This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Tuesday, August 4th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, and professional sports (without fans). A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
New York City's outdoor dining program, which has become a fixture of the pandemic, will be allowed to return next summer.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the news in a press conference on Monday, calling outdoor dining "an extraordinary success."
Outdoor dining is set to go through at least October 31. The mayor marked a return date of June 1, 2021, although he said the city might decide to start earlier in the spring.
Over 9,000 restaurants have signed up for outdoor dining, which permits owners to set up tables on sidewalks and curb lanes. De Blasio said that the city estimates that the program has saved nearly 80,000 New York City jobs since June.
According to an analysis by Scott Stringer, the city's comptroller, the East Village had the highest application rate.
But the situation for the restaurant industry, which along with hospitality was the hardest hit by the shutdowns, remains dire. According to Stringer's report, in May there were 41,000 employed in full-service restaurants, down 70 percent compared to March.
Many popular and longstanding restaurants have already closed permanently, and some restaurateurs who have temporarily closed have openly questioned whether they will have the money or will to mount a comeback.
On Monday, the Hospitality Alliance released the results of a survey of 500 restaurants, bars and nightlife establishments that found that 83 percent of businesses could not pay their full rent in July and 37 percent reported paying no rent at all. Making the situation worse, the survey also found that the majority of landlords—61 percent—have refused to defer rent payments, while 90 percent will not renegotiate leases.
Although most elected officials applauded the mayor's decision, some are urging the city to go even farther with al fresco dining, which is a staple in European cities. Manhattan City Councilmember Keith Powers had proposed a bill calling for the city to make the Open Restaurants program ongoing and longterm.
"Of course, there are plenty of good months in April and May that can be used for outdoor dining, but I'll accept a victory here," Powers tweeted on Monday.
The Washington Post columnist and CNN contributer Max Boot went even further, suggesting that the program be allowed year-round.
"People eat outside at ski resorts in winter. Why not in NYC? Just install heat lamps. Otherwise I fear more restaurants will go out of business," he tweeted.
As some restaurant owners have pointed out, outdoor dining is not a perfect solution. Establishing the right set-up requires time and investment and is reliant on good weather.
Gothamist has reported that some workers have struggled under the new working conditions, which include public health precautions like masks and sanitization. The Wall Street Journal on Monday recently reported that at least eight people have been injured by drivers crashing into street dining areas in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan.
“It’s super hot,” Alexey, who works at an Italian restaurant in Morningside Heights, told Gothamist last month. “You are dripping with sweat. Your face is melting because you’re wearing a mask, and you cannot put the goddamn gloves on because your hands are wet and sweaty, also. It takes a lot of time to keep those necessary measures, and you have to also go on and keep serving people. This is very frustrating — it’s a no-joke experience."
He added: "And the moment rain starts, there’s no work, period.”