New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that New York City restaurants will have to close indoor restaurants as new daily coronavirus cases across the state for the first time since spring and hospital stays in Covid-19 10,000 have dwarfed.
The Democratic governor said restaurants will continue to have outdoor dining areas and take-out and delivery will be available starting Monday. Cuomo warned earlier this week that the state could shut down indoor dining if the city's hospitalization rate didn't stabilize.
"You will see a bad December, a bad January. How bad is the question," Cuomo said at a press conference.
He said the outbreak will not "end" until the vaccine is widely available, which could be June or September. "It's a long six months between today and June," he said.
Cuomo cited additional warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued last week, warning of "exposures in non-essential indoor and overcrowded outdoor areas." According to a slide presented at the briefing, they presented an "avoidable risk for all participants".
"In New York City, you have taken the CDC caution when eating indoors, along with the rate of transmission and the density and crowding, which is a bad situation. New York City hospital stays have continued to increase," Cuomo said.
The move marks a notable reversal of the state's reopening plans as New York City returned to dining at 25% indoor capacity on September 30th. Restaurants in the Big Apple have had to stay afloat and eat-out by eating al fresco in recent months, even as falls decreased in summer and early fall. Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio postponed the return of indoor dining in early July as other states in the US reported worsening outbreaks.
However, the Empire State governor urged that schools stay open and said they were much safer. He said the rate of positivity, or the percentage of Covid-19 tests that came back positive, "tends to be lower" in schools compared to the surrounding community.
"My point is, if it is safer for the children to be in school, then you have the children in school. If it is safer for the teacher to be in school, then you have the teacher in school "said Cuomo.
The state is now concerned about what Cuomo calls "living room sprawl". Almost 74% of new Covid-19 cases come from households and social gatherings, according to Cuomo. Restaurants and bars accounted for 1.43% of new cases, while gyms accounted for less than 1%.
"We may see the end of the Thanksgiving wave if you will, but we are about to get into the Hanukkah wave and the Christmas tide and the Christmas week and the Kwanzaa wave and New Years Eve and New Years Anniversary," Cuomo said, adding added that the health authorities hope for a "stabilization" by mid to late January.
Source: New York State
According to a CNBC analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, an independent volunteer organization started by journalists from The Atlantic, New York reports an average of around 4,653 people hospitalized with Covid-19. This corresponds to an increase of 30% compared to a week ago.
However, "the situation in the hospitals is better than in the past," said Cuomo. Compared to the spring when the virus first swept through New York and overwhelmed its hospital systems, there are now 30% fewer people in the state's intensive care units and 50% fewer people intubated, Cuomo said. The mean hospital stay has also fallen from 11 days in the spring to five days now.
New York expects 170,000 doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday or Monday, Cuomo said. The doses could be issued as emergency clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at any time after an important panel overwhelmingly approved the recordings on Thursday evening.
Another highly anticipated vaccine from Moderna could get the green light in the coming weeks. Cuomo said the state expects 346,000 doses of this vaccine by the week of December 21st.
"The vaccine is coming and we are ready to give it," said Cuomo.