On Wednesday, I wrote a column in the New York Post urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to release contact tracing data on the spread of the Chinese virus in New York restaurants before closing them down. My logic was that the owners of these establishments, their employees, and their patrons deserved to see the evidence that proves that indoor dining is a major driver of virus spread.
On Friday, the governor released that data. It does not show that restaurants are a major driver; it shows they accounted for 1.4 percent of spread. And yet, in a move that defies even the basic tenets of common sense, Emperor Cuomo is closing down indoor dining anyway.
In mid-December, when it is too cold to eat outside and a week before a Christmas, this order will directly lead to thousands of more unemployed New Yorkers.
This decision is insane. It is also cruel and arbitrary. For two months Gotham’s restaurants have done everything asked of them: created outdoor dining areas, bought heaters, run at 25 percent capacity, had customers fill out tracing forms, and enforced masks. And guess what? It looks like it worked. Fewer than 2 in 100 infections can be traced back to eateries. So why are they now being punished?
And I’m not the only one furious and flummoxed by this decision. Here is what Barstool Sports President Dave Portnoy had to say:
Politicians Are Stealing the Basic Right To Earn A Living pic.twitter.com/9Yx9Vf1iP1
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) December 11, 2020
He’s absolutely right. There is no excuse for this decision. Not only is the infection rate for restaurants and bars a meager 1.4 percent, the rate for households is 74 percent.
So let me posit a simple question. Now that friends are to be banned from sharing time together at a restaurant or pub, where will they gather? Oh, right, in households. Brilliant, governor, just brilliant. Don’t let us go where almost no one gets COVID, but shove us into the places where almost everyone does.
Even if the science had come back and suggested that restaurants were a major factor in spread, it still would have been a difficult decision to close them given the economic and human impact of that choice. But that isn’t the choice we face—the data make clear that eating out is not the problem here. The problem here is Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Meanwhile, in next door New Jersey which has similar numbers to New York, the restaurants are staying open. Huh. Is Gov. Phil Murphy suddenly a murderer? Or does he simply realize that science does not justify destroying tens of thousands of small businesses and driving consumers to online companies for their basic sustenance.
Cuomo is literally telling many New York City restaurants to drop dead. They have told him in no uncertain terms that they cannot survive another indefinite shut down. He just doesn’t care. I guess they don’t bundle millions of dollars for him.
The people of New York City must resist this, not just the owners who fear for their liquor licenses if they resist, but the people. Our restaurants and their workers have served us forever. Now it is time to have their backs.