New York City mayor sets goal to ‘fully reopen’ on July 1 as virus eases

New York City is moving to fully reopen on July 1 with arenas, gyms, shops, restaurants and hair salons returning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“This is going to be the summer of New York City,” de Blasio said on Thursday, local time, during a press briefing. “We’re all going to get to enjoy this city again, and people are going to flock here from all over the country to be a part of this amazing moment.”

Tourists visit Times Square in pre-pandemic days.Credit:AP

New York locked down almost completely as the pandemic descended upon the most populous US city last March, with schools closing and non-essential businesses forced to shut. The city has been embarking on a slow step-by-step comeback as infection rates have eased, accelerated by the advent of vaccinations. The city is about halfway toward the mayor’s goal of having 5 million people fully vaccinated by the end of June, state data shows.

De Blasio’s goal of a complete re-opening leaves some key sectors until later, such as schools and Broadway. City officials say they intend to offer in-class summer school programs for more than 100,000 students, with school buildings open for full enrolment in September. Shows at Broadway theatres also aren’t slated to resume until that month.

To help lead the recovery, de Blasio appointed New York restaurant mogul Danny Meyer, creator of Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack, to chair the city’s Economic Development board. As the city reopens, it will need to hire a lot of people very quickly, Meyer said. At least 400,000 jobs will return in the city this year, de Blasio said.

“One of my hopes is that the city will be an agent that will connect job seekers with employers,” Meyer said

A deserted street near Times Square in New York on April 1, 2020. Credit:Bloomberg

The mayor may need to get state officials on board for his July 1 reopening plan. Ultimate authority still resides with orders already issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to a vote taken by the state legislature last month. That vote stopped Cuomo from issuing any new directives without lawmakers’ approval, while also allowing the Governor’s existing directives to be extended, and he has frequently clashed with de Blasio on measures to fight the pandemic.

“The federal government, state government always have a say, but I’m saying as leader in New York City, we’re ready to come back and come back strong,” de Blasio, who is term-limited and in his final year in office, said during an interview on MSNBC.

Cuomo reopened New York City indoor dining in February at 25 per cent capacity and then increased that limit to 35 per cent. On March 19, he boosted it again to 50 per cent.

New York’s all-important tourism industry has begun to show signs of slowly recovering. Since January, the hotel occupancy rate has ticked up six percentage points, to about 35 per cent, according to hospitality data company STR. The industry reported its fifth straight monthly increase in average daily room rates, which have risen 12 per cent since December.

New York City has administered more than 6.4 million vaccine doses, according to the mayor. Daily COVID-19 related hospitalisations dipped below 100 on Tuesday for the first time since mid-November. New confirmed and probable cases on a seven-day average stood at 1354 as of April 27, down more than 50 per cent from two weeks earlier. The city’s seven-day average rate of positive tests for the virus also fell to 3.18 per cent, from 5.43 per cent on April 14.

Washington Post

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