Pandemic: New York aims for a “complete reopening” on July 1, or even before

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After months of cautiousness in the face of a second wave of COVID-19, the mayor of New York announced Thursday that he plans a “complete reopening” of the city on July 1, while the governor of New York said it could intervene “before”.

“We are ready to reopen New York completely on July 1,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press briefing. “It means going to the shops (…), the possible return of bars and restaurants, the return of many employees (…) the theaters which are starting again and so many things that we cherish”.

Many shops and restaurants are already open, but with limited capacity, and the mayor did not specify exactly what this “total reopening” entailed in terms of lifting the restrictions.

The latter are set not by the town hall but by Governor Andrew Cuomo, with whom Mr. de Blasio has difficult relations.

When asked about this July 1 target, the governor immediately challenged it.

“I don’t like making projections, I think they are irresponsible,” Cuomo said at a separate press briefing. “I hope that we will have an earlier reopening date (…) If we do what we have to do, we can reopen before”.

The two men, however, appeared to agree that the complete lifting of the restrictions would depend on the continuation of the current vaccination effort.

Some 6.4 million doses of the vaccine have already been injected in New York, hit hard by the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, with 32,000 deaths from the coronavirus to date.

Some 2.4 million New Yorkers – out of some 8.5 million – are now fully vaccinated, and the goal is to reach 5 million by the end of June, according to de Blasio.

“We need to create incentives for vaccination, to make it even more convenient for people,” he stressed.

As in other American cities, the rate of vaccination has slowed down recently, even though vaccination is now open to all people 16 years of age and over, without prior appointment.

Politically weakened by several scandals, Cuomo has eased many restrictions in recent weeks, allowing restaurants, stadiums, cinemas and performance venues to reopen.

He promised Thursday that he would “continue to increase capacity”, against a backdrop of steadily declining rates of coronavirus positivity and hospitalizations.

Broadway theaters, one of New York’s top tourist attractions, remain closed, however.

The mayor, who recently announced a major campaign to revive tourism from June, admitted Thursday that they would remain so until September, except “some more intimate theaters”.