- By Steve Bittenbender | The Center Square contributor / Feb 19, 2021
(The Center Square) – One week after New York City restaurants reopened indoor dining, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the city’s establishments soon will be able to welcome more patrons.
On Friday, he said restaurants in the Big Apple will be able to run at 35 percent capacity, up from the 25 percent they’re operating now. That’s still less than the 50 percent that eateries on Long Island, Westchester County and other parts of the state can operate. However, as the governor noted, it will put New York City venues at the same level as neighboring New Jersey.
“What’s happening now is people in New York City, Staten Island, Manhattan, are going to New Jersey to those restaurants,” the governor said. “So it’s not really accomplishing a purpose.”
The new limit officially takes effect next Friday.
The indoor dining expansion is the latest step Cuomo has taken to reopen businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. It comes a week after he extended bar and restaurant closing times from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.
“We appreciate that the governor is following the data, listening to our voices, increasing occupancy, and we hope to continue this path and increase to at least 50% occupancy safely as soon as possible,” the New York City Hospitality Alliance said in a statement on its website.
Cuomo’s reopening talk didn’t end with the restaurant news. He also called on local governments to do more to reopen schools to full-time in-class instruction.
The call for local government involvement comes after Cuomo several times during the pandemic said he was the one who would call the shots on schools.
“You’re not going to reopen the economy without parents having children in school, so parents can go on with their life and work,” the governor said.
He also said that the state will begin allowing nursing homes to accept visitors for residents. That move comes as the administration faces investigations into its handling of the facilities during the early stages of the pandemic.
On Friday, Cuomo said 73 percent of nursing home residents have taken the vaccine, which he believed was the highest number of any subgroup within the state.
Under state Department of Health guidelines, visitors will first need to take a rapid COVID-19 test and produce a negative result. The state will follow rules established by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state will provide those tests to the facilities.
“This is going to be a very big deal for nursing home residents and families,” the governor said.