Bars, restaurants and gyms across New York must close by 10 pm and private parties will be limited to 10 people as part of new coronavirus restrictions that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
Cuomo’s curfew and cap on gatherings at private residences comes as COVID-19 cases skyrocket across the country and parts of Staten Island are now facing new lockdowns after being identified as a micro-cluster by the state.
All establishments licensed by the State Liquor Authority must close at 10 pm, but eateries can do curbside food-only pickup later. The governor plan could deal a blow to New Yorkers’ holiday plans as he called private house parties the third “great spreader.”
“We’re seeing a global COVID surge and New York is a ship on the COVID tide,” the governor said during a call with reporters. “Today, we’ve seen the country set a new record in terms of COVID cases. It is really getting much, much worse by the day.”
All of the new rules will go into effect on Friday. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced similar restrictions on restaurants earlier this week.
“It’s tough on bars and restaurants. It’s tough in gyms. It’s tough on everyone. It’s tough on everyone,” Cuomo said. “I would say we are within sight of the finish line. The vaccine has been discovered. It has to be perfected, it had to be operationalized, but we see the finish line.”
“Losing money hurts,” he added, “but money can be replaced. Losing a loved one hurts forever.” New York reported 164,000 COVID-19 test results on Tuesday with 2.9 per cent coming back positive. Another 21 people died of the virus as 1628 remain hospitalized across the state.
Citywide, cases soared to a level not seen since June, according to the latest figures released by officials on Wednesday.
New Yorkers in the five boroughs tested positive for the virus at a rate of 2.52 per cent over the last seven days, according to the city. The last time the city had such a high percentage of positive test results came on June 9, when the positivity rate clocked in at 2.6 per cent.
“This is our LAST chance to stop a second wave,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Wednesday. “We can do it, but we have to act NOW.”
The number of people testing positive per day is also climbing steadily. On Wednesday, the city recorded 817 new cases from the prior day, far above the 550 case per day threshold the city views as acceptable.
Enforcing the cap on private parties and the new restaurant restrictions will fall to local officials as Cuomo continued to castigate the city for failing to keep on top of earlier rules and regulations.
“This is part of public safety,” the governor said. “COVID is a unique time, we have regulations and rules that we don’t normally have; this is not a contentious activity.”
Some scoffed at the crackdown, including City Councilman Joe Borelli, who vowed to disregard Cuomo’s cap on private gatherings.
“I’ll be having more than 10 ppl at my house on Thanksgiving,” he tweeted. “My address is public record. Some family will come from (gasp!) New Jersey. Kids will see their grandparents, cousins will play in the yard, sis in law will bring strawberry rhubarb pie, & a turkey will be overcooked.”
Cuomo, who eased restrictions imposed on heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn earlier this week, also announced that almost the entirety of Staten Island will be designated as a “yellow zone,” the least restrictive of the state’s microcluster strategy. That means indoor and outdoor dining is limited to a maximum of four people per table, down from 10.
Schools in the zone can remain open, but 20 per cent of students, teachers and staff must be tested on a weekly basis.
Cuomo said a full return to the across-the-board shutdowns seen in the spring as New York became the epicenter of the pandemic in the US will remain a last resort.
“If these measures are not sufficient to slow the spread, we will reduce, we will turn the valve more and part of that would be reducing the number of people in indoor dining,” he said.
“If that doesn’t work, you know if these numbers keep going crazy, you have some scientists who believe we’re going to go back to a close down. I’m just praying that doesn’t happen.”