New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio on Monday urged residents and businesses to brace for a possible second shutdown amid a citywide surge in coronavirus cases.
“What is increasingly clear is that all forms of restrictions have to be on the table at this point,” De Blasio said in a press conference from City Hall in Manhattan. “At the current rate we’re going, you have to be ready now for a full shutdown — a pause like we had back at the end of the spring.”
Over the past seven days, nearly 20,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for the virus. The positivity rate on Dec. 12, the most recent day for which the city has data, was 5.5%. After falling to less than 3% during the summer, the rate hasn’t fallen below 5% since Nov. 29. More than 24,500 people in the city have died of COVID 19-related causes, health data show.
Another lockdown is “increasingly necessary just to break the back of our second wave, to stop the second wave from growing, to stop it from taking lives, to stop it from threatening our hospitals,” added De Blasio who was commenting on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Dec. 12 remarks to the New York Times raising the possibility of the city entering another lockdown “within a month.”
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The decision whether to impose tighter restrictions in New York rests with Cuomo. But De Blasio urged businesses and workers to prepare to start working remotely if they’re currently reporting to physical workplaces.
Potential restrictions could last for “a matter of weeks,” De Blasio said. “We have to be preparing ourselves mentally and practically for that possibility.”
De Blasio’s announcement came as the first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was administered in New York.
“I believe this is the weapon that will end the war. This is the beginning of the last chapter of the book,” Cuomo said of the milestone at a press conference on Monday.
“It’s going to take months before the vaccine hits critical mass. This is the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel,” Cuomo added.
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The city’s restaurants were forced to close for indoor dining again Monday in a move that could cause more permanent closures for thousands of ailing eating and drinking establishments. Winter weather threatens the viability of their outdoor setups, too.
“It’s absolutely devastating. It compounds the crisis,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, an association representing the city’s restaurants and nightlife venues. “Now with the cold weather and snow on its way, restaurants aren’t going to have the benefits of outdoor dining to even help them.”