BY ROBERT POZARYCKI
The latest milestone in New York City’s recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic begins Monday, July 6, with Phase 3 of reopening. But unlike the previous two phases, the atmosphere for this latest stage in bringing the five boroughs back into high gear is one of trepidation.
Phase 3 brings the return of personal care businesses such as nail salons, massage parlors, spas, cosmetic surgery and tanning salons. Those looking to get a well-deserved mani-pedi, full-body rubdown or new ink after months of quarantine should get an appointment in advance, wear a mask and prepare to encounter a socially distant environment when they visit.
The third phase was to have included the reintroduction of indoor dining, but on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo scrapped that plan for the time being. There’s fear that allowing indoor dining in New York City may result in a rapid increase in COVID-19 spread, something which occurred in other states that reopened or relaxed indoor dining rules in recent weeks.
Though indoor dining remains out of the question, outdoor dining continues across New York City. Restaurants and bars have set up shop on the sidewalk or even in the street in front of their businesses. On Thursday, de Blasio announced an expansion of the Open Streets program to allow for more businesses to set up larger street-side cafés to safely draw in diners.
What can you do?
Regardless of what some may suggest, the COVID-19 pandemic remains rampant in the United States — and it’s not disappearing anytime soon.
After suffering horrific losses of life in March and April, New York state and city now have among the lowest infection rates in the country. Yet the fear is that a sudden change in behavior — combined with the spike in infections in more than 30 states — might cause a second wave of the pandemic here.
Aside from outdoor dining, the first three phases of reopening in New York City permit a number of other activities, provided you wear a mask in public and practice social distancing.
Here’s a list of some other things you can do in New York City as Phase 3 goes into effect:
- Work on construction activities. Building efforts restarted during the first phase that began June 8.
- Go shopping. Retailers started out by setting up curbside pickup points, but now a limited number of shoppers can enter store locations to browse and purchase items.
- Get a hair cut. If you haven’t already trimmed the long quarantine locks, thousands of barbers across the city are waiting for you to come in. All are advised to make an appointment in advance to avoid waiting.
- Visit an accountant’s office. The federal and state tax deadline was pushed back to July 15 this year due to the pandemic. Accountants have been taking appointments for filings.
- Looking to buy a home or rent an apartment? Real estate offices reopened during phase 2, and you can contact an agent to help you find a new dwelling.
- Likewise, if you’re looking for a new set of wheels, you can go shopping at auto dealerships across the city.
- Playgrounds reopened during Phase 2, so if the kids are getting bored, you can take them to your local park and let them run around and play for a while. We advise bringing hand sanitizer and/or wipes to keep their hands clean.
- You can also visit New York City parks and enjoy a walk through them, or along the many open streets established near the parks for safe activity.
- Beaches reopened on July 1, so you can relax and enjoy a day in the sun and surf across the city. But don’t make it a group outing, as capacity limits are in effect.
What you can’t do (yet)
It’s still not clear whether indoor dining will be permitted during Phase 4 of reopening in New York City. No timetable has been established for when that milestone will be achieved.
Phase 4 is already in effect in seven upstate regions of New York, and involves the limited reopening of higher education institutions, low-risk arts/entertainment venues (e.g. outdoor zoos, botanical gardens, nature preserves, outdoor museums, historic sites) and low-risk indoor museums and aquariums.
The fourth phase also permits the resumption of film and television show production, and allows for professional sports to return without an audience.
The Mets and Yankees, however, have already begun training at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium for the start of an abbreviated season. Whatever games they play this year will not be open to fans; they will be aired on television or streamed on the internet, along with other sporting events.
Many other activities remain off limits as of Phase 3 — including shopping at large malls or going to movie theaters. And the only way New York will get there, as many officials have said repeatedly, is if New Yorkers continue to slow and control the spread.
The best ways to do that are wearing masks, practicing social distancing, avoiding crowds and staying home if they’re sick.
This story first appeared on amny.com.