New York City restaurants may learn sometime this month about a timetable for allowing indoor dining, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
“I think it’s our responsibility to give them as clear an answer, in the month of September, as possible,” the mayor said.
Indoor dining had been banned across the state since the coronavirus shutdown in March, but started being allowed in upstate regions in June. New York City is the only region of the state in which indoor dining is still prohibited, and officials have not given a timeframe or data metric for when it might reopen.
De Blasio had previously indicated that indoor dining would not return anytime soon, possibly until a vaccine becomes available, which is not expected before next year.
“Is there a point, is there a way where we can do something safely with indoor dining? So far we have not had that moment, honestly,” the mayor said at his press conference Monday. “I do expect, pray for and expect a vaccine in the spring that will allow us all to get more back to normal. But … we’re going to keep looking for that situation where we could push down the virus enough, where we would have more ability to address indoor dining … it would take a huge step forward to get to that point.”
The ban on indoor dining has been maintained despite the city’s continued low coronavirus infection numbers. At Wednesday’s press conference, de Blasio said there has been a daily average of 244 newly reported COVID-19 cases in the city during the past week, less than half the city’s target of 550 cases. Just 0.79 percent of test results Tuesday were positive, far below the city’s target of 5 percent. On Sunday and Monday, the New York City figure was at 0.9 percent, according to state statistics, similar to other regions of the state.
Asked by a Hamodia reporter Wednesday why the city ban on indoor dining has persisted despite the low infection rate, even as other states have allowed indoor dining, de Blasio said, “A number of states moved ahead with indoor dining and found that it contributed to their either ongoing problem or resurgence. So, unfortunately, what we see around the country, what we see around the world is there’s a direct connection.”
But the mayor said that despite the concerns over indoor dining leading to a resurgence of the virus, “I’ve also heard [that restaurant owners] just want a final answer as soon as possible so they can make their plans up or down.” Therefore, de Blasio said, “I think it’s our responsibility to give them as clear an answer, in the month of September, as possible, of where we’re going, if there can be a timeline, if there can be a set of standards for reopening. We need to decide that in the next few weeks and announce it, whether it’s good news or bad news.”
The guidelines for each region are set by the state government, but de Blasio said both city and state have “taken a very cautious approach here.”
“I think we owe the industry as clear an answer as humanly possible soon,” said the mayor, “but it’s always going to be about health and safety first.”
The ban on indoor dining extends to weddings as well.
Wedding ceremonies are capped at 50% of the occupancy of the catering hall, or 50 people, whichever is smaller. But food may only be served outdoors or in a tent fully open on two sides, and the event must adhere to state guidelines on outdoor dining, such as a limit of 10 people per table, and a separation of 6 feet or a physical barrier between tables.
The city Health Department says that the ban on indoor dining even at weddings is because people must remove their masks to eat or drink and diseases are more easily spread indoors, since there is less air circulation and social distancing is more difficult than it is outdoors.
Updated Thursday, September 3, 2020 at 3:05 am .