FOURTH AND LONG
COVID spike around U.S. puts holiday cheer, city’s plan to reopen bars in jeopardy
Sun Belt state residents could put the kibosh on New York’s reopening plans.
With coronavirus cases surging in states such as Texas, Florida and Arizona that rushed to reopen their economies — and as some New Yorkers continue to disregard social distancing and mask wearing — Gov. Cuomo is considering tapping the brakes on the resumption of indoor dining and potentially slowing the city’s reopening amid “troubling signs” that could lead to a COVID-19 resurgence in the city.
Cuomo said Monday his concerns are twofold: Big Apple residents flouting rules meant to keep the infection from spreading and the threat of travelers from hotspot states bringing the virus to the Empire State after the sacrifices its residents and businesses made over the past three months to stem the tide of the deadly pandemic.
“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,” Cuomo said in an interview with NY1. “We have complications that we are studying now . ... Malls and indoor dining are things that I’m concerned about, and we may consider slowing them down for next week.”
The city is scheduled to enter Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan next week, which is slated to allow limited indoor dining and let businesses like nail salons and tattoo parlors welcome back customers, “but there are issues that we have to think through,” the governor said.
“We’re seeing continued large gatherings,” Cuomo said. “We’re seeing large social gatherings on sidewalks, et cetera, which is not helpful.”
COVID-19 cases are surging in states across the country that rushed to reopen in addition to Texas, Florida and Arizona, and there is a good possibility that more states will be added to the quarantine list that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut unveiled last week.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week reversed course as coronavirus cases spiked, ordering the shutting of bars and reducing restaurant capacity to 50%. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom closed bars in several counties and said Monday the state will slow its reopening plans.
The travel advisory requires visitors from COVID-19 hotspots to selfquarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival in the tristate region.
As of Monday, nine states were on the list, but Cuomo noted infections are increasing in at least 34 states.
He tied the resurgences to President Trump’s push for states to rapidly reopen their economies.
“The White House has been in denial on coronavirus from the get-go,” he said. “This has been getting worse. It’s not getting better.”
Just seven people in New York State died of the virus in the 24 hours ending Sunday night, a far cry from the 800-plus daily toll during the darkest days of early April. About 850 people are hospitalized statewide and less than 1% are testing positive for COVID-19.
Cuomo, who showed a penchant for craft projects with a mask mosaic a few months ago, also unveiled a massive foam mountain at a press briefing in Manhattan — bringing one of his most used coronavirus metaphors to life.
“We paid the price and we dealt with that spike and we climbed right up the mountain,” Cuomo said as he proudly displayed the Styrofoam summit. “We got smart. New Yorkers stepped up. We wore masks. We socially distanced. We closed down. And we stopped the curve. We plateaued.”
Many on social media likened the sculpture to a middle school science project or noted similarities to the homemade peak crafted in the sci-fi flick “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
The governor, meanwhile, said the state’s positive trajectory means that the MTV Video Music Awards will be held on Aug. 30 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Only a “limited audience” will be allowed, Cuomo said, adding that the state will unveil more specific guidelines later this summer.
But he also expressed general concerns about new evidence that air conditioning and ventilation systems may be a bigger factor in spreading the virus than was previously known.
“Malls and indoor dining are things that I’m concerned about, and we may consider slowing them down for next week,” Cuomo said. “Not going backward, but we may actually slow them down.”
Cuomo also announced that he’s launching a State Police task force on Monday to crack down on illegal fireworks in the city, complaining that the five boroughs have been sounding “like the Wild West” as of late.
As coronavirus cases continue to ravage the country, states that rushed to open are shutting the taps, like in Texas (inset), as Lone Star State hit new high for COVID hospitalizations.
Gov. Cuomo (top left) touts state’s success Monday in climbing, and descending, COVID “mountain,” but said that large gatherings outdoors on city’s streets are giving him pause about wisdom of moving onto indoor dining.