As the weather heats up, though, more and more New Yorkers are flocking to public spaces and familiar haunts for a sense of normalcy after spending most of the last two months cooped up inside — and not always policing themselves.
This weekend there were reports of young New Yorkers without masks on enjoying their freedom: drinking outside of bars which are closed but still serving drinks.
“They don’t care about us,” said Ann Trent, 72, of Manhattan, on Saturday.
Sitting on a bench at the west end of the Brooklyn Bridge she mused about her safety: “What happened to all of us protecting everyone else?”
City bars and restaurants have been restricted to takeout and delivery since mid-March, when coronavirus cases started to soar, but some in Manhattan were allowing people to dine and drink inside on Saturday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a warning Sunday about young folks weary of quarantine and isolation.
“The police department will be out, the sheriff’s office will be out watching very carefully on the Upper East Side in particular,” he said about the section of Manhattan known as the least urban and most suburban. “We’re not going to tolerate people congregating. It’s as simple as that.”
“If we have instances where there is not compliance I want to know about it,” de Blasio added Sunday. “I want any New Yorker who sees any place allowing dining in to call 311 immediately and they will be visited immediately with inspectors and there will be serious fines. If we have to shut places down we will.”
A lot of manufacturing, construction and retail deemed essential have continued in New York during the restrictions. And curbside retail pickup has been available for food, wine and some other goods.
The administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, divided the state into 10 regions that will reopen on different timetables. Restrictions can’t be eased until a region meets seven benchmarks demonstrating that COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are down and that there are enough hospital beds if the outbreak flares up again. Each region must have a program of testing and contact tracing.
The five regions of New York that opened Friday cover a wide strip down the middle of the state. Excluded are New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley on the state’s east side, and the Buffalo region to the west.
If new COVID-19 cases remain under control during the initial reopening, regions can open more types of businesses in a couple of weeks.
The next phase will include office jobs like professional services and insurance, as well as retail. Restaurants are included in the phase after that, and then finally arts, entertainment, recreation and education.
Businesses must come up with a plan outlining how they will prevent the spread of COVID-19, with requirements for providing face coverings and “social distancing markers” in common areas.
Coronavirus has infected over 4.6 million people and killed more than 312,000 worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts say undercounts the true toll of the pandemic. The U.S. has reported over 88,000 dead and Europe has seen at least 160,000 deaths.
In the U.S., many states have lifted stay-at home-orders and other restrictions, allowing some types of businesses to reopen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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