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Cuomo Lifts Restrictions On Certain COVID Hotspots

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Governor Andrew Cuomo, saying the COVID-19 rate in New York has begun declining, is lifting some restrictions in nearly all orange and yellow microcluster zones that were aimed at controling the spread of the virus. He is also developing a plan to allow limited indoor dining in New York City.

The microcluster hot zones were developed by Cuomo and his aides last fall as an attempt to contain the further spread of the coronavirus. But in recent months, businesses in areas designated as yellow or orange zones complained that they had to endure more restrictions than other areas where the positivity rate for the virus was even higher.

Cuomo is ending the orange zone designations for areas including parts of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, and Westchester, and ending most yellow zones, with the exception of five remaining microclusters: two in the Bronx, and in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Queens and Newburgh.

Cuomo said the post-holiday surge in new infections appears to be over.

“Every curve statewide is down,” Cuomo said. “That’s good news.”

Businesses will still have to adhere to continuing statewide restrictions, according to Cuomo aide Gareth Rhodes. That includes a limit of 50% capacity for hair salons and other personal care services, and 33% occupancy for gyms. Gatherings of more than 50 people are still prohibited in public spaces, and no more than 10 people are allowed to gather in a private residence.

The governor said by week’s end he will release a plan to end a months-long ban on indoor dining in New York City, which the restaurant industry said has led to mass layoffs and numerous temporary or permanent business closures.

“I fully understand how difficult it is that they are closed, not just for the restaurants but all the people that are employed there,” the governor said. “On the flip side is how fast this virus can take off.”

The New York State Restaurant Association, in a tweet, said the decision will have a “positive impact,” and credited restaurants’ efforts on social media to convince Cuomo to change his mind.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance said, in a statement, that they are happy that the governor “heard the voice of New York City’s decimated restaurant industry.”

Cuomo admitted that the state, which is seeking a $15 billion dollar bailout from the federal government to balance its budget, could use the extra sales tax revenue.

Cuomo also applauded President Biden’s announcement Tuesday that states will receive 16% more vaccine doses than they have been getting, and that they will be notified of the number of doses three weeks in advance.

“Now we can actually plan,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he’s encouraged that the National Guard will now be made available to help states set up mass vaccination sites, and the governor is proposing that one be set up at Yankee Stadium.

Cuomo continued to blame the previous administration of former President Donald Trump for glitches in New York’s vaccine sign up programs, saying not enough vaccine was ordered to reach all 7 million New Yorkers who are now eligible.

Biden has said it could take six months for vaccine production to catch up, and for enough doses to be available for everyone who wants them.

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.