GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)Long Island entered Phase 4 Wednesday, which means museums, public gardens, zoos, aquariums and larger public gatherings.

And there was a surprise for shoppers. Malls can soon open on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.

With little fanfare, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced malls can open on Friday in regions in Phase 4, but only those with enhanced COVID-19 removal filters, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

The news was a delight to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who had been pushing for it.

“Oh my goodness, I’m actually getting goosebumps right now. This is great news for our economy, for our employees, employers, for revenue,” Curran said.

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It’s a relief for mall business owners like Spencer Rubin, whose Melt Shop in the food court has been shuttered for months.

“I don’t see being inside a mall any different than being inside an airport or a museum or anything of similar construction. As long as you’re keeping your distance and wearing a mask,” Rubin said.

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Phase 4 also brings back museums, historical sites, and film production studios. Masks will be a must at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, which opens Thursday.

There will be new protocols, including:

  • Only 25% capacity will be allowed
  • Many of the interactive exhibits have been cordoned off, while others will be disinfected hourly
  • Employees’ temperatures will be checked daily and hand sanitizer will be readily available

It’s a small step — not a giant leap — but with signs of safety everywhere, it’s a start.

“A lot of cleaning as been done, a lot of changes to the museum such as closing off interactives. But we think we are a big enough space that we can handle the 25% very easily and we are happy to be a part of what the new normal is going to be,” said Andy Parton, the museum’s president.

Some exhibits head outdoors, but inside hand sanitizer is a new fixture. The theater is shuttered, but cafe tables are socially distanced.

At the Nassau County Firefighters Museum, gone is the fire gear that children try on, but trucks can be boarded and will be wiped down constantly.

“We’ve reduced the number of exhibits that are hands on,” said Chief John Murray of the Nassau County Firefighters Museum. “I will have one person every day that is responsible just for disinfecting everything that people use.”

Still shuttered: The Long Island Children’s Museum, which features almost entirely hands-on exhibits. Also, movie theaters and gyms. Gym owners are suing New York state.

Phase 4 will allow social gatherings of up to 50 people, and religious institutions can open at 33% capacity.

The county executive congratulated Long Islanders for reaching this milestone through what she called common sense mask wearing.

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