‘It Has to Stop:' Cuomo Threatens to Reverse NYC Reopening, Now in Phase 4, Over Noncompliance

The governor said Monday he'll shut down bars and restaurants in New York City all over again if compliance and enforcement don't improve; Mayor Bill de Blasio said one in Astoria has already been closed

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What to Know

  • New York City entered the fourth and final phase of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening plan Monday -- absent the return of new indoor activities like malls and museums that the rest of the state has been allowed to resume
  • Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have opted to proceed cautiously in NYC, one of the world's most dense and vibrant places; they want to prevent a new surge like the one currently devouring states in the South and West
  • Low-risk outdoor venues can reopen in NYC Monday at 33% capacity, including zoos and botanical gardens; Phase IV is also a requirement for schools to reopen, though a final decision on those is pending

Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to roll back New York City's reopening Monday, the same day it enters Phase IV, if compliance and enforcement don't improve. He cited ongoing crowding among maskless young people that he says "has to stop."

Social media from the weekend paints an alarming picture. In Astoria, Queens, several hundred people filled Steinway Street Friday night and again on Sunday, overwhelming police and leaving a mess in their wake. Bars and restaurants are allowing people to congregate on sidewalks without social distancing and masks. Young people are accounting for an increasing share of new cases; they're more likely to be asymptomatic as well, making the virus that much easier to spread.

Cuomo said Monday he understands people -- especially younger people --want to get out after all these months. But, he says, what he's seen "is just stupid."

If violating New Yorkers don't amend their behavior and local governments don't step up enforcement, Cuomo said he'd have to roll back the reopening, possibly shutting down bars and restaurants in the city all over again.

"It's stupid what you're doing. Bars and restaurants are the problem. It doesn't have to be. You have 700 people drinking in a public place, violating the open container law," the governor said Monday. "There are inevitable consequences to our actions. You can get sick in your 20s. You can die in your 20s. Even if you live by the theory you're a superhero, you will go home and you will transfer it to someone else and they will transfer it to someone else. You can kill someone."

"We are right on the line," Cuomo added. "We have to protect the progress we have made."

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

He said compliance has been an issue in parts of Long Island and upstate New York, but most of the problem is in the five boroughs.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday the restaurant at the center of the Astoria crowding this weekend has been shut down. He said the city will not tolerate such behavior and pledged an increase in enforcement efforts.

"When we agreed to let this part of our life come back, it was not meant to be business as usual. It was meant to be with the understanding we all gained the hard way -- why we need the social distancing, the limits: to stop this disease so it never comes back," de Blasio said. "We don't want to shut down restaurants. We don't want to shut down bars. But if we have to shut down a few of them, it's a hell of a lot better than the coronavirus surging in this city."

For now, New York City gets to move to a modified Phase IV Monday, joining the rest of the state in the final reopening phase. A few key indoor activities remain held back as the nation's former COVID-19 epicenter attempts to avoid a surge in new cases like the one swallowing many states in the South and West.

Low-risk outdoor venues like zoos and botanical gardens reopen for the first time in four months Monday with strict capacity limits (33 percent in any given area) and mandatory COVID precautions in place. Production of media and TV shows can also return, as well as fanless pro sports — which included weekend play between the Yankees and Mets at an otherwise empty Citi Field.

Those looking forward to the returns of malls and museums have to keep waiting. Given the heightened enclosed-space exposure risk seen in other states, Cuomo opted to delay those reopenings in New York City indefinitely, just as he left indoor dining out of the five boroughs' move to Phase III two weeks ago. The rest of the state has continued indoor dining and can open malls and museums. In announcing his decision last week, the governor cited ongoing compliance concerns in the city as well as the unique and profound impact of its density.

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

Source: ny.gov

De Blasio has supported the modified phased approach for the city, which bore the brunt of deaths and confirmed cases over the course of the state's months-long coronavirus war. At the height in April, New York reported more than 10,000 new cases a day; there was an 11-day period where nearly 800 died daily.

The state has dramatically reduced new daily infections, with just over 500 new reported Sunday. Total hospitalizations fell to their lowest number (716) since March 18. Daily deaths have dropped to the single or low double digits. Over a seven-day rolling average, New York's positivity rate is just 1 percent. The city has the same low rolling infection rate, while the two deadliest counties in America, Queens and Brooklyn, both see daily positivity rates well below 2 percent.

Much of the rest of the country is experiencing record surges, including Florida, which recently topped New York's single-day case record from April. Twenty-two hotspot states are now on the tri-state quarantine-restricted list, including Georgia, where Cuomo is flying Monday to offer in-person support to Savannah. The governor said he would not quarantine upon his return when asked the question Monday just before his flight; he said he'd be tested when he gets back.

NBC's Gabe Gutierrez spoke with Cuomo on the flight to Georgia, asking the governor about his upcoming decision on New York schools opening in the fall.

"You can't open a school if the virus is on the increase. If we stay where we are now, August 1, I will announce that the schools are going to open," Cuomo said.

Cuomo followed up, saying he wouldn't send anyone else's child to school unless he felt comfortable sending his own back to school.

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