New York City restaurants can expand indoor dining to 75 percent starting May 7, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday, an expansion already available to restaurants across the state.
The governor also said the city’s gyms and fitness centers would be at 50 percent capacity by May 15. Hair salons, barbershops, and other personal care services could be busy to 75 percent on May 7, he said.
The announcement came a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio stated that New York City would reopen in full on July 1 after more than a year of viral restrictions imposed by the governor.
After months of persistently high case numbers during a second wave of the virus, the city has started to turn a corner, especially as the weather warmed up and pulled residents outside. Public health officials and epidemiologists expect vaccinations will continue to trigger new cases over the next two months.
Still, they recognized that the virus is likely to remain a threat, at least in part.
At a press conference at the White House on Friday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, described the mayor’s July 1 date as a “reasonable target” if the current pace of vaccinations and declines in case numbers persist. Declining to predict updates to CDC guidelines that those who eat indoors should wear masks except when actively eating or drinking, she noted that “this virus has tricked us before”.
At a press conference on Thursday, Mr Cuomo mocked Mr de Blasio’s comment on the city’s reopening by July 1, stressing that the state was in charge. He said he was “unwilling to make projections” and said it was “irresponsible”.
Even so, the governor, who recently moved to lift restrictions, said he too hoped another reopening was in sight, possibly earlier than Mr de Blasio’s goal.
“I think if we do what we have to do we can reopen sooner,” said Cuomo.
Earlier this week, the governor announced that the long-term curfew, after which facilities no longer have to serve customers at midnight, will end on May 17 nationwide for outdoor dining areas and May 31 for indoor dining.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement Friday that the easing of restrictions on restaurants and bars “gives optimism to small business owners and workers who have been financially devastated last year.”
“We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo’s administration to reopen New York City safely so that we can bring the restaurant capital of the world back to the boil,” he said.
Michael Gold contributed to the coverage.