New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed legislation that will allow restaurants to continue using public spaces for outdoor dining for another year.
The Democratic governor first granted the one-year outdoor dining program in June 2020 under an executive order that allows restaurants to utilize municipal spaces like sidewalks and streets to expand their capacity while they recover from the economic devastation brought by the pandemic.
"By extending the much-needed lifeline that allowed restaurants to use outdoor public spaces for seating during the pandemic, New York is ensuring that these small businesses will be able to continue to use these spaces as they work to rebuild and support the revitalization of the Empire State," Cuomo said in his announcement Wednesday.
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New York City has already adopted outdoor dining into a separate permanent program called Open Streets.
Unlike outdoor dining, most of Cuomo's COVID-19 provisions had already expired last month after 474 days. It was a sign that New York is slowly getting back to normal after more than a year of shutdowns and mask-wearing. Cuomo began lifting COVID-19 mandates in February. In May, as the rate of new cases plummeted, he ended capacity-based restrictions for most businesses.
Far fewer people are testing positive in New York now than during this spring: 781 people were testing positive each day in the last week of May. On Tuesday, 486 New Yorkers tested positive, according to the state.
While the state has come a long way, officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated to protect themselves again the virus and its many variants. In recent weeks, experts have been warning about the rise of the highly transmissible delta variant and how it can hinder the progress the U.S. has made so far.
Existing vaccines are expected to protect people against delta and other variants of concern that have emerged, but with only 67.2% of U.S. adults having gotten at least one vaccine dose and 58.4% of adults are fully immunized. President Joe Biden expressed his concerns Tuesday for people who have not gotten the dose.
"Eespecially young people who may have thought that they didn't have to be vaccinated, didn't have to worry about it, didn't have to do anything about it," Biden said. "This should cause everybody to think twice."
In line with national trends, New York Department of Health spokesperson Abigail Barker said the highly contagious delta variant represents an increasing percentage of the coronavirus variants identified in the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that the variant is now the dominant COVID-19 strain in the country.