No city in the US was hit so badly by the corona virus – the metropolis was “on pause” for more than three months. Now it should timidly go back to normal. But there are new risk factors.
By Peter Mücke, ARD-Studio New York
After around 100 days of the Corona crisis and eleven weeks of “New York on break”, as the far-reaching restrictions on public life are called here, the metropolis of millions is daring the first small step into a new normal.
“It’s about giving people back their livelihoods and making New York City strong again – our economy and our people,” says Mayor Bill de Blasio with a lot of pathos. But the first of four opening phases, which will also start in New York City today, is only a cautious step in this direction.
Work can resume on the city’s 32,000 or so construction sites, factories can restart their production and shops can offer goods for collection. 200,000 to 400,000 people could then go back to work, says de Blasio. The offices, which are much more important for New York City, will remain closed and will only be allowed to open gradually if there are no setbacks in the fight against the pandemic.
“Observe very closely”
Until a few days ago, those responsible were very optimistic, but now there is a new factor of uncertainty, says the governor of the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo. “New York City had the highest number of corona cases, the highest population density – and now also the most participants in the protests against racism and police violence,” says Cuomo. “We are concerned that the protests have accelerated the spread of the virus again. We will have to watch that very closely.”
The gradual relaxation of the restrictions is tied to seven criteria that must all be met, such as enough free hospital beds or a maximum number of new infections. If the numbers worsen, the restrictions will tighten again.
Cuomo therefore appeals to the demonstrators to be tested: “I understand everyone who has gone to these demonstrations. But we still have the problem with the coronavirus. So: act responsibly!” The governor says that 15 test sites have only been opened for the demonstrators.
Severe economic crisis
Not only Cuomo fears that the already long road to the full reopening of New York could be delayed. If everything goes well, the cultural institutions could reopen in eight weeks, subject to conditions. This is essential for a tourist city like New York. “I know it’s been a long time. But please stay disciplined,” Cuomo urges the New Yorkers. “Because it works. We have come such a long way, so many people have made sacrifices. So many have died. Let’s not do anything stupid now.”
New York has been hit by the pandemic like no other city in the US: More than 20,000 people have died of corona infection. Well over a million have lost their jobs. City and state are facing bankruptcy. Whether and when New York can return to its old and economic strength is in the stars.
Cuomo are therefore only persevering: “What we have already achieved will go down in history as one of the greatest social transformations.”