New York eases ban on meetings




May 22, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended the state's outright ban on meetings of any size on Friday, issuing an executive order saying that up to 10 people can now be together as long as they meet other guidelines for Social distancing taken during the coronavirus pandemic.

The order, issued on the eve of Memorial Day weekend, represents one of the biggest steps the state has taken to loosen the rules adopted in March that have prevented everyone, except essential workers, from coming together to unless they live in the same home.

It doesn't necessarily pave the way for backyard barbecues and group picnics that are a staple of vacations. The order still requires people who meet to follow "social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols required by the Department of Health."

That means people still need to stay at least 6 feet away from other people, or wear a mask or face covering when they can't keep that distance in public.

New Jersey has adopted similar rules, allowing groups of up to 25 indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people.

Earlier in the week, Cuomo had signed an order allowing gatherings of up to 10 people only for religious services and Memorial Day commemorations.

That restriction sparked a lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which said that if it was safe to meet in order to honor veterans and celebrate religious ceremonies, the Constitution requires that the same right be extended to people who meet. for other reasons.

The NYCLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Linda Bouferguen, a New York City resident, who, according to the group, was arrested twice outside City Hall for protesting the state shutdown. She wants to organize another protest on Saturday.

NYCLU legal director Christopher Dunn said in a statement that the organization was "pleased to see the governor in reverse."

"The right to protest and exercise freedom of expression is the foundation of all our other freedoms, and it is exactly during a crisis that we must be most vigilant to protect it. Health experts, elected officials, and police officers agree that people can be safely outside while practicing social distancing, and it is critical that lawmakers create guidelines and direct law enforcement uniformly. "

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the new order is in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says meetings of up to 10 people are safe if people distance themselves socially.

"Please be safe and wear a mask," he added on Twitter.

The coronavirus killed 109 other people in the state on Thursday. The number of daily deaths has dropped dramatically since early April, but has stubbornly held at just over 100 for five consecutive days. Around 5,000 people remain hospitalized.

Associated Press writers Marina Villeneuve and Michael Hill in Albany contributed to this report.

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