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In N.Y.C., Dining Remains Outdoors Only for Now

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It’s Thursday. We’re off tomorrow for Independence Day, but we’ll be back on Monday.

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Credit...Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

While New York City residents can expect to once again enjoy manicures and tattoos beginning Monday, they won’t be able to dine inside a restaurant just yet.

Dine-in services were initially meant to resume next week as part of Phase 3 of the state reopening. That all changed on Wednesday when Mayor Bill de Blasio halted the plan for an indefinite period, in response to reports of recent increases in coronavirus infections in other states. The mayor’s action came just days after Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey made a similar decision to halt indoor dining, which had been scheduled to start in the state on Thursday.

Indoor dining, with limited capacity, is already allowed elsewhere in New York State.

But Mr. de Blasio expressed reservations. “Indoors is the problem more and more,” he said at a news briefing. “The news we have gotten from around the country gets worse and worse.”

[Read more: N.Y. Officials Halt Indoor Dining, Alarmed by Virus Rise in Other States.]

The news came as no surprise. Earlier this week, both the mayor and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo expressed reservations over the city’s resuming dine-in services.

They said New York City, once the nation’s coronavirus epicenter, warrants extra safety precautions. As of now, the mayor is working with the state to figure out how best to determine when to allow indoor dining at restaurants.

The city will be eligible to enter Phase 4, the final phase of the reopening plan, on July 20, if virus numbers do not rise significantly. Seven upstate regions have already reached Phase 4, during which film production, higher education institutions, botanical gardens, and low-risk art and entertainment activities, such as museums, can reopen. Professional sports events without in-person fans will also be allowed. Movie theaters, shopping malls and fitness centers will remain closed.

Less than a week ago, Mr. de Blasio said he was optimistic about dine-in services. But the mayor began having second thoughts after seeing mounting evidence about the risks indoor spaces pose, especially poorly ventilated, cramped or even air-conditioned ones.

Instead, Mr. de Blasio said, “It is time to double down on outdoor dining.” He noted that more than 6,600 restaurants had plans to offer outdoor seating this summer, but some restaurant industry leaders were still concerned about how the restriction would affect business.

Pete Wells, the restaurant critic for The Times, said some restaurant owners had already made plans for hiring people and purchasing inventory in anticipation of Phase 3. “Restaurateurs have learned to live with uncertainty about what the virus will do,” he said. “But it’s harder for them to cope with uncertainty about what the government will do.”

“Of course, in the long run, they’re better off than if they’d actually reopened and then had to shut down again two or three weeks from now,” he said. “But it’s still tough for them. They’re making so little now that every lost dollar is magnified.”

While food lovers might not be able to dine indoors at restaurants, more outdoor activities are resuming. Starting Wednesday, beachgoers will be allowed to swim at city beaches.

A Brooklyn rowhouse that once housed slavery abolitionists could become a landmark. [amNY]

Though this isn’t the grand opening that new restaurants imagined, here’s a list of spots across the city that have recently open their doors for the first time. [Eater NY]

Melissa Clark writes:

We were determined to find a way to entertain safely — and in person.

Although most experts agree that the chances of catching the coronavirus from touching objects is low, studies have shown that, under ideal conditions, the virus can live on a surface for up to 72 hours. Quarantining the items for three days and unpacking them with gloved hands would lower the risk to a point acceptable to everyone in attendance.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

The first step was to quarantine the tableware.

I put a set of plates, silverware, glasses and napkins on a separate tray for each group, then wrapped each tray in a bag. I also wrapped up cans of seltzer and individual bags of fancy potato chips.

Just be wary of garnishes and condiments; the fewer, the better. If you can’t imagine grilling without ketchup, mustard or Sriracha, give each group its own bottle or jar, use gloved hands to put small servings in ramekins or ask people to bring their own condiments. This holds true for things like olive oil, salt and pepper, too. At the very least, be sure to have plenty of serving spoons at the ready, one for each group, as well as paper towels and wipes on hand, so everyone can clean as needed.

A few menu items could be made in advance, and, for those items, we again followed the three-day quarantine rule, leaving everything covered in the fridge and pulling out items with gloved hands only just before serving.

And finally, when it came to pouring wine and batched cocktails, we instructed our guests to leave a glass on a table, then take a few steps back while my husband, Daniel, or I refilled it without touching. The planning took a lot more thought than parties before this new normal, and we all needed to stick to a conscious choreography to make sure we kept our distance.

When our friends showed up, it was hard at first to remember every rule, and it felt downright strange not to hug and kiss hello.

But as everyone settled in, six feet apart, wine glasses in hand, we gradually eased out of the awkwardness and remembered what it was like to eat and drink with loved ones on a warm summer night. That feeling, it turns out, hadn’t changed a bit.

It’s Thursday — keep your distance.

Dear Diary:

It was December 2018, and I was walking through Bedford-Stuyvesant after a job interview when my phone rang.

It was a man from the company where I had just interviewed. He asked if could update my résumé. The layout was wrong and some of the text I had included as part of my profile was superfluous, he said.

I didn’t have a computer and hadn’t even found an apartment yet, and he needed a final draft within the hour.

Desperate, I entered the public library on Franklin Avenue near Hancock Street.

The woman at the front desk said that I couldn’t use the computers without a library card and that I couldn’t apply for a card without an address. When I explained the dire nature of my situation, she stood up from her computer.

“Use mine,” she said.

As she and the people who were lined up waiting to check out books were cheering me on and offering to review my work, I edited the document and fired it off.

Nine months later, I was working in my dream job.

— Sam van Roon

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