Twenty-five percent of all COVID fatalities in New York City now comes from Staten Island, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday, even as the borough’s residents make up just 5 percent of New York City’s population. “Staten Island has a 40 percent higher death rate than the Bronx, than Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan,” the New York governor, baffled, said during a daily press briefing.
The borough “went from the lowest death rate to the highest death rate in the city,” Cuomo said, a “devastating reality” he attributed to “elected officials” on Staten Island who have openly flouted coronavirus restrictions that the governor imposed due to rising virus cases. “More people have died on Staten Island; more people are dying on Staten Island. That’s what this movement on Staten Island has done,” he said, referencing the hundreds of protesters, many without masks, who rallied outside Mac’s Public House, a bar on the island, after one of its proprietors was arrested for defying shutdown rules last week.
Prior to the arrest, Mac’s declared itself an “autonomous zone” that would defy any “rules and regulations” issued by Cuomo or Mayor Bill de Blasio. As a bar located in an orange zone, Mac’s Public House was only allowed to offer outdoor dining with a maximum of four people per table, but the pub continued to serve customers inside — which is prohibited in areas that Cuomo’s office has declared as orange or red zones — and stayed open past the governor’s 10 p.m. curfew. When the State Liquor Authority suspended the bar’s liquor license, Mac’s began serving food and alcohol for free, asking customers for a suggested donation in an attempt to evade the law. Daniel Presti, the bar’s manager, reportedly asked the New York City sheriff to “stop oppressing citizens” and, on Sunday, was accused of hitting a sheriff’s deputy with his car as he attempted to resist arrest for a second time.
Despite high infection rates across Staten Island, schools in the borough’s orange zone reopened for in-person learning on Wednesday. New safety protocols are in place, such as requiring parents to fill out consent forms for their children to get tested weekly. Restaurants in Staten Island’s orange zone are still closed for indoor dining, however, and a citywide indoor-dining ban looms. “If the hospitalization rate doesn’t stabilize in New York City, we’re going to close indoor dining,” Cuomo said on Monday, noting he would wait five days before making the call. In the past week, New York City reported at least 1,051 hospitalizations and 109 deaths, both of which are trending upward. The nation’s largest city has averaged 3,269 cases per day over the past week, according to the New York Times, a 76 percent increase from the average two weeks ago.
This post has been updated to reflect that indoor dining is not allowed in orange and red zones.