May 3 (UPI) — About 80,000 municipal workers in New York City are allowed to physically return to their offices on Monday, in one of the city’s greatest steps to date in returning to a certain level of prepandemic normalcy.
Many New York City offices have been closed for more than a year, shuttered by restrictions early last year after the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio allowed the return to offices on Monday following the improvement of certain coronavirus data, like vaccinations and the city’s positivity rate, which declined over the weekend to its lowest level (1.49%) since October.
“Every single day, New York State is moving forward in the footrace between the infection rate and the vaccination rate,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Sunday.
“More New Yorkers are getting vaccinated and hospitalizations are declining, which is good news, but we need New Yorkers to stay vigilant to make sure we don’t lose any of the progress we’ve made.”
The city’s move to permit workers to return is a step toward de Blasio’s plan to reopen New York City 100% by July 1.
De Blasio said by that date arenas, gyms, stores, restaurants, hair salons and all other businesses will be allowed to reopen to full capacity. All other economic restrictions related to the pandemic would also be lifted. The plan is subject to approval by state authorities.
“People need to come back because we have work to do, to bring this city back,” de Blasio told WNYC Radio Friday.
“Positivity level … plummeting, hospital admissions plummeting, the hospitalization rate is now at 2 per 100,000. That means we are at the threshold now that we’ve been trying to get to.”
Some employees are concerned, however, that Monday’s return might be premature.
Hundreds demonstrated in New York City over the weekend against the plan to allow workers to return to their offices. The group said they want the return delayed until September.
The group of demonstrators said they want a a permanent telework policy, exemptions and accommodations policies that “err on the side of safety” and “transparency around the physical upgrades and policies related to offices.”
They also asked for resources to support workers who have already returned to a physical workplace.