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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Americans all over the country are going back to their offices, but New Yorkers aren't.

Why it matters: Office workers are super-drivers of New York City's economy and essential to its post-pandemic recovery. Scores of businesses in the city are suffocating as they delay their return to work or, worse, decide to work from home forever.

"Manhattan has really gone downhill since the pandemic began," says Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban planning at NYU. "There are no tourists, no shoppers and, of course, no workers."

By the numbers: Nationally, around 25% of workers have returned to offices, the Wall Street Journal reports. In Los Angeles, 32% have gone back, and in Dallas, 40%.

  • But only 12% of New Yorkers have returned, according to the latest numbers from commercial real estate firm CBRE, which manages 20 million square feet of office space in the city.

What's happening: "All of the reasons why New York is suffering disproportionately right now are related to its competitive advantages," says Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.

  • The city has a robust public transit system, which is how most people get to work. Driving-first cities have seen higher rates of return than New York, where many workers are still nervous about virus transmission on buses and trains.
  • The restaurants, shops, museums and theaters that give the city its charm are closed or running at limited capacity, and so many have fled to the Hamptons or elsewhere, and commuters who travel in from Long Island, Connecticut or New Jersey are staying away.
  • The city's density is also working against it. In fact, in the city's suburbs, return-to-work rates are around 33%, per CBRE.

On top of that, New Yorkers have been spooked by the early, aggressive coronavirus caseloads in the city.

  • "Now that we’re in that mindset, I think it's very hard to shift gears and come out of it," says Nicole LaRusso of CBRE. "There was such an emphasis on, 'We need to stay home to stay safe.' I think that that message sunk in."
  • Look for New York's return to work to remain slow as cases are rising again.

The bottom line: "It’s unnerving for everyone to have this relative stillness in New York City," Tompkins says. "But people who have been through a few cycles of New York’s capacity for reincarnation are more comfortable."

My thought bubble: I just moved here in February, and I'm still feeling pretty bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about all of it. So can we please stop saying "New York is over"?

Go deeper

Dec 20, 2020 - Health

CDC panel says adults over 75, essential workers should be next in line for vaccine

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Falmouth Health Centre on Dec. 20 in Falmouth, England. Photo: Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

Americans 75 and older along with roughly 30 million "frontline essential workers" should be next in line to get coronavirus vaccinations, a group of experts that make recommendations to the CDC voted on Sunday, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: Adults over 75 are eight times more likely to be hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus. Essential workers are at an elevated risk for COVID-19 infections and are disproportionately people of color, who face higher mortality rates from the coronavirus than white people.

Robert Costa: Gen. Mark Milley "was not going rogue" with China calls

Washington Post journalist Robert Costa on Monday said in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America that Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley "was not going rogue" when told his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. would not launch a surprise attack.

Driving the news: President Biden last week expressed "great confidence" in Milley after excerpts released from Costa's and Bob Woodward's book "Peril" revealed calls where Milley admits he would let China know ahead of time if former President Trump decided to attack.

Delta variant fears curb fall flying

Travelers in the Miami International Airport. Photo: by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Continued worries about the Delta variant are derailing fall travel plans.

Driving the news: Thanksgiving domestic flight bookings in August were 18% lower this year compared with 2019, according to a new Adobe Digital Economy Index report out Monday morning.