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Mayor Bill de Blasio expects New York City to “fully reopen” on July 1st, following over a year of extreme restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Our plan is to fully reopen on July 1st,” a buoyant de Blasio declared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open… offices, theaters—full strength. Because, look, what we’re seeing is people have gotten vaccinated in extraordinary numbers. 6.3 million vaccinations in New York City to date.”
He pointed out that people can now walk in and get vaccinated at the American Museum of Natural History under the iconic blue whale (and get four free admission tickets when they do so). “Go over and do it today, everyone!” de Blasio implored.
“We know the vaccination effort is going to grow and grow,” the mayor added. “We gotta keep working hard at that.”
De Blasio offered few details on what “fully reopen” means in practice—he will presumably explain more during his regular morning press conference—but did say that he thought restaurants would be able to fully reopen, as well as small theaters in the summer, while Broadway productions would likely reopen in September.
“Based on all of the progress, we can go to full strength,” he insisted. “I want people to be smart about basic rules, use masks indoors when it make sense.”
“COVID’s plummeting. We now have the confidence we can pull all these pieces together and get life back really in many ways to where it was where people can enjoy an amazing summer. This is going to be the summer of New York City,” he said.
However, it’s unclear how the state’s rules about reopening—and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desire to be the guy in charge—will affect de Blasio’s rosy outlook. When asked about whether Cuomo would need to give his blessing, de Blasio said, “I’m saying as leader of NYC, we’re ready to come back and come back strong.”
Currently, 36% of New York City residents over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, with 52% of adults having received at least one dose. Israel reopened when 90% of its population, age 50 and up, were vaccinated or had recovered from the coronavirus.
“There was a lot of hesitancy in the beginning that has reduced,” de Blasio said. “Some folks are never going to want a vaccine… we’re encouraging docs to reach out individuals to patients.” He noted that NYC recently opened city-run vaccination sites to walk-in appointments.
“What I’m seeing more and more is that folks are willing if they know it’s a simple and fast experience,” he said. “The vast majority of people haven’t gotten [fully vaccinated] yet. We’re going to help them get it.”
[Update 11:45 a.m.] Mayor Bill de Blasio expanded upon some details regarding what he has now dubbed “the summer of New York City” at a press conference on Thursday morning.
“We can see that light at the end of the tunnel. What does it mean? It means we can go back to the things we love, it means so many jobs come back and soon, and it means the things that make NYC special will be clearer than ever this summer,” de Blasio said. “We’re all going to get to enjoy this city again, and people are going to flock here from all over the country to be a part of this amazing moment for NYC.”
The mayor said that the city’s goal for July 1st was for restaurants and bars, retail stores and small businesses, hair salons and barbershops, gyms and fitness classes, arenas and stadiums, and theaters and museums to all be fully reopened, with no capacity limits, by that date. He acknowledged that Broadway will likely not be fully reopen until the fall because of how much time it takes to put big productions back together, but he hopes some smaller shows can return in July and August.
He added that he is in favor of subways returning to full service by that date as well. “When we talk about a full recovery July 1st, I’m very comfortable, I think that’s a great time to bring subways back 24/7,” he said. That decision, like so many others, remains up to Cuomo.
De Blasio reiterated that for this goal to work, the city would remain focused on getting more NYers vaccinated over the next two months, but he is confident that the data is pointed in the right direction, and if they need to adjust expectations as we get closer to the July 1st date, they will.
Asked about whether he has spoken to Governor Andrew Cuomo, de Blasio said he hasn’t: “I think the best way to proceed here is to set out the city’s vision,” he said.
De Blasio praised the state legislature for the recent state budget and their moves to “cancel some arbitrary decisions” made by Cuomo at the height of the pandemic: “I think we see the handwriting on the wall. The legislature is reducing the governor’s emergency powers constantly,” he said. “I’d like to see them take a whole big step and bring us back to normal democracy and we can move forward properly.”
De Blasio wasn’t specific about what safety measures would or wouldn’t be in place by July 1st—whether or not people will be required to still wear masks indoors or not—but he added, “I’m convinced that many New Yorkers will still want to use their mask on a voluntary basis.”
He also skirted a question about whether there will be any proof-of-vaccination requirements before entering establishments, noting that some institutions may decide to have them (they “make sense at some places”), but not commenting on whether the city would encourage or require them.
[Update 1:30 p.m.] At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked about the mayor’s July 1st reopening goal and whether he is in alignment with him about that.
“I would like to get functional reopening earlier than July 1st,” Cuomo said. “There is no person who will safely reopen faster than myself. I’m not going to predict the future, but if you said to me July 1st, I hope to get there before July 1st.”
Cuomo was optimistic that the state will continue reopening in the coming weeks, and noted that some capacity restrictions would be changed sooner rather than later. He also stated that he imagines there will still be some safety guidelines in place, including mask-wearing and social distancing, even when all indoor activities have been resumed in full.
“Even if I said today you don’t have to wear [a mask] and you can forget the six foot rule, I think people would still be careful,” he said. “It’s now culturalized to people.”
Asked about de Blasio’s criticisms of him at this morning’s press conference, Cuomo added, “The mayor of New York, I don’t know what he’s indicative of. I say that as a former New York City boy. Ask the people of New York City what they think of the mayor of New York City, and I would second their opinion.”
After the press conference, de Blasio spokesperson Bill Neidhardt responded to Cuomo’s comments thus: “I don’t care what a serial sexual harasser and assaulter and someone who covered up the deaths of thousands of people at nursing homes has to say about anything.”
I left out the faulty bridge construction coverup and having his official staff work on his $4 million personal book deal when there was a pandemic going on!!
— Bill Neidhardt (@BNeidhardt) April 29, 2021
Additional reporting by Andy Mai.