NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — After a monthslong ban, indoor dining at New York City restaurants will return by Valentine’s Day at 25% capacity if infection rates continue to drop, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
New York City is home to roughly 24,000 restaurants, and many owners have complained that the ban that went into effect Dec. 14 was destroying their livelihoods.
At the current trajectory of coronavirus rates for the state, indoor dining is projected to resume Feb. 14 reported NewsNation affiliate WPIX. Cuomo said the timing also allows restaurants a period of time to prepare before reopening.
The announcement follows the easing of restrictions Wednesday in other parts of the state where Cuomo erased the handful of remaining “orange zones” where tougher pandemic restrictions had been in place because of the fast spread of COVID-19.
The orange zones had been in central and western New York, Staten Island and Westchester County. Cuomo said he’s launching several yellow zones, which require schools to launch testing programs, in certain New York City neighborhoods and a part of Orange County where hospitalizations and infections are increasing.
Now, outside of the yellow zones, the entire state faces most of the same COVID-19 restrictions: from a 10-person limit on private residential gatherings to a 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars, to a 50% capacity limit for houses of worship.
“We’re talking about livelihoods and the economy and billions of dollars,” said Cuomo Wednesday. “We make decisions based on the facts today… The holiday surge came. The holiday surge is over. We’re not back to where we were but nobody’s back to where we were.”
The Democrat cited a post-holiday dip in the number of infections, after a period in which rates had surged to more than 114,000 new cases in one week. Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by 916 since Jan. 19 to 8,357.
“All the models project that numbers to continue to drop,” Cuomo said Friday.
But many restaurant owners were hoping to open up sooner.
“Restaurants are broken hearted that they need to wait two weeks until Valentine’s Day to open at only 25% occupancy in the city, while permitting 50% occupancy in dining rooms around the rest of the state where infections and hospitalization rates from COVID-19 are higher,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a release.
On Friday, Cuomo also said the 50-person limit on wedding receptions is set to be raised to 150 people on March 15, as long as the venue remains at 50% capacity or under. The celebrations must be approved by the local health department, and everybody who attends needs to take a COVID-19 test, according to the governor.
“Promise of marital bliss is returning,” Cuomo said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article: Marina Villeneuve reporting.