Mayor Bill de Blasio has predicted gyms and restaurants offering indoor dining will close in “the next week or two,” even as the city’s positivity rate hovers at three percent and deaths have stayed at pandemic-era lows.

De Blasio presented the news that more businesses would be forced to close in the coming weeks as somehow reassuring during a press conference on Thursday, a day after announcing NYC schools would shut their doors indefinitely.

For everyone who honestly might feel somehow a little better if they knew that indoor dining was going to be closed, or gyms were going to be closed, I’m sorry to tell you that for the sake of those business owners and everyone who loves those gyms and loves indoor dining, it’s just a matter of time,” he said.

The city’s seven-day average case positive rate hit three percent on Wednesday, triggering the closure of public schools even though the positivity rate among students and staff was 0.17 percent. The three percent threshold is considerably below New York state Governor Cuomo’s nine percent cutoff for closing public schools, and de Blasio has admitted the rate of infection in the schools is much lower than his administration expected. 

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NYC schools to close ‘indefinitely’ as city’s weekly Covid-19 positive rate reaches 3%

Nevertheless, he refused to budge on the decision to close schools, even as outraged parents pointed to bars, restaurants, and gyms as the source of the spread. That reaction likely contributed to de Blasio’s threat to close those venues too. Bars, restaurants that serve alcohol, and gyms have already been slapped with a 10pm curfew.

Despite the slight uptick in positive Covid-19 tests, however, the city has not experienced a noticeable increase in deaths. While hospitalizations have increased slightly, they remain far below crisis levels and nowhere near where they were in spring, during the height of the pandemic. These statistics raise the question of whether the economic carnage that would come with shutting down gyms and restaurants once again is justified.

Those casting doubt on the much-feared “second wave” have long highlighted the disparity between the rise in case numbers and the lack of a corresponding rise in deaths, dismissing the surge as a mere “casedemic.” The New York Times acknowledged back in August that the majority of “positive” Covid-19 tests come from individuals who have such low levels of virus in their bodies that they are unlikely to experience symptoms themselves, let alone spread the much-feared virus to others.

The problems with testing have been forced into the public eye more recently, as Tesla tycoon Elon Musk reported being tested four times with the supposedly gold-standard PCR method and coming up positive twice – and negative twice. Singer Erykah Badu had a similar problem ahead of a planned concert, finding she tested positive for the virus in one nostril and negative in the other.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of businesses in New York have closed, thanks to months of economic shutdowns. By May, 100,000 of the state’s small businesses had closed permanently, and the number has no doubt skyrocketed since then. The problem is nationwide – 60 percent of all businesses listed on review site Yelp that closed for the pandemic had shut their doors permanently by September, while 7.5 million were already deemed at risk of going under for good in April.

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