Cuomo Suspends Indoor Dining in N.Y.C. Again – The New York Times

Indoor dining will once again be barred in New York City restaurants starting on Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Friday, a significant reversal of the city’s reopening that comes as officials try to halt the escalation of a second wave of the coronavirus.

The decision, which Mr. Cuomo earlier this week suggested was all but certain, is a crushing blow to the city’s restaurant industry, a vital economic pillar that has been struggling all year in the face of pandemic restrictions and a national recession.

As he announced the new restrictions, the governor called on federal lawmakers to provide relief to the hospitality industry. Congressional leaders have struggled to reach an agreement on a new economic stimulus package.

“The federal government must provide relief to these bars and restaurants in this next package,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference.

For months, New York City’s restaurant owners have warned that their businesses, many of which operate on tight margins in the best of times, are on the edge of financial collapse. Thousands of employees, many of them low-wage workers, have been laid off since March, and their jobs have yet to fully return.

The industry’s anxieties are only mounting as winter approaches and frigid temperatures threaten to deter customers from dining outdoors. Industry groups have called repeatedly for federal or state financial assistance, with restaurant and bar owners watching nervously as stimulus talks drag on in Washington.

“Another forced government closure of New York City restaurants will cause an irreversible harm on even countless more small businesses and the hundreds of thousands of workers they employ, especially if it is not coupled with financial relief,” Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement on Monday.

In announcing the move, the governor cited the increasing rate of virus transmission in the state, as well as the city’s population density and its rising number of virus-related hospitalizations.

“That is a bad situation,” Mr. Cuomo said.

As of Friday, 1,668 people were hospitalized with the virus in New York City, Mr. Cuomo said. Statewide, 5,321 people were hospitalized.

The governor’s announcement came after weeks of shifting messages on indoor dining, which resumed in New York City only at the end of September.

As virus cases across the state this fall, Mr. Cuomo hesitated to impose the widespread restrictions that he implemented in March, when he limited restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery.

In October, the governor said he would shutter indoor dining only in the hardest-hit areas in the state, so-called microclusters. He briefly changed course in late November, saying he would shut down indoor dining citywide if the seven-day average test positivity rate hit 3 percent. He walked back that statement about a week later.

The scattershot approach, which confused residents and business owners alike, came as Mr. Cuomo repeatedly downplayed indoor dining as a source of new infections, and focused his attention on parties and other indoor gatherings instead.

But on Monday, Mr. Cuomo had warned that he would curb indoor dining in regions where hospitalizations did not stabilize, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that described eating at indoor restaurants as a “particularly high-risk” activity.

On Friday, Mr. Cuomo said that contact tracing data showed that restaurants and bars were the fifth main source of new infections in the state, well behind household and social gatherings. The data is based only on those who give a response to contact tracers and does not capture every infection in the state, officials have said.

Of 46,000 cases between September and November, 1.43 percent could be linked to restaurants and bars, compared to 73.84 percent connected with private gatherings.

Before Mr. Cuomo’s announcement, Mayor Bill de Blasio voiced his support for halting indoor dining in New York City.

“Sometimes it’s smart to say, look, if you take an action now, you can stop much worse things from happening later,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Mr. Cuomo did not announce new restrictions on restaurants and bars in the rest of the state, which were allowed to reopen more quickly and have been allowed to operate at 50 percent maximum capacity indoors, compared to 25 percent in New York City.

However, he said the state would monitor hospitalization numbers over the weekend and “make any adjustments next week” if the data suggested it was necessary.

The state also changed restrictions on gyms and personal-care services such as hair salons, both of which Mr. Cuomo has described as high-risk businesses in the past. Under his restrictions targeting microclusters, these establishments were required to close in orange zones, the second tier of restrictions.

But on Friday, Mr. Cuomo said that contact tracing data showed that these businesses “are not the problem that they were” earlier in the pandemic. As a result, they would be allowed to operate in orange zones at 25 percent capacity and with weekly testing of employees.

Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting.