CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Monday he was concerned about plans to further relax indoor restaurant restrictions in New York City and would not hasten plans to reopen his Covid-shuttered Brooklyn restaurant in May.
The restaurants in the city can be occupied from the current 35% to 50% from Friday. The move comes when coronavirus vaccines roll out in the U.S. and some states, like Texas, abandon pandemic-era restrictions on businesses as a whole, including mask mandates.
Cramer recently envisaged reopening in time for Cinco de Mayo after the restaurant was “mothballed” at a quarter capacity indoors in early October due to coronavirus concerns and the difficult economics of operation. Celebrated on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday that marks victory in a key battle against France in 1862.
“We’re staying until May. We want to do everything right,” said Cramer on Monday on Squawk on the Street. “I think a rush to open is a mistake.”
“I just think we don’t know enough yet. We don’t know enough about viral load. We don’t know enough about what the real number should be in a bar,” added Cramer. “I just don’t want to be involved in anything we have so few facts about. But then again, that was the whole state of affairs – how little we really knew.”
According to the CDC, eating indoors increases the risk of covid transmission, especially if tables are not at least 6 feet apart. This resulted in severe restrictions on the food service industry during the pandemic, which resulted in many being permanently closed as making a profit in the low-margin business became even more difficult.
At the start of the pandemic, warmer weather across much of the country allowed for what is considered to be safer outdoor dining. But as winter weather hit the northeast and even parts of the south and southwest that year, outdoor dining became increasingly scarce.
On Friday, restaurants in New York state outside of the city will be 75% busy.
In nearby Connecticut, Democratic Governor Ned Lamont allows restaurants and certain other businesses to return to 100% capacity on Friday. However, social distancing between tables and other precautions such as masks are still required.
Lamont defended the policy adjustment in a CNBC interview last week, citing the current Covid case numbers and high vaccination rates among elderly residents as justification. “The difference between 75% and 100% in a restaurant is very difficult to enforce anyway and we thought, frankly, we currently have a very low infection rate and a lot of capacity in our hospitals,” he said on March 8, which was the time make the change. “
Coronavirus cases in the US have declined dramatically since their peak in January, prompting state and local leaders across the country to relax various restrictions as more Americans are vaccinated. However, the number of new infections is still high and averages over 50,000 per day. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, an average of more than 1,350 people per day still die from the virus for the past seven days.
By Sunday evening, 21% of the US population had received at least one dose of vaccine, including 63.4% of people 65 and over. This is based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 80% of all Covid-related deaths in the US were people 65 and over, CDC data shows.
Senior U.S. health officials including White House Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned against loosening the Covid restrictions too soon.
For example, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott said his state was “100% OPEN” earlier this month with no masks required.
“When I hear myself withdrawing completely from public health measures and stop saying masks, nothing like that, it’s a risky proposition,” Fauci said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
“If you wait a little longer to give the vaccination program a chance to increase protection in the community, withdrawing is a lot less risky,” Fauci added on Fox News Sunday.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect indoor dining capacity in New York City. It is currently limited to 35%.