People should still be going out to eat at restaurants, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference about the new coronavirus on Wednesday — emphasizing that the virus “does not transmit through food and drink.”
A week into the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York City, restaurateurs across the city say they’re already seeing reservation cancellations, while four huge dim sum restaurants in Sunset Park have closed in response to dropping sales as more people limit public outings.
In response to a question about how the city would help curb the economic impact, the mayor mentioned new no-interest loans for small businesses that experience a 25 percent decline or more due to new coronavirus. He also said that they’re “telling people to not avoid restaurants, not avoid normal things that people do.”
“If you’re not sick, you should be going about your life,” the mayor said.
Vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and people with preexisting health conditions, are being encouraged to avoid large gatherings, while everybody is suggested to avoid overcrowding, such as the subway at rush hour. All are being encouraged to stay home if they are sick and to take precautions such as washing hands and limiting face-touching. The disease is transmitted through the “respiratory droplets” and the eyes, nose, and mouth, and it can stay on surfaces but is easily killed by hand-washing and alcohol-based sanitizers.
NYC now has 53 confirmed novel coronavirus cases, up from 19 on Monday, and as the numbers grow, some schools are closing, events are canceling, and corporate offices are asking their staffers to work from home if possible. Economically, it’s most dramatically impacting restaurants in Chinatowns and restaurants that cater conferences and events.
But the mayor emphasized that officials are trying to be careful about cancellations of services such as school or asking that businesses close down, saying that people losing their livelihoods also will have a huge impact. “We’re trying to strike a balance,” he said.
“If we get to the point where any particular type of activity needs to be suspended, we can do that voluntarily with the organizations or we can mandate it,” de Blasio said. “We are doing this day-by-day, hour-by-hour.”
Elsewhere in the country, officials are recommending “social distancing” to protect help prevent the spread of the virus.
Though the majority of people who test positive will experience only mild symptoms, the elderly and people with preexisting conditions are particularly at risk, and uncertainty around how long the public health crisis will last is inciting confusion and fear. The city’s biggest Chinatowns have faced huge declines in sales for weeks as a result, and the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce’s head has said that the government needs to start treating it the same they would a natural disaster.
Meanwhile, restaurants are taking extra measures such as multiple deep cleanings a day, more disinfectant napkins, and even providing more sick leave for employees, like at Union Square Hospitality Group, especially as concerns rise that workers in the service industry may not be able to afford taking unpaid leave.
De Blasio added that they would try to support the businesses that are suffering, and that he’s hoping that the federal government will also provide assistance. “I hope they can hang on,” he said, adding that the new coronavirus would ultimately only be an issue for “a finite amount of time.”