NEW YORK (AP) — Indoor dining restrictions will be reinstated indefinitely in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue climbing in the city and throughout the state.
As of Monday, only takeout orders and outdoor dining will be allowed in the city, one of the world’s great cuisine capitals, the governor said at a news conference in Albany.
The Democrat had been hinting at a clampdown on indoor dining for a week, saying he was waiting to see if hospitalization rates stabilized. They have not, and Cuomo said that despite the economic pain to one of the city’s biggest and most vital industries, he needed to act.
“In New York City, you put the CDC caution on indoor dining together with the rate of transmission and the density and the crowding, that is a bad situation,” he said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he supported Cuomo’s decision.
“This is painful. So many restaurants are struggling. But we can’t allow this virus to reassert itself in our city,” he said on Twitter.
The governor’s order came despite opposition from the beleaguered restaurant industry, which warned of holiday season layoffs at a time when the federal government has yet to pass additional COVID-19 relief.
“It will be the last straw for countless more restaurants and jobs,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “The restrictions begin on Monday with zero economic support for small businesses that are already struggling to survive.”
Cuomo acknowledged the hardship restaurants were facing, but said, “It’s in everyone’s interest to get the virus under control, don’t overwhelm the hospitals, don’t overwhelm the positivity rate.”
He added, “If we don’t slow the spread and we overwhelm the hospital system — we get to a red zone… then every restaurant goes to zero indoor, outdoor zero. That’s the worst case scenario.”
The decision comes as wintery weather has started to arrive in New York City, where the outdoor dining setups on sidewalks and in tents on the street are likely to be far less popular amid icy winds and, sometimes, blowing snow.
Public health experts have repeatedly warned that indoor dining — particularly in small, crowded restaurants where individuals are drinking and can take off masks when not eating — poses a risk for airborne transmission. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently described such indoor dining as “high risk.”
Other places have also clamped down, like Pennsylvania, which announced Thursday that indoor dining would be banned starting this weekend.
New York’s restaurants have been in trouble since the state closed nonessential businesses in March, which forced restaurants to rely on takeout and delivery.
As that shutdown was gradually lifted for many types of businesses, restaurants remained restricted. The state began allowing indoor dining in some regions outside of New York City in June, and Cuomo allowed indoor dining at 25% capacity in the city Sept. 30. In other parts of the state, restaurants are allowed to have half their tables filled.
Cuomo said he’s considering restrictions in other parts of the state, but didn’t announce any changes Friday. The spread of the virus in New York City has actually been lower than in many other parts of the state where restaurants remain less restricted.
Cuomo said New York City’s density made it different than other parts of the state.
Critics pointed to Cuomo’s repeated statements that small gatherings and “living room spread” appears to be fueling the second wave of virus infections. But the governor’s administration has acknowledged that New York is unable to identify a single source of transmission for about 80% of cases in late fall.