughout the state that were previously permitted to remain open.


For what businesses need to know when reopening, visit:
For industry reopening guides, free webinars, outreach flyers and other resources in multiple languages visit
Business owners can call the dedicated SBS Restart Hotline at 888-727-4692.


Under NYS’ original NYS On Pause Order, which began on March 22nd, 2020, NYS required that all non-essential workers work from home and NYS residents were to remain home except for necessary errands while also maintaining a 6-foot distance from others in public. Beginning May 15th, 2020 NYS began reopening the state by region and in phases. Regions throughout NYS reopened businesses in phases based on the number of cases in each region. The phase-in plan prioritized businesses considered to have a greater economic impact and lower risks of infection for the workers and customers, followed by other businesses considered to have less economic impact and those that present a higher risk of infection. To view how industries reopened visit:

To learn about NYC’s phase 4 reopening visit:

Additional Information


NYC opened 100 miles of streets to allow for greater social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. Open Streets are available daily, 8 am to 8 pm (unless otherwise noted) for pedestrians and cyclists to use the roadbed of the street while maintaining social distancing. Opening hours may vary by location due to NYPD staffing.

No through traffic permitted while Open Streets are in effect. Vehicle traffic is limited to local deliveries, pick-ups/drop-offs, necessary city service vehicles, utility vehicles and emergency vehicles only. When Alternate Side Parking (ASP) regulations are in effect, drivers must move their vehicles from the street, and may return when ASP is over.

To request an Open Street in a community contact a local NYC DOT Borough Commissioner’s office at


  • Open Restaurants – Food establishments may apply online and self-certify to use the sidewalk or curb lane adjacent to their business.
    • On September 25, 2020, NYC announced that the Open Restaurants program will be made permanent year-round and restaurants will be permitted to used heating and will be permitted to use tent enclosures to keep diners warm, as well as to expand seating to adjacent properties with neighbors’ consent.
    • Restaurants are also permitted to set up tents, visit:
  • Open Streets: Restaurants – Community based organizations, or groups of three (3) or more restaurants on a single block may join together to apply online for weekend-only outdoor dining on streets closed to traffic.

For more information visit:


During the reopening process strict safety and social distancing protocols remain in place, including maintaining a six-foot distance from others and the wearing of face masks, see above, COVID-19: Masks. To view Governor Cuomo’s 10-point plan of safety visit:

The governor has enforced a maximum fine violation of $1,000 for those who do not adhere to the state’s social distancing protocol. Localities have the authority to enforce these protocols. To file a complaint against one’s employer of place of work visit: To file a complaint against a business, location or incident in a community visit: Individuals mays also call 833-789-0470 to file a complaint.

For more information, visit:


As NYS continues its phased reopening, each region must continue monitoring the following metrics:

  • Diagnostic testing rate;
  • Case and contact tracing capacity;
  • New infection rates;
  • Hospitalization rate;
  • Hospital bed capacity; and,
  • ICU bed capacity;

For a comprehensive description of the above listed metrics established based on guidance by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of State and other public health experts, visit the Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard.


NYS also has the following dashboard pages with data on the state’s containment of COVID-19: