On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered restaurants in New York City to stop indoor dining completely, starting Monday, as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise. Credit: New York State Governor's Office

Restaurants in New York City must stop indoor dining starting Monday because of rising levels of COVID-19 cases in the city, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said, while also announcing the state will receive an additional 346,000 doses of vaccine later this month.

No decision has been made about indoor dining on Long Island, where restaurants are permitted to operate at 50% capacity. In New York City, they have been operating at 25% capacity, which will now go down to zero with only takeout and outdoor dining permitted.

The 346,000 doses from Moderna comes on top of 170,000 doses that Pfizer is expected to deliver to the state as early as Sunday or Monday, Cuomo said.

"The vaccine is coming, and we are ready to administer it," Cuomo said Friday at a news conference in Albany. "That is the weapon that ends the war."

Long Island is expected to receive 26,500 doses of the Pfizer batch. Officials did not immediately break down how many doses each region in the state will receive from the Moderna delivery, which is expected to arrive Dec. 21.

As the total first batch of 516,000 vaccines arrives and is administered in the state, Cuomo administration officials said they expected other batches to begin to roll in simultaneously.

"We have to have the most aggressive distribution and administration program, and we are starting that right now," Cuomo said.

People sit in a coffee shop in Manhattan on Wednesday....

People sit in a coffee shop in Manhattan on Wednesday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that indoor dining will be suspended in New York City on Monday. Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

The first batches from the two companies will cover 516,000 people, with a second required dose arriving and being administered three weeks later.

The first vaccines in the state will go to nursing home patients and staff, along with health care workers most at risk for exposure to the virus.

Cuomo said the state’s independent review panel assessed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine and unanimously approved it Friday, a day after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration outside advisory group approved it.

With the FDA then giving final approval Friday night for the Pfizer vaccine, the way is cleared for delivery of the COVID019 vaccine probably within days.

The New York review panel was designed to ally people's fears and skepticism about any vaccines, since Cuomo has contended the Trump administration politicized the approval process and undercut people's confidence in the vaccines.

Cuomo's elimination of indoor dining comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise in the city. He had warned Monday that he would implement the new restrictions if the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 didn't stabilize or drop in the next five days.

Restaurants and bars were shut down for indoor dining from March until late September, and then reopened at limited capacity.

"I feel tremendous empathy for restaurant owners … We need them to survive," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

But at the same time, he said, spread of the coronavirus has to be stopped. "We have to fight it back to save lives and we have to fight it back to start our recovery."

Cuomo defended his decision, even though statistics he displayed Friday showed that the biggest source of spread of the virus is small gatherings in private homes.

Those account for nearly 74% of new confirmed cases, compared to 1.4% coming from restaurants and bars. Other categories with higher rates of transmission than bars and restaurants included health care delivery, higher education students, and education employees.

"There’s no perfect answer on any of this," Cuomo said. "You look at the areas that are generating cases, and you do what you can within reason."

Customers sit in the outdoor dining area of a restaurant...

Customers sit in the outdoor dining area of a restaurant in New York City on Thursday. Credit: Bloomberg/Nina Westervelt

The governor's decision was not received warmly by restaurant industry representatives.

Michael Johnston of the Five Borough Chamber of Commerce Alliance said that, while it was a difficult decision, "the restrictions could not have come at a worse time for restaurants across the five boroughs when many are holding on for survival by a thread and trying in some way to make up for the devastating losses of the past nine months."

The economic environment, he said, is worse now than in the spring, when restaurants received federal assistance. "We now fear that thousands of small businesses will be forced to permanently close their doors and lay off employees, which will have an irreversible impact on the city’s economic recovery and social fabric," Johnston said.

He called on the federal government to enact a COVID-19 relief package immediately.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said, "While public health and safety must be paramount, Governor Cuomo’s announcement to once again shut down indoor dining in New York City is at odds with the State's own data that’s been presented as driving these decisions, and it will be the last straw for countless more restaurants and jobs. And the restrictions begin on Monday with zero economic support for small businesses that are already struggling to survive."

He said that Manhattan, which has the largest number of restaurants in the state, has a positivity rate of 2.7% — less than half the rate of many counties where indoor dining remains open.

Cuomo said that while he understood the financial pain restaurants were suffering, he had to do whatever he could to try to stop the virus. Otherwise, the entire society could be shut down again as happened in the spring.

He indefinitely extended an order prohibiting commercial evictions because tenants could not pay the rent, Cuomo said. He also called on the federal government to provide funds to restaurants to help them survive the indoor dining shutdown. The state also will do so if it has the money, he said.

He noted that many restaurants have tried to adapt to the restrictions, setting up outdoor heat lamps and partially enclosed outdoor seating areas.

County Executive Laura Curran said Nassau’s restaurants are open for indoor dining and that she "will do everything I can to keep them open and operating, safely."

The number of new confirmed cases from test results Thursday was 759 in Nassau, 1,075 in Suffolk and 3,347 in New York City. The positivity level statewide is 4.98%.

Eighty-seven people died in the state Thursday of COVID-19-related causes. The number of people hospitalized with the virus increased by 157, to 5,321.

With Matthew Chayes

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