Cuomo Reinstates NYC Indoor-Dining Ban to Limit Virus Spread

NEW YORK (AP) -
new york indoor dining
Diners at Junior’s Restaurant in New York, in September. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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.

The governor’s order came despite opposition from the beleaguered restaurant industry, which warned of layoffs at a time when the federal government has yet to pass additional COVID-19 relief.

And it comes as wintery weather has started to arrive in the 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.”

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.