Starting next week, restaurants and bars can stay open one hour later, but must continue to comply with COVID-19 restrictions such as limiting capacity, and requiring customers to purchase food with drinks.
“We are going to extend the 11 p.m. curfew for food and beverage to midnight. That will go into effect this Monday, April 19,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said at the briefing.
But critics say the rules don’t seem to be based on any sound science.
“From the beginning of this pandemic, over and over we’ve heard that we are supposed to be following the facts and science,” explained Republican Will Barclay, the Assembly minority leader. “But as weeks turned into months, and months now turned into over a year, we watched this administration change the rules without regard to either.”
According to the Cuomo administration’s own data, only 1.43% of COVID-19 cases can be traced to bars and restaurants. As a result, legislative Republicans say more than 8,000 small businesses have been forced to permanently shut their doors since the pandemic began.
Some question how closing at midnight now will prevent someone from getting infected an hour earlier.
“Whether the curfew is at 10, whether it’s 11 or whether it’s at midnight, does somehow COVID miraculously become more infectious after that time?” Barclay asked. “It certainly seems to us that it’s a claim that lacks any scientific support.”
In statement, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Health says, “The CDC continues to stress physical distancing and avoiding large crowds whenever possible. The fact is there is less chance of spreading COVID with a smaller crowd, and we’ve taken that into account with every step wise approach to safely re-opening.”
Responding to criticism, last month, the legislature repealed Cuomo’s emergency powers. The legislature has the ability to overturn individual curfew mandates. But so far, neither house has shown any appetite to do that when it comes to Cuomo’s restrictions on bars and restaurants.