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NYC restaurants can open with outdoor seating on Monday

June 18, 2020 Karen Matthews and Marina Villeneuve Associated Press
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Restaurants will be allowed to open with outdoor seating on Monday as New York City enters the second phase of easing coronavirus restrictions, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

De Blasio said the outdoor seating plan will provide a lifeline for New York’s crucial restaurant industry as the city emerges from lockdown.

“We have to save this industry,” he said. “It’s part of our identity.”

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo followed the mayor’s briefing by cautioning that public health experts will review data to finalize whether the city can start Phase Two on Monday.

“We have global experts who look at the data and when they sign off, then I sign off,” Cuomo said at his own briefing. The two Democrats have often been at odds over details of managing the pandemic, but de Blasio said, “there’s been a high degree of unity.”

Cuomo said that as restaurants open across the state they must follow rules on social distancing or risk losing their liquor licenses.

De Blasio said restaurateurs in the city will be able to go online starting Friday to apply to open with seating on the sidewalk, in a backyard patio or using parking spaces. He estimated that 5,000 restaurants employing 45,000 workers would be able to open starting next week.

Offices, hair salons, retail stores and playgrounds in public parks will also be allowed to open during Phase Two of reopening, de Blasio said. He said 150,000 to 300,000 more people should be back at work.

The rest of New York state is farther along in the reopening process than New York City, which was the epicenter of the virus in the United States starting in March.

Cuomo said the state is able to reopen because New Yorkers largely followed rules about avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks.

“Where people follow the rules, the infection rate stays down, that’s called good news,” he said.

Cuomo said there were 1,358 hospitalizations for the coronavirus on Wednesday and 29 deaths blamed on COVID-19 — a fraction of the 700-plus daily deaths the state recorded in mid-April. Just 0.9 percent of the 68,000 people who were tested for the virus statewide Wednesday were positive, he said.

In a turnaround from the early days of the outbreak when some other states sought to keep New Yorkers from entering, Cuomo said he is considering requiring a 14-day quarantine for people traveling to New York from Florida, where COVID-19 cases are rising.

“I’m considering it now,” he said, “In some ways, you want to talk about a full 180.”

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