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Indoor Dining Should Be ‘Reevaluated’ In Light of COVID-19 Uptick, NYC Mayor Says

Less than six weeks after indoor dining’s return in NYC, its future is now uncertain

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks outdoors at Bryant Parks Winter Village Market. 
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

Just under six weeks after NYC restaurants were allowed to reopen their dining rooms at 25 percent capacity, Mayor Bill de Blasio is now calling for the current indoor dining allowances to be “reevaluated” following a recent uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in the city.

In a press conference on Monday, de Blasio warned of a possible second wave of COVID-19 based on new health data indicating increasing spread of the virus in NYC. The concerning rise in positive case counts, he says, may lead to more restrictions being put in place around the city, including a reversal of indoor dining allowances.

According to NYC’s Health Department, the seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests now stands at 2.26 percent — well above the two-percent threshold that the mayor previously stated as cause for concern — and there are 4,778 total positive cases in the city. Both numbers are increases over what has been reported for the past four weeks, according to the Health Department data.

“What I said is that at the two percent threshold, [indoor dining] should be reevaluated,” the mayor said in a response to a reporter’s question about the state of indoor dining. “And I think it should be reevaluated now. I think it makes sense to take another look given what’s happening.”

While the mayor did not specifically say that the rise in positive case counts could be attributed to indoor dining, he indicated that people engaging in indoor activities without wearing masks, whether that’s office activity or indoor social gatherings, is causing COVID-19 to spread.

“The key problem here is indoors and not wearing masks,” de Blasio said.

Ultimately, the state government is responsible for making the call on whether or not to roll back indoor dining in NYC. Previously, Gov. Andrew Cuomo instituted indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on September 30 and said that the capacity restrictions could loosen to 50 percent on November 1 — matching the current allowances across the rest of the state — if positive case counts remained low.

The November 1 deadline passed by without the governor’s office indicating either way whether or not capacity restrictions would be loosened. By November 9, the governor’s office has still not publicly stated any further guidance on capacity restrictions at NYC restaurants. For now, NYC dining rooms continue to operate at 25 percent capacity.

Update, 4:38 p.m.: Cuomo administration spokesperson Jack Sterne tells Eater that state is still evaluating whether or not to make any changes to NYC’s current indoor dining situation. “Our decisions are based on data, science, and expert advice, and we are constantly evaluating changes to keep New Yorkers safe,” Sterne said in an email. He also noted that other neighboring states allowing indoor dining, including Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, have recently rolled more restrictions back into place.