New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday warned that he would halt indoor dining in New York City if the region cannot get control of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the next five days. Gov. Phil Murphy, however, assured New Jersey will not follow suit any time soon.
“That is not right now on the table for us,” Murphy said at a Monday afternoon press conference in Trenton.
Restaurants are currently limited to 25% capacity at their indoor areas, and as cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 soar, he will not likely lift restrictions any time soon.
He’s favored a “surgical” approach, like prohibiting indoor dining past 10 p.m. and banning barside seating.
“There is more than anecdotal evidence that as the night wears on, probably for reasons that are obvious, people let their hair down,” Murphy said last month.
But Cuomo on Twitter warned that if hospitalizations in New York City are not brought under control in the next five days, he’ll sign an order banning indoor dining in the city, and limiting it to 25% in the rest of the state.
Murphy said he was cautious about doing that – with the lack of any federal COVID-19 relief for restaurants, a mandated closure would permanently force them out of business.
“[T]hese folks are on the rocks” if they’re forced to close, Murphy said. “They’re not just shuttered for a few weeks, they’re out of business.”
Indoor dining was off-limits between mid-March and Labor Day weekend. It was initially slated to resume on July 4 weekend, but Murphy pulled the plug on that as cases surged across the nation.
Over the summer, outdoor dining was a popular alternative, with towns and cities closing down main streets to make room for restaurants. But restaurant owners are concerned as to what will happen once colder weather renders those options useless.
Congress and the White House are in the midst of pushing through a $908 billion Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act package, which allegedly will include several hundred million dollars in small business relief.
While the increase in new COVID-19 cases is partially due to vastly ramped up testing capacity compared to what New Jersey had in the spring, metrics such as hospitalizations, ventilator-usage, critical care patient count and daily fatalities have all moved in alarming directions.
Murphy warned that the closure of indoor dining would drive the business underground and instead toward private gatherings inside people’s homes, where people are not wearing masks nor are they practicing social distancing.
“If you shutter something completely, you’re driving this into underground activity, behind closed doors, private settings,” the governor said. “If we think we can control that manageable risk in an enforceable space such as a restaurant, as opposed to [a] living room, that is our preference.”