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New York City Starts Reopening Today After Nearly Three Months of Lockdown

It will still be a while before restaurants and bars return to any kind of normalcy, but this is a major first step forward

An empty scene in Times Square with large billboards in the background and no cars on the road
New York begins its first phase of reopening today
Valeriy Eydlin/Shutterstock

New York City will reopen today after a nearly three-month-long shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which killed nearly 22,000 of the city’s residents and left hundreds of thousands without jobs. While the city’s restaurants and bars can only still do takeout and delivery for now, up to 400,000 New Yorkers are set to return to work this week, which will be a first real test for what reopening might look like in the coming weeks.

In this first phase of reopening, workers in construction and manufacturing will return to their jobs as will many working in retail. For the latter industry, the current restrictions only allow for curbside or in-store pickup. Even the industries that are going back to work are contending with a new normal: more protective equipment including masks and gloves, staggered shifts to allow for social distancing, and a subway system that doesn’t currently run all day.

While the MTA is looking to resume normal service and frequency on buses and trains, the subway will still remain closed every night from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to allow for a deep clean. The MTA estimates ridership levels will remain low compared to pre-pandemic times even when more restrictions have lifted, with more people concerned with the spread of the infection in closed, underground spaces.

For the city’s tens of thousands of restaurants and bars, the wait for any kind of normalcy is still a little ways off. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that restaurants could provide outdoor dining in the second phase of reopening. Regions across the state have been moving into the next phase of reopening every two weeks — and several regions upstate now have restaurants offering outdoor service — though NYC might have to wait longer than expected. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the city might not move into the second phase of reopening until the first week of July.

Still, dozens of restaurants have reopened in recent weeks after initially shutting down during the pandemic, and many more will likely reopen in the coming weeks as they prepare for a fuller return later this month or next month.