What to Know
- U.S. coronavirus cases have surpassed 1,000; more than three dozen people have died, including one man in New Jersey
- The state of New York has more than 400 cases, growing by almost a third since Thursday; most of the cases are in NYC and Westchester
- Governors in New York and New Jersey have declared states of emergency, and the usage of public transit is plunging
New Yorkers awoke Friday to a famously bustling city slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic: no Broadway, no major sporting events or concerts, emptying offices, “ghost town” transit hubs — and a populace unnerved by an ever-worsening crisis that officials warned will last for months.
Underlining the threat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that New York is now among the hardest-hit states in the country. The state now has 421 cases of COVID-19, he said, including just over 150 in New York City. Of the 421 cases statewide, 50 are hospitalized, including 18 in intensive care.
“This is going to be everywhere,” he said. “My guess is there are thousands and thousands of cases walking around the state of New York.”
Even as the virus spread, MTA subways and buses continue to run normally, but with fewer people as many stay home — to telecommute, to take care of their families and themselves.
President Trump is expected to declare a national emergency Friday afternoon, which would allow more relief efforts.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a state of emergency declaration for the city on Thursday, cautioning the surge in positive tests is far from over and projecting the five boroughs could see 1,000 cases by next week. Just Friday morning, a member of the New York City Council, Bronx councilman Fernando Cabrera, posted on Facebook that his son has caught the virus — and warned members of their church, where the elder Cabrera is pastor, to take precautions.
The surge in cases has already triggered huge public anxiety despite authorities’ best efforts to make the health facts clear: Eighty percent of people who get COVID-19 self-resolve without medical treatment; the vast majority of city- and state-run tests have been negative and the overall risk to the general public is low. That said, the spread must be contained — primarily to protect the most vulnerable populations like the sick or elderly.
To further those efforts, Cuomo opened a “drive-thru” testing center in crisis epicenter New Rochelle on Friday, a six-lane facility that can test the occupants of up to 200 cars per day.
Those who want to arrange testing at the New Rochelle facility can call 888-364-3065
“We do have a crisis in testing. We’re not up to scale,” Cuomo said.
He enacted sweeping directives earlier Thursday, banning crowds of 500 people or more and darkening Broadway. New Jersey officials recommend even smaller gatherings, that crowds be restricted to 250 people or less. How long will it all last? De Blasio said large venues, including Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, could be shuttered through as late as September. Broadway is scheduled to reopen next month.
One of the biggest questions we hear about the coronavirus: how long does it live? Chris Glorioso has the answers.
The situation is highly fluid, though, and de Blasio said “every scenario” is regularly being evaluated — including the status of city public schools.
Despite some private schools and universities closing around the city, as well as calls online to #CloseNYCSchools, the mayor said that they are going to try their “damnedest” to keep New York City schools open as long as possible. Many have asked why, particularly when large-scale venues are shutting down to try to reduce density in any one space at one time.
“The danger of going to a full shutdown is it will degrade not only people’s lives on a host of matters, including their health and safety and other ways,” de Blasio said. Some people have to work, the mayor added, noting, “That includes a lot of parents we depend on, first responders, health care professionals — it’s a very slippery slope.”
There were only a few public schools in the city closed Friday due to confirmed COVID-19 cases in the community. Get full details on those closures and other school impacts across the tri-state here.
Parents who do opt to hold their children out of school as a precaution, though, should know that their kids will not be penalized for being absent.
What could come next? De Blasio detailed which measures could be taken by the city in order to help contain the outbreak as authorized by the city’s state of emergency. While he made it clear that none of these measures have been activated, the order enables him to issue directives including:
- Enacting a city-wide curfew
- Controlling which vehicles can enter and leave parts of city
- Closing down public transportation
- Ordering hospitals to postpone elective surgeries
- Putting rations on certain supplies
- Suspending sales of alcohol, firearms and other items
- Prohibiting or restricting number of people on streets and public places
- Regulating or closing public spaces
- Enacting emergency shelters
- Limiting maximum building occupancies
Any decision to halt MTA service would come from Cuomo in concert with medical professionals, the agency’s chairman said on “Good Day New York.”
In the meantime, “Mass transit is not shutting down. The system is safe,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said on “Good Day New York.”
The MTA said Friday that Long Island Rail Road ridership is down 31 percent, Metro North ridership is off 48 percent, subway traffic is down 19 percent and bus usage is down 15 percent.
Meanwhile, New Jersey now has 50 cases, including newly confirmed infections Friday in Jersey City and Hoboken, their first each. Connecticut has six presumed positives. See a tri-state case breakdown here.
The lion’s share of cases is in Westchester County, where the midtown Manhattan lawyer linked to what Cuomo has called “the most significant cluster” in the nation lives with his family in New Rochelle. He is one of the relatively few COVID-19 patients to still be hospitalized.
The CDC said this week it would send more than half a billion dollars to state and local jurisdictions for COVID-19 response, but both Cuomo and de Blasio have slammed the federal government for what they have described essentially as a “too little, too late” — and woefully slow — response.
Cuomo described the government lack of testing as the “public health version of Hurricane Katrina.” Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged testing has been an issue since the start of the outbreak, but said every state now has testing capability at state labs, and that the U.S. is working to expand number and access to coronavirus tests in all 50 states, also via commercial and private labs like Labcorp and Quest.
Local governments are also implementing changes — some major, some minor — that may impact the daily lives of people who will never get COVID-19. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening in that regard by state.
How to Protect Yourself
New York City’s Health Department released the following guidance for people who recently traveled to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea — or for anyone who experiences fever, cough or shortness of breath:
- Stay home — do not travel or go to work or school while sick
- Go to a health care provider and tell them about your travel history
- If you do not have a health care provider or insurance, call 311
- Avoid contact with others
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
The New Jersey State Department of Health has established a 24-hour coronavirus hotline to answer questions: 800-222-1222. New York has a similar hotline set up: 888-364-3065.
Nationally, the CDC says that as of Friday, it had 1,629 cases and 41 deaths reported from 46 states and Washington, D.C. In more than 1,300 of those cases, authorities still don’t know how the virus was contracted. That total number is only updated once a weekday though and reporting closes out at 4 p.m. the day before. The actual case total could be higher.
As of Friday afternoon, NBC News reported more than 1,700 cases and matched the CDC number of 41 deaths nationwide; 31 of the fatalities have been in Washington state, where America’s very first case was reported.
Help may be on the way. President Trump has signed an $8.3 billion measure to fuel national efforts to combat the spread. The legislation provides sustenance for a multifaceted attack — money for vaccines, tests, potential treatments and to help local governments respond to the virus.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 125,000 people and killed more than 4,600. CDC officials warned for weeks to expect a disruptive spread of the virus in America. Here’s where we stand now as far as developing a vaccine. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization said it had made the assessment that COVID-19 could be characterized as a “pandemic.”
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