New York City restaurants can resume indoor dining on Sept 30: governor

(Reuters) – New York City restaurants will be able to resume indoor dining at 25-percent capacity with some restrictions on Sept. 30, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference on Wednesday.

Cuomo said the restrictions will include mandatory temperature checks at the door and requiring one member of each party to provide contact information to enable contact tracing should there be a COVID-19 outbreak.

Cuomo also said the state would establish a whistleblowing system whereby patrons can report restaurants not in compliance.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Editing by Franklin Paul and David Gregorio)

New York gyms set to re-open to athletes, members shedding ‘quarantine 15’

By Aleksandra Michalska

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Before coronavirus shut down the United States, gym re-opening used to mean simply unlocking the front door and greeting the herds squeezed into spandex pants.

Now, as New York gyms gird to re-open as soon as Monday, exercise centers like Chelsea Piers Fitness in Manhattan are upgrading air filters to hospital grade, disinfecting sand on the beach volleyball court, spreading work-out equipment 6 feet apart, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

“Reopening is going to be intense. It’s going to be tough,” said Chelsea Piers trainer Oscar Herrera as preparations to re-open one of the largest gyms in New York City kicked into high gear.

While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said gyms could reopen with restrictions as early as Monday, hopes of quickly reopening in New York City were dealt a setback by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said none would reopen before Sept. 2.

State restrictions include limiting admittance to one-third of capacity, temperature checks and wearing masks at all times. Gyms must maintain sign-in sheets to help contact tracers.

New York will join at least 43 states and Washington, D.C., in permitting gyms to reopen to some extent since the coronavirus pandemic forced shutdowns beginning in March, said Meredith Poppler, spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, a nonprofit trade group.

Last year, 3 million part-time and full-time employees worked in as many as 50,000 health and fitness clubs in the United States, she said.

In New York City alone, some 2,111 gyms employ 86,551 workers.

“We estimate the industry lost $700 million per week during the height of the shutdown, and $7 billion lost through July 1,” Poppler said.

Tempers flared over gym shutdowns among those who regularly pump iron to boost health and happiness and shed gained weight, often called the “quarantine 15”. In Bellmawr, New Jersey, two owners of Atilis Gym were arrested last month for defying state shutdown orders and their business license was revoked.

At the enormous exercise center located on a Manhattan pier jutting into the Hudson River, Chelsea Piers member Faye Stenning, founder of Grit Coaching, said she was thrilled the gym would be reopening.

“Fitness is a huge part of people’s lives,” Stenning said.

(Reporting by Aleksandra Michalska; Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

New York Governor Cuomo says gyms can open as soon as August 24 with restrictions

(Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday said that the state’s gyms could open as soon as Aug 24 at 33% capacity as long as they enforce strict health measures, including mask-wearing, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Localities must inspect every gym before it opens or within two weeks of it opening to ensure compliance with health guidelines, Cuomo told a news conference.

As part of the state’s reopening plan for gyms, air ventilation systems must meet certain guidelines and people must sign in and out so that the gym maintains a ready contact-tracing list, Cuomo said.

“Localities can also determine whether or not the gym has classes inside it,” he said.

The planned reopening of gyms, indoor businesses where health experts say there is a greater risk of viral spread, comes as New York’s COVID-19 infection rate continues to decline below 1%. The state’s infection rate dropped to 0.71% on Sunday, the lowest since the start of the pandemic, Cuomo said.

Last week, the governor said that museums and cultural institutions in New York City could begin reopening at the end of the month at limited capacity.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Three more states added to New York governor’s quarantine order

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday ordered people arriving from an additional three states to quarantine for 14 days amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The three additional states are Delaware, Kansas and Oklahoma, all of which are seeing ‘significant’ community spread of the virus, Cuomo said in a statement.

Travelers arriving to New York from a total of 19 U.S. states are now required to quarantine for 14 days.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Cuomo blasts Trump’s COVID-19 response as U.S. death toll tops 130,000

By Lisa Shumaker and Maria Caspani

(Reuters) – As U.S. coronavirus cases surge and deaths topped 130,000, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo harshly criticized the White House’s COVID-19 response on Monday, accusing President Donald Trump of “enabling” the virus and downplaying its threat.

Infections are on the rise in 39 states, according to a Reuters tally, and 16 states have posted record daily case counts in July. The surge has prompted many local leaders to slow or roll back economic re-openings despite Trump’s insistence that the epidemic is being handled.

At a news conference on Monday, Cuomo, a Democrat who has clashed with the president over his efforts to tackle the health crisis, said Trump was “enabling” the virus if he failed to address the severity of the situation.

“Acknowledge to the American people that COVID exists, it is a major problem, it’s going to continue until we admit it and each of us stands up to do our part,” Cuomo said, directing his comments at the president.

During a speech at the White House on Saturday, Trump asserted without providing evidence that 99% of U.S. coronavirus cases were “totally harmless.”

Steve Adler, the Democratic mayor of Austin, Texas, on Monday also criticized Republican Trump’s message.

“It’s incredibly disruptive and the messaging coming from the president of the United States is dangerous,” Adler told CNN.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Monday defended Trump, saying the president was not trying to play down the deaths.

“But it’s really to look statistically to know that whatever risks that you may have or I may have, or my, my children or my grandchildren may have, let’s look at that appropriately and I think that’s what he’s trying to do,” Meadows told reporters outside the White House.

RE-OPENINGS HALTED

Local leaders across the country are considering slowing down or rolling back business re-openings to curb spiking infection rates that are already overwhelming hospitals in some areas.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Florida’s Miami-Dade County, which currently has some 48,000 COVID-19 cases, issued an emergency order on Monday shutting down on-site dining at restaurants and closing ballrooms, banquet facilities, party venues, gyms and fitness centers, and short-term rentals.

“We can tamp down the spread if everyone follows the rules, wears masks and stays at least six feet (2 meters) apart from others. I am counting on you, our 2.8 million residents, to stop the spread so that we can get back to opening our economy,” Gimenez said in a statement.

After the announcement, some Miami chefs and restaurant owners said they felt they were facing the impossible predicament of balancing their businesses’ survival against the safety of their employees and guests.

“We’re burned out emotionally, we’re burned out financially, and we’re burned out from the trauma of seeing everything that’s happening,” said Karina Iglesias, a partner at two popular downtown Miami Spanish restaurants.

Nationally, cases are approaching 3 million, by far the highest tally in the world and double the infections reported in Brazil, the world’s second most-affected country.

Florida confirmed a record high 11,000 new cases in a single day, more than any European country reported in a day at the height of the crisis there.

Gimenez imposed an indefinite nightly curfew in Miami-Dade County on Friday and halted the re-openings of entertainment venues such as casinos and strip clubs.

In New York City, where the percentage of people testing positive for the virus has dropped to 1%, residents were allowed to enter nail and tanning salons on Monday as part of the city’s Phase III of reopening, but Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed the resumption of indoor dining indefinitely.

Soaring case numbers and packed hospitals in Texas have prompted some mayors and other local leaders to consider launching a new round of stay-at-home orders. Cities are getting together and lobbying the state’s governor to restore the authority to impose local anti-coronavirus measures, Austin Mayor Adler said.

“It’s something that we’re considering. It’s only to be used as a last resort,” Adler told CNN.

(Reporting by Lisa Shumaker, Doina Chiacu, Peter Szekely, Gabriella Borter and Zachary Fagenson; Writing by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Howard Goller and Bill Berkrot)

Eight states added to New York governor’s quarantine order

NEW YORK (Reuters) – People arriving in New York from an additional eight states must quarantine themselves for 14 days amid the coronavirus pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered on Tuesday.

The eight additional states are California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee, all of which are contending with growing caseloads, Cuomo said in a statement.

The order, first issued last week, was already in place for Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas.

All the affected states have “growing community spread,” Cuomo said in a statement, which the state’s Health Department has defined as 10 or more people testing positive per 100,000 residents.

The order applies both to visitors and New Yorkers returning home from one of the listed states. Those found breaching the quarantine order could face fines, Cuomo has said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

Statue of Liberty to reopen; shutdown keeps other parks, monuments closed

The Statue of Liberty is seen through fencing from a ferry dock following a U.S. government shutdown in Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 21, 2018.

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Statue of Liberty will reopen on Monday even if the U.S. government shutdown extends into the work week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday, vowing to use state funds to keep the landmark monument in operation.

Dozens of other national parks and monuments were expected to remain partially or entirely closed after Congress failed to agree on a spending plan to keep the government running past a Friday midnight deadline.

In the hours leading up to the shutdown, the Trump administration worked on ways to keep hundreds of parks open without staff in an effort to avoid public anger, although it was unclear which ones would close.

“Not all parks are fully open but we are all working hard to make as many areas as accessible to the public as possible,” U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on Twitter on Saturday.

The hit-or-miss closures forced tourists and residents alike to alter their plans. In lower Manhattan, where ferries normally embark for the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, out-of-town visitors expressed frustration that the site was closed.

And San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman posted a photo of a “closed” sign outside Cabrillo National Monument on Twitter.

“I had planned to do some tide pool repeats to get some hill work in on my bicycle ride this morning,” she wrote, referring to a local bike route. “Change of plans.”

The National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group, estimated that one-third of the 417 national park sites were shuttered, “including places like the Statue of Liberty, presidential homes, and other historic and cultural sites primarily made up of buildings that can be locked.”

Yellowstone National Park, a 3,500-square-mile (9,065 square km) wilderness located mostly in Montana, remained open but offered limited services, with visitor centers closed and park rangers absent. The association warned that the lack of staff could pose dangers to visitors.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a private company that manages lodges, concessions and restaurants in numerous national parks including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountain and Zion, said they will remain open during the shutdown.

In Washington, the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will remain open through Monday, using prior-year funds. In a tweet, the Smithsonian said it will update its status beyond Monday “as soon as we know.” But in Philadelphia, visitors were turned away at the Liberty Bell.

During the last shutdown in 2013, a number of governors used state funds to keep parks open, including the Statue of Liberty, which at the time cost $61,600 per day to reopen.

At a news conference at the Statue of Liberty, Cuomo said the site generates tourism revenue, adding that the monument serves as a welcoming beacon to immigrants arriving in the United States.

“We don’t want to lose the income,” he said. “And symbolically, you can shut down the government, but you can’t shut down the Statue of Liberty.”

In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey committed state funds to keep the Grand Canyon open, including trash removal, snow plowing and public restrooms, according to Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak.

“We recognize it’s a huge economic attractor and has a big impact not just on rural areas around the Grand Canyon but the state as a whole,” Ptak said, adding that the expected cost is around $100,000 per week.

But in South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore, Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard has said he would not take any action to keep the monument open during a shutdown.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jeffrey Benkoe)