New York City got the governor’s green light to partly resume indoor dining in three weeks, offering a lifeline to thousands of restaurants battered by the coronavirus and marking a milestone in the city’s slow crawl back to normalcy.
Restaurant owners in New York, an early epicenter of the US epidemic, have been clamoring for an end to the indoor dining ban that was imposed in March as part of a series of lockdown measures to control the fast-spreading virus.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had previously expressed worries that lifting the ban could lead to a resurgence of the virus, announced at a news briefing that indoor dining could resume at 25% capacity beginning on September 30.
New York prides itself as one of the world’s culinary capitals, with a dining scene that runs the gamut from Michelin-star restaurants to homespun delis. It also acts as both a pillar of economic activity and a sounding board for city life.
The coronavirus outbreak in March and April delivered a devastating blow, with the city accounting for a large share of the state’s initial infections and deaths from the COVID-19 disease associated with the virus.
The resulting lockdowns led to widespread worries that many of the city’s restaurants would either not survive or emerge with a considerably smaller footprint.
“I was kind of worried it was not going to happen,” said Giovanni Gelfini, owner of Santa Panza, a restaurant in Brooklyn.
“Twenty-five percent is not that much, but it’s something where you can do some math and know, more or less, how many customers you can have every day.”
There will be a number of restrictions, including mandatory temperature checks at entrances and collecting of information from one member of each party for contact tracing should there be a COVID-19 outbreak originating in a restaurant.
The state also will establish a whistle-blowing system whereby patrons can anonymously report restaurants not in compliance by sending a text, Cuomo said.
“New Yorker’s will keep New Yorker’s safe,” the Democratic governor said.
The state could lift capacity to 50% after a reassessment,conducted no later than November 1, depending on infection rates, Cuomo said.
Most of New York state is currently operating with indoor dining at a 50% capacity.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio portrayed the latest move as a starting point and a way to lift the city’s economy.
“This may not look like the indoor dining that we all know and love, but it is progress for restaurant workers and all New Yorker’s,” de Blasio said in statement.
‘Very critical time’
US deaths from the coronavirus topped the 190 000 mark on Wednesday.
The University of Washington’s health institute last week projected a US coronavirus death toll of 410 000 by the end of the year.
Although the four most populous states – California, Florida, New York and Texas – account for about 40% of the 6.3 million US infections, health officials have pointed to outbreaks in other parts of the country.
Iowa and South Dakota have emerged as two hotspots in the past few weeks, a surge linked to colleges reopening in Iowa and an August motorcycle rally in South Dakota.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice expressed concern about his state’s high coronavirus transmission rate and urged residents to “buckle down” and try harder to stop the spread of the virus.
Overall, new coronavirus infections have fallen for seven weeks in a row for the United States, with a death rate of about 6 100 per week from COVID-19 in the last month.
On a per-capita basis, the United States ranks 12th in the world for the number of deaths, with 58 deaths per 100 000 people, and 11th in the world for cases, with 1 933 cases per 100 000 residents, according to a Reuters analysis.