Mayor Bill de Blasio said there’s no concrete plan to resume indoor dining because it’s too high-risk an activity in the age of coronavirus.
The mayor on Tuesday was grilled about restarting one of the the city’s most beloved pastimes following fierce criticism and the threat of legal action from the restaurant industry, which has suffered massive losses or revenues and jobs that has not been supplanted by takeout and outdoor dining.
“We haven’t been able to set a firm standard because we see a real problem and challenge here,” de Blasio said at his daily press briefing.
“And what we need to do first and foremost is focus on the health and safety of New Yorkers and on bringing back our city smartly and not allowing the mistakes we’ve seen in so much of the country and so much of the world.”
New York City is the only state region that still does not have some indoor dining allowed, while it is allowed in neighboring suburban counties like Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester.
Dr. Jay Varma, the mayor’s senior adviser for public health, also weighed in, saying New York City has two factors to consider: the likelihood that indoor dining could lead to outbreaks of COVID-19 and the “vulnerability” of the city itself.
“We know through experience everywhere around the world and also from the United States that indoor dining is a very high-risk activity and there’s reasons for that,” Varma said, pointing to the lack of masks while eating, proximity to other people and duration spent indoors.
He also alluded to the Big Apple once serving as the coronavirus epicenter of the world — comprising about half of the country’s total cases in late March and leading to 25,295 deaths.
“We’ve been through an extremely traumatic time for everyone with thousands of deaths and we need to be cautious about introducing a high-risk activity into a place that we know is extremely vulnerable,” Varma added.
De Blasio then blasted the notion that students eating inside classrooms was equivalent to allowing diners indoors — saying education is a moral obligation while the latter is “a very optional activity.”
“I don’t think there’s a similarity at all,” he said. “When we talk about schools, this is something that is mandated for our children to get an education for free — a quality education. So we have an imperative legal, imperative moral, imperative educational, imperative to give kids the best education we can. We know that means having at least some time in person.
“Indoor dining matters because of the culture of this city, because of a lot of jobs, we admire the people who have created these businesses,” he said, also noting that schools are part of the private sector while restaurants are private.
“But you can’t compare the legal and moral imperative.”