Knicks, Nets To Offer Maskless, Vaccinated Sections For NBA Playoffs As NY Gov. Cuomo Adopts CDC Guidance This Week

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony in Game 4 the 2013 NBA Playoffs (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that starting Wednesday the state will adopt CDC guidance letting vaccinated people mostly dispense with masks and social distancing, allowing the Knicks and Nets to offer fully-vaccinated fan sections at the NBA playoffs in the city’s biggest reopening bid since the pandemic hit.

Over 50% of Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center can be used for fully vaccinated fan sections, boosting total capacity at both arenas. It’s a big deal — for the Knicks, this will be the first trip to the playoffs since 2013. (The Nets are back for their third straight year.)

“What was already an incredibly exciting time around Knicks basketball has just gotten even more exciting,” said MSG Sports executive chairman James Dolan. “All of those fans for Knicks playoff games are going to be loud, they’re going to be passionate and they’re going to be ready. The Garden is going to rock. We hope the team gives all of New York something to cheer about, and that this marks the start of a busy summer for the growing number of vaccinated people.”

Unvaccinated fans must wear masks and social distance. The percentage of the unvaccinated to vaccinated is set by the venue. Said Cuomo at a press conference Monday: “If I own the Knicks, can I tell you what I would do if I owned the Knicks? Everybody else tells you what they would do if they own the Knicks, right? Everybody is entitled to an opinion. If I own the Knicks the guidelines are 50 percent for vaccinated, I would go higher. I encourage operators and venues to go higher than 50 percent vaccinated. You can go to 100 percent vaccinated.”

Cuomo also said the New York City Marathon is on for next fall and that the Tribeca Film Festival will be a big marker of NYC’s reopening next month.

A new park, Pier 76 on the Hudson on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, will officially open June 9 and host the festival’s opening night screening of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. Radio City Music Hall will host Tribeca’s closing night on June 19 with a full capacity, 100% vaccinated, mask-free audience.

“Having Radio City back at 100% without masks, with people enjoying New York and the New York arts is going to be not only symbolic and metaphoric but I think is going to go a long way towards bringing back this state overall,” he said.

The New York City marathon will return for its 50th running this year on November 7, operating at 60%, meaning a total of 33,000 runners. Registration opens June 8. Protocols include staggered start times, social distancing, masks, and health screenings although Cuomo noted that could all change between now and November.

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