As the world begins to reopen despite the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic, restaurants begin to open up their space to patrons as well. For the past month in New Jersey and New York City, dining only included outdoor tables, with governors and state officials deeming it still too dangerous to reopen indoor dining. That is until now: on September 9th, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that indoor dining will resume in the city beginning on September 30th.
While New York City becomes one of the last places in the country to actually open up to indoor dining, the rest of New York State has been open to dining for a couple of months now. Phase 3 under the state’s Coronavirus plan allowed for indoor restaurants to allow diners. However, when NYC entered this phase, Cuomo was quick to shut down the thought of eating inside.
New Jersey only allowed for indoor dining a few days prior. On August 31, NJ Governor Phil Murphy announced that indoor dining would resume on September 4th at 25% capacity. This comes two months after he took back his announcement that it would reopen around the Fourth of July Weekend. Initially Murphy postponed the reopening due to a spike in cases across the state due to large crowds scurrying mask-less to the Jersey Shore. This declaration comes only a few days after Murphey’s announcement that gyms would reopen on September 1st.
In terms of dining in New York City, similarly to the policy in New Jersey, restaurants would only be allowed 25% capacity. In addition to the capacity requirement, restaurants will be required to take customers’ temperatures at the door, on top of enforcing mask wearing and social distancing rules.
Cuomo has repeatedly criticized officials for not enforcing social distancing, which is at partial fault for the delay in this reopening stage. Last week he even proposed creating a plan or task force that would effectively allow restaurants to reopen. However, it is not just city officials who must be in charge of keeping the city safe; New Yorkers in general must lend a helping hand in the fight against COVID-19. This includes restaurants posting a phone number that customers can call or text to report any violations..
While restaurants are beginning to prepare for this stage of reopening, concerns have arisen in terms of how successful it will be. For example, some small businesses that are already tightly packed will have trouble complying with keeping tables six feet apart, especially if their space is smaller to begin with.
Another issue to consider is, according to a recent study by the CDC, adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant. This means that eating out can significantly increase your chance of catching the virus. If the city was once the epicenter of the pandemic only a couple of months ago, how will the number of cases be affected now, will the city be hit hard again?
If the reopening of indoor dining goes well, and does not contribute to a significant increase in the state’s infection rate, New York City restaurants could allow for 50% capacity. However, that will not be decided until November 1st. At the same time it is important to remember that although it might be more dangerous to dine out, some of these restaurants will not survive without reopening. The key factor in all aspects of opening back into some form of normalcy, even if that looks different, is that we all must work together to protect one another. If we can team up, follow the rules, and mask up, even while we are dining out more, the sooner we will be able to truly be safe and protected.