New York City is nearly fully reopened, but the second televised mayoral debate on June 2nd between Democratic candidates is currently still set to be held on Zoom.
Matt Sollars, a spokesman for the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which administers the debates, explained that the decision was made in accordance with health restrictions that are in place at WABC-TV, which is hosting the event.
But on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted most restrictions on businesses, allowing them to operate at 100% capacity in most cases as long as social distancing is maintained. Vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks indoors or outdoors.
The status of the debate, which Bloomberg first reported as being virtual on Monday, has drawn heavy criticism from nearly all the candidates.
On Twitter, Maya Wiley pointed out that New Yorkers can now attend a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, go to the movies, "but we can't fit 8 candidates in a TV studio? Give me a break."
The campaigns for Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Ray McGuire and Andrew Yang also issued calls for the debate to be in person.
During his press briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked whether the mayoral candidates should debate on the city's open streets, an idea proposed by Streetsblog.
"I kinda like it," the mayor replied.
The first televised debate, which was hosted by NY1, Gothamist/WNYC, and The CITY, was held virtually last week. Since then, the number of new coronavirus cases has been steadily dropping. More than 3 million city residents have now been fully vaccinated, according to the city's Department of Health. At the end of March, 77 WABC radio hosted the first Republican mayoral debate in person. However, that event featured only two candidates, Curtis Sliwa and Fernando Mateo.
It is unclear whether organizers may reverse course in light of the changing risks as well as the new state health guidance.
WABC could not be reached for comment.