As virus ebbs, NY loosens restrictions on houses of worship

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is moving faster than expected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday, allowing the state to loosen some restrictions on gatherings in houses of worship.

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Churches, temples, mosques and other religious buildings will be allowed to operate with 25% of their usual capacity once the region they are in reaches phase two of the state's reopening plan.

“We’re going to open the valve more then we originally anticipated because the metrics are so good," Cuomo said.

All of the state except for New York City is in phase two of loosening restrictions, or will enter it within a few days. That means larger religious gatherings can begin in most places immediately. New York City starts the first phase Monday.

COVID-19 killed 35 people in the state Friday, Cuomo said, down from a peak of more than 700 per day in April.

“This is really really good news. Compared to where we were, this is a big sigh of relief," Cuomo said, though he noted that caution is still needed.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death.

Cuomo urged people to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing, something that has been collapsing in many parts of the state as people have watched tightly-packed crowds of thousands of people protesting racial injustice.

“People still have to stay smart. With this virus you learn something new every week, and sometimes what you learn is different from what they told you in the first place,” Cuomo said.