Health and Science

New York Gov. Cuomo cites 'significant evidence' NYC restaurants are violating social distancing rules, threatens closures

Key Points
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there was "significant evidence" restaurants in New York City were violating social distancing policies and threatened to close businesses that didn't follow the rules. 
  • New York City is set to begin its phase four reopening Monday, which would allow malls and cultural institutions to reopen, but indoor operations will remain closed, Cuomo said.
  • He said he's tightening the rules in New York as the state prepares for a second wave of coronavirus infections from states with surging outbreaks in the West and South.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wears a protective face mask as he arrives to speak during a daily briefing following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., July 13, 2020.
Mike Segar | Reuters

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there was "significant evidence" restaurants in New York City were violating social distancing policies designed to contain the spread of Covid-19 and threatened to close establishments that don't follow the rules. 

"There is significant evidence of failure to comply," especially at restaurants and bars in New York City, Cuomo told reporters on a conference call Thursday. "It's wrong. It's dangerous. It's selfish. It's unacceptable."

He said the state will close restaurants after three violations, but egregious violators could face immediate closure and lose their liquor license. The order begins on Thursday, he said. 

"Three violations and you're closed. We're also going to post the names of the establishments facing disciplinary charges," he said.

New York City is set to begin its phase four reopening Monday, which would allow malls and cultural institutions to reopen, but indoor operations will remain closed, Cuomo said.

When asked about The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which announced Wednesday that it would reopen its doors in late August, the governor said "nobody knows." 

"I think they can plan to reopen and then we'll see what the facts say," Cuomo said. 

"We are still seeing issues, not just in bars and restaurants but all across the country," he said. "You see this inside interior spaces, air conditioned spaces where the virus is tending to spread. So we're going to take that precaution in New York City."

He said he's tightening the rules in New York as the state prepares for a second wave of coronavirus infections from states with surging outbreaks in the West and South.

"Our numbers are good but ... what we're dealing with is the potential of a 'second wave' from these other states," Cuomo said. "New Yorkers paid a dear price for Covid and they are equally upset with these violations," Cuomo said. 

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joined the press call and reiterated Cuomo's remarks, saying Houston is "facing a situation where our numbers have surged. More people are testing positive, showing up in our hospitals and our ICUs." 

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New York sent teams to the Houston area to set up testing sites and partner with local churches, delivering hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and testing kits, Cuomo said. Without calling out any one by name, Cuomo took a swipe at "some states" for overriding local mask mandates. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday voided mask orders adopted by at least 15 local governments across the state, including Atlanta. 

"We're still playing politics with this Covid virus after all of this which is shocking and disturbing," he said. 

The state has imposed a travel advisory on 22 states where cases are rising, ordering travelers from those states to quarantine for 14 days once they arrive in New York. Cuomo said the state has seen a 92% compliance rate with people completing the forms disclosing their travel plans at airports, although he said that doesn't mean they've complied with the quarantine. 

"We don't follow up with everyone because the numbers are too high, but we do random checks pursuant to that form," Cuomo said. "It's like any other law, right? You can speed, yeah, but if you get caught you get the ticket." 

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