NEW YORK — City schools transitioned to a remote model Thursday as the percentage of positive coronavirus tests topped 3% around the city. Indoor dining and gyms might be impacted next.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the city could soon entirely be deemed an ‘orange zone’ if the rolling coronavirus infection rate in the city, as measured by the state, hits 3%. The state’s seven-day rate for the city was 2.5% on Wednesday, while the city’s measure was 3.0%. On Thursday, the city’s measure rose to 3.01%.
The mayor on Thursday called a shutdown for indoor dining and gyms likely within the next two weeks, based on new restrictions coming from the governor's office.
“The orange zone rules are clear and New York City will before long be in that ‘orange zone’ status,” the mayor said at his daily press briefing on Thursday. “And that means those restrictions are coming."
The prospect of another shutdown has some members of those industries worried about their future, and whether the industries can withstand the same restrictions they had in the spring.
City Restaurant Owners Brace for Potential Shutdown of Indoor Dining
By Rocco Vertuccio
NEW YORK — At Skinny’s Cantina in Long Island City, outdoor dining was not expected to be a big draw once the weather turned cold.
“The reality is nobody wants to sit outside in the middle of the cold,” says owner Joseph Licul.
That’s why he spent thousands of dollars to enclose part of his outdoor space. It may have been a waste of money, and time.
Officials now say the city is likely to be declared an "orange zone" because of rising coronavirus cases. It would bring new restrictions on businesses.
Restaurants would only be able to offer outdoor dining and takeout and delivery service. Indoor dining would not be allowed.
Outdoor enclosures like this, with at least three walls, fall under indoor guidelines. Restaurants would have to close them, too.
“It’s definitely exhausting. And not knowing every day what’s going to happen is definitely upsetting," says Licul.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned he would declare the city an "orange zone" and put those restrictions in place if the state’s seven-day COVID-19 positive test rate reaches 3% in the city. It’s now 2.5%.
Gyms, nail, and hair salons also would have to close.
Restaurant industry leaders say thousands of bars and restaurants have already gone out of business and about half of the industry’s employees are out of work. They expect more restaurants would go under if the state shuts down indoor dining again.
“What’s going to happen to all these people? There’s no enhanced unemployment. People have exhausted their personal savings if they had any, so it’s really a bleak situation and restaurants are doing everything to keep people safe," says NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie.
The industry is pushing Congress to approve a restaurant relief bill and for the state to extend the moratorium on evictions until at least April.
Restaurant owners have actually been trying to get the state to increase the capacity limit on indoor dining from 25 to 50%. That likely will not happen now. Restaurant owners are instead bracing for no indoor dining.
“We’re going to adjust to whatever the outcome is and hold on for as long as we can," says Licul.
Gym Owner Fears New Shutdown Will Put Him Out of Business
By Shannan Ferry
Michael Carlin says he invested tens of thousands of dollars into making Slope Fitness safe before reopening back in September. Now, he fears a possible second shutdown could put him out of business permanently.
“If I was doing something wrong, shut me down. You’re shutting me down for doing everything right. That’s what I don’t understand,” said Carlin.
If the positivity rate rises enough for the city to be designated an orange zone, non-essential businesses such as fitness centers and gyms would have to close again.
“It’s like, 'OK, so our business will be shut down but the liquor store on the corner will be open? Okay, let me drown my sorrows.'
There are so many factors that our elected officials have not met on,” said Carlin.
Carlin is permitted to have 80 people at Slope Fitness at a time, but says he’s lucky if he gets that in a day.
Members like Raphael Schmideg say a closure would be unfair to small businesses.
“I’m not gonna put myself in danger. I’m not gonna put my neighbor in danger, and I’m here to support my neighborhood as much as I can at a time that is incredibly difficult to do business,” Schmideg said.
Carlin, meantime, is trying to keep his business afloat while he also grieves a loss. His wife Roberta died just last month after a decades-long battle battle with breast cancer. Carlin says it’s tough, but he knows she would want him to keep fighting.
“I would never have reopened this gym, or put my effort into that to do so, if I didn’t think I could do it safely, and I can assure you, I have members here who have similar compromised immune systems, but they know the benefits of working out for physical and mental well-being,” said Carlin.
Carlin says he’ll continue to offer digital classes, but hopes politicians can figure out a way to prevent another shutdown.
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