After 3 Months of Outbreak and Hardship, N.Y.C. Is Set to Reopen
Exactly 100 days since its first case of coronavirus was confirmed, New York City, which weathered extensive hardship as an epicenter of the worldwide outbreak, is set to take the first tentative steps toward reopening its doors on Monday.
Getting here took the sacrifice of millions of New Yorkers who learned to live radically different lives. More than 205,000 have been infected, and nearly 22,000 have died.
As many as 400,000 workers could begin returning to construction jobs, manufacturing sites and retail stores in the city’s first phase of reopening— a surge of normalcy that seemed almost inconceivable several weeks ago, when the city’s hospitals were at a breaking point and as many as 800 people were dying from Covid-19 on a single day.
Many retail stores, battered by months of closure, are readying to do business again on Monday, starting with curbside and in-store pickup. Construction companies are adding safety features and stockpiling masks and gloves. Manufacturers, whose shop floors have idled since March, are testing machines.
State and city officials said they were optimistic that the city would begin to spring back to life. Testing is robust, reaching 33,000 people on a recent day. And new infections are now down to around 500 a day — half as many as there were just a few weeks ago.
That is low enough for New York City’s corps of contract tracers, who began work last week, to try to track every close interaction and, officials hope, stop a resurgence of the virus.
“You want to talk about a turnaround — this one, my friends, is going to go in the history books,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Saturday.
New York City, like nine other regions in the state, was required to meet seven health-related metrics before beginning reopening. New York City was the last part of the state to do so; much of upstate has already moved on to Phase 2, which allows most stores, offices and hair salons to open, with restrictions on capacity and social distance.
The road back will undoubtedly be challenging. More than 885,000 jobs vanished during the outbreak, and strong gains are not expected for the city until 2022. The city budget hemorrhaged tax revenue and now faces a $9 billion shortfall over the next year.
And the reopening has been complicated by the vast protests for racial justice that have swept the city for more than a week and have forced government officials and business owners to unexpectedly adjust their plans.
Hundreds of stores were burglarized by looters who took advantage of the protests to prey on commercial districts, from Midtown to the Bronx. Shop owners scrambled to cover windows in plywood rather than reaching for welcome banners. Police officers enforced a nightly curfew.
“We were planning to make a lot of noise saying, ‘Hey, we’re back,’” said Ken Giddon, a co-owner with his brother of Rothmans, a small clothing chain with a flagship near Union Square. “Now we don’t think that would be appropriate. I think New York City needs a week or two of healing before a week or two of selling.”