The real reopening begins in New York City


New York City is entering the second phase of reopening on Monday, which in many ways marks the real beginning of the new normal in the former epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, which is continuing to spread at record levels in states like Florida and South Carolina.

Outdoor dining, barbershops, in-store retail and real estate showings are starting up again as the state nears the halfway mark of the four-step reopening process (here’s a guide)Hundreds of thousands of office workers are resuming their commute. It also marks the end of the many types of public shaming directed at people who flouted social distancing restrictions.

People eating on sidewalks are going to be avoiding a lot of dirty looks – assuming they are adhering to remaining public health rules. Haircuts are no longer products of the black market. Many of the struggling small businesses that defied shutdown orders will no longer have their businesses associated with controversy.

That does not mean an end to public shaming once Phase Two begins. The risk of a second wave of infections in the state is real and that means maskless people, for example, will still face social ostracism. Ditto with the sidewalk gallivanters outside bars and restaurants who have been labeled “Covidiots.” Gatherings of more than 10 people are still officially off-limits. 

Yet, at the same time, the second phase will be a marked change for millions of New Yorkers who have been largely cooped up inside for months. They can shop. They can check out a new apartment in person.  They can even brunch once more, albeit in groups of six or less. This could make a big difference in limiting just how many businesses can survive the ongoing economic crisis. “We have been waiting and waiting and waiting,” said Giselle Deiaco, a co-owner of a Manhattan Italian restaurant, told The Wall Street Journal. “I feel like people are thirsty for life.”

Allowing construction and manufacturing to get back to business was just not as big of a deal for millions of people in New York City. Yes, the city is still behind Long Island and the Mid-Hudson, which will join the rest of the state in Phase Three of the reopening process this week, but on Monday, people the Big Apple will finally offer a taste of life in the new normal.