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After Pandemic Pause NYC Health Dept. Shutdowns Restaurants

A Queens bakery infested with flies. Roaches swarming a Brooklyn pizzeria. Mice crawling around a Burger King in Staten Island.

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NEW YORK, NY — A Queens bakery infested with flies. Roaches swarming a Brooklyn pizzeria. Mice crawling around a Burger King in Staten Island.

All those restaurants are among 65 eateries closed by New York City inspectors for health violations since August, according to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene records.

The recent closures returned the city to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels of restaurant health inspections, which effectively paused between March 2020 and July this year. Inspections also ramped up as city officials began enforcement Monday on the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for indoor dining.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week that city officials hope fines for proof of vaccination violations remain rare. Restaurants that address and fix problems likely won’t be fined, he said.

“Our goal is not to fine, our goal is just to fix a problem,” he said.

But many restaurateurs, even those who support the vaccine mandate, are concerned proof of vaccination enforcement will only add to the long list of health and safety inspections they already face.

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Health officials haven’t yet released data on any restaurant vaccine mandate violations

Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said there are signs most restaurants are complying. But an Inside Edition investigation this week found the staff at only four out of 15 restaurants had asked its reporters for proof of vaccination.

Thirteen city agencies will be conducting the proof of vaccination inspections.

Meanwhile, the health department has significantly increased its routine inspections — and actions and closures of — restaurants.

There were nearly 13,000 health department actions in restaurants during February 2020, records show. Those dropped by half in March 2020 as the city went into COVID-19 lockdown.

They stopped altogether in April 2020, according to records.

Only a handful of actions were taken until July this year, when they numbered 4,005, records show. They reached more than 10,000 in August

 

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