Responding to an increase in COVID cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced new restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms and residential gatherings in New York state.
Effective Friday at 10 p.m., bars, restaurants and gyms or fitness centers, as well as any State Liquor Authority-licensed establishment, will be required to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. After 10 p.m., restaurants will still be allowed to provide curbside pick-up or delivery of food, but will not be permitted to serve alcohol to-go. The State Liquor Authority is expected to issue further guidance for licensees as to what sales are continued to be permitted.
The governor on Wednesday also announced that indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences will be limited to no more than 10 people, beginning on Friday.
The limit will be implemented due to the recent prevalence of COVID spread resulting from small indoor gatherings including Halloween parties. These gatherings have become a major cause of new cases in clusters across the state.
“Halloween parties, football parties — just, ‘let’s get together and have a party’ — this is the third, one of the three great spreaders as identified by our contact tracing,” Cuomo said.
The statewide positivity rate for those being tested is hovering around 3 percent this week, in all regions of the state. But the positivity rate is higher in certain communities that the state is keeping a close eye on, designating them as a red, orange or yellow zone depending on severity. These designations bring additional restrictions for businesses and schools.
These COVID clusters currently exist in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens; Orange, Westchester and Rockland counties; and also in parts of Broome, Steuben, Chemung, Onondaga, Monroe and Erie counties, upstate.
Overall, New York state has one of the lowest positivity rates in the U.S., and Cuomo said the new restrictions tat go into effect on Friday are meant to slow the coming tide of expected cases this fall and winter.
Neighboring states have either closed or restricted hours for bars and restaurants — or are expected to soon — so part of Cuomo’s strategy is to prevent people driving into New York for drinking and dining.
“You look at the states surrounding New York, on the theory that we’re only a ship on the COVID tide,” Cuomo said. “You have New Jersey, which is about a 5 percent infection rate. You have Connecticut, which is about a 7 percent infection rate. You have Pennsylvania which has about a 15 percent infection rate – those are the positivity rates – and you have Massachusetts.
“If you look at the places in our state where we’re having issues, they’re very often near the neighboring states,” the governor added. “We have issues in the Southern Tier near Pennsylvania, we have issues in Staten Island near New Jersey, Port Chester near Connecticut, et cetera, so if the national numbers are going up and the states around you are going up, be prepared.”
The new rules — which will be enforced by local governments and police — brings New York in line with neighboring states including Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“I need the local governments to enforce this,” Cuomo said. “We went through this with bars and restaurants once before if you remember. We put rules in place. There was widespread lack of compliance and local governments- some did a good job, some really did not. We then had to put together a state task force to do the enforcement. This is statewide. I don’t have the resources to do it, so I need the local governments to do it.”