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Cuomo postpones indoor dining in New York City

'It's partially lack of citizen compliance and lack of local government compliance, enforcement,' the governor said Wednesday during a news briefing.

NEW YORK — As the Buffalo area moves forward with reopening, some communities in other parts of the country are lagging behind.

Even in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that he's delaying the reopening of indoor dining.

Cuomo said in a coronavirus briefing, "This is a New York City-only modification because, frankly, it's a problem that's most pronounced in New York City."

The governor said several factors contributed to the decision. 

"It's partially the other states going up, and we're worried about that, and it's partially lack of citizen compliance and lack of local government compliance, enforcement," Cuomo explained.

Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, released this statement in response to the announcement. 

“Citing the national upswing in COVID-19 cases and a lack of compliance and enforcement with social distancing guidelines throughout New York City, today the Governor announced he will postpone the reopening of indoor dining in New York City until further notice. The Governor rightly points out that while restaurants have a role in ensuring their patrons follow the rules, citizen cooperation and police enforcement are critical to ensuring compliance. It’s unfortunate and frustrating that these factors, almost entirely out of our industry’s control, are forcing our restaurants to suffer even further.  

“We fully understand the need to ensure the safety of our customers and employees and protect against a relapse, but the longer that compliance issues continue, the chances of restoring New York City as the ‘restaurant capital of the world’ withers away. We urge all restaurants across the State of New York to follow the guidelines put forth by the State, and urge community law enforcement to assist in doing so. We are hopeful for greater enforcement and compliance and will continue to work in partnership with the community and law enforcement to restore indoor dining in New York City as soon as possible.”

Here in Western New York, indoor dining -- with limited capacity, strict sanitization measures, and other safety precautions in place -- is already back.

Still, Dr. Thomas Russo, the chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, said people should continue being cautious. 

"I think it's important for people to realize that drive-through and order out is still the safest way to get food conveniently made by someone else," Dr. Russo said.

He added, "Both patio and indoor dining do carry an increased risk of getting infected because, obviously, when you're eating and drinking you cannot wear your mask. Indoor dining is riskier because of more fixed air volume whereas, with outside dining, the virus gets dispersed more readily." 

Dr. Russo said individuals who do want to eat out should weigh the factors that could play into their own personal risk.

He explained, "One of the things that one always needs to consider when you might be involved with an activity of increased risk is how much disease there is in the community and how vulnerable you are or what's the relative risk-benefit ratio."

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