NYC emerges from coronavirus lockdown and begins phase one of reopening


New York City is shaking off the coronavirus cobwebs.

Some 100 days after the first case was confirmed and went on to claim nearly 22,000 lives, phase one of Gotham’s grand reopening got underway Monday.

Nearly 400,000 workers were expected to begin returning to retail stores, factories and dormant construction sites as part of the state’s plan to get the mighty economic giant moving again.

“This is a triumphant moment for New Yorkers who fought back against this disease,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We were the epicenter and we got here only because New Yorkers went the extra mile.”

Just as they did after the 9/11 attacks, the workforce is returning to a city transformed.

More than 205,000 New Yorkers were infected and to prevent the virus from spreading much of the city was ordered to shelter in place.

Now, retail stores starved for business will only be offering curbside or in-store pickup. The days when a shopper could casually browse through a store will remain a memory for now.

Among the stores that are re-opening is Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, the site of some sporadic looting during the days of rage that swept through New York City and the nation following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

Subway commuters will be met by school safety agents who have been deployed to the busiest stations to hand out face masks and to remind people to try and keep their distance from one another.

“We still need to have New Yorkers wearing face masks consistently,” said Dr.Oxiris Barbot, the New York City health commissioner.

De Blasio said the role of the safety agents will be to provide “education” and that the NYPD will not be enforcing social distancing or demanding that people wear masks.

Construction workers will be wearing face masks in addition to hard hats and working six feet apart whenever possible.

“Construction is part of the foundation of New York City and will be crucial to our economic recovery,’ Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress trade group, said earlier. “The health of our workforce is paramount, and as all sites reopen across the five boroughs, it is essential that they operate in a safe manner.”

New York City is still way behind the rest of the state, which has already moved on to phase two which means most stores, hail salons and offices have reopened, although with restrictions on capacity and social distancing requirements in place.

And the city faces the daunting task of replacing the 885,000 jobs that were lost when it went on lockdown and a $9 billion budget shortfall over the next year.

And while the Floyd demonstrations were largely peaceful, hundreds of stores across the city were damaged by looters and will remain closed Monday, especially some of the high-end stores in Manhattan which remain boarded-up with plywood.

“That was just criminality,” de Blasio said. “We have to keep this city safe.”