NYC May Delay Indoor Dining With Cuomo Blaming Residents

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that officials are reconsidering a plan to allow indoor dining July 6, as other states experience a jump in Covid-19 cases after reopening restaurants and bars. Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed, but spread the blame to the city’s inability to enforce social distancing.

De Blasio cited surges of the virus in Texas, Florida and California as reasons to consider a slowdown in reopening restaurants, even at 50% capacity. The mayor said the city and state will make a decision within “the next few days,” as health officials are “paying attention to this lesson. We’re increasingly concerned.”

“Around the country, a number of cities and states have been moving in the wrong direction,” de Blasio said. “We all love indoor dining, but we see problems with indoor dining.”

Cuomo expressed similar concerns during a Monday news briefing. But he also directed criticism at New York City leaders and residents, saying the most populous U.S. city has had problems enforcing social distancing as people congregate.

“There’s a lack of compliance with social distancing in New York City,” Cuomo said. “You can see the crowds in front of bars. You can see the crowds on street corners. It is undeniable. It’s the responsibility of citizens. It’s also the responsibility of local government.”

The city’s second phase of reopening has permitted more than 5,000 restaurants to set up outdoor dining on sidewalks, patios and curb-side parking spaces, but the limited seating comes nowhere close to returning the industry to where it stood before the Covid-19 pandemic forced a citywide shutdown in March.

A 2017 city-funded study on local nightlife found that more than 21,000 restaurants and bars accounted for more than 154,000 jobs and $4.7 billion in wages, with an economic impact on the city of about $14 billion.

Studies have found the virus spreads more easily indoors and particularly among diners in restaurants. Epidemiologists have said that in some restaurants, the virus has been transmitted as it moves through an interior space via air conditioning or cooling fans. This factor, combined with New York City’s population density and its status as an international and domestic gateway, heightens the risks of viral spread.

“Indoor dining has shown it has been problematic,” Cuomo said. “The virus has spread indoors with air conditioning systems, while outdoor dining has worked very well across the state, New York City included.”

The state has improved to the point where it recorded a three-day average of just eight Covid-19-related deaths Sunday, its lowest since the peak in April.

Cuomo agreed with de Blasio that viral outbreaks continuing in 32 states are alarming and provide a good reason to slow down the city’s move toward reopening its restaurant industry. The governor blamed the continuing spread on President Donald Trump, who Cuomo said “has been in denial about the virus from the get-go.” He called on Trump to “step up” and issue a national order for people to wear masks in public.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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