NYC Postpones Indoor Dining Indefinitely as Record-Breaking COVID Surge Swallows U.S. – NBC New York

What to Know

  • New York City has joined New Jersey in shelving indoor dining indefinitely as bar- and restaurant-linked COVID cases surge across the nation
  • Cuomo says he worries about lack of social distancing and mask compliance amid reports that dining in closed, indoor areas with air-conditioning systems could lead to spikes in COVID-19
  • The list of tri-state quarantine-restricted states is 16: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday New York City would postpone indoor dining indefinitely, citing soaring infection rates tied to bars and restaurants in a growing number of U.S. states. New Jersey made the same decision this week.

De Blasio said “now is not the time to forge ahead” with indoor dining in the five boroughs. That had been slated to return Monday when the city enters Phase III of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reopening strategy. The city will still transition to the third phase Monday absent indoor dining, reopening personal care services and more outdoor recreation, from tennis and handball courts to Bocce and soccer.

“Indoors is the problem, the science is showing it more and more,” the mayor said Wednesday. “We cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City.”

The rest of New York state has already resumed indoor dining. It wasn’t immediately clear if any other region would be affected by the city’s decision. Seven regions have already moved into the fourth and final phase of Cuomo’s reopening plan, with the Capital Region the latest to do so Wednesday.

Cuomo initially raised the red flag on indoor dining Monday, saying he worries about lack of compliance with social distancing, face coverings and other COVID safety protocol amid reports that dining in closed, indoor areas with air-conditioning systems could pose a heightened risk of virus spread.

Dr. Anthony Fauci tells Congress the U.S. could soon see up to 100,000 new coronavirus infections each day if drastic steps aren’t taken.

One bar outside Michigan State University in East Lansing, for example, has been linked to at least 85 new COVID infections. In Florida, 16 friends all tested positive for COVID after a night out during the state’s early reopening.

Cuomo’s concern about ventilation transcends indoor dining; he has yet to set any reopening timeline for malls, theaters or gyms because of similar worries. Whenever New York malls are able to reopen, they’ll have to first install certain filtration systems to ensure the virus doesn’t recirculate in the enclosed air.

Cuomo says these are lessons learned from looser reopenings of other U.S. states, some of which are shattering new daily COVID case records multiple times a week. Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, told a Senate committee on work and school safety Tuesday he could see new daily U.S. cases soar to 100,000 new cases a day, a striking increase from the already record-breaking daily totals in the 40,000s, if the situation doesn’t improve.

Scrambling to curb the spread as the CDC warns it may already be beyond control, more and more states, from Texas to Arizona to Pennsylvania and California, are rolling back some reopenings or pausing the process entirely.

Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy are reevaluating their overarching reopening strategies in light of other states’ reopening struggles. Indoor dining was the first domino to fall. Will it be the last?

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

With all of New York state in some phase of reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shifting his focus to monitoring test results on a daily basis across each region to identify potential hotspots before they emerge. Here’s the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here

Murphy shelved dine-in indefinitely in New Jersey, just three days before it was set to resume in his state, albeit it at 25 percent capacity. He cited similar concerns as Cuomo in his decision. No new reopening date has been set.

With indoor dining off the table for now in the city, de Blasio said he’d double down on al fresco. He has continued to focus on his robust Open Restaurants initiative, which leverages curbs, sidewalks, parking spaces and more to provide establishments additional temporary space for outdoor eating. More than 6,000 restaurants have already applied for permits to participate in that program.

Indoor Dining, Personal Services, Recreation Activities Resuming Soon

Meanwhile, the city’s incremental reopening continues to move forward. On Wednesday, the five boroughs’ 14 miles of public beaches reopen for swimming for the first time this year, providing much-needed relief to New Yorkers who’ve largely been shunned from out-of-city shores as some towns restricted theirs to locals only. (Watch out for sharks in the Rockaways.)

In other positive news: the city confirmed late Tuesday it would reopen as many as 15 public pools by Aug. 1, also for the first time this year. Find the initial list of pools the city plans to open here.

While New Jersey won’t reopen indoor dining as scheduled Thursday, it will still allow amusement parks, boardwalk rides and playgrounds to return that day. Casinos are also permitted to reopen Thursday at 25 percent capacity, though given the indefinite postponement of indoor dining and a new smoking ban, more than a handful may opt to delay their returns. Several have done so already.

New York, which once had the highest COVID transmission rate in the nation and now boasts the lowest, and New Jersey, the nation’s second-most impacted state, are painfully aware of the need to maintain their progress as more than half of U.S. states wage war on the virus anew.

The three tri-states implemented a quarantine order last week that requires travelers to self-isolate for 14 days if coming from states where the seven-day rolling average of positive tests or positive cases exceed a certain threshold.

The number of states on that restricted list doubled Tuesday to 16: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Violators of the executive order may face heavy fines.