ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB)– New York State has provided News 4 with more details about restrictions affecting catered and in-person events.

Governor Cuomo announced earlier this month that beginning March 15, weddings of 150 people or 50% of the venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller, can resume.

That announcement still left questions about specific guidance for individuals planning events and the venues hosting events.

A state spokesperson shed some light on the new guidelines set to take effect March 15.

In a document provided to News 4, NYS says “Effective March 15, 2021, Responsible Parties throughout the state, including event venue and facility owners and/or operators,event venue and facility owners and/or operators, and event organizers (i.e., planners and producers), must comply with additional requirements for non-residential events (i.e., gatherings held outside of a household) that involve the gathering of attendees – above the State’s social gathering limit – for an event, which may feature the preparation and service of food and/or beverage for parties, including but not limited to wedding receptions, celebrations, and similar private venue events, such as meetings and conferences.”

Event Notification

Those hosting these events must notify their health department five days in advance of the event with the following details (effective February 24):

  • Responsible Parties’ contact information
  • Event name or function
  • Event address
  • Event date and time
  • Event duration (including loading and
    unloading times)
  • Expected number of event attendees
  • expected number of event staff
  • location on premises (e.g., indoor, outdoor) indicated by description and/or on event
    floor plan.

Check with your local health department to see if additional information is needed.

Contact Tracing

According to NYS guidance event, attendees must “sign-in” immediately after arriving at the venue. Details that need to provide include full name, date of birth, address, email and phone number.

The state will use this information in the event contact tracing is warranted after the event.

Event organizers may establish the sign-in method how they please, including digital application or paper.

The state requires a record of the data be kept for a minimum of 28 days and be made available to local and state health officials upon request.

COVID-19 Testing

COVID-19 test results are required to be presented to designated event staff prior to or at the arrival of the event. If a test is positive or attendees do not present the results they are to be denied entry.

“For any event conducted pursuant to this guidance, Responsible Parties must require and ensure all attendees have received a negative diagnostic test result for COVID-19 using a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or other nucleic acid amplification test (NAATs) of comparable analytical sensitivity performance that was performed on a specimen (e.g., swab) collected within 72 hours of the event start time. Responsible Parties may also accept negative test results for COVID-19 from a FDA authorized antigen test performed on a specimen collected within 6 hours of the event start time. All attendees must present proof of the negative diagnostic test result (e.g., mobile application, paper form) to designated employees or event staff prior to, or immediately upon, arrival to the event.”

New York State

NYS also says “responsible parties” can offer to conduct FDA-authorized antigen testing for attendees.

The state guidance says, “Responsible Parties may offer to perform FDA-authorized antigen testing for attendees to obtain test results of specimens collected within 6 hours of the event on premises; provided, however, such antigen testing must meet all requirements and standards set forth by DOH, including timely and complete reporting of results to the Department’s Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting System (ECLRS).”

It’s also noted that attendees can provide proof of completing the COVID-19 vaccine series 14 days in advance of the event in place of a COVID-19 test. However, the state says venues still reserve the right to require a negative COVID-19 test regardless.

Venue employees and event staff must also provide a negative COVID-19 test result.

Social Distancing

NYS is requiring social distancing be enforced during such events.

“Responsible Parties must ensure that all attendees practice social distancing by
maintaining a distance of, at least, six feet from other individuals, except for members of the same immediate party/household/family.”

New York State

Event organizers must provide assigned seating to guests when eat or drinking. The state suggests members of the households be grouped together.

Social distancing signage must also be posted.

Face Coverings

New guidance provides that responsible parties are to ensure “acceptable face coverings” are worn at all times.

“Responsible Parties must ensure that attendees, employees, and event staff wear acceptable face coverings at all times; provided, however, that attendees may remove their face coverings when seated at their assigned table to eat or drink. The face covering requirement applies to any attendee over the age of two and able to medically tolerate such covering.”

New York State

It’s further specified that organizers may allow certain people to temporarily remove their face covering when presenting at the event, 12 feet of social distance must be between the speaker and other attendees.

Signage reminding attendees of the face covering requirement is also required.

Controlled Movement

NYS is requiring a plan be made detailing a “plan of movement” throughout the venue.

“Responsible Parties must ensure that all event attendees are confirmed in
advance (e.g., guest list) to ensure compliance with occupancy, plan movement of individuals
throughout the premises, and prevent unnecessary congregation or foot-traffic congestion in
common areas (e.g., entrances, exits, restrooms).”

New York State

Point of ingress and egress must be designated and NYS suggests a plan be created to stagger ingress and egress of event guests.

One-directional foot paths are suggested to be implemented if able.


New York State is permitting live music and entertainment under certain restrictions and is subject to change if deemed necessary.

“Responsible Parties must ensure that attendees are not congregating, except when seated
at their assigned table. Attendees should only be standing when necessary (e.g., enter/exit,
restroom, use of staffed buffet), when essential to the event (e.g., entrance of bride and groom), or
when permitted.”

New York State

New guidance permits live entertainment under the following specifications as noted by the state:

  • Live music performers and other entertainers, particularly if unmasked or playing a wind
    instrument, must be separated from attendees by either 12 feet or an appropriate physical
  • Select attendees – who are designated to the Responsible Parties prior to the event – may
    participate in ceremonial dances with members of their immediate party/household/family
    (e.g., first dances at a wedding reception) so long as they maintain six feet of separation
    from other attendees throughout the dance.
  • Attendees may dance with only members of their same immediate party/household/family
    who are seated at their table in designated and clearly marked areas or zones that are
    assigned to them and spaced, at least, six feet apart from any other dancing areas or zones,
    and any tables. Ideally, each dancing areas or zones should not be less than 36 square feet.
    Attendees must wear face coverings while in their assigned dancing area or zone and cannot
    enter, use, or otherwise visit other dancing areas or zones.

A spokesperson for the Erie County Department of Health said their Division of Environmental Health is finalizing web-based forms for venues to submit their event details. They will also have the ability to check back to see that their plan was received and reviewed, the spokesperson said in an email.

Wedding coordinators and venue owners spent the day Thursday reading and re-reading the guidelines. They were also in touch with each other.

“Two years ago I would view those venues as straight up business competitors,” said Kate Wilcox, who owns The Hillcrest Estate in Livingston County. “Now I view them as friends because we’re all in this together.”

“I think we can definitely achieve everything that’s in there, but there are things that will be difficult,” she added.

Kathy Brown, a wedding planner who owns Bushel and a Peck Event Creative and Design, said these guidelines provide more clarity.

“We will absolutely be taking this on and helping our couples to navigate how they’re going to satisfy the health department’s requirements,” Brown said. “We’ll also be working with the venue that they’re working with just to make sure who is taking on what responsibility.”

For complete guidance, click here.

Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.