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Cuomo Orders New Restrictions On Bars, Restaurants, Gyms, In-Home Gatherings

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Mike Groll
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is imposing new restrictions on bars and restaurants and limiting the number of people at a home gathering to 10 or fewer, effective on Friday.

The governor said that it’s due to climbing rates of COVID-19 in New York as the nation breaks another record for the number of cases.

In New York, 2.9% of coronavirus tests were positive Tuesday, a rate that is nearly three times what it was for most of the summer and much of the fall. There are 1,628 people in the hospital for COVID-19, and 21 died of the disease on Tuesday.

Cuomo said he’s taking steps to limit the spread in three key areas. Effective Friday, restaurants and bars must shut down by 10 p.m. He said social dining, whether indoors or outdoors, is one of three “main spreaders of COVID.” He urged local authorities to enforce the new rules.

“A bar, restaurant should be closed at 10 o’clock,” Cuomo said. “If the lights are on, and people are drinking, they get a summons.”

Restaurants will still be allowed to serve meals indoors at the current rate of limited capacity: 50% for much of the state and 25% in New York City. After 10 p.m., only curbside food pick-up will be permitted.

Gyms will also be required to shut down at 10 p.m. starting Friday.

And for the first time, the governor is imposing restrictions on gatherings inside of people’s homes. Starting Friday, there can be no more than 10 people gathered inside a home, unless they are family members who already live there.

The order comes just before the start of the holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving on Nov. 26. Cuomo said small gatherings have become one of the main COVID-19 spreader events.

“It’s psychological,” Cuomo said. “You know these people, ‘They wouldn’t hurt me, they’re my friends.’”

But the governor said that doesn’t mean they have not been exposed to the virus.

“They can be infected.” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said neighboring states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, have already imposed similar limits.

Cuomo also announced new virus hot spots. Portions of Staten Island will be designated a yellow zone as the virus rate there climbs. Cuomo said there is frequent travel between Staten Island and New Jersey, where the rate of the disease is now at around 7%. Portchester, in Westchester County near the Connecticut border, has been changed from a yellow zone to an orange zone, and greater restrictions on economic activity will be imposed. Portchester is on the border of Connecticut, where the rate of the virus is also nearing 7%.

There are new restrictions in areas near the Pennsylvania border, where the virus rate is at 15.7%.

Waverly, in Tioga County in the Southern Tier, is now designated a yellow zone. But Steuben County is no longer in a microcluster hot spot, as the rate of illness there has declined.

The governor said despite the new restrictions, the end of the pandemic is “within sight” after promising news Monday about a vaccine. But he said it’s too early to let down our guard. “Just finish the race. We’ve had a terrible eight months,” Cuomo said. “We’re in this last small lap, let’s just do what we have to do to get through it.”

The governor said he knows the continued economic loss for bars, restaurants and other businesses is a hardship, but he said it’s better to lose some money than to lose a loved one.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.