New York becomes latest state to rethink reopening plans

New York is rethinking the next phase of its economic reopening plan after Texas and Florida reintroduced restrictions aimed at bringing their recent jump in coronavirus cases under control.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said there was an “undeniable” lack of compliance with social distancing guidelines in bars and restaurants in New York City, adding he would decide on Wednesday whether to allow restaurants to offer indoor dining as part of the city’s next reopening phase, scheduled for July 6.

A half-dozen states, mostly in the south and west, have put their reopening plans on pause because of the recent outbreak in coronavirus cases; thus far, only Texas and Florida have thrown those plans into reverse.

Although New York has sharply driven down what was once the US’s highest infection rate, Mr Cuomo has been adamant that he would reimpose restrictions if there were signs cases were beginning to rise again.

Several large companies have taken it upon themselves to halt or roll back reopening plans, regardless of government guidance, including Apple, which closed retail stores again throughout the south and west.

On Monday, AMC Theatres, the largest cinema chain in the US, said it would push back its reopening date for 450 of its American cinema complexes by two weeks to the end of July.

“Our theatre general managers across the US started working full-time again today and are back in their theatres gearing up to get their buildings fully ready just a few weeks from now for movie-goers,” said Adam Aron, AMC’s chief executive.

Mr Cuomo argued the federal government was wrong to push for a quick reopening of the economy, pointing to President Donald Trump’s tweets urging governors to “LIBERATE” some states. Mr Cuomo said “reopening fast was not good for the economy” and was unsettling the stock market.

“The White House has been in denial on coronavirus from the get-go and the federal response has just been wrong,” Mr Cuomo said on Monday, and urged Mr Trump to sign an executive order requiring everyone to wear a mask in public.

Responses to the pandemic have become increasingly varied. Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and North Carolina paused their reopening plans last week, but some individual cities, such as San Francisco, have delayed plans to further ease lockdown restrictions in the absence of a state-imposed pause.

Similarly, over the past fortnight, the governors of California, Nevada and North Carolina ordered residents to wear face coverings in public, while Georgia governor Brian Kemp told reporters he had no plans to issue such a mandate despite a rising number of coronavirus cases in his state.

Some cities have instituted mandates in the absence of state orders, with Jacksonville, Florida, the latest to take such action on Monday.

The outbreak has raised alarms outside the US, as well. Brussels is expected to approve a new list of countries that can begin reopening travel with the EU — a list that will not include the US.

A growing number of public health officials have voiced concerns about the surge in cases across the south and west. Alex Azar, US health secretary, warned on Sunday that the window to limit the spread of coronavirus across the country “is closing”.

The US reported a further 42,161 people tested positive for coronavirus between Saturday and Sunday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, which took the national tally since the pandemic began to more than 2.5m. Since Friday’s record jump of more than 44,300, daily cases have increased by more than 42,000 for three days in a row.

California, Florida and Texas are now averaging more than 5,000 cases a day, with Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina the other states that have average daily case rate in excess of 1,000.