Declaring that New York urgently needs to revive its arts and entertainment industry if it is to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that the state would begin taking a series of interim steps to help to bring back some cultural events in the short term and put more unemployed artists back to work.
“We must bring arts and culture back to life,” Mr. Cuomo said as he continued a weeklong series of policy addresses outlining his agenda for the state.
The governor said that bringing back art and culture was crucial — not just to help artists, who have suffered some of the worst unemployment in the nation, but to keep New York City a vital, exciting center where people will want to live and work.
“Cities are, by definition, centers of energy, entertainment, theater and cuisine,” Mr. Cuomo said, noting the threats the city is facing from the rise in remote work, crime and homelessness. “Without that activity and attraction, cities lose much of their appeal. What is a city without social, cultural and creative synergies? New York City is not New York without Broadway.”
Mr. Cuomo said that the state would begin a public-private partnership to offer a series of statewide pop-up concerts featuring artists such as Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Renée Fleming and Hugh Jackman; begin a pilot program exploring how socially distant performances might be held safely in flexible venues whose seating is not fixed; and work in partnership with the Mellon Foundation to distribute grants to put more than 1,000 artists back to work and provide money to community arts groups.
The governor said that the state could not wait until summer, when more people are vaccinated, to bring back performances.
The public-private partnership, New York Arts Revival, which will offer pop-up performances featuring more than 150 artists beginning Feb. 4, will be spearheaded by the producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, along with the New York State Council on the Arts. The plan will culminate with the opening of Little Island, the parklike pier being built downtown in the Hudson River by Barry Diller, and with the Tribeca Film Festival, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in June.
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Answers to Your Vaccine Questions
If I live in the U.S., when can I get the vaccine?
While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
When can I return to normal life after being vaccinated?
Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
If I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask?
Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will potentially get authorized this month clearly protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected by the coronavirus can spread it while they’re not experiencing any cough or other symptoms. Researchers will be intensely studying this question as the vaccines roll out. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will need to think of themselves as possible spreaders.
Will it hurt? What are the side effects?
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection won’t be any different from ones you’ve gotten before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. But some of them have felt short-lived discomfort, including aches and flu-like symptoms that typically last a day. It’s possible that people may need to plan to take a day off work or school after the second shot. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system encountering the vaccine and mounting a potent response that will provide long-lasting immunity.
Will mRNA vaccines change my genes?
No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.
Mr. Cuomo said that he hoped to expand rapid testing, including at pop-up sites, to make it easier for people to be tested before visiting restaurants or theaters in areas with low-enough rates of the virus. He pointed to the state’s experiment last Saturday at the Buffalo Bills game, when the state tested nearly 7,000 fans.
There have been problems with rapid testing. While rapid testing machines are portable, and can swiftly provide results, many are not considered as reliable as other tests in people without symptoms. The White House had relied on rapid testing to keep President Trump and his inner circle safe by requiring all White House visitors to take the test, even though that was not the way the test was intended to be used.
New York reported at least 196 new coronavirus deaths and 14,179 new cases on Monday, and the rate of positive tests continues to increase.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, told performing arts professionals at a virtual conference on Saturday that he believed theaters could reopen sometime this fall with relatively few restrictions if the vaccination program was a success, though he suggested audiences might still be required to wear masks for some time.
“By the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience,” Dr. Fauci said.
But vaccine distribution in the United States is behind schedule, and public health officials have struggled to administer the vaccine to hospital workers and at-risk older Americans.
Mr. Cuomo said that New York could not wait for enough people to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity before taking steps to revive its performing arts scene.
“We’re looking at months of shutdowns,” he said. “We need to begin to act now. We can’t float along letting pain, hardship and inequality grow around us.”