Governor Suspends Indoor Dining, Updates COVID Zones as Hospitalization Rates Continue to Rise

Governor Andrew Cuomo providing details about changes to COVID-19 guidance and restrictions on December 11, 2020. Image Credit: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Indoor dining will be suspended in New York City while gyms and salons can operate on new guidelines. On December 11, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced changes to COVID restriction guidelines starting Monday, December 14th. Among these changes, indoor dining would be suspended across New York City due to the increase in COVID-19 hospitalization rates. Outdoor dining and takeout/delivery are still permitted. Indoor dining will be allowed to continue at only 25 percent capacity across the rest of the state. 

Gyms and personal care services like salons will have adjusted operation guidelines starting December 14th. Initially, gyms and personal care services were considered “high-risk” businesses and were closed in orange zones. However, after the State’s latest data showed that the rate of spread was reduced in businesses following State guidance. Therefore, starting December 14th gyms and fitness centers can operate in orange zones at 25 percent capacity, and personal care services will be allowed to provide services as long as employees are tested on a weekly basis and obtain negative test results prior to opening. 

Hospitals have also been directed to remain below 85 percent capacity by either adding 25 percent capacity, eliminating elective surgeries or a mixture of both.


Governor Cuomo also updated the standards for establishing micro-cluster zones across the state. 

Red zones will be implemented for areas where hospital capacity is within 21 days of reaching 90 percent capacity, including with the cancellation of elective procedures and a 50 percent increase in bed capacity.

Orange zones will be established in areas with a four percent positivity rate after a seven day average over the previous ten days and is in a region with an 85 percent hospital capacity. The State Department of Health may also designate orange zones 

Yellow zones will be created in areas that have a seven-day average of a three percent positivity rate over the past ten days and are continuing to experience week-over-week growth in daily hospital admissions. 

Governor Cuomo stated, “We have been setting rules that make sense for everyone, and it is basically all common sense. We invested very heavily in doing COVID testing, and we do more testing than any state in the nation. That gives us actual facts that we can base our actions upon. This is not high science we’re applying here—these are common-sense rules. Where the virus is highest, you have to take action. . . We’re also calibrating the risk level of the economic activity to ensure we are respecting public health, while limiting economic disruption to the extent possible. This pandemic has required us to stay nimble from the very beginning and we will continue to follow the data to make smart, informed decisions.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “I feel tremendous empathy for restaurant owners. A lot of them are mom and pop businesses that put their lifetime into them. We want them to survive. We need them to survive. We need the – you know, as a result of indoor dining alone, we think almost a hundred thousand restaurant workers got their job back. Every single worker we care about. . .  at the same time, these numbers don’t lie. Look at what we had today – for the first time, unfortunately, all three of our indicators are past their thresholds. That’s a second wave. We have to fight it back to save lives and we have to fight it back to start our recovery. If the Governor announces restrictions, I support him a hundred percent because we have to protect against the worst.”

Some still questioned the decision to shut down indoor dining again given the State’s data, and the harm caused by shutting down restaurants without financial relief.

The NYC Hospitality Alliance stated, “While public health and safety must be paramount, Governor Cuomo’s announcement to once again shut down indoor dining in New York City is at odds with the State’s own data that’s been presented as driving these decisions, and it will be the last straw for countless more restaurants and jobs. And the restrictions begin on Monday with zero economic support for small businesses that are already struggling to survive.”

The Five Borough Chamber of Commerce Alliance stated, “Given New York’s recent increase in positivity rates and hospitalizations, this was obviously a difficult decision. However, the restrictions could not have come at a worse time for restaurants across the five boroughs when many are holding on for survival by a thread and trying in some way to make up for the devastating losses of the past nine months. This shutdown marks a completely different economic climate than restaurants faced at the onset of the pandemic, where many were in a better financial position and supported by federal stimulus funding. We now fear that thousands of small businesses will be forced to permanently close their doors and lay off employees, which will have an irreversible impact on the city’s economic recovery and social fabric. To prevent the total collapse of the nation’s largest and most vibrant restaurant industry, the federal government urgently needs to enact a new COVID-19 relief package.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


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