Public Advocate Calls for Closure of Indoor Dining, Non-Essential Businesses as Governor Delays
NEW YORK: Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to implement new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting vulnerable communities, to avoid the mistakes and the loss of life seen in the spring. The Governor announced on Monday morning a framework for the gradual closure of indoor dining, as well as potential additional businesses, if COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise as trends have indicated.
In a letter Monday afternoon, the Public Advocate criticized this slow and hesitant approach as reminiscent of the mistakes on a city and state level in March that helped lead to New York City becoming the global epicenter of the pandemic.
Dear Governor Cuomo:
Given your announcement today outlining processes for potential closures and restrictions, I write to express my grave concern at both the pace of the actions being taken and the absence of crucial steps which are necessary to save lives. New York City and State continue to experience a dangerous resurgence of COVID-19. There is no longer any doubt that New York City has fallen into a second wave of COVID-19 – what question remains is whether leadership can learn from the errors of the first to prevent even greater loss. What we as New Yorkers need from our leaders is a coordinated and cohesive messaging on what we should be doing. We should be encouraging all New Yorkers to stay home whenever possible.
In a letter to your office on November 13, I recommended taking a number of immediate steps to prevent a significant second wave from occurring. Unfortunately, the window for prevention has been allowed to pass. We must now implement strong and immediate measures to reduce further spread of the virus, and continue those restrictions through to the new year, or until scientific and public health measures indicate sufficient reduction in risk. We cannot afford hesitations and half-measures that needlessly allow lives to be lost and livelihoods to be disrupted.
When COVID-19 first appeared in New York, many actions did not go far enough or were implemented too late. We have had far too much experience, far too much suffering since then to keep making the same mistakes over and over. The faster and more seriously we respond to this second wave, the more quickly we can control community spread and reopen our businesses.
In response to this resurgence, my office makes the following urgent recommendations to prevent a larger second wave:
Close all non-essential businesses, including in-person dining in restaurants, bars, hair and nail salons, gyms, and houses of worship.
Immediate financial support for local businesses who are shut down.
Coordinate closures with New Jersey and Connecticut to protect New York residents who work in those states, and vice versa.
Combat “COVID fatigue” by requiring that all residents wear a mask or covering when leaving their homes and/or when in contact with people who do not live in their household.
In addition, we must be prepared for widespread school closures if COVID-19 continues to spread at these elevated levels – including through investment in full and expanded remote learning and the reopening and expansion of REC Centers for students in greatest need.
We must also institute more stringent protections for communities we know are most vulnerable including long-term care facilities, nursing homes, psychiatric facilities, and homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Each of these measures is an effort to reduce harm through new strategies and systems, learning from past tragedy to prevent it in the future.
As we enter what health experts continue to warn will be a “dark winter”, the potential for transmission of the virus will only grow. Time is quickly running out for us to take decisive action. The next step, if these measures don’t work, we must be prepared for a full and immediate shutdown of New York City as the best way to save lives and allow a quick economic recovery for New Yorkers and their businesses.
I look forward to receiving your response within one week upon receiving this letter. For further discussion, please contact First Deputy Public Advocate for Policy Nick E. Smith at [email protected] and Deputy Public Advocate for Justice, Health Equity & Safety Rama Issa-Ibrahim at [email protected].
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Jumaane D. Williams
Public Advocate for the City of New York