Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed concerns Thursday about the restart of indoor dining in the Big Apple as he admitted that he was largely blindsided by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s long-awaited decision to breathe new life into the city’s restaurant industry.
“It’s great that indoor dining is back, but we’re going to be very careful and our health team will certainly emphasize this — we’re going to be very careful to make sure it’s done right,” de Blasio said during a City Hall press briefing.
Cuomo on Wednesday announced the Sept. 30 return of indoor dining in the city at 25 percent capacity — just three hours after de Blasio told reporters he was still working on an agreement with the state about the matter.
And Hizzoner confessed Thursday that “sometime in the hour or so” after his Wednesday press conference, “the state made clear that they felt they were ready” to make an announcement on the resumption of indoor dining, which has not been allowed in the city since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
“One of the things that I’ve pushed very hard, and my team pushed very hard in these discussions with the state, was tight restrictions and smart rules and careful assessment of how we are doing,” de Blasio said.
Cuomo, during his own conference call with reporters Thursday, claimed de Blasio “was fully consulted” on the indoor dining decision but also called it “accurate” that de Blasio only got a few hours’ notice about it.
The governor said other stakeholders were being consulted at the time and “everyone’s opinion had to be taken into consideration.”
De Blasio said the city raised concerns to the state, including about the Sept. 30 start date, but “they went forward with the policy.”
The mayor insisted that conversations “at very high levels” between the city and state “have been going on for weeks” regarding indoor dining.
“The city consistently took a conservative position on health and safety and we believe we should be very careful here because of the history around the world [when it comes to indoor dining],” de Blasio said.
He added, “I’m the person who believes we need to be conservative and cautious.”
De Blasio, who would not commit to dining indoors himself on Sept. 30 or some time after, said he believes a COVID-19 infection rate of 2 percent in the city should be the “threshold” at which the city takes action and reassesses indoor dining.
Cuomo on Wednesday would not give a hard number for a threshold, but explained, “You watch it and if you have a cause for concern, you hit the pause button.”
The governor said that at a 2 percent positive infection rate, he would “start to get nervous,” and at 3 percent, “I start to have heart palpitations.”
But de Blasio was adamant about a 2 percent infection rate being the threshold.
“I think it should be that if we get to 2 percent, we pause because if we’re already at 2 percent, it means something is moving in the wrong direction and we need to take quick measures to stop that from growing,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio’s comments are a complete reversal from when he urged New Yorkers to go out and visit their local pubs less than a day before restaurants and bars shut down to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
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