A decline in COVID-19 cases in the city is making way for the reopening of indoor dining and putting middle school students back in the classroom. As more large-scale vaccine sites open and more people become vaccinated, officials hope the trend continues to get the city back to normal.
This week’s seven-day average of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19 was 8.09% with 3,587 confirmed cases. The hospitalization rate is 5.18 per 100,000.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 1,032,158 people in the city have been vaccinated. As more vaccines come into the city, it remains only available for essential workers and people with underlying health conditions. Currently, baseball stadiums Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Citi Field in Queens are serving as mass vaccination sites.
However, fears about the COVID-19 vaccine were heightened this week after a 70-year-old man reportedly collapsed and died after receiving the vaccine at the Javits Center. Reports indicate the man died 25 minutes after getting vaccinated. State health officials said the man didn’t die from an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine.
With more people getting vaccinated and COVID-19 cases on the decline, de Blasio has started shifting conversations toward recovery efforts. He announced on Monday that middle school students will be back to in-person learning on Feb. 25.
“This is going to be great for New York City,” de Blasio said. “And a lot of work has gone into this to make sure we are ready. And of course, to always put health and safety first.”
Public Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said like elementary school students, middle schoolers will be tested every week. Additional staff is also being hired to respond to schools if a COVID-19 breakout occurs.
“It’s been a year like no other, and I’m so grateful for the resilience and persistence of our students, our staff and our families,” said Carranza. “I can’t wait to see our middle-grade students return to their buildings in just a couple of weeks.”
Statewide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that the seven-day average COVID positivity rate is at its lowest since Dec. 1. The post-holiday surge is on the decline and New Yorkers should stay vigilant.
“Now more than ever, it’s critically important we stay united and keep the momentum on our side—especially as new variants of the virus threaten to upend the progress we have made. Simultaneously, we also must continue to get New Yorkers vaccinated as quickly and fairly as possible,” he said.
Cuomo also announced this week that indoor dining in New York City can resume on Friday, days earlier than the initial Feb. 14 reopening date. Restaurants in the city are at 25% capacity and follow other guidelines including social distancing, face masks and proper cleaning measures. Restaurants in the city have been closed for indoor dining since Dec. 14.
“We’re in a footrace with COVID, and the footrace is clear—it’s rate of vaccination versus rate of infection and we’re continuing to make progress on both fronts,” Cuomo said. “Not only have we administered more than 2 million doses of the vaccine, but the infection rate continues to decrease and New Yorkers should feel good about that.”
While indoor dining comes as welcome news to restaurant owners, some say the 25% capacity is not enough. Several City Council members sent a letter to Cuomo requesting the reexamination of the proposed indoor dining plan announced earlier this week. They want indoor dining expanded to 50%.
“Safety and the prevention of loss of life has always been my number one priority during this pandemic, and I believe by maintaining proven safety protocols we can be safe while increasing restaurant capacity and hours of operation,” said Staten Island Council Member Debi Rose. “Our small businesses have suffered too much already, and current restrictions combined with virtually no outdoor dining because of freezing temperatures means that small-business owners across our city will continue to fight for their survival into the winter months, causing undue economic hardship.”