De Blasio Urges N.Y. to Follow N.J. in Pausing Reopenings

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he’s holding off on easing more pandemic restrictions as case counts surge to the highest in the nation, prompting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to urge similar precautions.

Capacity at New Jersey’s restaurants, gyms and salons increased to 50% on Friday as Murphy eased rules aimed at stemming the coronavirus outbreak. The number of people allowed at gatherings has also more than doubled to 25 indoors and 50 outdoors.

Now, Murphy said the state will hold steady and pause further reopening.

“We won’t be opening further capacities for some time now,” he said in a CNN appearance Monday. “We want to do this safely and responsibly, we don’t want to have to go back.”

Murphy’s move prompted de Blasio to urge New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to follow suit. He said Cuomo should pause any more re-openings following the resumption of group fitness classes in the city and the governor’s decision to increase capacity of indoor dining to 50%.

“It’s time to reassess for sure,” de Blasio said in a Monday briefing. “Certainly we have to stop there while we see what happens with these variants.”

De Blasio said the city’s health officials continue to have “real disagreement with the state” over the opening of group fitness classes and cautioned Cuomo not to go beyond half capacity for indoor dining.

Later, Cuomo said that he didn’t plan to lift restaurant capacity beyond 50%, which is consistent with neighboring New Jersey. Cuomo said Connecticut now allows full indoor dining but that he’s more aligned with New Jersey’s approach. “I’m comfortable with that,” Cuomo said during a call with reporters Monday.

As of March 21, New Jersey has the highest seven-day case rate in the nation, with 314.5 per 100,000 residents, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. New York’s seven-day case rate stood at 213.8 per 100,000 residents as of March 21, the highest after New Jersey and Rhode Island, CDC data show. New York City is higher, at 260.6 cases per 100,000 residents.

New Jersey and New York experienced a surge of cases and hospitalizations in December and January with the colder weather and holidays. While data has improved since then, recovery is slow as Murphy and Cuomo seek the proper balance of restrictions.

Though vaccinations are accelerating, Covid-19 is still prevalent, and variants are of concern. Health officials have been pleading with the public to continue mask-wearing and social distancing.

“One of the reasons we see a high plateau or slow decline is due to these variants,” said New York City senior health adviser Jay Varma. “We know the variants are more infectious and that is a very strong reason why we continue to have high rates of disease. So we are very concerned.”

In New Jersey, hospitalizations have been hovering around 1,900 for about a month, after falling from more than 3,000 in January. The state has added more than 60,000 cases so far this month, after more than 70,000 in February and 140,000 in January.

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