Mayor De Blasio Details Plan For Phase 1 Reopen, Says Businesses That Jump The Gun Could Face $1,000 Fines

New York City is on pace to start reopening part of its economy during the first or second week of June, the mayor said Thursday.

Phase 1 includes non-essential retail with curbside or in-store pickup only, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, plus agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he expects somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 employees to return to work.

Businesses must follow strict guidelines:

  • Social distancing — Require workers to stay 6 feet apart, reduce capacity to less than 50%, allow only 1 person in confined spaces like elevators and cash registers, and limit in-person meetings
  • Personal protective equipment — Provide employees with face coverings and other equipment free of charge, and require face coverings where employees cannot social distancing
  • Hygiene — Ensure frequent sanitizing of surfaces
  • Health screenings — Take workers’ temperatures or have them fill out questionnaires
  • Communication — Outline distance markers and post reminders of rules

De Blasio said the city will train small business compliance advisors, release industry-specific guides and launch a business restart hotline to answer questions.

Several agencies will help educate businesses on the guidelines, while others conduct random compliance inspections.

The mayor said enforcement will start with a warning, but anyone who refuses to comply will face consequences.

“The goal here is not to fine businesses, is not to shut down businesses, but educate and support businesses. But we’ve got to get it right,” he said. “If a business is having a consistent problem with health and safety, we’re going to give them a chance to correct it. But we’re not going to wait forever, because it is about the health and safety of their employees and then, ultimately, all of us when it comes to stopping the spread of this disease.”

De Blasio was asked about a group of 300 small business owners who plan to reopen early in defiance of the state order.

“Any business that attempts to open that should not yet be open, we’re going to go, we’re going to tell them ‘shut down right now.’ If they shut down, if they don’t attempt to reopen, fine,” he said. “If they attempt to stay open, if they ignore the instructions… That starts with a $1,000 fine, and we will keep escalating from there.

“The bottom line is you don’t get to jump the gun,” he added. “We’re talking about Phase 1 beginning in a week or two at this point. I don’t think it’s too much for people to be asked to wait until they get the all clear to do the thing that’s safe, to do the thing that’s healthy, because these numbers are about human lives.”

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The mayor also said schools and child care will be key to reopening more industries down the line, so workers have someone to watch their kids.

“We are doing work every single day, and I’ve said it really clearly — It’s going to be a Plan A to reopen school as normal, but with lots of other alternative plans depending on what the health care situation is. There will be a Plan B, C, D, I assure you,” he said. “We are adamant, though, we want to work with the hope that we can get as close to a normal school reopening as possible for Sept. 10.”

Another major factor on many people’s minds is how they will commute into the city.

“We are a mass transit city. We have to become more of a mass transit city in the future. But for the next few months, people are going to make their own choices. Some people are going to be comfortable on mass transit, some are not. We just have to be honest and real about that,” de Blasio said.

He said the MTA has made progress with overnight cleaning and has been able to increase frequency as more workers recover from COVID-19, but the next step will be figuring out how to limit the number of people on subways and buses.

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