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All New York City restaurants in Orange Zones can reopen for indoor dining, Cuomo aide says

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Albany, NY Restaurants currently in the Orange Covid-19 zones in New York City may immediately reopen for indoor dining, an assistant to Governor Andrew Cuomo said today.

This includes restaurants in the Orange Zone of Onondaga County.

The move comes after restaurants in Erie County’s Orange Zone were granted the right to restart indoor dining in a court case. The state is allowing all Orange Zone restaurants to reopen for indoor dining to ensure consistency and fairness, Kumiki Gibson, attorney for the governor, said in a statement.

Restaurants in the Orange Zones were not allowed to offer indoor dining, but could still offer outdoor dining and take-out.

Orange Zone restaurants that choose to reopen for indoor dining will now have to adhere to states’ Yellow Zone restrictions, which include limiting diners to four per table. All bars and restaurants in the state must close by 10 p.m. even if they are not in a coronavirus cluster area.

It is possible that the respite for restaurants in the Orange Zone will not last. The state is likely to appeal the ruling that granted restaurants in Erie County the right to reopen.

The state is still reviewing the decision, Gibson said in today’s statement.

We do not agree with the court ruling and its impact on public health, as federal data from the CDC clearly shows that eating indoors increases the spread of Covid-19, Gibson said. Since the start of this pandemic, the state has acted on the basis of facts and advice from public health experts, and we will continue this approach.

The Orange Zone in Onondaga County has been in place since November. It includes most of Syracuse and portions of some nearby suburbs.

Restaurateurs say they’re having a hard time and previously asked Cuomo to change the area to yellow. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon backed the request and Walsh sent a letter to Cuomo earlier this month asking for the change.

READ MORE: Syracuse restaurants closed in orange zone beg Cuomo to let them reopen

READ MORE: Mayor Walsh in Cuomo: Keeping Syracuse restaurants closed is inherently unfair

The problem, according to Walsh, McMahon and the restaurants, was that customers looking to eat out could simply go to a restaurant just outside of town and eat there.

Restaurant owners said the situation was unfair and endangered their businesses. They also argued that their businesses are not helping to spread the virus.

Cuomo acknowledged the problem last week after being asked about Walsh and McMahon’s comments at a press conference.

That’s the problem with the whole concept of a zone, he said. Its geographical location and its inhabitants are outside the area.

The state launched the cluster zone strategy in the fall. It includes three levels of yellow, orange and red restrictions intended to slow the virus down in areas with spikes.

For months, the state updated areas every week, adding and removing areas, seeing increasing cases. But it’s been weeks since an update from Cuomo on one of the areas in place now.

Read Gibsons’ full statement on Orange Zone restaurants below:

Yesterday, a court ruling temporarily granted a few select restaurants located in an orange zone in Erie County the option to resume dining indoors under the rules governing yellow zones. We are reviewing the decision. While this process is ongoing, to ensure consistency and fairness, all restaurants operating in the Amber Zones can now operate under the rules governing the Amber Zones. We do not agree with the court ruling and its impact on public health, as data from the federal CDC clearly shows that eating indoors increases the spread of COVID-19. Since the start of this pandemic, the state has acted on the basis of facts and advice from public health experts, and we will continue to do so.

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