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What's next after Phase 4? What you need to know about NYC's reopening

There's no Phase 5, but there's still a lot of reopening to do.

By
Shaye Weaver
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New York City has made it so far.

Our city was once the epicenter of the pandemic, but now, as New Yorkers always do, we've pulled it together enough to restart it—from reopening restaurants for outdoor dining to finally being able to go back to our offices.

It was a Herculean effort to make it through New York State's four-phase reopening plan by keeping our hospitalization and case numbers down, but now that we're through it, what's next?

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There's no Phase 5, but there are still certain sectors of the economy that will remain shuttered. Here, we'll walk you through where NYC stands and what's coming up.  

What is open right now?

    • Construction
    • Wholesale and manufacturing
    • Agriculture
    • Retail
    • Hair salons and personal care services
    • All office-based jobs
    • Real estate services
    • Outdoor dining at restaurants
    • Low-risk outdoor arts and entertainment (zoos, botanical gardens, nature parks, grounds of historic sites and cultural institutions, outdoor museums, outdoor agri-tourism, local agricultural demonstrations and exhibitions)
    • Media production
    • Professional sports competitions with no fans

 

Does this mean we can stop wearing masks and social distancing?

Not at all. Keep doing it.

You can expect to wear a mask in public for the foreseeable future, until there's a vaccine we can all get. Masks have been shown to still be the best protection against getting COVID-19. 

And we still have to distance ourselves while on the street, in stores and at restaurants.

Businesses, museums and other organizations must continue to adhere to state laws in order to remain open, including keeping occupancy at 50 percent, doing daily health screenings of employees, requiring everyone to wear masks or provide barriers if six feet cannot be maintained between people, putting up signs and distance markers, and refraining from the communal sharing of food and drinks, among other protocols. So that won't be going anywhere for awhile.

Is public transportation back to normal?

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, the subway will still remain closed overnight, between the hours of 1am and 5am, for cleaning. You must wear a mask, too. There's even a group of MTA employees and volunteers handing them out to make sure you do.

What is still closed?

Museums, indoor dining and all other indoor activities where large groups can gather.

At one point, Phase 4 had allowed low-risk indoor arts and entertainment—museums, historical sites, aquariums— to return, but in July, New York State and the city announced that it would nix that part of the plan because it would be too risky. 

"Outdoors has proven to be the area where we're seeing a lot of things work successfully," Mayor Bill de Blasio said then. "Indoors is where we have concerns. Some indoor activities can exist with the proper restrictions. Now that we've gotten this far, let's hang on to it. Let's stay focused, let's stay disciplined."

The Museum Of The City Of New York had planned to re-open on July 23 and Fotografiska was planning to open on July 29. Now, they can't, until officials deem it safe enough.

Being able to dine indoors was also taken out of the plan because diners have to take their mask off when eating and drinking. With so many cases still in New York, it was too soon.

"It's the density in those places and the amount of time you're in those places and proximity," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in July. "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."

Shopping malls, movie theaters and gyms are also still shuttered and will be reopened when officials and experts deem it safe enough.

Broadway, another form of indoor entertainment, won't return until 2021.

And as for colleges and NYC schools, each higher ed system and the NYC Department of Education will ultimately determine how they will resume classes in the fall.

Is there a Phase 5? When will these reopen?

While there is no Phase 5, both Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio said they would work together going forward to determine when they'd be ready to reopen indoor dining and indoor arts and entertainment, taking it piecemeal based on COVID-19 numbers with input from experts.

"We don't have anything else to do; there's nothing else to phase except in New York City—the cultural institutions and malls in New York City," Cuomo said. "For that, we're going to watch the data."

Do the end of the phases mean everything is back to normal?

We're still technically in a pandemic, so no. There are still sectors of the economy that need to reopen, and even when they do, we'll be doing things differently for safety's sake.

The city's stores, restaurants, bars and shows have taken a big hit. In fact, some will never return, including Gem Spa, Nishi and Gotham Bar & Grill. 

Mayor de Blasio said there's still much to do in bolstering the economy as we restart the city .

"We have to keep focused on the folks who still need food and the folks who need to keep their home— there's much to do as we fight our way back to restart this city," he said this week, adding that the city needs stimulus from the state and federal governments for rental assistance money and to continue feeding those who are in need, among other needs. 

It's also possible that we see a resurgence in COVID-19. Governor Cuomo said he wants New Yorkers to be on high alert.

"We are still in a precarious position, not because of anything we have done, but the negligence of the federal government and the states that listen to the federal government," he said last week. "I am very worried about the spread that we see across the country and the inevitability that the spread will be here. There will be a second wave. I would wager on it, but the question is how high is the wave?"

He said he thinks New York is attracting people from other states because "we are now seen as the 'safer' state."

"There's no time to be relaxing what we're doing when we know there's a wave coming from the southwest," he said. "You can see it if you look."

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