BROOKVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — In-person graduations are back, but some critics say the COVID safety rules go too far, and they want to drop capacity and testing requirements.

It was a joyous scene not seen since 2019 — an in-person graduation at Long Island University.

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“I thought it was going to be virtual and then last minute, they told us, and it was best thing in the world,” graduate Nancy Abrosio said.

“We get to walk and have our special moment on stage, so that means a lot,” another graduate said.

COVID safety was strictly in place for the ceremony. Graduates were masked and spaced six feet apart. Only two guests were allowed per graduate. They too were socially distanced and had to provide proof of vaccine or negative COVID test.

There was no handshaking or traditional diploma hand-off.


But some parents and school officials say it’s time to lift capacity and testing requirements at graduations and proms.

“You can go thousands of people to beaches without testing, without proof of vaccination. Well, why can’t we have a thousand people at a graduation on a football field? What’s the difference?” Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman said.

“It doesn’t makes sense. You’re in school together all day, but then you need a test at 6 o’clock to attend the prom,” said Dr. Charles Murphy, superintendent of the Island Trees School District.

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has also asked the governor to loosen restrictions on graduations and proms, reflecting the county’s 55% vaccination rate.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports, New York state caps graduation capacity depending on the location. For larger events, attendees must show proof of a recent negative test or vaccination.

The governor’s office says that is consistent with other activities, like catered events, performing arts and sports.

A spokesman says beaches differ from events where people come and go all at the same time, and some testing rules will relax after May 19.

That’s little consolation to Locust Valley High School senior Jenna Halpin.

“I feel like we’ve gotten robbed. I’ve worked so hard and I’m robbed that I only can have two spectators,” she said.

Yet, we’ve come a long way from last year’s drive-by graduations.

The new rules took nothing away from the joy of mom Tanya Smith.

“I’m so ecstatic right now, and it’s just a blessing to be here after this pandemic,” she said.

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However they celebrate, the class of 2021 has made it through a year like no other.

Carolyn Gusoff