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De Blasio Commits to Dining Indoors in NYC if State Lifts Ban

If the state brings indoor dining back in the city, the mayor is going out

Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio visits a bakery at the Bank of America ‘Winter Village’ at Bryant Park on November 05, 2020 in New York City. 
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio at a bakery at the ‘Winter Village’ at Bryant Park last fall
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed at a Thursday press conference that if the state greenlights the return of indoor dining in the city, he will be eating out.

“I would, because if indoor dining is brought back I’m certain the state will do it with careful restrictions,” de Blasio said in response to a reporter’s question on the topic. “And, our health department as the agency that does the enforcement is going to be really strong in doing that enforcement.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this week that the state is formulating a plan for NYC’s potential return to indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. The plan, slated to be released before the end of this week, will likely outline if and when the city’s restaurants can re-open for indoor dining. Currently, restaurants in the five boroughs are restricted to outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery, while the rest of the state’s restaurants are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. Other major cities across the country — including Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. — have recently started rolling back their indoor dining bans.

The state has previously cited population density, among other factors, as reasoning for allowing indoor dining elsewhere while continuing to ban it in NYC. Many city restaurateurs have not been happy with the discrepancy, with some filing multiple lawsuits against the state over the ban.

The mayor said that he spoke with Cuomo Wednesday morning about the situation, and reiterated his support for whatever state decision is made. Ultimately, Cuomo has the final say on whether or not to allow indoor dining in the city. Indoor dining briefly returned at 25 percent capacity in NYC last fall, before getting banned for the second time in mid-December amid a steady uptick in COVID-19 cases in the city.

“If [a return to indoor dining] is what comes to pass, certainly I would have confidence in it,” the mayor said at his daily press conference, noting that any decision “has to be governed by the data and the science.”

According to NYC’s Department of Health, positive COVID-19 test rates in the city stood at 8.09 percent on a seven-day rolling average as of January 26. The figure has been slightly decreasing steadily over the past week, but the positive test rates on a seven-day rolling average still remain far above the city’s safety benchmark of 5 percent. The COVID-19 hospitalization rate — calculated as the rate of people admitted to NYC hospitals for COVID-19 per 100,000 city residents — currently sits at 5.15 percent on a seven-day average. The city’s safety benchmark for COVID-19 hospitalization rates is 2 percent.

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