‘It Can Kill You:' Cuomo Blames NYC Bar Scene for Alarming Spike in Young COVID Hospitalizations

More than three dozen bars and restaurants across New York were cited overnight for COVID-related violations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday

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What to Know

  • The entire state of New York is now in Phase IV, the final step of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening; New York City has taken a modified approach to the last two phases as it relates to indoor activities
  • Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have opted to proceed cautiously on the reopening in NYC; the governor has recently threatened to shut down bars and restaurants again if compliance and enforcement don't improve
  • COVID cases continue to rise in more than three dozen states; 31 of them are now on the tri-state quarantine-restricted list

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday more than three dozen restaurants and bars across the state, mostly in New York City and on Long Island, were cited for COVID violations overnight, part of an ongoing problem he blames for an alarming new surge in virus cases among people in the 21 to 30 age bracket.

New York's COVID hospitalizations have plunged to lows not seen since mid-March and hit another new low, falling below 700, Friday, but the uptick in cases among people in that age group is growing cause for concern, Cuomo says.

People age 21 to 30 represented about 13 percent of patients over the last week, up from 9 percent the previous week, Cuomo said. He has described that as a "significant increase in a relatively short period of time," and once again called on local governments -- from the city to Suffolk County -- to step up enforcement.

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here


The governor says he understands people want to get out after the months-long shutdown and all the anxiety that came with it. But that's no reason to abandon the mitigation measures like masks and social distancing that bent the curve, especially with COVID cases still rising in more than three dozen states.

"To young people, this is not the time to fight for your right to party. You have the right to party, but let's be smart about it," Cuomo said. "You don't socially distance, you don't wear masks, the virus spreads. It's happening."

Social media over the last two weeks paints an alarming picture. Crowds of hundreds of young people, many of them maskless, stand packed together on streets and sidewalks. A number of restaurants aren't enforcing the mask order for employees or patrons -- and some try to skirt Cuomo's new rules on alcohol.

Last week, Cuomo said no bars or restaurants can serve alcohol to customers who don't also purchase food. Chips and fruit bowls don't count, he said. New York has suspended at least 27 licenses since March and brought more than 400 charges against various establishments for failure to comply with the guidelines.

Large crowds gathered in Astoria, Queens overnight, defying face covering and social distancing rules. Ken Buffa reports.

In light of the spikes among 20-somethings and ongoing violations, Cuomo warned he would be forced to shut down bars and restaurants all over again if behavior and compliance don't improve. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he believes most of the city's bars and restaurants are complying, though admits some egregious violators have and will continue to warrant shutdowns.

Getting businesses to comply with COVID regulations is one thing. The mayor said he thought many owners were noticing what happens to those who don't. But ensuring continued compliance by individuals is another enforcement matter.

Cuomo announced a new advertising campaign this week to remind young people that they too are vulnerable to COVID-19. It urges them to protect themselves and others by keeping a 6-foot distance and wearing facial coverings.

The PSA includes audio of young people saying, in part,: “I’m partying outside. ... COVID won’t kill me. I’m 23. COVID won’t kill me.”

“Famous last words. Don’t let them be yours,” the ad’s narrator warns.

Cuomo hammered the point home, saying, "It can kill you. Young people can get seriously sick and some will die from the virus. Young people can bring it home and give it to others inadvertently."

He and Cuomo are trying to ward off infection surges like other states have seen, many of those tied to bars, restaurants and young people congregating in other enclosed spaces. California and Florida both reported single-day death records over the last 48 hours, and California now leads the nation in confirmed cases -- but those states' fatality tolls remain just a fraction of the one in New York.

With 4 million cases and counting, the United States hit yet another milestone in COVID-19 cases. Death rates in some states also appear to be soaring. Officials are now going to more desperate measures trying to slow down the latest surge of the deadly virus.

The Empire State accounts for nearly 20 percent of the nation's estimated 138,000 virus deaths to date, according to Johns Hopkins. The U.S. topped the 4 million case mark Thursday. Both tolls are higher than anywhere in the world.

Slipping compliance locally only compounds the threat of new infections from out-of-state travel, which has already been linked to fresh clusters in various parts of New York and in neighboring New Jersey. More than half of America is now on the tri-state quarantine list, a joint effort by the three governors to mitigate the risk of out-of-state spread. Travelers from those hotspots must isolate for 14 days.

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