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Cuomo calls for police to disperse crowds outside bars

July 20, 2020 Marina Villeneuve and Karen Matthews Associated Press
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New York City moved to what was supposed to be the final phase of its coronavirus reopening on Monday, but with indoor service at restaurants and bars still banned, malls and museums shuttered and theaters still dark amid concerns about the virus spreading indoors.

Phase Four of the city’s reopening does allow more outdoors arts and recreation activities to open. Media production companies can resume work, and professional sports teams can resume play too, though without fans.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though, said the city was not ready for indoor nightlife and he called on local governments Monday to dispatch police to disperse crowds that have been gathering outside some bars and restaurants offering outdoor dining and curbside pick-up of alcoholic beverages.

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Police departments, including the NYPD, have to “enforce the law” if the crowds get larger than allowed, he said.

“It’s not just showing up and watching,” Cuomo said in his Monday news conference. “The crowd has to be dispersed. It’s violating the law.”

Social media posts continue to show crowds gathering outside of bars and restaurants in violation of the state’s social distancing rules and open container laws.

“Local governments, you don’t want to enforce the law because you think it’s politically unpopular and you don’t want to do something that’s politically unpopular,” Cuomo said.

Eight people with COVID-19 died in New York Sunday, Cuomo said. About 1 percent of around 50,000 tests conducted Sunday came up positive, which continues a weeks-long trend.

“We’re holding steady,” Cuomo said. “We’d like to see it at zero obviously, but one percent is very good.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his Monday news conference that “troubling overcrowding” at restaurants “will not be tolerated.”

He referenced the recent shutdown of a restaurant in Astoria, and promised heavier enforcement by the sheriff’s department and by the police department if necessary.

“One restaurant has been shut down,” de Blasio said. “If others have to be, we will.”

Cuomo flew to Savannah, Georgia, for the day Monday to meet with the mayor to bring “thousands of PPE” and talk about testing and tracing programs and dealing with rising hospital capacity.

Cuomo said he’s exempted from quarantine requirements under a multi-state travel advisory because he’s an essential worker and he’ll be in Georgia for less than 24 hours.

New York, once a pandemic hotspot, has so far avoided a surge in new cases like those plaguing other states in the South and West. But the Democratic governor has repeatedly warned New Yorkers could be at risk if they abandon social distancing and other practices adopted to stop the spread of the virus.

“I know it’s tempting to be tired of the many rules and guidelines the state has issued, but I reiterate that this pandemic is far from over, and the incredible compliance and fortitude of New Yorkers are key parts of our ability to fight COVID-19,” Cuomo said in a statement.

More than 25,000 people have died statewide since the outbreak began earlier this year.

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