New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he will come up with a plan by Friday to address how New York City restaurants might reopen indoor dining, as his administration is considering whether to again allow that service in the city at 25% of a restaurant’s capacity.
As of two weeks ago, following a court ruling, indoor dining is allowed in all areas of the sate outside New York City, unless an area is designated a “red zone,” which has the highest level of restrictions.
There are currently no red zones in the state, and on Wednesday, Cuomo also removed all remaining intermediate-level orange zones, and several lowest-level yellow zones, citing a post-holiday dip in the number of infections, after a period in which rates had surged to more than 114,000 new cases in one week. During the past seven days, the state has averaged around 12,800 new infections per day, a rate it last recorded in late December.
The lifted orange zones had been in central and western New York, Staten Island and Westchester County. The only colored zones currently in the state are yellow zones, including: Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood; two separate parts of the Bronx; the Kew Gardens/Forest Hills area of Queens; and the Newburgh/New Windsor area of Orange County. The complete updated zone maps are available by clicking here.
Cuomo’s Wednesday announcement came as the national vaccination campaign has moved slowly and concern remains over the emergence of more contagious variants of the virus.
Over the last seven days, New York had the sixth-highest rate of new COVID-19 cases per capita among the 50 states. And New York has recorded nearly 5,000 COVID-19 deaths in hospitals and nursing homes over the past 30 days — the highest since May 31.
Cuomo defended his decision to lift the state’s orange zone restrictions as a way to protect the economy.
“We’re talking about livelihoods and the economy and billions of dollars,” he said. “We make decisions based on the facts today… The holiday surge came. The holiday surge is over. We’re not back to where we were, but nobody’s back to where we were.”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said it’s unfair that indoor dining is banned in New York City while other parts of the state have higher infection rates.
The governor tried this fall to target the strictest pandemic restrictions on businesses, schools and houses of worship in places where high rates of people were testing positive. But his plan faced much pushback. Religious groups won court victories arguing his limits on houses of worship were unconstitutional.
Gyms successfully pushed to be allowed to open at 25% capacity in orange zones, while Cuomo ended up allowing hair and nail salons to reopen as long as they tested employees weekly.
Cuomo also previously allowed schools to remain open in orange zones if they launched testing programs.
Now, in non-colored zones, the entire state faces most of the same COVID-19 restrictions, including a 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars, a 50% capacity limit for houses of worship, 33% capacity at gyms and fitness centers, and 50% capacity at retail & personal care businesses.
There is a 10-person limit on private residential gatherings and a 50% limit on non-residential gathering. In yellow zones, the non-residential-gatherings limit is 25 people.