By Robert Pozarycki
Indoor dining across New York City will be suspended indefinitely as of Monday, Dec. 14, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday — delivering another blow to restaurants and bars that have suffered mightily during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo cited the rising COVID-19 and related hospitalization rates in New York City and an inappropriately high rate of transmission as the key reasons for ceasing indoor dining — which had been limited to 25% capacity.
Outdoor dining and delivery orders may continue uninterrupted.
While acknowledging that indoor dining is not currently the primary driver of COVID-19 cases in New York state — living room spread in the home remains at the top of the list, accounting for more than 76% of all infections — the governor said the concern comes down to New York City’s density and the rate of contagion.
The Rt rate in New York state is up to 1.3 — meaning that one person infected with COVID-19 could infect more than one or several people.
Cuomo also cited the revised guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about indoor dining, which advises that implementation of indoor dining policies “should be guided by what is feasible, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.”
Earlier this week, Cuomo indicated that indoor dining would likely be suspended in New York City because of the rising COVID-19 rate and increase in hospitalization. That news brought about greater concerns from restaurant and bar industries, who feared a second closure of indoor dining would result in further business closures.
Cuomo said he was cognizant of the situation, and that the businesses need financial relief to get through the crisis.
“The federal government must provide relief to these bars and restaurants in this next package,” Cuomo said, referring to ongoing talks in Washington about a new round of economic stimulus. “I understand we’re battling COVID. I also understand you’re wiping out business. In New York, we will do what we can to help.”
One way the state intends to help the affected businesses is by extending the commercial eviction moratorium to prevent landlords from booting tenants who are behind on their rent — something which Cuomo said he would do once again Friday.
The governor also suggested that while there would be hardship from the loss of indoor dining, he expressed hope that the expansion of indoor dining and the acclimation of New Yorkers to it, even in colder months, might help the businesses get through the difficult period.
“Yes, there will be economic hardship, but we have compensated in other ways, and this is a situation that has affected every business community, not just restaurants,” Cuomo said. “We’re asking everyone to hold on. The end is in sight, but we still have to get there. If we are in a situation in this state to provide business relief and we have any funds or resources to do that, I would be 100% supportive of it, and have advocated for it.”
The governor said state officials are going through a “winter plan” of attack against COVID-19 and other policy changes in the state would be announced Monday.