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Is it okay to move in NYC during the coronavirus pandemic?

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If you absolutely need to move out, here’s how to do it safely

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Many New York City tenants with leases expiring in the next few months have wondered if they should—or if they are even allowed to—move out of their apartments during the coronavirus pandemic, and the answer is that there’s not a straightforward answer.

On the one hand, the city is the nation’s epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is a stay-at-home order in place, therefore, New Yorkers are advised to stay indoors as much as possible. There is also a statewide eviction moratorium until at least June 20 that prevents landlords from evicting tenants.

Meanwhile, the state deemed residential moving companies essential businesses, so if you absolutely have to move—if, for instance, you already signed a lease or were planning to move out before the pandemic—you still can.

That was the case for Jacob Silverman, a Brooklyn-based writer who moved out of his South Slope apartment to Flatbush on April 1. He had seen the apartment in February and had signed the lease around the same time, before the state’s stay-at-home order was in place.

But even though his move went surprisingly smoothly for the circumstances the city is currently in, he wouldn’t recommend it. “I’d say if people have a choice, don’t move right now,” Silverman says. “It’s important to stay home.”

If you are among those who absolutely have to move out, below find some answers to some of the most common questions, and how to do so safely.

Am I still allowed to move during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Per Cuomo’s PAUSE order, moving companies are still considered essential businesses, which means that you technically can move out of your apartment. However, keep in mind that some buildings have restrictions in place for move-ins and move-outs.

Also, given there is a stay-at-home order in place, experts recommend talking to your landlord to possibly extend your lease and postpone your move for now. “It is clear that the governor’s executive order requires people to stay at home,” says Ellen Davidson, staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society. “To the extent people can stay where they are, that they are safe where they are, everyone should stay put.”

How do I view a new house or apartment?

Real estate agents are not allowed to show apartments in person, per the latest guidance from Cuomo’s office, which means that many of them are now offering virtual tours and viewings. For instance, StreetEasy rolled out 3D Home tours which allows brokers to take 360-degree panoramic photos and create 3D tours; meanwhile, brokerages like Ideal Properties Group, Compass, and Nooklyn have launched virtual showing platforms or are using YouTube and Facebook to show apartments.

I’ve already found my new apartment. How do I move my stuff in?

First, make sure that your building is allowing move-outs and that the building you’re moving into is allowing move-ins. Serik Baim, the CEO of moving company Seka Moving, told Curbed that some of his customers have postponed their move precisely because their building is not allowing them.

But if your building does allow it, since moving companies are deemed essential businesses, you could still reach out to one of them to book their services. A lot of them are already taking the necessary precautions to help tenants move right now: For instance, at Seka Moving, Baim says that all movers are wearing face masks, gloves, and even hazmat suits for extra precaution if their customers request it. Other companies like Roadway Moving have also implemented similar protocols.

What kind of face covering should I be wearing?

New York City’s Department of Health has advised all New Yorkers to cover their face with a “well-secured” paper or cloth mask, like a scarf or bandana, when outside their home and in situations when they may be closer than six feet from other people. But keep in mind that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s important to avoid using surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as these should be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders.

Will I be able to find boxes?

Yes. Moving companies often provide their own boxes and some places where you would usually find boxes are still open or considered essential businesses, such as grocery stores.

Should I worry about other people touching my things?

According to the CDC, the novel coronavirus virus lives on surfaces for hours to days—which means that it is good to take extra precautions when it comes to touching objects and surfaces. If you’ve booked a moving company to help with the move, ask them about the cleaning protocols for their vehicles and their employees’ use of protective gear like gloves and masks.