As NYC Shuts Down Indoor Dining Once Again, Could Retail Stores Be Next?

Indoor dining in New York City has been banned once again.

Today, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a suspension on restaurants’ indoor services in the city starting Monday amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. It becomes the latest major metropolitan city to impose renewed restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has sickened more than 15.69 million people in the United States and led to at least 293,300 deaths.

What’s more, the governor unveiled new standards for establishing cluster zones in the state ahead of the cooler months and holiday season, which experts have said could lead to more indoor gatherings and crowds at public places. He announced plans to evaluate data across the state and roll out updated zone designations on Monday.

If a region in the state is forecasted to hit 90% hospital capacity within three weeks, Gov. Cuomo said he would impose a red zone shutdown — meaning schools will shutter, dining will be reduced to takeout services and only essential businesses will be allowed to operate.

Such a lockdown would be evocative of the harsh measures imposed over the spring, when New York City suffered the deadliest days of the pandemic. In mid-March, Gov. Cuomo enacted the “NY on PAUSE” executive order, which forced the closures of hundreds of thousands of nonessential businesses like retail stores as well as offices. Following a 78-day lockdown, retailers were permitted to operate through curbside pickup, while workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors went back to work.

Areas will fall under the orange zone if they are predicted to hit 85% hospital capacity in the next three weeks and a COVID-19 positivity rate of at least 4% for 10 days — or if the Department of Health deems hospitalization rates to be “unacceptably high.” At this point, schools will be remote-only unless they meet the criteria for a “test-out” option, outdoor dining will be allowed with a four-person maximum per table and high-risk nonessential businesses will remain closed. Gyms and salons, however, can stay open at 25% capacity.

In the yellow zone, on the other hand, the cluster will have recorded positivity rates of 3% or higher for 10 days. It will also be in the top 10% for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and would have recorded week-over-week growth in daily admissions. Schools will open with mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers; indoor and outdoor dining will be permitted with a four-person maximum per table still enforced; and nonessential businesses can resume operations.

Today, an advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration recommended the authorization of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotechnology firm BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine. As the federal government prepares to allocate doses to states, retailers like Walmart, CVS and Stop & Shop are gearing up for mass inoculations: Today, Walmart announced plans to set up vaccination stations at 5,000 outposts and Sam’s Club locations across the country.

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