Indoor Dining in New York City Could Be Back on the Table – The Wall Street Journal

Restaurants like the West Bank Cafe in Manhattan have relied on delivery and to-go orders since indoor dining was suspended again in December.

Photo: Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Indoor dining at restaurants in New York City, which has been suspended since early December to help limit the spread of Covid-19, may reopen soon.

The state is considering a plan that would permit indoor dining at a capacity of 25%, and “how and when you do that,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. A decision will come by the end of the week, he said, after consultation with local health officials and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“I fully understand how difficult it is that they are closed,” said Mr. Cuomo of the city’s restaurants. “On the flip side is how fast this virus can take off.”

After a state court ruling, indoor dining is allowed, with restrictions, in all other areas of the state.

Mr. Cuomo also on Wednesday lifted localized economic and social-gathering restrictions in most areas of the state, including in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Nassau and Suffolk counties, and counties that include Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. Those restrictions were part of a so-called microcluster strategy, and the level of restriction was associated with the colors yellow, orange or red, with yellow zones having the fewest restrictions.

Five parts of the state—two areas in the Bronx, as well as areas in Washington Heights, Queens and the Hudson Valley city of Newburgh—remain in a yellow zone, Mr. Cuomo said. Those areas will continue to have limitations on dining and social gatherings, and capacity at houses of worship. Schools will also need to conduct more testing to detect Covid-19.

Mr. Cuomo said he was particularly concerned about the Bronx, where the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 was 6.9%, and has been high for a number of weeks. He said he hopes to open a vaccination site for Bronx residents at Yankee Stadium, and limit who can get a vaccine there to just the people in the borough.

Statewide, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 has dropped to 5.44%, marking what Mr. Cuomo said was the end of a postholiday surge of cases.

At the height of that surge, beginning with Thanksgiving, the percentage of New Yorkers testing positive for the coronavirus reached 7.94% on Jan. 4, according to state data.

The state is “functionally out” of vaccines, Mr. Cuomo said, with some 96% of first doses administered. The Democrat added that a federal program to vaccinate people in long-term care facilities had reached everyone in the state. In all, 72% of residents in those facilities ultimately opted for the vaccine.

New York will now stay week-to-week, using vaccines as they come in from federal supplies. Federal plans announced Tuesday by the Biden administration will give states a three-week window into allocation and allow for better planning, said Mr. Cuomo.

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Write to Melanie Grayce West at melanie.west@wsj.com

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Appeared in the January 28, 2021, print edition as ‘Indoor Dining in the City Almost Back on the Table.’