‘Social Distancing’ is Crucial to Slowing the Spread of the Coronavirus; Some Upper West Siders Were Called Out for Close Contact

Photos taken on Friday night of crowds of people dining and dancing on the Upper West Side have raised concerns that New Yorkers are not taking enough precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

It was a warm night and New York Times reporter Katie Rosman wrote that “every restaurant I saw was busy, inside and out.” Her photos show packed restaurants and a dance studio.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people and said that restaurants and bars would have to cut their maximum occupancy by half. The goal is to make sure that patrons don’t come within six feet of each other. Even if people don’t feel or appear sick at the moment, they can be carrying the virus — and infect others who may be more vulnerable.

If New Yorkers stay away from crowded public spaces we are more likely to slow the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve” of infection so New York’s hospital resources aren’t strained beyond capacity. Officials want to avoid the kind of high death rate that’s being seen now in Italy. Many New Yorkers and people in other states have stayed home in recent days, and institutions from museums to libraries are closed.

But others have continued going out. One person who responded to Rosman on Twitter wrote that they felt an urge to support small businesses in the city, which are hurting now.

Several others, however, criticized the decision to remain in such close contact. “This is so selfish,” wrote one person.

Another called on the mayor and governor to “make social distancing mandatory. Nobody wants to be cooped up, but how many people will die if we don’t do it?”

“Too many New Yorkers behaving like this isn’t a thing,” wrote another.

Local Councilmember Mark Levine also raised concerns about social distancing on Saturday and said it appears that too many people continue to gather close together.

(Our aim is not to shame these people in the photos. It’s worth noting that the governor’s order went out at 5 p.m. on Friday, there hadn’t been much guidance on what social distancing meant when these pictures were taken, and it’s not clear that the space between the tables in these restaurants is too short. Rosman also noted that the city is keeping public schools open, which may be sending a mixed message about the seriousness of social distancing. This is not a time to be blaming people for activities, but to spread more education about how to protect all of us. We all need to stop gathering in close quarters now!)

NEWS | 20 comments | permalink
    1. Ann says:

      Because we choose not to live our lives in fear.

      The message then is mixed – isolate but then some support local business?

      If it is the end of the world. Lets have some wine.

      • Uwsider says:

        Ann – I don’t live in fear because I am in my lower 40s and very healthy as is my wife. Our two young kids are probably OK too. We are being responsible and shutting down for the sake of our parents in their late 70s/80s, for the half of my building which are old retirees, and for people with compromised immune systems. Drink wine at home. Save someone’s life.

        • CBUWS says:

          Thank you for your consideration, Uwsider. I’m right there with you. I’m keeping to myself to protect the many retirees in my building and those with compromised systems. And I hope that others are being as considerate around my parents. This is not the time to say “I’ll be fine,” this is the time to think of others who might not be.

        • kaylord says:

          Exactly! Thank you.

        • Joan says:

          I am a senior and much appreciate your consideration for those of us over 65 or with weakened immune systems. I believe you are doing the right thing.

      • Healthy 40 year old says:

        Ann: think of others and drink wine at home!!

    2. Uwsider says:

      Social outrage isn’t going to do it. If the bars need to be closed then De Blasio needs to order it. I know it will cause hardship for small business and I assume that’s why he isn’t doing it. But massive deaths will be worse. Yet another example that De Blasio is the local version of Trump’s national level failure of leadership. Close the schools (which are de facto closed Monday as almost no kids or staff will be there) and close the bars. We will get through this if we are smart. Not if we are idiots.

    3. Jean Hill says:

      It is now reported that the first case of Covid-19 in China was Nov 17th. The virus has been here for quite awhile. How many people do you know that had the flu this year but tested negative?

      If in fact many of us have been exposed that would be a good thing as it will eventually create a herd immunity and actually protect the most vulnerable.

      Before bars and restaurants are closed, Citibikes should immediately be banned. The virus has now been reported to be persistent on surfaces such as plastic and steel making people coughing, breathing heavily, sneezing and sweating all over citibikes a perfect transmission vehicle especially as they are rebalanced all over the city and in effect spreading the virus.

      Meanwhile some good news:

      • LizES10024 says:

        You said this was “good news”. But did you actually read the whole article?? Further down, Levitt says, “China did great work and managed to gain complete control of the virus. Currently, I am most worried about the U.S. It must isolate as many people as possible to buy time for preparations. Otherwise, it can end up in a situation where 20,000 infected people will descend on the nearest hospital at the same time and the healthcare system will collapse.”

    4. SLJ says:

      Restaurants would be wise to self regulate, close early and move to a takeout only operation. Yes, this is going to hurt people, but it will save lives, and we are going to be doing what we can to revitalize these businesses once this is over. But we can only do that by reducing damage now.

      Once people start drinking they become more careless, less worried, less attentive to touching their face and distancing themselves. The young, healthy people, like myself, are the ones who will make or break the path of this virus and what happens to our older neighbors, parents, grandparents and the immunocompromised. It does not matter if you don’t think you will get that sick — which you very well could — but you WILL play a role in passing this on to those who cannot fight it, the overrunning of hospitals, getting much needed health care workers sick, etc.

      This coming week is really our last chance to slow this thing down. If it works it will look like we overreacted, that’s the unlikely goal. Over the next two weeks it will also be painfully obvious who did and did not take this seriously.

      Do your part to protect the vulnerable. Don’t be selfish. And spread the word.

    5. Sarah says:

      One way to support local businesses without putting yourself and others at risk is to buy gift certificates to use when this all calms down. If everyone bought a weekly $50 gc to their favorite restaurant and then stayed home, we could reduce the spread of the disease and ensure our favorite establishments don’t suffer.

      PS to those saying it’s the end of the world, that’s only if we cause it to be. Our choices and actions now will have a SIGNIFICANT OUTCOME over how this goes.

      • NYYgirl says:

        I like the gift card idea a lot, seems like a win-win. Now let’s hope that these small businesses will survive so we can use those cards!

    6. B flat says:

      Paris had the same issue, people want to enjoy the spring weather and socialize. Paris had to shut down all non-technical businesses like cafes, etc.We may need to do the same, and soon.
      Also,crowded supermarket aisles. I see people shopping in groups or pairs that aren’t necessary and add to the crowding.

    7. Anne Livingston says:

      This is all ridiculous. YES, if you are elderly, have chronic illness, or are in contact within a household having these individuals, then YES, stay home!! BUT otherwise this is absurd. The economic fallout from cutting off local businesses is REAL and is a TRUE potentially devastating situation. And when people get evicted, lose their jobs, health insurance, etc, there are REAL health consequences to that. And , yes, as a matter fact of fact I AM an MD, and I AM over 60, and I had lunch out today. And I work in a busy trauma department, and I will likely be just be fine, even if I get sick. This isn’t polio or smallpox.

      • UwsGuy says:

        While it’s important to be prudent and take precautions around informed elderly folks, Anne L. Is correct. What about all my low import fixed income folks who don’t have money to horde st Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods? And who do you think is going to prepare all these meals and deliver them to your self righteous households?
        Any mandatory closures besides the major ones already closed should re,win open on a limited schedule. Btw how many of you had the flu shot?

      • Jessica says:

        Anne, You are a COVID-19 vector, a living petri dish. We all are, whether we’re showing signs of the disease or not. Leave the science to the people studying this, and stay home as you’ve been asked. Vox has a graph that’s been circulated widely on how you staying home keeps other people safe. Flatten the curve. Don’t wait for the government to force you to.

      • Geno says:

        If you’re actually telling the truth about working in a trauma department, your post is especially idiotic and dangerous. All you need to do is look at what’s happening in Italy. That calamity can be avoided here if social distancing and isolation are widely practiced.

    8. Lawrence B. Ross says:

      This is why the city or state should step in and make mandatory closing of bars and restaurants. Why should the rest of us have to pay for stupidity of those who will not heed what health officials are directing; STAY HOME. These heedless young people will probably not be that impacted if they are infected, but they become vectors and endanger those with compromised immune systems or lung deficiency or older people.
      What are officials waiting for? CA, IL and IN have already banned restaurant and bar gatherings, where is NY?