Movie theatres in New York State, except New York City, can reopen at 25 per cent capacity with up to 50 people per screen starting from October 23, state Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Theatres will only open in counties that are below 2 per cent of Covid-19 test positivity rate on a 14-day average and have no cluster zones, Xinhua news agency quoted Cuomo as saying on Saturday.

Masks will be required at all times except when audience are seated and are eating or drinking. Assigned seating and social distancing between parties will be required in all theaters, and additional staffing is also required to guarantee full control of the situation, he added.

Andrew Cuomo coronavirus test
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo taking coronavirus test on live TV Screen Grab/YouTube

According to the Governor, the state carried out 159,972 Covid-19 tests on Friday, 1,784 were positive, or 1.11 per cent of the total. Once the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, New York state has reported more than 488,000 Covid-19 cases, of which New York City accounted for over 258,000.

The death toll in the state stood at 32,959. As of Sunday, the US continued as the worst-hit country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 8,106,384 and 219,286, respectively, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Block-by-Block Strategy

New York will target individual blocks rather than entire neighborhoods as the state tries to fight the coronavirus in fall and winter, said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "You draw a very tight focus, bring it down within that targeted area and you don't disrupt anyone else in the meantime," said Cuomo on Saturday, Xinhua news agency reported.

This approach will allow businesses to reopen once the clusters on their block are controlled, he said, adding that with contact tracing, the state will be able to identify exactly where the cases are coming from, and which businesses or places are not contributing to the spread.

Once a block with a high infection rate is designated, an increase in testing would take place with stricter enforcement, according to the governor. "If there's a cluster it means there wasn't compliance," he added.

Andrew Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo Wikimedia Commons

"No other state has tried such a granular approach to rising cases," The New York Times on Friday quoted public health experts as saying. "New York State's plan cuts through city neighborhoods, ZIP codes and, in some cases, even streets."

State and city officials hope this approach will prevent the need for any new citywide lockdowns, which would further devastate the local economy, the paper added.

NYS's positivity rate in coronavirus "Red Zones" has dropped slightly to 4.34 per cent, while the state's overall infection rate remains low, at 1.1 per cent, with over 1,784 new cases.

The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University reported 33,347 coronavirus deaths in the state as of Saturday afternoon, the worst in the United States.