Gov. Andrew Cuomo hinted Monday that he might postpone plans to resume indoor dining in New York City on July 6. And then New Jersey put its start date on ice.
During a morning interview with NY1, the New York governor pointed to “troubling signs” including large social gatherings on city sidewalks, public demonstrations and coronavirus spikes in other states that have reopened malls and indoor dining. He said indoor dining could be “problematic.”
“We have a week before New York City enters the next phase, and we have numbers every day, but I’m going to be speaking to the electeds in New York City and the business owners in New York City,” he said. “Malls and indoor dining are things that I’m concerned about and we may consider slowing them down for next week. Not going backwards, but we may actually slow them down.”
Across the river, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey on Monday afternoon canceled his state’s indoor dining start date, citing “what we’ve seen in some establishments across the state,” he tweeted. “Overcrowding. A complete disregard for social distancing. Very few, IF ANY, face coverings. The scenes we see in our newspapers and on social media CANNOT CONTINUE.”
Cuomo had already announced that gyms, malls and movie theaters will not be part of the final phase of reopening, though his administration hasn’t specified a timeline beyond the four-phase strategy. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced late last week that the city was on track for the July 6 start of phase three, which includes indoor dining at 50 percent of capacity and with other precautions.
On June 22 restaurants were permitted to provide dining services outdoors, in addition to curbside pickup. More than 5,000 restaurants had applied to reopen with seating on sidewalks and other outdoor areas.
Indoor activities carry a higher risk of the coronavirus spreading because the airborne virus particles do not dissipate as quickly. Restaurants and bars present an additional risk in that people cannot wear masks while eating and drinking, are relatively close together and tend to stay for more than an hour, increasing the viral load to which they may be exposed.
Two weeks ago Cuomo reacted to videos of social-distancing breakdowns in Manhattan and a flood of complaints to warn that reopening could be rolled back there and in the Hamptons. He did not follow through on that threat as hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 continued to decrease. Confirmed Covid-19 deaths in New York on Saturday were in the single digits for the first time since March.
Cuomo said at a midday press conference that he would announce a decision by Wednesday.
“Indoor dining has shown that it has been problematic,” Cuomo said during the press conference. “It only takes one.”
Cuomo attributed the potential delay to a recent lack of compliance with social distancing within the city, as well as an increase in cases in other states, which he feared could spread to New York.
Reaction among New Jerseyans to Murphy’s decision to delay indoor dining indefinitely was mixed but mostly negative on his Twitter feed. One respondent replied, “You can say what you want about Gov Murphy but man this guy has had our back since day 1 of this crisis. He’s made mistakes, but holy shit compared to the ‘leadership’ down south, he deserves way more credit than what he’s getting.”
But many others were like this one: “So will u reimburse restaurants that prepared for a July 2 opening? I’m not saying the crowds I saw this weekend were a good thing, but another blatant disregard to business owners by the governor yet again. Not sure what u expected when we opened up.”
Sasha Jones contributed reporting.
Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected]