New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, once the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., announced Monday that shops, restaurants, theaters and other businesses will be allowed to operate at full capacity starting May 19.
“It’s a smart reopening. It’s a measured reopening,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Today is a milestone for New York State and a significant moment of transition.”
Museums, restaurants, retail businesses, gyms and hair salons can fully reopen in the three states as long as space is available to maintain six feet of social distance.
The reopening is a huge turnaround from more than a year ago, when New York City was the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, reporting nearly 5,500 cases and more than 600 deaths per day. A record 635,000 jobs were lost in New York in 2020 and the pain of the city’s economic downturn is evident in endless closed storefronts.
For a year, it was only takeout and delivery at Ousia, a Manhattan restaurant. Enrico Livanos, one of the owners, said the May 19 reopening is “tremendous.”
“It was a difficult year. We haven’t had anybody inside since 2020 and the start of this year. So for us it’s just a new beginning and an opportunity to get back to normal,” Livanos said.
It’s not just the Northeast that’s getting back to normal. On Monday, Florida’s governorall state COVID restrictions.
But as much of the nation is opening back up, nearly half of Oregon is shutting back down due to one of the largest increases in infections in the country. It comes after Oregon had for months one of the lowest infection rates nationwide.
“This virus is like a sucker punch. You never know when it’s going to get you,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said.
The surging numbers have triggered Brown to declare 15 counties an “extreme risk,” banning all indoor dining and limiting gyms and indoor entertainment spaces to only six people at one time.
“The variants are extremely transmissible,” Brown told CBS News about what went wrong.
The more transmissible variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, now accounts for about half of the cases in the state, with more young people hospitalized than ever.
“Right now, it’s truly a race between the variants and the vaccines. Obviously the variants are winning. But over the next couple of weeks I’m confident we can beat it back,” Brown said.
Vaccines have been available to every Oregonian older than 16 for two weeks. The hope is that as vaccination numbers rise, infections will drop.
It would be welcome news to frontline workers like ICU nurse Linus Silvey. “We started getting our vaccine here in mid-December, and so it was a beacon of light. It is a little disheartening to be back at what we were in the fall,” Silvey said.
Still, the new restrictions are hitting frustrated business owners like Brian McMenamin hard. “It’s just this up and down game. It feels like we’re getting beat up,” he said.
“There were two paths here. Number one: that we don’t put any additional restrictions on, or number two, that we take the path that saves lives. And I, Oregon’s governor, took the path to save lives,” Brown said.
If numbers go back down, Brown is hoping to lift the new restrictions by July 1.