For months the city had kept the virus relatively contained. But a rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations has prompted tighter restrictions, including a 10:00 p.m. curfew for bars, restaurants and gyms. 

In an exclusive interview, Eric Cioe-Peña, the director of global health at Northwell Health, clarified why certain indoor spaces are being targeted for curfews and restrictions.

He said it's because eating and drinking at bars and restaurants requires mask removal, compared to places like grocery and convenience stores where people pass each other quickly with masks on, and without sustained contact.

“We’re seeing a lot of the spread of this virus happening from these indoor congregate spaces,” said Cioe-Peña.

“It’s all about having your mask down for a period of time, and then also lingering in the space,” he said.

Cioe-Peña said the restrictions are an effective way to contain the spread without shutting New York City down.

“We can’t let our guard down. This feels like it’s spiraling out of control, but it’s act not. We have the ability, by wearing a mask, by staying outdoors as much as possible, and staying away from people indoors who we don’t live with, to break the cycle of this virus and return it down to minimal transmission. We really do have that within our power today in November,” he said.

Cioe-Peña said when a vaccine is ready it will still take months to be distributed to states and health care systems, but noted that the city is ready and prepared to vaccinate when it becomes available.

"We're ready. And we have the ability to vaccinate. We vaccinate our entire workforce for flu every year. We vaccinate a lot of New York for the flu every year. So we have the mechanism in place to do it. But getting it distributed and engaging in such a wide spread campaign is certainly an endeavor and we have a lot of people looking at how to do that and how to do that smartly where we prioritize those in highest need,” he said.

New York City is up to about 100 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day.