Cuomo: Gatherings over 500 people banned to contain coronavirus

Mar 12, 2020

Gatherings with more than 500 people will temporarily be banned in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday when announcing one of several “dramatic actions” to contain the coronavirus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) joins other state officials to announce measures to limit coronavirus exposure
Credit NYS Photo

   The governor said the ban would start for most places at 5 p.m. Friday, though Cuomo said it does not apply to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and mass transit.

The move comes as parades, sporting events  and performance venues - even restaurants and banquet halls - across Buffalo and New York State began to adjust thier procedures and schedules accordingly.

"The spread of this coronavirus is not going to stop on its own, and we know that mass gatherings have been hotspots for the virus to infect large numbers of people quickly," Cuomo said.

While Cuomo's remarks stressed what the ban would mean on Broadway, the move will also impact Buffalo-area venues such as Shea's Performing Arts Center, Kleinhans Music Hall, and other performance spaces. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Under the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Shea’s Buffalo Theatre and Shea’s 710 Theatre will cancel all remaining performances of Hello, Dolly! and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time immediately in support of the health and well-being of the theatergoing public, as well as those who work in the theatre industry," Shea's officials announced late Thursday, adding that tickets will automatically be refunded.

The measures also apply to restaurants and banquet halls with seating capacity below 500 people. Such establishments will be limited to only seating half of thier capacity at any one time.

"While we understand prioritizing the health and wellness of employees and patrons, this new cap will dramatically impact all restaurants across the state," "said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association

"The dramatic decline in business will only get worse, and there is a growing fear among owners about how they will survive this crisis without meaningful assistance." Fleischut said in a prepared statement.

Movie theatres will also be effected, but concrete details on how the policy will be implemented at all of these spaces were hard to come by in the sudden aftermath of Cuomo's surprise announcement.


Meanwhile,  The National Hockey League is suspending the rest of its regular season, until further notice, due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.  The NBA suspended its season Wednesday night and other professional sports leagues have since followed suit. 

The NHL move  goes into effect immediately, including Thursday's scheduled games. The Buffalo Sabres were in Montreal preparing to play the Canadiens Thursday night when the news was announced.

The ban for Broadway theaters starts 5 p.m. Thursday and is in effect through April 12, according to a statement from The Broadway League, an organization of theater owners and producers.

“We’ve already been talking to the Broadway theatres and they’re aware that we’re going to be doing this,” Cuomo said.

The ban comes as some of New York City’s most esteemed cultural institutions announced Thursday they are temporarily shutting down because of the coronavirus, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on Thursday announced the cancellation of Buffalo's St. Patricks Day Parade and the similar Old First Ward parade. In response, Larkinville also cancelled its concurrent Live at O'Larkin event.

Gov. Cuomo announced late Wednesday that New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade would be postponed for the first time in its 258-year history. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio later tweeted that the parade will take place at some future date “whether it’s in the heat of summer or on a clear fall day.”

Cuomo said the city has 95 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Thursday afternoon. There are more than 320 cases statewide, with the largest cluster in the suburb of New Rochelle north of New York City.

The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The vast majority of people recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.