Groups of 10 people can now meet anywhere in New York for any reason.
On a unexpected executive order iOn Friday night, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo loosened coronavirus restrictions somewhat, saying that meetings of up to 10 people would be allowed "for any purpose or legal reason" anywhere in the state – including New York City – since distance protocols were followed.
Cuomo issued the order after the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit that challenged Cuomo's order on Thursday, allowing groups of 10 people or less to meet for religious services or for Memorial Day celebrations. Cuomo's order on Friday night changed the previous order.
The review was quickly condemned by councilman Mark D. Levine, who represents upper Manhattan and is chairman of the city health committee. He stressed that the request had not been made by health professionals.
"This shocking order, forced by a lawsuit, does not change anything about the risks associated with group meetings – especially those held indoors" he said in tweets Posted at 20:45
"No one should take this as advice to change their behavior," he added.
In filing the lawsuit, the civil liberties union argued that Cuomo's order to allow religious and Memorial Day events was illegal because state rules still prohibited protests and other activities protected by the First Amendment.
"We are happy to see the governor turn the course around," said Christopher Dunn, legal director of the civil liberty group, in a statement Friday.
Cuomo's office did not immediately provide a justification for the change or say what had motivated it.
Under the new orders, groups of up to 10 people can meet in any region of the state, even those who have not been cleared to enter the first phase of the reopening.
Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Governor Philip D. Murphy, of New Jersey, said on Friday that the state would allow open-air crowds of up to 25 people and allow the camps to reopen.
"I am proud that we can take that step today and add a little more hope and optimism to the beginning of the summer," said Murphy.
Social detachment would still be necessary in open-air meetings, limited to 10 people, and in camps. Facial coatings are not needed outside, but state officials recommend them.
"If you were looking forward to meeting your neighbors for a Memorial Day barbecue, you can do it," said Murphy.
Outdoor dining in restaurants remains banned in New Jersey, although Connecticut started allowing on Wednesday; Indoor events are still limited to 10 people, said Murphy.
New Jersey also reported 146 new virus-related deaths, bringing the state total to 10,985.
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The reports were contributed by Maria Cramer, Michael Gold, Luis Ferré Sadurní and Matt Stevens.