As we approach the end of summer 2020, we in New York are in a situation that was unimaginable when we rang in the New Year eight months ago.
Stay-at-home orders, mandatory masks in public, social distancing, businesses and classrooms shut down, no live religious services, concerts or sports and so on. We all know the story. It’s not a pleasant one, and includes the deaths of far too many New Yorkers and the illnesses of many more.
The deadly and fast-spreading coronavirus and the Covid-19 disease that it caused hit us first and it hit us hardest, at a time when nobody in this country seemed to know how to bring it to heel.
The news will not be good until New York and the entire country return to a semblance of normal, even if it’s a different normal than what went before. And that’s not likely to happen until we have access to a safe, effective and well-tested vaccine, which we hope we’ll see before the year is out.
In the meantime, New Yorkers have a lot to be proud of.
This past Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the positive rates of testing had reached a record low of 0.66 percent statewide—this at a time that states in the south and west were seeing positive rates hovering around 15 percent and some even higher than 20 percent.
It is a remarkable accomplishment, and thanks are in order to the leadership of our governor and his administration and the cooperation of our fellow New Yorkers.
Now, we think it’s time to start “turning the valve” a little more on reopening, especially in New York City.
Let’s start with the obvious: Indoor dining in restaurants.
The rest of the state has been cleared for some time to resume indoor dining, albeit with restrictions on spacing and adhering to severely reduced capacity.
In the city, only outdoor dining is permitted, and while this has brought a welcome liveliness to residential neighborhoods and brought many workers back to the job, the eateries themselves are still unable to operate at full capacity with just sidewalk tables. With fall and winter coming, that is a self-limiting solution at best and keeping it going indefinitely will add to our financial woes going forward.
It would be good to see more movement in that regard, maybe allowing reduced capacity in restaurants but no service at bars, for instance. And maybe a relaxing of capacity rules in the rest of the state.
The reopening of schools is another situation that can bring us back to a semblance of normal and hope that the reopening of public schools goes smoothly. We’re glad to see that Catholic schools have formulated detailed plans for a safe return to classrooms, and that churches and other places of worship are allowed to hold public services again.
Keep in mind that New York now requires out-of-state visitors and residents returning from high-positive locations to be quarantined for two weeks, which reduces the risk of outside contamination and can go a long way in keeping us safe.
It’s been a struggle, but New York now has the testing capacity, the contact tracing and the hospital availability to handle a new outbreak, should one occur. We’ve learned what needs to be done, and we’ve shown that we can do it.
That’s why we’re confident that we can handle a bit of relaxing of the rules. A little will go a long way to bringing New York back the way we want it.