New York bars, restaurants must close at 10 p.m. each night, Cuomo says
Authorities are closing bars in some parts of the U.S. to stem the surge of COVID-19 cases. There's sound science behind the closures, experts agree, citing the conjunction of risk factors that go beyond not wearing masks. (July 1) AP Domestic
ALBANY – Bars and restaurants throughout New York will be forced to close at 10 p.m. each night beginning Friday as COVID-19 infections continue to increase throughout the state and country.
The restriction on any establishment with a state-issued liquor license was part of a new series of statewide coronavirus rules announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said they are necessary to try to tamp down the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Restaurants and bars will be able to provide food-only pickup between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., but in-person dining will be prohibited, he said.
Bowling alleys and other entertainment venues must also close by 10 p.m. if they have a liquor license. Gyms and fitness centers are also subject to the same curfew, Cuomo said.
Indoor gatherings at private residences, meanwhile, will be further limited to no more than 10 people, down from the current limit of 50, according to Cuomo, who described the new restrictions as an attempt to slow the virus' spread via parties and small get-togethers.
The new gathering restriction could have a significant impact on families planning on gathering during the Thanksgiving holiday despite health officials discouraging them from doing so.
"If you look at where the cases are coming from and do the contact tracing you'll see they’re coming from three main areas," Cuomo said, referring to restaurants and bars, gyms and house parties.
New statewide restrictions take effect Friday
The new statewide restrictions take effect Friday. They come as New York's coronavirus cases have surged in recently, reaching more than 3,500 cases per day, the highest level since early May.
The test positivity rate has also steadily climbed and stood at 2.9% on Tuesday, while 1,628 New Yorkers were hospitalized with COVID-19.
The new 10-person cap on house parties and 10 p.m. curfew for bars, restaurants and gyms statewide expanded upon the cluster containment strategy that has imposed more stringent restrictions on communities hit hardest by COVID-19 outbreaks.
The announcement Wednesday sent the restaurant industry scrambling for details, including whether they apply to outdoor dining and if customers who began dining before 10 p.m. can finish their meals.
Melissa Fleishchut, president and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association, issued a statement calling the new curfew a "huge blow to the restaurant industry that is desperately trying to stay afloat."
"Our members have put in place procedures and protocols to mitigate the spread, and we’ll continue to do so to ensure the safety of our employees and patrons," she said. "We understand the logic behind micro-cluster restrictions, but at this time we have concerns about blanket statewide restrictions like this.”
The state's "micro-cluster" approach had, to this point, imposed new restrictions only on targeted areas with high COVID-19 infection rates.
The state made changes to a pair of Southern Tier clusters on Wednesday, removing restrictions in Steuben County after the virus' spread slowed. The state added a "yellow" zone -- the lowest level of added restrictions -- in the Tioga County village of Waverly.
Other clusters remained in large swaths of Erie, Monroe, Broome and Onondaga counties, as well as parts of the Hudson Valley and New York City. Cuomo expressed sympathy with businesses facing financial hardships due to the new restrictions but emphasized the importance of getting the deadly virus' spread under control.
"Money can be replaced, losing a loved one hurts forever," he said.
Further, additional statewide restrictions, such as limiting indoor dining, could be imposed if the cases continued to rise, Cuomo added.
"If these measures are not sufficient to slow the spread, we will...turn the valve more and part of that would be reducing the number of people in indoor dining," he said.
Indoor dining is currently capped at 50% capacity in most of the state, with New York City at 25%.
"If that doesn’t work, if these numbers keep going crazy, you have some scientists who believe we’re going to go back to a close down, I’m just praying it doesn’t happen," Cuomo added.
Cluster changes in Westchester, Tioga
Cuomo has repeatedly asserted the state's cluster strategy, which restricts non-essential businesses and schools and limits religious gatherings, is working and should be able to prevent more widespread shut downs.
Along with the new cluster added in Tioga County, the state added restrictions for parts of Staten Island on Wednesday. Cuomo blamed some of the spread on surging cases in the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The village of Port Chester in Westchester County, which is on the border with Connecticut, will also be upgraded to more strict orange zone restrictions from the yellow zone rules applied recently, Cuomo said.
Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
Support local journalism
We cover the stories from the New York State Capitol and across New York that matter most to you and your family. Please consider supporting our efforts with a subscription to the New York publication nearest you.