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NY widens testing eligibility as social distancing hits snag

AP  |  New York 

New York City residents who flouted social distancing restrictions for a night on the town got the mayor's wrath Sunday.

The city's embattled health commissioner is staying on the job. Gov. Andrew Cuomo got tested for coronavirus on live TV as he announced all people experiencing flu-like symptoms are now eligible for tests.

Meanwhile, two more state regions Western New York and the Capital District have met all seven criteria to move into the first phase of reopening but still need to hire several hundred more people for contact tracing programs.

In the first phase, construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, manufacturing and wholesale trade businesses are allowed to reopen and retail stores can provide curbside or in-store pickup or drop-off.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio admonished people seen crowding outside bars Saturday night, many with drinks in hand but no masks on their faces, for putting lives in danger. Officials may go so far as to shut down establishments that are violating social distancing rules, de Blasio said, asking residents to call 311, the city's non-emergency hotline, if they see such crowding.

Bars and restaurants in the city have been restricted to takeout and delivery service since mid-March, when coronavirus cases started to soar, but some in Manhattan were allowing people to dine and drink inside on Saturday.

We're not going to tolerate people starting to congregate. It's as simple as that, de Blasio said. If we have to shut places down, we will.

After a rash of violent social distancing arrests involving people of color, the city eased up on social distancing enforcement this week by no longer having police officers breaking up small groups of people or confronting citizens about failing to wear a mask.

As the weather heats up, though, more and more New Yorkers are flocking to public spaces and familiar haunts for a sense of normalcy after spending most of the last two months cooped up inside and not always policing themselves.

If you start to form groups of people and then two, three, five and then it becomes six, it becomes 10, it becomes 15 that violates what we're saying about social distancing and that puts lives in danger," de Blasio said.

Parks, boardwalks and beaches attracted big crowds on Saturday, though city beaches aren't officially open and won't be for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Beaches on Long Island and in other parts of the region will be open for the holiday, but de Blasio said opening the city's grand strands for swimming and merriment is not safe and is not the right thing to do in the epicenter of this crisis.

In fact, de Blasio said, the city's beaches could be closed off completely to public access if people don't follow social distancing rules. Fencing is being installed at entrance ways and could be rolled out if beaches meant now only for nearby residents to get some exercise get overcrowded or people violate swimming bans, he said.

De Blasio said beaches could open for wider use sometime in the summer, with lifeguard training over the next few weeks for a possible return to duty.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 18 2020. 00:38 IST