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Cuomo reinstates indoor dining ban as COVID cases continue to rise

December 11, 2020 Marina Villeneuve and Deepti Hajela Associated Press

Indoor dining restrictions will be reinstated indefinitely in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue climbing in the city and throughout the state.

As of Monday, only takeout orders and outdoor dining will be allowed in the city, the governor said at a news conference in Albany.

The Democrat had been hinting at a clampdown on indoor dining for a week, saying he was waiting to see if hospitalization rates stabilized. They have not, and Cuomo said that despite the economic pain to one of the city’s biggest and most vital industries, he needed to act.

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“In New York City, you put the CDC caution on indoor dining together with the rate of transmission and the density and the crowding, that is a bad situation,” he said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he supported Cuomo’s decision.

“This is painful. So many restaurants are struggling. But we can’t allow this virus to reassert itself in our city,” he said on Twitter.

The governor’s order came despite opposition from the beleaguered restaurant industry, which warned of holiday season layoffs at a time when the federal government has yet to pass additional COVID-19 relief.

Bartender Devon Schickling prepared lemon juice for drinks on Sept. 29 at Mama Fox bar and restaurant in Brooklyn. Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

And it comes as wintery weather has started to arrive in New York City, where the outdoor dining setups on sidewalks and in tents on the street are likely to be far less popular amid icy winds and, sometimes, blowing snow.

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Public health experts have repeatedly warned that indoor dining — particularly in small, crowded restaurants where individuals are drinking and can take off masks when not eating — poses a risk for airborne transmission. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently described such indoor dining as “high risk.”

New York’s restaurants have been in trouble since the state closed nonessential businesses in March, which forced restaurants to rely on takeout and delivery.

As that shutdown was gradually lifted for many types of businesses, restaurants remained restricted. The state began allowing indoor dining in some regions outside of New York City in June, and Cuomo allowed indoor dining at 25 percent capacity in the city Sept. 30. In other parts of the state, restaurants are allowed to have half their tables filled.

Cuomo said he’s considering restrictions in other parts of the state, but didn’t announce any changes Friday. The spread of the virus in New York City has actually been lower than in many other parts of the state where restaurants remain less restricted.

Cuomo said New York City’s density made it different than other parts of the state.

Critics pointed to Cuomo’s repeated statements that small gatherings and “living room spread” appears to be fueling the second wave of virus infections. But the governor’s administration has acknowledged that New York is unable to identify a single source of transmission for about 80 percent of cases in late fall.

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The Five Borough Chamber of Commerce Alliance, which includes the Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island Chambers of Commerce, released the following statement on Friday responding to Gov. Cuomo’s announcement.

“Given New York’s recent increase in positivity rates and hospitalizations, this was obviously a difficult decision. However, the restrictions could not have come at a worse time for restaurants across the five boroughs when many are holding on for survival by a thread and trying in some way to make up for the devastating losses of the past nine months. This shutdown marks a completely different economic climate than restaurants faced at the onset of the pandemic, where many were in a better financial position and supported by federal stimulus funding. We now fear that thousands of small businesses will be forced to permanently close their doors and lay off employees, which will have an irreversible impact on the city’s economic recovery and social fabric. To prevent the total collapse of the nation’s largest and most vibrant restaurant industry, the federal government urgently needs to enact a new COVID-19 relief package.”

The statement is signed by Randy Peers, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; Lisa Sorin, Bronx Chamber of Commerce; Jessica Walker, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce; Tom Grech, Queens Chamber of Commerce; and Linda Baran, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.


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