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NYC Restaurants Left In Limbo Over Half Capacity Indoor Dining’s Return on November 1

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined to say if restaurants would be allowed to reopen at half capacity indoors starting this Sunday

People have lunch at Chelsea Square Restaurant as New York City restaurants open for limited capacity indoor dining on October 1, 2020 in New York. Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

Two days before indoor dining was originally planned to expand to 50 percent capacity, NYC restaurants remain in flux on whether the city will actually go through with the measure on November 1.

In a press conference on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that state officials have not determined yet whether they’d allow the increase in indoor dining capacity to move forward this weekend. “We’ll make decisions soon,” Cuomo said.

When NYC’s return to indoor dining was first announced, the governor’s office stated that the expansion to 50 percent capacity in November would be dependent on how health metrics looked closer to the date.

Since that time, NYC has been battling upticks in positive COVID-19 case counts across the city. Neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens were put under zoned shutdown regulations following local outbreaks, and restaurants located within the most stringent red zones were reduced to takeout and delivery-only service. Nearby, Newark, New Jersey recently announced new restaurant restrictions, including an 8 p.m. curfew on indoor dining, until at least November 10.

While some of NYC’s red-zoned neighborhoods have since had restrictions lifted, positive case counts overall are on an upswing in the city. While on the Brian Lehrer Show on Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that the seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 tests now sits at 1.87 percent, a growth from earlier in the week, when the average sat between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent, according to the mayor. The numbers on Friday were just a tad lower than Thursday, which de Blasio described as “a little bit of stabilizing, a little bit of better news today, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

In a Thursday press conference, the mayor specified that there was no one focal-point industry, like indoor dining at restaurants, that the city could identify as being a major contributor to the rise in positive case counts.

Overall, the city was seeing activities known to be causes for COVID-19 spread contribute to the resurgence of the virus. Travel has accounted for 10 percent of positive COVID-19 tests. Indoor gatherings, which could include working at an office or gathering in homes with people outside of the household, also had an effect on the rise in COVID-19 cases. The mayor expressed concern that cases could continue to rise as the holiday season, usually marked by activities like travel and indoor gatherings, nears.

Outside of NYC, other areas across the country and globe have rolled restaurant restrictions back into place following upticks in COVID-19 cases. Chicago suspended indoor dining this week for the first time since June. Montreal extended its restaurant shutdown, which was first implemented on October 1, for at least another month. France and Germany have re-shut down nonessential businesses, including restaurants and bars, for at least a month.

Additional reporting by Tanay Warerkar