Updated: May 17, 2021 11:11 PM
Created: May 17, 2021 10:54 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The people behind some of Rochester’s biggest public events are cheering a breakthrough in the state’s coronavirus reopening rules.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that people who’ve been vaccinated will no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most situations.
"Things are going in the right direction. We are getting closer and closer to normalcy every day,” said Rochester Red Wings General Manager Dan Mason on the verge of the team’s Tuesday home opener.
For the game, Mason said those who are vaccinated will still be encouraged to wear masks and those who aren’t will have special, socially distanced, seating.
As officials declare the state is turning the corner on coronavirus, Cuomo dubbed it time for the next step.
"We have to get back to life and living and we have to do it the way New Yorkers do it,” Cuomo said in a Monday briefing. “We have to do it quickly and robustly.”
Effective Wednesday the state is adopting the CDC's COVID-19 guidance, which means no need for masks or social distancing for people who've been vaccinated in most cases. The news offers a chance for change from one weekend to the next right in the middle of a signature local event, Rochester's Lilac Festival.
"It's good news that we're making progress but we're not 100% there yet,” said Lilac Festival Producer Jeff Springut.
For the festival's third weekend this weekend, the "no mask needed" rule means more food options, now including snacks people might normally munch while strolling around, which they couldn't do while masked.
"We just contracted with a kettle corn operator for this weekend,” Springut said. “We've got more cinnamon-roasted almonds and we're talking to some ice cream operators in town."
The expanded food options will also include Bay Vista Tacos, which will bring a truck, adding to vendors who’d been hard-pressed to accommodate surging crowds for the festival’s first two weekends. But some Lilac Festival attractions like the arts and crafts show will still be socially distanced and limited to a total of 650 people to accommodate those who still aren't vaccinated,
And the change comes too late for Rochester's Corn Hill Arts festival which has been, and remains, canceled for this year.
"If this had been a month or two ago, perhaps we could have made it work and try to figure some things out but, unfortunately, it does take time,” sighed Corn Hill Festival Chairman Nick Howell.
Both Corn Hill and Lilac Festival organizers hope to do more this summer with concert events, at full capacity and no social distancing, if officials can work out ways to make sure the people who do turn out are vaccinated.
“I think people have had a hard year and a half,” Springut said. “They are happy to get back.”
The governor says individual private businesses can still have their own rules for masks and social distancing.
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