Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that indoor dining will now return at 25 percent capacity on February 12, two days before it was originally set to return on February 14.
Many in the restaurant industry had called for an earlier return to indoor dining, arguing that they would lose business from the Valentine’s Day weekend if they could only begin opening on February 14, already typically one of the busiest days of the year for the restaurant industry. The NYC Hospitality Alliance, which represents thousands of restaurants in the city, commended the decision. “This will allow restaurants to generate much needed revenue from the Valentine’s Day weekend business, much of which they would have lost because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the Alliance, in a statement.
Cuomo indicated Friday that he would consider an earlier return if the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued to decline in New York. As of Monday, the positivity rate in New York based on a seven-day average was 5.10 percent, according to state data. While the positivity rate is continuing on a downward trend, NYC is continuing to see thousands of new cases every day, and health experts across the country, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have sounded the alarm on the rapidly spreading variant of the virus first found in Britain. The CDC still lists indoor dining among the highest risk activities in regards to the threat of the spread of the virus.
Still, Cuomo said he feels the present data and the downward trend of cases has enabled his administration to bring back indoor dining, which was first banned in March last year before being allowed again for a few months during the fall. He hasn’t ruled out new restrictions should cases spike again in New York. During Monday’s press conference, he expressed particular concern for the Bronx, where the positivity rate on a seven-day average is now at 7.03 percent, higher than it was last week.
The Cuomo administration, though, is feeling emboldened by the vaccination push even though distribution issues remained a problem in the city even last month. On Sunday, the Cuomo administration announced that more than 2.1 million doses of the vaccine had been administered — including first and second doses. Cuomo stressed Monday that is vital that the federal government increase its supply and distribution efforts to allow New York to vaccinate more people.
In NYC, some restaurant workers reported last week they had either received the first dose of the vaccine or signed up for appointments. More are expected to do so this week ahead of the return of indoor dining on February 12. Still a majority of hospitality industry staffers and New Yorkers still remain unvaccinated, and it could be several months before a large proportion of the population is vaccinated.