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NYC Mayor Says to Brace for End of Indoor Dining in the Next Week or Two

“The facts, the science, the data, are just screaming at us right now that we have a huge challenge and we have to beat it back,” the mayor said during a press conference

A view of a socially distant table set up at Hill and Bay restaurant and bar in Kips Bay as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on November 11, 2020 in New York City. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

NYC restaurants are likely to face more operating restrictions very soon, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned during a press conference on Thursday. Based on the current rise of positive COVID-19 case counts in the city, de Blasio said that he expects the entire city to be designated as an orange zone in as soon as “a week or two.” The designation would push all of the city’s restaurants back to outdoor dining-only, with a maximum of four customers per table, plus takeout and delivery.

An orange zone status would also presumably make illegal any winterized outdoor dining structure that has more than two covered sides and has been operating under the same guidelines as indoor dining. Eater has reached out to the mayor’s office for more details on upcoming operating restrictions.

The state has been implementing color-coded, zoned shutdowns by zip code for the past few months to try and combat the spread of COVID-19. Now, de Blasio says that it has become necessary to move into a broader shutdown strategy to stave off a resurgence of the virus. The state ultimately makes the decision on pandemic zone designations anywhere in New York.

“I don’t want to see this happen to [small business owners],” the mayor said of the looming new restrictions on the horizon. “But the facts, the science, the data, are just screaming at us right now that we have a huge challenge and we have to beat it back.”

Yesterday, the city announced that it would shut down all in-person learning at schools starting today after reaching a three percent COVID-19 positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average, a threshold that officials previously stated would trigger a citywide school shutdown.

The mayor stated that NYC’s orange zone designation was a situation of ‘when,’ not ‘if,’ but it was not a “foregone conclusion” that the city would subsequently slide back further into a red zone designation. Restaurants in a red zone can only offer takeout and delivery; all dine-in services would be banned. Ideally, the orange zone designation would be enough to combat the rising positive case counts, de Blasio said.

Still, de Blasio noted that, unlike when the city first shut down last March, there’s now a clearer end date to the pandemic for operators who have been struggling to survive amid all of the restrictions.

“Unlike any discussion that we had before a few weeks ago, now we have vaccines,” de Blasio said. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel. There’s different leadership coming to Washington. Hold on in any way that you can because in a matter of months we’re going to be in a much, much better situation.”

Update, Friday, November 19, 11:30 a.m.: On WNYC’s Ask the Mayor segment with Brian Lehrer, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that according to state COVID-19 data tracking the rise of positive virus cases, NYC would likely be designated as an orange zone “soon after Thanksgiving, probably the first week of December.”