New York Takes Big Step In COVID-19 Rebound As Office Workers, Retailers Return

Many signature features of New York — including office buildings, retail stores and outdoor restaurant seating — returned to life Monday as the city continues its recovery from COVID-19.

As many as 300,000 workers were expected to return to offices, city officials estimated. Offices reopened along with barbershops, hair salons, outdoor restaurants and retail stores. The city, initially the global epicenter of the pandemic, entered Phase Two of the state’s four-phase recovery plan.

“Phase One was a big deal but Phase Two is really a giant step for this city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his daily press conference. “This is where most of our economy is.”

About 1% of city residents have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, down from peak levels of 60% in April. Nearly 22,000 people have died in the city — and 31,000 across New York state. Nationally, the death toll is poised to hit 120,000 and infection rates have surged 15% as health officials caution against rushing the reopening of the economy.

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New York, even though it is headed in an encouraging direction, faces myriad challenges given the city’s density. Subway ridership has risen 29% over the past week, nearing 1 million riders a day, but trains, sidewalks and buses are still noticeably less packed than usual. Many city dwellers and commuters are continuing to wait out the pandemic and some companies opt to give workers the option to work from home for an extended period.

De Blasio touted the city’s “test and trace” corps, which has helped the city isolate and treat those infected by and exposed to COVID-19.

Movie theaters are hoping to reopen July 10, along with limited-capacity indoor restaurants, along with nail salons and spas. Broadway theaters, comedy clubs and other essential parts of New York are on a far less certain path and will need to wait until conditions improve significantly.

Retail stores along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue drew lines of shoppers Monday, with stores limiting the number of people allowed inside. Apple stores reopened late last week, part of a Phase One return for retail with significant limitations. Shoppers had to make appointments to visit Apple locations.

Since the city posted application forms for outdoor restaurant seating, 3,200 applications have been submitted, de Blasio said.

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