New Yorkers weary of coronavirus restrictions are paying hundreds of dollars for boozy boat parties on the Hudson River, complete with hot tubs, despite rocketing cases in the city.
The high-risk party people are splashing out for BYOB cruises, bringing coolers filled with beer and wine to drink whilst they sail past The Statue of Liberty, with tours ‘sold out’ in November and bookings still coming in.
But while the owner insists that the cruises are COVID-safe, they may be in violation of New York’s social distancing guidelines.
On Friday the NYC department of health registered 3313 new COVID cases, and 29 deaths. The seven-day average for cases is now the highest it has been since April.
The hot tub boat tours are run by water sports company Sea the City.
The extra-wide aluminum catamaran was custom-built by a company in Albany and features two 600-gallon tubs. They feature bathrooms and changing rooms on board.
Prices start at $349 for two people on weekdays, or $1,800 for the entire boat on a weekend.
Social media marketer Jackie Chamberlain posted this photo of herself and six friends on one of the cruises on October 31
Social media manager Jacqui Wimberly, 30, took a nighttime cruise with her husband and three girlfriends who are in their ‘quarantine pod’ and posted photos on Instagram saying it was ‘Covid safe!’
Jet Ski & Hot Tub Boat Tour operator Sea the City, a large catamaran with two hot tubs on board, say they ‘fell backwards into roses’ and were sold out in November
Owner Adam Schwartz launched the boat in September and said it was an immediate hit.
‘We fell backwards into roses,’ Schwartz told The New York Post.
‘We sold out in November and still have tours going out every day even though it’s getting colder.’
Schwartz insists the venture is COVID safe, saying his staff, which includes two supervisors and a captain, all wear masks and wipe down surfaces in bathrooms and changing rooms between each reservation.
Schwartz added: ‘As we got into higher COVID numbers recently, the number of people in the groups have shrunk.’
Jacqui Wimberly and her ‘quarantine pod’ sailed on November 15 and drank spiked seltzers as they watched The Statue of Liberty go by
Sea The City cruises say all staff wear masks and have not tested positive for COVID-19 and that all bathrooms and surfaces are disinfected between reservations
Schwartz insists the venture is COVID safe, saying his his staff, which includes two supervisors and a captain, all wear masks and wipe down surfaces in bathrooms and changing rooms
Business is so good that Schwartz is planning on adding another hot-tub boat to his fleet in Miami.
He insists that so far none of his staff or customers have come down with the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through the water in hot tubs or pools, and chlorine does kill the virus.
But gathering in groups in a hot tub could spread the virus due to lack of effective social distancing, regardless of being outdoors.
Jackie Chamberlain, 26, took a ride with six friends on October 31, after a friend texted her asking if she ‘wanted to hot tub around Manhattan on a boat with Champagne.’
The social media marketer, who wore a white bikini and beanie for the trip, told the Post: ‘I was sold immediately. We got the front tub with amazing views, and the other tub had a couple in it that were on a date.’
Jacqui Wimberly, 30, took a ride with her husband and ‘quarantine pod’ of three girlfriends on November 15, paying around $100 each for a 90-min spin.
The PR manager said: ‘We did a nighttime cruise, and we bundled up until it was time to jump in the tubs.’
‘My pod goes to the park and we play games, but this was by far the most fun thing we’ve done’, the South Street Seaport resident added.
She later posted on Instagram that it was ‘Covid safe!’.
The boat trips come despite increased COVID restrictions in New York City.
On Monday indoor dining in the city will close due to rising infections and deaths from COVID-19.
An empty restaurant stands in Brooklyn on December 9 in New York City. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo is closing indoor dining on Monday due to rising infections
The decision serves as a death warrant for many small, independently owned restaurants which have struggled to stay afloat in New York City through months of closures, punitive restrictions and with no stimulus money since April.
Cuomo said on Friday that he isn’t opposed to giving out state relief but that he was going to wait and see if the federal government provide stimulus first.
The infection rate in New York City is 4 percent – much lower than in other parts of the state – and it varies drastically by borough. Manhattan’s infection rate is lower than six percent but Staten Island’s is nearly double and a quarter of all of the statewide deaths (26 out of 96) on Thursday were there.
Despite the gross disparity, Cuomo said indoor dining on Monday would end for at least two weeks across the entire city until hospitalizations in NYC slow down.
‘Look at the top of the list … focus on the household, social gathering spread. We are and we are doing everything we can. It’s limited what we can do,’ he said, adding that he can’t crack down on what people do in their own homes.
The rate of transmission has risen to 1:3 which he says is a problem specifically in New York City because the population is bigger than anywhere else.
Governor Cuomo has increased the maximum fine for violations of the state’s social distancing protocol from $500 to $1,000 to help address the lack of adherence to social distancing protocols.
As of Saturday morning, there have been 15,851,735 confirmed cases in the US and 295,539 fatalities.
Researchers in Washington State released projections showing that 502,000 Americans will die by April 1.