New York City finally starts the reopening process on Monday, bringing months of shutdown to a close.
On Friday during his press briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said everywhere he goes, he hears from constituents who have lost so much and are afraid of losing more due to the shutdown.
"We have to restart our economy," Mayor Bill de Blasio said."[The restart] is something that will allow us to get people back their livelihoods."
To start reopening, NYC has had to meet all seven health-related benchmarks set by Governor Andrew Cuomo's four-phase reopening plan, "NY Forward." That means NYC has reduced the rate of new hospitalizations to at least two per 100,000 residents a day, or about 170 a day in the city; the hospital-bed vacancy rate; the intensive-care bed vacancy rate; and has at least 30 working contact tracers per 100,000 residents among other improvements.
What exactly will be open?
The reopening doesn't mean everything will immediately open back up—it just means that employees of construction jobs, wholesale, manufacturing, agriculture and retail companies (with safety procedures in place) can go back to work. Hair salons, gyms, and restaurants (mostly outdoor dining) don't open until Phase 2, which is likely to happen by July.
Retail businesses will be back but will only be allowed to do curb side or in-store pickup because those are quick transactions with limited contact. That means you'll have to make your purchase online or over the phone before you head over to pick it up.
Here's a full list of where you'll be able to pick up merchandise from:
- Clothing Stores
- Direct Selling Establishments
- Electronics and Appliance Stores
- Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses
- Furniture and Home Furnishing Stores
- General Merchandise Stores
- Health and Personal Care Stores
- Jewelry, Luggage, and Leather Goods Stores
- Lawn and Garden Equipment and Supplies Stores
- Office Supplies, Stationery, and Gift Stores
- Used Merchandise Stores
- Shoe Stores
- Sporting Goods, Hobby, Musical Instrument and Book Stores
- Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers
Will it be safe?
Each business that reopens has to follow a set of safety protocols outlined by New York State, otherwise they could be fined.
Phase 1 businesses must reduce occupancy to under 50 percent and keep confined spaces to one person only (that means one person at a time on elevators and behind cash registers); keep employees six feet away from each other; limit in-person meetings and doing them in a well-ventilated area with social distancing; provide protective gear like masks for employees; do daily healthcare screenings and constant cleanings; and put up signs and markers to help employees keep their distance.
Visitors should also wear a mask, thanks to a new executive order from Cuomo that allows businesses to deny entry to those not wearing them.
With the return of Phase 1 businesses, anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 people will be returning to work at once, de Blasio said in May. With that many people leaving isolation at once with a pandemic still going on, companies will have rules to follow.
"[These businesses] were chosen because you can create physical separation," the mayor said. "That's a lot of employees coming back to work ... we want to emphasize safety throughout. We say 'restart' — we do not mean rushing back to something we used to think of as normal. We do not mean flicking a switch and suddenly everything is where it was again. We have to make sure this virus is in check. We've come a long way, not going to blow it now."
How will businesses be made to follow the rules?
De Blasio emphasized that the city will be there to help businesses open up safely and that it will "be with them every step of the way."
The Department of Buildings, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protections and the Department of Small Business Services will start training business owners immediately and will begin hand out guides with regulations on them as well as launch a "restart hotline" for help next week. Business advocates will also be sent out to help troubleshoot any problems that arise as businesses reopen and the agencies will do random inspections and hand out summonses in only egregious circumstances or for repeated violations. Complaints will be done by the Office of Special Enforcement, the mayor said.
"It's not gotcha," he said. "It's to educate and support businesses. We're going to give them a chance to correct but not wait forever because it's about the health and safety of their employees."
Are subways starting back up?
Yes. With so many returning to work, the MTA has announced that starting June 8, the same day the city reopens, it will be back to full service with a continuation of cleanings and a requirement that everyone must wear face coverings.
Hand sanitizer dispensers and PPE vending machines will be in select high ridership stations on an expedited basis.
Keeping six feet between riders may not be possible and would cut down ridership (it's already seen a 90% drop), but the MTA says in a letter to the mayor that it will have messaging reminding people that subway and bus service is for essential workers and essential trips only during Phase 1; request that employers stagger shifts and continue to allow for remote work; apply floor markings and decals to help assist people social distance; and deploy platform controllers, MTA Police, and more station personnel to monitor conditions and assist with crowding.
Additionally, the MTA will provide real-time information about how crowded the approaching train or bus is, so riders can make decisions for themselves about whether they want to board, or wait for the next opportunity, according to officials.
The MTA will also deploy hundreds of volunteers from 5am to 8pm during the first week of Phase 1, and during the morning and afternoon rush hours in the weeks following, to hand out masks and sanitizer to those who don't have any.
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