President Joe Biden said the US will be “close to normal” by July 4, when the nation celebrates its Independence Day.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday he’s “ready for” businesses to “fully reopen” and he is setting a goal to lift all COVID-19 restrictions by July 1.
“We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theaters, full strength,” the Democratic mayor said on MSNBC.
At a virtual news briefing later Thursday, he added: “This is going to be the summer of New York City. We are all going to get to enjoy this city again, and people are going to flock here from all over the country to be a part of this amazing moment.”
This is going to be the #SummerofNYC!
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2021
There is a bit of a hitch to de Blasio’s promise, however. The mayor doesn’t have unilateral power to lift remaining pandemic restrictions. The state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has maintained throughout the pandemic that decisions on when restaurants, theaters, offices and other places can open at full capacity are his alone.
Potentially complicating matters is that Cuomo and de Blasio, even though both are Democrats, have a notoriously tense political relationship. Throughout the pandemic, Cuomo has overruled de Blasio on major COVID-related decisions.
Asked at his briefing if he had spoken to Cuomo about his reopening plans, de Blasio said, “I have not, and I think the best way to proceed here is to set out the city’s vision.”
De Blasio said the city will work with the state and federal governments but added, “It’s quite clear, it’s time to set a goal and move on that goal.”
Cuomo said later Thursday that he would like to lift restrictions sooner than July 1 if possible, but he scoffed at the idea of the mayor making the call.
“I want to open up New York City Tuesday. I want to open it up Wednesday. I want Buffalo fully opened on Thursday,” the governor said at a briefing in Buffalo. “It’s a statewide management system and we are managing it by the science, by the data. You look at the number and you will see the rate of opening.”
Cuomo added, “I don’t want to wait that long. I think if we do what we have to do, we can be reopened earlier.”
Cuomo controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and has the power to restore 24-hour service on the subways, which are now closed from 2 to 4 am. De Blasio said he believes July 1 is “the right time” to bring 24-hour subway service back.
De Blasio said the goal for Broadway theaters is still to open fully in September. He said he hopes some smaller productions can open by July.
He did not provide clear guidelines on whether those attending shows, dining indoors or frequenting gyms and salons would have to adhere to any specific requirements, such as presenting proof of vaccination.
Currently, the New York Yankees and Mets require those attending baseball games to take a rapid COVID test or show proof of vaccination before gaining admission to their ballparks, in keeping with New York state guidelines. Attendance is limited to 20 percent of capacity.
Even though the July 1 date is still aspirational, the mayor’s announcement is significant in that New York City is the country’s most populous city and was the early epicentre of the pandemic as the virus began sweeping across the United States last spring.
De Blasio cited rising vaccination rates and decreasing hospitalisation rates for his optimistic projection. About half of all adults in the city have now had at least one vaccine dose. He said 6.4 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the city of more than 8 million residents.
Coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths have trended lower in New York City since the beginning of the year. On a seven-day rolling average, the city reported over 7,000 new cases a day at the outbreak’s peak in January. By March new infections ebbed to 4,000 a day and now average about 2,000 a day.