The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center glows until the early days of the New Year. The storefronts on Fifth Avenue attract with special offers after the holidays.
Manhattan’s ice skating rinks are open and, no later than the first snowfall before Christmas, very crowded. Some New York traditions survived the coronavirus pandemic.
But they cannot hide that in the streets people do not crowd to admire the winter attractions. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic brought New York to its knees in an unprecedented way. This year the city wants to recover. But the effects of the crisis will surely be felt for quite some time.
Vincent Lin is one of the few currently paddling against the current in New York. While hundreds of restaurants in the city had to close in recent months, in October 2020 he opened his “Blue Willow” with traditional Chinese food in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
“Not that we thought it was the best time,” Lin says. Actually, the “Blue Willow” was going to open before the pandemic. But there were delays, then the coronavirus crisis dominated the city and Lin’s team had to improvise, he says. Customers are scarce now, because Midtown lacks tourists and office tower employees.
And it is not clear when they will return. Experts still foresee several gloomy weeks. But the start of the vaccination campaign generates hope for the boreal spring.
In principle, the outlook was good for the city of millions of inhabitants. While some infections were reported on the West Coast, in New York the first official case was confirmed in March 2019.
It was only a few weeks before the images of the refrigerated transports and the mass graves on an island in front of the city caused a stir around the world.
New Yorkers soon drew parallels with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in which some 3,000 people died.
But the comparison has its weak points. Terrorism attacked with an impressive roar. The virus progressed for weeks unnoticed by skyscrapers, apartment blocks and the subway. There was no panic or ruins, but, as with the attacks, the shock remains.
As of January 12, the death toll from covid-19 in the city amounted to more than 25,000. They sickened at least 493,000 of the eight million inhabitants of the city.
The price of the unprecedented restrictions is: offices, museums, Broadway and the concert halls closed. “The very things that make New York New York were wiped out by the pandemic,” Moody’s economic analyst Mark Zandi recently told the “New York Times.”
Above all in the service provision sector – restaurants, hotels, art galleries, transport and construction – more than a million jobs were lost. The unemployment rate grew to more than 20 percent and the city struggles with a giant $ 4 billion deficit in its budget.
The pandemic also revealed the great differences existing in the multicultural New York society. The poorer, the more exposed they were to losing income and catching Covid-19. The richest, on the other hand, were able to leave the city.
What New York needs is tourists and busy business life to return. New Yorkers are sure they will both return.
There are several vaccines in the offing, two of which are already being applied. Tens of thousands have already received them. When hundreds of thousands of people in the city have been vaccinated and the population at risk is protected, the situation could improve a lot.
With the boreal spring, restrictions on travel from, for example, Europe could also be gradually lifted. The theater on Broadway is scheduled to reopen in May. But the city’s tourism officials estimate that business will reach the level it was before the pandemic not until 2024.
The news portal “Axios” speculated in September that rental prices, which fell sharply in the metropolis, are contributing to the rebirth and attracting a wave of young and creative residents.
But first, Americans fear the “very dark winter”, for which President-elect Joe Biden has already prepared them in view of the increase in infections.
New Yorkers fear new lockdowns. Families are already stockpiling supplies again. Singles are looking for a partner to quarantine. And as in almost the entire country, the number of infected has already reached the level of last spring.
Hospitals reported an increase in the occupancy of beds in intensive care and around the end of the year holidays, 200 deaths per day were again reported.
Also for Vincent Lin the next few months will be decisive. “Right now it is not so terrible, but if new restrictions arrive and eating in restaurants is banned again, it will be problematic,” he says. Until April, no later than May, you can hold out. If until then the situation improves, the “Blue Willow” will survive.