‘We need local control’: De Blasio blasts Cuomo over lifting COVID-19 restrictions

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NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo Thursday over his recent announcement of lifting certain COVID-19 restrictions without consulting city officials.

The governor announced Wednesday indoor fitness classes and boutiques, primarily in New York CIty, would reopen beginning March 22.

“It sure as hell looks like a lot of these decisions are being made by the governor because of his political needs,” De Blasio said at his morning news conference.

This was in response to Gov. Cuomo declaring that all group fitness classes statewide could resume at one-third capacity on the 22nd, without consulting city health leaders, who are against the measure.

“This is an area where we’ve expressed concerns,” said Dr. Dave Chokshi, the New York City health commissioner, “particularly because it’s an activity that combines being indoors, being in groups, and not being able to easily and consistently wear masks that don’t get wet.”  

Both the commissioner and the mayor said that the city will comply, and will encourage that all precautions be followed.  

Noam Tamir, owner of TS Fitness, a specialized gym on the Upper East Side, said that his facility has sanitized beyond levels required by the city and state long before the new order.

Before being allowed entry into the gym, each customer has to positively answer a list of health questions, and have a temperature check, and must sanitize hands.  

Once inside, Tamir said, all surfaces are wiped down between each workout. Those workouts have been one-on-one or virtual since last year, with no health emergencies.

With the new group fitness availability, Tamir said, precautions at his facility are not a problem.

“At one point,” before the pandemic began, he said, “we were putting 18 people in here. So fitting six is going to be no problem.”

He also said that since every client registers online for classes at his facility, it’s easy to trace each one, in the event there is an issue.  

He also pointed out that gyms had been completely shut down last spring, but reopened safely months later.

“Give us the opportunity to prove ourselves, once again,” he said.  

Also on Thursday, Gov. Cuomo hosted Yankees veteran C.C. Sabathia, and Mets and Yankees veteran Al Leiter, as well as the teams’ top brass, to announce that the teams’ home fields could host larger crowds than the state had originally specified. 

“We’re going to now move forward April 1,” the governor said in a late morning briefing from Albany.  “Sports venues with 1,500 plus indoor, or 2,500 plus outdoor capacity, indoor will do 10% capacity, outdoor will do 20% capacity.” 

It translates into significant numbers of fans allowed at the city’s major league ballparks.

“That means Citi Field 8,384 fans,” said Cuomo. “Yankee Stadium, 10,850 fans. The crowd makes the ballgame.”

On Thursday as well, the city council said it’s stepping in to help make getting vaccination appointments easier.

New legislation, introduced by Health Committee Chair Mark Levine, requires the city’s website for vaccine appointments to be a clearinghouse for all available appointments and locations.  He said that currently, New York City residents who are eligible for the vaccine have to access a variety of websites to try and book an appointment.

“We’re scheduled to add a lot of people to eligibility in the coming weeks,” Levine said in an interview.  “That is going to lead to a crush on our scheduling systems. So we want to work this out now.”

However, Mayor de Blasio said it was “troubling” that the governor did not consult city officials while making coronavirus decisions. 

“This is why we need local control,” de Blasio said.

The mayor also questioned whether Cuomo’s decision was based off of the data and science or whether it was done for political reasons as he faces sexual harassment allegations from several women and calls to resign by many lawmakers.

When asked whether or not the city has the authority to prevent these fitness boutiques from reopening, the mayor said the state seized local control at the beginning of the crisis and it has not been restored.

“It’s not right. This is a decision that should’ve either been made carefully in consultation with the health leadership for New York City or should’ve been one where the state deferred to New York City,” de Blasio said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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