New York City plans to fully reopen on July 1, allowing businesses such as restaurants, shops, and stadiums to operate fully, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, offering a tantalizing glimpse into normalcy, even if he was empowered to break the restrictions on businesses actually pick up something limited.
Mr de Blasio, who made the remarks on MSNBC, said gyms, hair salons, arenas, some theaters and museums should expect to be fully open with no capacity restrictions. Broadway, he said, was on the way to opening in September.
“Our plan is to fully reopen New York City on July 1st,” he said. “We are ready to open stores, businesses, offices and theaters – full of strength.”
However, during the pandemic, Mr de Blasio was not yet authorized to impose or lift capacity restrictions on such companies. These restrictions were set by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the state, and on Thursday a governor’s spokesman claimed that Mr. Cuomo had authority to make these decisions.
Mr de Blasio said the city expected vaccinations to trigger new coronavirus cases in the next two months. From a second wave high of nearly 8,000 cases in a single day in January, New York City had an average of 2,000 virus cases per day last week. Public health officials say that by July, if the city stays on its current path, that number could drop to below 600 cases a day, perhaps even lower.
“We now have confidence that we can bring all of these pieces together and bring life back together,” said de Blasio. “This will be the summer of New York City.”
City and state have not always agreed on the best way to go.
A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, Bill Neidhardt, described the full reopening of the city on July 1 as “a goal we know New York City can achieve”.
“We have a plan that we will underpin with skyrocketing vaccination numbers and falling cases. If someone wants to deny that, let’s have this discussion publicly, ”said Neidhardt. “We firmly believe that we would win this debate.”
The state announced this week that it would lift several restrictions. New York state legislature on Wednesday suspended an unpopular pandemic policy from Mr Cuomo requiring customers to order groceries when buying alcohol in bars and restaurants. And Mr. Cuomo announced that a curfew that forced bars and restaurants to close early would end nationwide on May 17th for outdoor dining areas and May 31st for indoor dining.
Earlier this week, Mr. Cuomo said the state would increase capacity limits for offices nationwide from 50 percent to 75 percent and for gyms outside of New York City from 33 percent to 50 percent over the next month. Last month, he increased the maximum indoor dining capacity in New York City restaurants from 35 percent to 50 percent. Restaurants in the rest of the state are allowed to serve customers at 75 percent occupancy.
The mayor’s announcement was positive news for the restaurant, bar and hotel industry, although questions remained unanswered about how Mr de Blasio was going to move forward.
“It’s excellent and very welcome news for New York City, but we need full details of what a full reopening will mean,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.
Mr Rigie said restaurants and bars would need a schedule of what would come next and what rules, such as recording customer temperatures for indoor meals, would remain in place. The restaurant and bar industry in New York still employs around 140,000 fewer people than it did before the pandemic, he said.
Even with a reopening imminent, the hotel industry is still years away from normalcy, said Vijay Dandapani, president of the Hotel Association of New York City. Many international borders remain closed and companies are still holding meetings and conferences via Zoom instead of traveling to hotels.
“It’s a very positive move, but you’ve only just started crawling when there’s a long way to go to walk and run,” said Dandapani.
Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed to the coverage.