Coronavirus Fight: California, New York Governors Call for Bars to Close

Gavin Newsom and Andrew Cuomo ramp up social distancing tactics as pandemic deepens

California Governor Gavin Newsom
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday called on bars and restaurants in their states to ramp up social distancing tactics to prevent spread of the coronavirus, asking them to reduce capacity or close outright.

On Sunday, Newsom called for the closure of all bars, nightclubs, wineries and brewpubs in the state while advising restaurants to reduce maximum capacity by at least 50% and separate tables by at least six feet. He also strongly advised all seniors age 65 and over as well as those with chronic health conditions to stay home as they are especially vulnerable to the spreading virus.

“We recognize that social isolation for millions of Californians is anxiety-inducing but we recognize what all the science bears out and … we need to meet this moment head-on and lean in,” Newsom said.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has asked bars and restaurants in New York to voluntarily close after pictures and videos appeared on social media of heavily populated public spaces in New York City on Saturday. Cuomo is among dozens of New York politicians, including Queens-based U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have urged people to stay home.

“Voluntarily close down. Voluntarily close down your bar, your restaurant, your gymnasium,” Cuomo said. “At one point, people actually react reasonably and responsibly. People say, ‘You know, I’m not gonna go into a bar with 100 other people bumping up against me because it’s too high a risk to have a martini. I can have a martini at home.’”

No U.S. state has yet mandated a full lockdown in the same vein as countries like China, Italy and France, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top immunologist for the National Institutes of Health, said that he considers such a lockdown to be a possibility if the virus doesn’t show any sign of containment in the coming days. If the virus’ spread continues, the volume of infected patients could overwhelm the ability of medical facilities to treat them, as has been the case in Italy.

“If you are in an area where there is clearer community spread, you have to be much, much more intense about how you do that,” Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “When you think you are doing too much, you are probably doing enough, or not enough.”

Businesses ranging from cafes to movie theaters have made adjustments to stay open in the face of the virus. Major theater chains like AMC have announced that they will reduce the number of tickets sold in each auditorium by 50% to allow spacing between moviegoers. Starbucks has ordered its locations to remove all seating and to only serve food and drink to go, while locations in malls, college campuses and other high-density areas will be closed.

As of Sunday, 335 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in California with six deaths, while 525 cases have been confirmed in New York with two deaths. Over 3,200 confirmed cases have been reported throughout the U.S. with 62 deaths, though the true number of Americans infected is believed to be far greater due to the lack of widespread testing of the virus and the unknown extent of how far the virus has spread by person-to-person transmission in communities.