Cuomo shutters indoor dining in New York City as COVID-19 spikes

Cuomo shutters indoor dining in New York City as COVID-19 spikes
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New York City will once again shut down indoor dining, Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoTrump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension CNN suspends Chris Cuomo indefinitely Meghan McCain calls for CNN to fire Cuomo MORE (D) announced Friday, in an effort to slow the rapid escalation of COVID-19 infections.

The ban will take effect Monday, while restaurants can continue to operate outdoor dining areas and offer take-out and delivery.

Indoor dining only resumed in September, with restaurants limited to 25 percent capacity. But Cuomo earlier this week hinted the decision was coming as cases continue to rise.

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New daily cases across the state recently passed 10,000 for the first time since the spring, and hospitalizations are also climbing. 

Cuomo said the outbreak won’t “end” until a vaccine is broadly distributed, which could be as early as June or as late as September. 

“Between today and June, that is a long six months,” he said.

Cuomo has been reluctant to shutter indoor dining, given the major economic blow to restaurants it would mean. 

And while the governor has previously downplayed the amount of viral spread inside restaurants, he said on Friday that a new warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coupled with contact tracing data, has essentially forced his hand.

"In New York City, you put the CDC caution on indoor dining together with the rate of transmission and the density, and the crowding. ... That is a bad situation," Cuomo said.

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State contact tracing data of 46,000 cases between September and November show small gatherings are driving 74 percent of all infections, while restaurants and bars were reported to drive 1.4 percent of infections. 

Bars and restaurants are the fifth main source of new infections in the state and were the fastest growing category contributing to the virus’s spread.

Cuomo acknowledged that the capacity and distancing restrictions currently in place have made indoor dining less of a risk than it was, but it is still a significant risk.

The CDC last week warned against spending time in "nonessential indoor settings," such as a restaurant, for long periods of time without wearing a mask because they have been identified as particularly high-risk scenarios. 

Cuomo said there's not much the state can do to stop people from gathering in groups in their own homes, especially during the holiday season, but stopping indoor dining was one of the more concrete steps they can take that will make a difference.

"It's not forever. We have to get through this period, and the faster we get through this period, all businesses can open again," he said. 

Cuomo said New York is expecting 170,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday or Monday after it receives emergency approval. Another highly anticipated vaccine from Moderna could get the green light as early as next week, and Cuomo said the state expects 346,000 doses of that vaccine the week of Dec. 21.