New-infection rates in New York have risen since summer’s end. So what’s the solution? Cracking down against huge, rules-violating, virus-spreading gatherings, where cowed cops turn a blind eye — while keeping in perspective that cases don’t necessarily mean hospitalizations and deaths?
Nope. To the “lock it all down” crowd, the one thing necessary is to end indoor dining. It “should be re-evaluated right now,” Mayor de Blasio said at a Monday morning briefing after the Big Apple’s new-infection rate ticked up to slightly above 2 percent.
Yet despite the mayor’s vaunted and vast tracing apparatus, City Hall has not shared a grain of proof, not even anecdotal evidence, that anyone’s been infected from either eating or working in a restaurant since they were allowed to serve indoors beginning Oct. 1.
The mayor’s lockdown mood is contagious. A Staten Island judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit by several Gotham restauranteurs who argued that they shouldn’t be limited to serving at 25 percent indoor capacity when the rule is 50 percent everywhere else in the state. The danger, the judge claimed, arises when customers “depart to move around the densely populated city, potentially coming into contact with 27,000 individuals within every square mile.” Thanks, your honor, for your mathematical precision.
At stake is the survival of the city’s 25,000 restaurants. Apart from its indispensability to the city’s social and business fabric, the industry provides 350,000 livelihoods. Outdoor service and limited indoor service have brought back about half of the jobs. That number will fall to near-zero if indoor dining is banned in the cold winter months. Midtown will sink deeper into its ghostly malaise; our teetering economy will crumble.
Despite threatening to kill off restaurants, Hizzoner can’t say where the viral-contraction uptick is coming from. Restaurants? Offices? Construction sites? Family gatherings? Frat parties? Visitors from more heavily stricken states?
Restaurants outside the city have operated at 50 percent indoor capacity since early July with no known ill effects. In the 25-percent-limited Big Apple, tables are so far apart at Pastis in the Meatpacking District and the Milling Room on the Upper West Side that patrons can feel lonely.
Much of the indoor-eating terror stems from a single instance last winter when several families seated far apart were infected at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China. The New York Times and other media organs published scary diagrams that purported to show how it happened — with the implicit warning that it could happen at our neighborhood Applebee’s, as well.
But it turned out that the bug was spread not by the unprompted, casual drift of virus “aerosols” far and wide, but by a broken air-conditioner blowing in the wrong direction. Is that likely to occur here, where a dozen city and state agencies hover over every perceived violation?
In September, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the holy grail to shutdown advocates, said that a high percentage of COVID-19 victims reported having “eaten in a restaurant” within two weeks prior to symptoms. Aha!
But that’s as instructive as saying that most people who ate in a restaurant . . . ate in a restaurant. Won’t most people, even the poorest, have been to at least one eating place of some kind at least once in two weeks? Fast-serve diners, McDonald’s, Arby’s and pizza joints are all restaurants.
The report’s full of mumbo-jumbo like, “unconditional logistic regression models with generalized estimating equations with exchangeable correlation structure correcting standard error estimates for site-level clustering” — but void of common sense. It included both indoor and outdoor dining, illustrating how mushy the findings are.
The media practices a more insidious conflation — of restaurants and bars, which are different things. We don’t know how many CDC respondents “dined” at places such as The Pickled Loon in St. Cloud, Minn., which was linked to 50 cases. The Times called it a “restaurant.” In fact, it includes a restaurant, but it’s a two-level party venue with live music, deejays, a dance floor and “drinks you won’t find anywhere else,” its website said.
Gov. Cuomo showed rare sense last week when he allowed shuttered places in several Brooklyn “hot” zones to resume 25 percent indoor dining, a surprising step that might bode well for his notion to allow 50 percent one day soon.
But de Blasio would just as soon pull the plug for good — just as his ruinous mismanagement of everything else has brought the town to its knees.
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