Nassau Coliseum to allocate half of seats for vaccinated fans at NHL playoffs

Nassau Coliseum to allocate half of seats for vaccinated fans at NHL playoffs
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the Nassau Coliseum can open 50 percent of its seating to fully vaccinated patrons ahead of the Islanders' playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The Nassau Coliseum will allocate half of the seats for the New York Islanders’ home playoff games to patrons who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday.

Cuomo said the fully vaccinated fan section will have patrons separated by one seat, or three feet, with people required to provide proof of full immunization. Children under the age of 16, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, are permitted entry with a fully vaccinated adult along with a recent negative COVID-19 test. Social distancing, masks, and other health and safety protocols will be fully enforced.

“The Islanders have always been Long Island’s team, and this new measure to increase capacity will allow more of the team’s passionate fan base to enjoy the final games at the Coliseum and help reenergize the team as they head into the playoffs,” Cuomo said.

In the rest of the seats, for fans who are not fully vaccinated, people will have to maintain a six-foot distance.

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, an Islanders fan, sent a letter to Cuomo on May 6 imploring the state to allow the Coliseum to expand its capacity for vaccinated patrons to at least 50 percent in time for the playoffs.  The letter came after Cuomo announced New Yorkers could receive a free ticket to a Mets or Yankees game by getting inoculated at either of their venues.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! I wrote a letter last week on this topic and I’m excited that the State is now moving to increase capacity at Nassau Coliseum in time for the playoffs,” Curran said in a statement. “The more residents continue to roll up their sleeves, the quicker we’ll able to get to 100% capacity for everything.”

This will be the last year that the Islanders will play in the Coliseum. Officials said the team’s new home, UBS Arena in Belmont Park, should be open in time for the start of the 2021-22 season in the fall.

“As our positivity and hospitalization rates go down and our vaccination numbers go up, we are readjusting our reopening strategy to get our economy back and up and running,” Cuomo said. “The arrows are all pointed in the right direction, and we can now take yet another huge step forward and allow fully vaccinated fan sections to end the Islanders’ last season at the Coliseum.”

The NHL has not set a date for the series to begin but it has been confirmed that the Islanders (32-17-7) will face their divisional foe, the Pittsburgh Penguins (37-16-3).

The announcement came a week after Cuomo outlined significant capacity increases to indoor and outdoor events throughout the state.

Cuomo announced that the state will lift a majority of capacity restrictions, including outdoor and indoor social gatherings, along with residential gatherings, beginning May 19.  Capacity limits for businesses will also be replaced with allowing individual businesses to permit as many patrons as they desire, so long as there is six-foot social distancing.

Cuomo announced that limits on outdoor social gatherings would increase from 200 to 500 people on May 10, and the limits on indoor social gatherings will increase from 100 to 250 people on May 19. Also, as of May 19, there will be no restrictions on residential outdoor gatherings throughout the state, and the limit for residential indoor gatherings will increase from 10 to 50 people.

Cuomo said that any event with an excess amount of people will be permitted only if everyone in attendance can provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination.

Beginning on May 19, large-scale indoor events will be permitted to function at 30 percent capacity, an increase from the current 10 percent restriction. Large-scale outdoor event venues will be permitted to function at a 33 percent capacity, Cuomo announced. He said patrons for both types of venues will require proof of full vaccination along with social distancing and masks.

Cuomo also announced that hair salons, barbershop and other personal care services will be allowed to expand to 75 percent capacity on Friday, and gyms and fitness centers can expand to 50 percent capacity on May 15.

“Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers and our partners in government, we are now able to increase capacity limits for businesses, event venues and residences to reflect what we’re seeing in the COVID data,” Cuomo said.

As of Wednesday, more than 620,000 Nassau County residents had completed their vaccination series, with more than 759,000 receiving their first dose, according to state Health Department figures.

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