While the coronavirus continues to rampage across most of the United States, New York City has recorded its first 24-hour period with no Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
That's a remarkable occurrence, considering that the city was once the world's epicenter of the disease. And though there remain troubling signs with regard to infection rates among New Yorkers (especially those in their 20s, among whom cases have ticked up recently), the city's tourism industry has begun to grind into gear again.
Case in point: The observatory at the Empire State Building—a Manhattan tourism icon if there ever was one—will reopen to the public on Monday, July 20.
Closed since March due to the pandemic, the observation decks on the skyscraper's 86th and 102nd floors will once again be accessible—though with safety precautions.
New hours of operation will be from 8am to 11pm, and the number of visitors allowed on the premises at the same time will be capped at 500.
That may still sound like an uncomfortably large crowd to breathe among, but given the observatory's 70,000 square feet, the 500-person limit amounts to about 20% of the usual capacity.
To avoid crowding at ground level and on elevators, visitors must purchase timed tickets in advance. For the 86th floor only, tickets will set you back $42 for adults, $36 for kids; to throw in the 102nd floor (where a multimillion-dollar renovation was completed in December), prices jump to $72 for adults, $66 for kids.
Upon arrival at the Empire State Building, observatory guests will undergo a contactless temperature screening. Anyone with a reading over 100.4°F will be denied entry. You must bring your own facial covering and wear it throughout your time onsite.
In its reopening plan, Empire State Realty Trust, which operates the building, says that employees will enforce safe social distancing among guests and manage capacity limits on elevators and in other indoor areas.
High-touch surfaces will be cleaned with increased frequency, and many of the building's interactive exhibits, including any that involve close facial contact (such as looking through binoculars), will be unavailable.
It's a start.
Elsewhere in New York, tourism options are still uncharacteristically limited at the moment.
Parks and other open-air attractions such as the 9/11 Memorial (but not the museum) are accessible, and many restaurants now offer outdoor dining.
But museums, theaters, music venues, and clubs all remain closed.