Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Monday that indoor dining in New York City could be shut down again as soon as next week if COVID-19 hospitalization rates keep rising.
Cuomo said the final decision has not been made and could be allayed if hospitalization rates stop climbing in the five boroughs — but that is a best-case scenario that the three-term governor admitted he does not view as likely.
“The CDC has targeted indoor dining as a spreader,” Cuomo told reporters during a briefing at his offices in Midtown.
“When would you undo restrictions?” continued Cuomo, rhetorically posing the question to himself. “You’d be looking for a stabilization” in the hospitalization rates.
The governor did not think that stabilization would be possible until mid-January at the earliest.
State officials signed off in September on allowing Big Apple bars and eateries to resume indoor service to try to boost the industry, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus, but at just 25 percent of normal capacity.
Elsewhere across the Empire State, indoor service has been allowed to resume at 50 percent of capacity, which Cuomo said Monday could be lowered to 25 percent if the hospitalization rate does not abate.
Over recent weeks, state officials have been publicly edging towards the possible imposition of the first citywide coronavirus restrictions in months as the testing and hospitalization data shows widespread outbreaks of the deadly COVID-19 virus across broad swaths of the Big Apple.
However, the target for imposing the new restrictions and which businesses would be ordered closed to contain the outbreak have continued to shift.
Initially, the state’s criteria for imposing ‘orange zone’ rules was if the rolling seven-day positive testing average for coronavirus tests run from New York City residents exceeded 3 percent for 10 days. At that time, the rules would have ordered the suspension of indoor dining and again closed down gymnasiums, barbershops, salons and other personal services shops and fitness centers to close.
New York City’s positivity rate has exceeded 3 percent for at least eight days now, putting it on the cusp of qualifying for new lockdown measures under the old standards.
Parts of Staten Island have already been placed under an ‘orange zone’. That move triggered protests from locals and led one pub owner to publicly defy the rules, in a situation that turned violent after the barkeep allegedly attacked a city sheriff’s deputy sent to enforce the shutdown order.
However, Cuomo’s office quietly adjusted the rules late last week to only require a testing average of 3 percent or more for just seven days — while adding a new metric for case growth.
It is unclear if New York City has cleared the second threshold and, if so, for how long.
When checked Monday afternoon, the state’s coronavirus briefing materials and documents still said under orange zone restrictions that “[c]ertain high-risk non-essential businesses (eg., gyms, fitness centers and classes, barber shops, hair salons, personal care services) are closed.”
However, Cuomo seemed to suggest in his remarks to reporters Monday morning that those rules could also shift.
“Gyms and salons … we have so many protocols on the gyms and salons, they’re not major spreaders on the numbers,” the governor added. “It is about indoor dining.”