New York City takes another step forward in reopening on Monday, and with it, come a few simple pleasures that many in the city have longed for: restaurants, haircuts and in-store shopping.
Still, things won’t quite be back to normal, despite the fact that many New Yorkers have already started to bend the rules. Shoppers should be prepared to wear face masks and maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people. Restaurants are allowed to offer only outdoor seating. And at barbershops, beard trims are still a no-no.
“It’s time to say to everyone getting ready for Phase Two: Get on our mark, get set, cause here we go on Monday,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week.
The second stage of New York’s reopening, when some 150,000 to 300,000 workers are expected to come back, will breathe a little more life into a city devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know:
Q: What does ‘Phase Two’ reopening mean?
A: It’s the second of a four-step process that will ease restrictions gradually on business activity and people’s ability to move around and socialize in the state of New York. Progress depends on infection rates, hospital capacity and the state’s ability to test and trace people who may have contracted the virus. Regardless, each phase will last at least two weeks.
New York City entered ‘Phase One’ on June 8 – the last region to do so.
Q: What’s still closed?
A: Indoor service at bars and restaurants, movie theaters and other large venues for culture and entertainment.
Q: If offices are reopening, does that mean I will go back soon?
A: Each company is taking a different approach, and many have said they don’t plan on staff returning right away. For those that do open, things will be different. Maximum occupancy will be capped at 50%, workers must stay 6 feet apart and masks are required. Nonessential common areas including locker rooms and gyms must remain closed.
Q: Do I have to get my temperature checked?
A: The state requires only that employers conduct some kind of screening process for employees entering office buildings. That could mean you’ll need a temperature check upon entry, but it could also mean you’ll have to fill out a questionnaire. Questions could include whether you’ve had any Covid-19 symptoms in the past 14 days or if you’ve been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case.
Q: There seems to be some confusion over bars and restaurants. Can I go to them yet?
A: Yes, some establishments have been flouting the rules. But as of Monday, bars and restaurants are allowed to offer outdoor seating. It still comes with restrictions: There’s a maximum of 10 people per table and all must be members of the same party. Everyone must be seated – restaurants and bars cannot serve people who are standing in outdoor areas. You won’t be allowed to wait for a table either.
Restaurants that intend to place outdoor seating on the sidewalk or the street must apply with the city’s Department of Transport through its Open Restaurants program. There’s no need to apply if the seating is on private property.
Q: Can I get my hair cut?
A: Yes, finally. But again, occupancy will be limited to 50% capacity. You should call ahead and make an appointment. While walk-in service is allowed, you won’t be permitted to wait if all of the hairdressers or barbers are busy. And hair cutters aren’t allowed to perform services that require the removal of a customer’s face mask – like a beard trim.
Q: Is it safe to get on the subway?
A: City officials have acknowledged it may be difficult to keep proper 6-foot distancing while on subways and buses as ridership picks up. But one thing is clear: The subway has never been cleaner than it is right now. Each of the city’s more than 6,000 cars is scrubbed thoroughly every day by a crew of more than 3,000 people, using virus-killing solution and an electrostatic spray. And every station is cleaned twice daily.
Q: Who’s responsible for making sure that people and businesses follow the rules?
A: Individual businesses must enforce the state’s rules for face masks, distancing and capacity on their premises. But for public places – like the sidewalk outside a bar – it’s up to each person to follow the rules.
Q: What will shopping be like?
A: Stores are allowed to open for in-store shopping, but, again, there will be rules and you should maintain 6 feet of space from other customers and store employees. Fitting rooms will have cleaning supplies and hand-sanitizer stations. And stores won’t be allowed to offer amenities such as self-service bars or sample stations.
You’ll also soon be able to go to dealerships in the city for car shopping. If you plan to take a test drive, though, the dealer must sit in the seat furthest from the driver.
Q: Why is my favorite store in SoHo still not open?
A: Just because stores are allowed to reopen doesn’t mean they will. Many retailers delayed plans to reopen because of the vandalism that followed the recent protests. And some business owners may hold off if they decide the costs tied to reopening outweigh the revenue they might generate.
Q: What’s going on with malls?
A: Customers still can’t access indoor malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space. That includes places like Hudson Yards, where some retailers offer curbside pickup. Stores with separate entrances and exits can be open, while the others will be allowed to deal only with pick-up orders.
Q: Can I finally take my kids to the playground?
A: De Blasio said he will open playgrounds, a welcome relief for parents who have been cooped up with kids for months. Still, team sports such as basketball, football, softball and soccer won’t be permitted. Social-distancing ambassadors will roam the city to monitor crowding and encourage hygiene at the parks.
(c) 2020, Bloomberg · Anders Melin, Jennifer Surane