New York on the tightrope

After two months of continued confinement on Friday, the city of New York, the economic and cultural capital of the United States, still does not see the end of the tunnel, raising growing doubts about the future of this metropolis symbolizing crowds and effervescence. If many European cities are gradually relaunching their economy, the first city in the United States, epicenter of the American epidemic with more than 20,000 deaths, will remain confined at least until May 28, according to a new decree from the governor of the State, Andrew Cuomo.

No one knows when its businesses, restaurants and theaters, which attracted millions of tourists, will reopen. It is only “in the first half of June that we can start to think about easing the restrictions”, indicated Friday the mayor, Bill de Blasio. “We are going to go slowly and cautiously so as not to make mistakes and protect lives,” he said.

“We must be smart,” insists the governor, who keeps warning against a new outbreak of the virus. Beaches in the state will be allowed to reopen starting next weekend, he added, although mayors can keep them closed if they deem it necessary.

Despite the slowdown in the epidemic in the American metropolis – the daily death toll is down sharply, below 200, and ambulance sirens have become scarce – the authorities refuse to commit to the resumption of schools in September, leaving millions of parents in limbo.

For the moment, this metropolis of 8.6 million inhabitants is far from fulfilling the necessary criteria to gradually revive the economy: continuous decline in the number of hospitalizations, people in intensive care and positive tests in coronavirus.

In the face of prolonged confinement, New Yorkers have so far remained relatively disciplined, despite the dramatic consequences for hundreds of thousands of people now deprived of income, especially among black and Hispanic minorities. While elsewhere in the United States protests have multiplied against containment, many adhere to the caution of their leaders. Especially since a hundred New York children have been suffering from rare pediatric inflammation, probably linked to the virus.

We will go slowly and carefully so as not to make mistakes and protect ourselves

“The lockdown needs to continue for another two or three months, because we live in a big city with a lot of people,” said Denzel Charles, postman. “Many people are in a hurry to resume quickly […] but in the places which have reopened, it is chaos ”, underlines Kiyona Carswell, model now unemployed.

Threat of bankruptcy?

However, the more the economy remains immersed in lethargy, the more uncertainty rises about the future of a city which owes its influence to its density and permanent hyperactivity. Many affluent New Yorkers have already left to go green and some are thinking of never coming back. “All the reasons why we are [à New York] – restaurants, concerts… – have disappeared, ”says Hans Robert, 49, IT executive at a large New York bank.

He and his family, for 10 years in Manhattan, moved at the end of April to their country house in northern New York, from where they telecommute. If their daughter’s school does not reopen in September, Mr. Robert does not rule out staying there. Especially since his bank is thinking, like other companies, of allowing its employees to continue working remotely.

Another question: the financial health of the city, whose tax revenues have melted with the stoppage of the economy. The Democratic mayor brandishes the specter of bankruptcy like the one in the 1970s, which dramatically reduced public services and exploded crime. He begs the Republican President, Donald Trump, to validate a new aid plan of 3 trillion dollars, concocted by the Democrats of Congress, which would bail out the city to the tune of 17 billion over two years. But the president has already ruled out adopting it as it is.

“New York has known a lot of crises and always ends up bouncing back,” says Maria Kopman, an anesthetist in a New York hospital. Even though everything will not be the way it was before, “people who come here for the boil, the socialization, I don’t believe it will go away.”

The coronavirus pandemic has so far claimed 87,530 deaths in the United States and more than 305,000 deaths worldwide out of 4.5 million recorded cases.

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