New Yorkers are finally seeing a slight return to normalcy as the city re-opens restaurants for outdoor dining and retail stores for in-store shopping. Some of us are even returning to the office.
But what's next in our re-opening plan?
When can we begin Phase 3?
The New York Forward Plan establishes a minimum of two-week intervals between a region's transition from one phase to the next. If all goes according to plan, Phase 3 will begin on Monday, July 6.
New York State has been monitoring whether New York City meets seven health-related benchmarks. Basically, hospitalization and infection data must not show that more people are being infected with the virus than hospitals can handle. If those markers remain in check, as they are right now, and international experts determine its best to move forward, then NYC will continue though the reopening plan.
What will open?
Unlike Phase 2, where a lot of businesses returned, only one category is set to return under Phase 3: personal care.
What constitutes personal care?
It applies to non-hair-related personal care services, including tattoo and piercing facilities, appearance enhancement practitioners, massage therapy, spas, cosmetology, nail specialty, UV and non-UV tanning, or waxing.
So you can finally get that tattoo you've been thinking about all of quarantine!
But what about indoor dining?
Restaurants and food service had been part of this phase, but on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that NYC would not reopen indoor dining.
"Indoors is the problem, the science is showing it more and more," the mayor said. "We cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City. Even a week ago we were hopeful we could but it keeps getting worse and worse around the country."
"It is not the time to forge ahead with indoor dining," he added.
Cuomo on Wednesday confirmed the postponement, saying that the "facts have to change, because at this point, it is imprudent."
"It's a New York City-only modification, because frankly its a problem most pronounced in New York City," he added.
He said that citizen compliance with regard to wearing masks and social distancing is slipping.
"I get why the compliance is slipping, but it is a very real problem," he said. "Young people can get sick. Young people can infect older people inadvertently. Government is supposed to be enforcing compliance. And that's not happening to a sufficient basis."
He also denied that indoor air conditioning has to do with the decision to postpone indoor dining.
"That's not what is stopping us—it's the density in those places and the amount of time you're in those places and the proximity," he said. "With indoor dining, you're sitting there for an hour, you have your mask down a lot because it's hard to eat and drink with your mask, and you're sitting with the same people in proximity for a long period of time. You have cases where one bar or restaurant has caused dozens of infections, so that is inherent in indoor dining."
The city will continue taking applications from restaurant owners who want to open outdoor dining space. So far, 6,100 eateries have applied and opened dining outside, the mayor said.
"The most important thing is to keep us healthy and safe and not allow a resurgence," de Blasio said earlier this week. "Outdoors is working across the board. The disease doesn't spread as much outdoors. It's been such a hit."
What else is opening?
The city's public libraries will also open around the same time, but with a different model in place (grab-and-go services) until it's safe to resume normal functions.
NYC Parks is also reopening dog runs, basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball courts, handball courts and bocce courts. (Organized team sports and group play remain high-risk activities and will not be permitted, however, so you'll have to play solo for a bit.)
What is still closed?
Movie theaters, Broadway, amusement parks like Coney Island's Luna Park, and other arts-related institutions like museums, gyms, event venues and colleges and universities. These are slated to reopen in Phase 4. Indoor dining is postponed for the foreseeable future.
Do we still have to wear a mask? What about social distancing?
Yes, and each business has guidance by the state that it must follow, including keeping occupancy in office buildings at 50 percent, doing daily health screenings of its employees, requiring everyone to wear masks or provide barriers if six feet cannot be maintained between people, putting up signs and distance markers, limiting in-person meetings and refraining from the communal sharing of food and drinks in larger areas. So that free pizza? It's gone for now.
How will public transportation work? Is the city still going to clean the subway?
The MTA's subway and buses have been back to full service since Phase 1 started. You can expect to catch a train as you used to, however, there are new protocols in place:
- The subway will remain closed overnight between the hours of 1am and 5am for cleaning. Crews will "remove trash, clean spills and biohazards, spot-clean seats, floors, and other surfaces, and disinfect common touch points." Stations, especially end-of-the-line terminals, are being cleaned throughout the day; trains will be cleaned overnight at subway yards.
- It’s mandatory to wear a mask while in the station and on the train. If you forget to bring a mask, one will be provided to you for free as will small bottles of hand sanitizer.
- Yellow floor decals in the shape of footprints have been installed to mark the optimal space for social distancing along with other signage (also in yellow) reminding you to wear a mask and take other precautions.
- On buses, rear door entry and exiting is still in place, which means you will get to effectively ride local buses for free. Riders on Select Bus Service, however, still must pay at curbside fare-boxes.
- As with the subway, wearing a mask while riding the bus is mandatory, and vehicles are being regularly cleaned and disinfected.
You can read more about what to expect on public transportation here.
When will NYC be fully back open?
It could be open by July 20 if experts deem New York City safe enough and there are two weeks between each phase going forward, but do not be surprised that not everything is back up and running.
Broadway said it won't return until September, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is eyeing an August reopening, and other cultural institutions including the Met Opera and the NYC Ballet have announced that their fall seasons are canceled.
The city's stores, restaurants, bars and shows have taken a big hit, so some will not return, including Gem Spa, Nishi, Gotham Bar & Grill.
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