New York City postpones indoor dining

Posted On Wed, July 1, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, July 1, 2020 By In Policy

Photo inside Red Eye Grill by James and Karla Murray

Last week, Mayor de Blasio was excited to announce that the city was on track to enter phase three of reopening on Monday, July 6, which most notably includes indoor dining. However, Governor Cuomo began questioning if moving ahead with this next step for restaurants is a smart idea, considering the surge in COVID outbreaks across the country and a continued presence of large gatherings in the city for which he believes the local government is not addressing. Therefore, the mayor and governor announced today that indoor dining will be postponed “until facts change and it is safe and prudent.”

In an interview with NY1’s Pat Kiernan on Monday, Governor Cuomo said:

Indoor dining has been problematic in the past… And in New York City we have a number of things going on, we have the large social gatherings on street corners, et cetera, we have the demonstrations – that is not helpful. We have a lack of compliance and a lack of enforcement which is not helpful. So we’re watching those things. I would not want to roll back anything we’ve done. I want to continue to move forward, but we may move forward with caution.

Today, he reiterated that citizen compliance is slipping in New York City, in conjunction with insufficient government enforcement. Local governments do not have the legal authority to determine the opening or reopening of businesses, schools, and restaurants, he explained. Their sole responsibility is testing, tracing, and compliance enforcement. Seemingly a comment aimed at Mayor de Blasio, he said that these two issues will send the city back to increasing numbers.

Six regions in the state are already in phase four of reopening; the rest, excluding New York City, are in phase three. Indoor dining is not being rolled back in other regions. The reason for his concern about the city, the governor said, is two-fold. First, he’s seen a lack of compliance with social distancing and a lack of local government enforcement. This has been especially true outside bars and restaurants in neighborhoods like the East Village and Upper East Side where there are a lot of young people. His second cause for concern is the spread from other states, as New York City’s airports are some of the busiest anywhere.

In addition, indoor dining has been shown in other states to pose a risk. Outdoor dining, however, is going well across the state, the governor said. And New York City is continuing its expansion of this program.

When New York City is allowed to begin indoor dining, the state’s guidelines will apply. These include:

  • Limited indoor capacity of no more than 50 percent of maximum occupancy, excluding outdoor seating and staff
  • Tables must be at least six feet apart; if not, they must be separated by physical barriers at least five feet in height
  • Those at a table must be members of the same party, with a maximum of 10 per table
  • Seating at bars must be spaced six feet apart
  • Employees must wear masks; customers must wear masks when not seated

Another possibility for indoor dining that the state is exploring is air filters with a high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Valve (MERV), such as High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which have been shown to help reduce the presence of COVID-19 in air filtration systems. The evidence, supported by a NASA study on such filters, shows that the COVID-19 virus particle is approximately 0.125 micron in diameter, and HEPA filters are designed to filter out particles of 0.01 micron and above. These filters will be mandatory across the state for large indoor malls to reopen.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on June 29, 2020, and has been updated with new information.

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