New York pushes ahead with more reopenings as COVID-19 cases rise in U.S. Midwest

NEW YORK, Sept 3- Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced more reopenings in New York state as new coronavirus infections remained low in what was once the U.S. hot spot of the pandemic. Next Wednesday, New York City malls will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity and casinos statewide can reopen at 25% capacity, Cuomo said. “Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, we…

By Maria Caspani and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK, Sept 3 (Reuters) – Governor Andrew Cuomo onThursday announced more reopenings in New York state as newcoronavirus infections remained low in what was once the U.S.hot spot of the pandemic.

Next Wednesday, New York City malls will be allowed toreopen at 50% capacity and casinos statewide can reopen at 25%capacity, Cuomo said.

“Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, we are at a pointin our fight against this virus where we can safely reopen mallsin New York City as long as they adhere to strict health andsafety protocols,” Cuomo said. “Masks, enhanced air ventilationsystems, and social distancing will be mandatory.”

The governor also waded into the hotly debated issue ofindoor dining in New York City, saying during a conference callwith reporters that the final decision rested with the state.

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson came out onWednesday in favor of allowing indoor dining in the city, whichis home to a thriving restaurant industry that was battered bythe pandemic.

“It’s time to allow indoor dining in New York City withreduced capacity and clear guidance to ensure social distancingand safety,” Johnson said in a statement.

Cuomo said he would like to see restaurants reopen forindoor dining in the city but that compliance and enforcementremained a major hurdle in doing so.

“We open restaurants, that’s going to complicate by thehundreds if not thousands the number of establishments that needto be monitored,” he said.

Indoor dining is allowed in New York state with theexception of New York City, where more than 300 restaurateursrecently filed a class-action lawsuit seeking $2 billion indamages, according to media reports.

On Wednesday, gyms in New York City opened for the firsttime in months. They must operate at 33% capacity, with floorsrearranged so patrons can exercise more than 6 feet (1.8m)apart.

SHIFTING TRENDS

New York has seen by far the most deaths from COVID-19 ofany U.S. state, more than 32,000, but its rate of new infectionshas dropped to among the lowest in the country.

Nationally, new cases of coronavirus have fallen for sixweeks in a row, but infections are surging in the Midwest. Iowa,North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting the highestpercentage of positive test results in the country – over 20% ineach state.

Iowa, with a population of more than 3.1 million people, sawover 8,300 new cases last week, up 116%. That compared withabout 4,400 new cases in New York state, which has more than19.4 million residents, according to a Reuters analysis.

Cases also rose 27% last week in Minnesota and 34% inIndiana.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has toldstate officials to prepare to distribute a potential coronavirusvaccine as early as October, according to documents made publicby the agency on Wednesday.

The vaccines would be given first to healthcare workers,national security personnel and nursing homes, the agency saidin the documents.(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Peter Szekely in New York andBarbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; Additional reportingby Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Peter Cooney)