NEW YORK — Phase 3 of reopening is scheduled for New York City next Monday, but Mayor Bill de Blasio put the city’s reboot of indoor dining on hold indefinitely Wednesday, citing nationwide coronavirus surges and the heightened dangers of the indoor spread of the disease.
“Indoors is the problem more and more. The science is showing it more and more,” de Blasio said at his morning press briefing. “I want to make it very clear: We cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City.”
On the same day New York City opened its beaches to swimming and as de Blasio announced the opening of 15 city pools, his decision to nix indoor dining comes as city restaurants struggle to stay afloat after being battered by the closures stemming from the pandemic and as other states have seen massive COVID-19 surges in recent weeks.
The mayor pointed to projections from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that America could soon see 100,000 new cases of the virus a day as part of his rationale for the decision.
To help keep Big Apple businesses afloat, de Blasio said the city would expand its program to facilitate outdoor dining. So far, 6,600 restaurants are participating in that program.
De Blasio said broadening it will involve more outreach to restaurants and that the city is planning to combine the program with its open streets initiative, which closes roads to traffic.
“I think there’s more open streets that we can do,” he said.
De Blasio did not provide a projection of how many streets the city might close down to benefit restaurants in the coming weeks.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced Wednesday that he would put the brakes on indoor dining in the city until further notice.
Cuomo signaled recently that he would dispatch state troopers to the city to enforce social distancing in outdoor settings. That came weeks after de Blasio scrapped NYPD enforcement of social distancing over concerns that cops were taking a heavy-handed approach.
“It’s not a role for city police or state police,” he said. “We learned that through experience. We are honest about it. We had to change that. We’re not going to do it that way. I don’t think the state police should either.”
De Blasio said Wednesday that as part of the city’s $115 million in summer youth programming, it would deploy and pay young people as social distancing ambassadors, raising concerns among some about safety.
“I’m not sure young people will have the wherewithal or self-control, that if they’re threatened they won’t fight back or know how to de-escalate,” said Queens Councilman Bob Holden. “You’re definitely going to have these situations.”
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