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Packed outdoor bars blamed for NYC’s coronavirus spike among young adults

Young, upwardly-mobile New Yorkers who flooded the city’s restaurants and bars last month — not those who attended weeks of massive anti-police protests — are responsible for the spike in coronavirus cases among 20- to 29-year-olds, a city health official insisted Tuesday.

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“This isn’t directly related to any one event, but more a combination of increasing social mobility,” Dr. Jay Varma, Mayor de Blasio’s senior advisor for public health, said at a briefing for reporters.

“We fully expect as people spend more time around other people that there is a risk that they will acquire infection. If you go out and look around the city people who are younger are going to be those most likely to go to say bars and restaurants, or have private gatherings, other types of activities or events,” Varma said.

The State Liquor Authority shut the famed White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village last week for “numerous” violations of coronavirus social-distancing rules.

And on Monday, de Blasio flagged the “worrisome” trend of rising COVID-19 infection rates for twenty-somethings.

“We’re seeing cases in parts of Manhattan in parts of Brooklyn among that age group that doesn’t exactly overlay with our poverty and racial disparities,” Varma said Tuesday.

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During the height of the pandemic, poor, elderly minorities in Queens and The Bronx were among the hardest hit.


Women drinking cocktails at Da Capo cafe, on Columbus Avenue in NYC.

Robert Miller



People drinking outside in Manhattan.

Christopher Sadowski

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A bartender pours a beer for a customer at Shade Bar NYC in New York.


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Even though thousands of anti-cop protesters — spurred by the death of George Floyd — were largely concentrated in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Varma dismissed any connection between the mass, miles-long demonstrations in June and the surge in cases among young adults that month.

“There’s nothing that we can see that directly links the protests to the rise that we’re seeing right now among younger people,” Varma said.

“If you look at the time period in which the protests were most active and intense we didn’t see a similar increase occurring around that time, it occurred a little bit later in the month. It certainly suggests the protests weren’t a direct cause,” Varma said.

In mid-June, 20- to 29-year-olds had a rate of close to 20 cases per 100,000 people living in the Big Apple. By the end of the month that rate had nearly doubled, according to city data.

When pressed about the five- to 14-day incubation period for the disease Varma admitted, “There’s a lot we don’t know.”

“It is certainly possible that people who were out and about in protests might have acquired an infection there, but it’s also certainly possible that they might have acquired it in any number of other places as well,” he said.

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