New York’s mayor has condemned revellers who flouted social distancing restrictions on Saturday night for putting lives in danger.
Officials may shut down establishments that break distancing rules, Bill de Blasio said.
City bars and restaurants have been restricted to takeout and delivery services 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,” Mr De Blasio said. “If we have to shut places down, we will.”
After a rash of violent social distancing arrests involving people of colour, the city this week eased distancing enforcement by no longer having police break up small groups of people or confront citizens 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 normality after spending most of the last two months cooped up inside.
Parks, boardwalks and beaches attracted big crowds on Saturday, though city beaches are not officially open and will not be for Memorial Day weekend.
Other beaches in the region will be open for the holiday, but Mr De Blasio said opening the city’s strands “is not the right thing to do in the epicentre of this crisis”,
The city’s beaches could be closed off completely to public access if people do not follow social distancing rules, he said. Fences being installed at entrances could be rolled out if beaches — meant now only for nearby residents to exercise — get overcrowded or people violate swimming bans, he said.
Mr De Blasio said beaches could open for wider use some time in the summer, with lifeguard training over the next few weeks for a possible return to duty.
Meanwhile, New York governor Andrew Cuomo underwent a Covid-19 test on live TV as he announced all New Yorkers experiencing flu-like symptoms or other coronavirus signs, such as a dry cough or chest pains, are eligible to be tested along with people returning to work.
The state is expanding eligibility as it deals with a surplus of testing capacity. Drive-thru and walk-in testing sites are performing about one-third of the 15,000 tests they’re capable of each day, Mr Cuomo said.
An agreement with CVS will allow samples to be collected at more than 60 of the chain’s pharmacies across the state, Mr Cuomo said. Testing in New York City is being expanded to 123 CityMD walk-in clinics.