Cuomo Discourages Thanksgiving Travel, as NYC Teachers Union Doubts Schools Reopen in 2020

On a grim forecast, Gov. Cuomo said that the statewide positivity rate could spike further from the three percent it is on Tuesday, to 12 percent in December

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • Cuomo said New Yorkers who avoid Thanksgiving gatherings could help control the spread of the coronavirus as hospitalizations surge, up 128 percent over the past three weeks
  • The head of the city's largest teachers union said that a fast reopening does not seem plausible at the moment, adding that he can't envision a return to in-person learning before January
  • Restrictions begin Wednesday for parts of Upper Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island that were identified by the governor

New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor made one more plea for people to abandon plans for in-person Thanksgiving festivities.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a final plea Thanksgiving Eve urging New Yorkers to not travel for the holiday and celebrate only with your household.

"Even in this hyper political moment, this is the one thing everyone agrees on," he said, calling the upcoming holiday "not a normal Thanksgiving."

This came the day after he donned a turkey-themed face mask at a press conference on Long Island, where he confirmed he has decided not to celebrate Thanksgiving with his 89-year-old mother in person. He had initially said he planned to do so Monday.

“I didn’t want to disappoint my mother,” he said. “89 years old, she’s thinking how many Thanksgivings will I get, you start to think that way. But it’s hard. But sometimes hard is smart.”

Cuomo said New Yorkers who avoid Thanksgiving gatherings could help control the spread of the coronavirus as hospitalizations surge. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals increased to about 2,900 patients, which is almost one and a half times the number hospitalized on Nov. 1. Over the past three weeks, hospitalizations are up 128 percent. On its current trajectory, Cuomo believes that number could reach 6,047 within three weeks.

On an even more grim forecast, he said that the statewide positivity rate could go from the three percent it is on Tuesday, to 12 percent next month.

NBC New York

New York has reported an average of about 5,500 new coronavirus cases per day over the last seven days, up 70 percent from two weeks ago. New restrictions begin Wednesday for parts of New York City as COVID-19 patients overwhelm hospitals in one of its boroughs, prompting Cuomo to reopen an emergency field hospital as health officials anticipate another surge in the states rising infection rate.

Yellow and orange restrictions come to businesses midweek in a handful of counties in New York City and Long Island but the changes to schools won't start until the Thanksgiving holiday, Cuomo tweeted. Parts of Staten Island and Syracuse will move into orange zones, with indoor dining closing in those areas, while parts of Upper Manhattan, Riverhead, Hampton Bays, Great Neck and Massapequa Park move to yellow.

"How do you forget about all the pain that we went through. If we're not careful we will go back there," Cuomo stressed. "We were storing bodies in refrigerated truck. 800 people died in one day."

New York City Sheriff Joe Fucito said he is setting up vehicle checkpoints at key bridges and crossings throughout New York City, as well as at curbside stops for buses entering and leaving the city. Deputies will advise travelers of quarantine rules.

He cited potential fines of $1,000 a day for people who violate travel rules, though officials have previously acknowledged that enforcement mostly works on the honor system.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said air travelers leaving from the JetBlue terminal at Kennedy Airport will be given a test kit that they can administer themselves under a partnership with the airline. But he urged travelers to stay home instead, keeping in line with a new campaign from the city that features posters with the motto "Stay Safe, Stay Home."

“Unless there’s a really, really crucial reason, don’t travel,” he said. “It’s just going to only add more exposure to this disease, more chance that you might get it, your family might get it, it might be brought back here inadvertently.”

New York City Heat Commissioner Dr. Dave Shoksi urged people to "stick to you core groups of family members and select friends."

Keeping holiday gatherings limited to just one's household, is important, according to officials, especially since there is a recent uptick in New York City cases.

On Wednesday, de Blasio says he is concerned about rising number of COVID-19 coronavirus hospitalizations in city after announcing 141 additional admissions and 1,447 confirmed cases in a single day. The mayor went on to say that the percent of New Yorkers who tested positive is at 2.74 percent -- with the 7-day rolling average still above 3 percent, a rate that has prompted the closure of schools last week.

Part of the fight against coronavirus involves COVID-19 testing. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City has been at the forefront of testing, with the city having given more than 1 million COVID tests since the start of the pandemic.

An astonishing feat when one considers that at the start of the pandemic, the city of New York couldn't get federal help to assist in providing COVID tests, de Blasio said during his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday -- Thanksgiving Eve.

Mayor de Blasio reiterated his belief Tuesday that New York City would become an orange zone by state standards in the coming weeks. The state's rules of an orange zone allow schools to reopen under extensive testing, he said. To ready that possibility, he pleaded with families to fill out test consent forms.

With schools closed after hitting the city's threshold for seven-day rolling positivity rate was crossed, many of the buildings are only staying open to keep students fed with grab and go meals — a critical task for some of the city's families living in poverty.

And in-person classes are unlikely to return any time soon. The head of the city's largest teachers union said that a fast reopening does not seem plausible at the moment, given the trends in the state and nationwide. At this rate, he said he can't envision a return to in-person learning before January.

"I think the dilemma is as long as trends keep going up in positivity, there will be a reluctance to open schools if with a day or a week they're shut down again," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

De Blasio wound not put a date on a possible school reopening, instead saying that the city will look at that after an orange zone is declared. He said he wants to see if the state will accelerate that, given that the schools are already shut down.

New restrictions begin Wednesday for parts of New York City as COVID-19 patients overwhelm hospitals in one of its boroughs, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen an emergency field hospital as health officials anticipate another surge in the states rising infection rate. NBC New York's Ray Villeda reports.

Cuomo criticized several sheriffs in upstate New York who have said it is impossible to enforce a recent executive order that banned indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people at private residences.

“That is a frightening precedent,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “What if they don’t agree with anti-discrimination laws? What if they don’t agree with domestic violence laws? … I’m not interested in your political opinion. Enforce the law.”

Some sheriffs have argued that Cuomo hasn’t made it clear exactly how law enforcement can enforce his rules on private gatherings.

“Instead, we are faced with an unenforceable dictate issued without any consultation with law enforcement or the public as to enforceability,” the New York State Sheriffs’ Association said in a Monday statement.

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here


Meanwhile, Fucito said his office will be concentrating on enforcing bans on large-scale gatherings.

One fine that has been given out is to the organizers of a large gathering in a Brooklyn synagogue, after reports that thousands of unmasked people attended a secret wedding there earlier this month. De Blasio said a fine of $15,000 had been levied by the city.

But Brooklyn is not the primary area of concern for Cuomo and de Blasio; it's Staten Island. Large sections of the borough were already a yellow zone, as it has averaged 209 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the past seven days — up 86% from two weeks ago. One ZIP code on the island (10308 — Great Kills) has a seven-day positivity rate of more than 7.1 percent, while nearly half of all NYC ZIP codes have a rate of three percent or higher.

“It’s about life and death,” Cuomo said, imploring New Yorkers to make the safest decision for the holiday and stay home. "This is a toxic cocktail of dynamics and facts."

On Thanksgiving Eve, Cuomo held a press conference, not only announcing that the state was giving away 50,000 turkeys for Thanksgiving, but also as a final plea for residents to not travel or hold large gatherings on the holiday, particularly since cases and deaths are increasing once again with statewide positivity at 3.04 percent.

Despite the governor saying the next 37 days are crucial in fighting off an even more intense second wave, the public does not appear to be heeding many of the pleas ahead of Thanksgiving. TSA data show more than 900,000 people flew each day from last Thursday through Monday, the highest five-day stretch of travel volume since mid-March. Sunday's 1.048 million travelers was the highest single-day figure since March 16.

And since the holiday rush is taking place, despite officials warning against traveling and hosting events during the holidays, Murphy issued a statement on Thanksgiving Eve on the state's travel advisory guidance.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout our nation, New Jersey will no longer utilize previously outlined metrics to inform its travel advisory. Given the increased risk of spreading COVID-19 for both residents who travel outside the state and for visitors into the state, New Jersey continues to strongly discourage all non-essential interstate travel at this time," Murphy's statement reads in part.

Travelers and residents returning from any U.S. state or territory beyond the immediate region (New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) should self-quarantine for 14 days, Murphy added. The Department of Health will issue additional information in the coming days regarding travel precautions.

As of Wednesday, New Jersey reported 4,073 new positive cases with a total of 317,905 cases in the state since the start of the pandemic. New Jersey informed of 50 new confirmed deaths for a total of 15,057 total deaths.

One town in Monmouth County is seeing a particularly significant surge, averaging between 30-40 new cases each day. Over the past seven days, Middletown has seen its COVID rate essentially double, with most cases traces to in-home transmission. Mayor Tony Perry said that per capita, Middletown is not as hard hit as some other towns in the county, but the numbers over the past week are still troubling.

"You don't want to be known as the person that gave grandma or grandpa COVID, or somebody who is at risk who you brought over because you wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving," Perry said.

The state also warning those who have loved ones in nursing homes or long-term care facilities: Don't take them out from the centers for Thanksgiving, because their relative will have to go into 14-day quarantines in a single bed COVID-unit upon returning — if there even is a room available. If not, the centers will require the families to continue to care for their loved ones at home. Nearly all nursing homes in the state have also been told to ban visitors for the time being.

The alarming positivity rate in NJ has increased to 9%, with a surge in Middletown, Brian Thompson reports.

New York has been ramping its testing capacity since the start of the pandemic but there has been an obvious surge in interest to get tested over the past week. Whether it's concern over the spike in cases in and around the city or the upcoming holiday, people across New York City reported long lines at a number of COVID testing sites, with some experiencing wait times as long as five hours long.

Small social gatherings at private homes are the third "great spreader" identified by contract tracing, Cuomo said. Those have since been capped at 10 people.

Potential consequences from those interactions during Thanksgiving will begin to show up between Dec. 1 to Dec. 10, the governor warned, and the collective impact of the holiday "period of hyper social activity" will surface after New Year's Eve.

Wait times at urgent care facilities have tripled and could go up to five hours to be seen to get a covid test, Lynda Baquero reports.

The situation is already getting worse on Long Island. Data from the state confirms a dramatic increase in COVID hospitalizations on the island, with a 149 percent increase over the past three weeks. It is currently on track, according to projections, to have a COVID positivity rate of 18 percent after the holidays.

At Good Samaritan Hospital, and its five sister medical centers in Nassau and Suffolk counties, the hospitalization numbers for COVID cases are doubling about every five days (for comparison, at the initial height of the pandemic in March, the numbers were doubling every two or three days, according to Dr. Patrick O'Shaughnessy of Catholic Health Services.

If Thanksgiving gatherings increase COVID cases just 20 percent, which Gov. Cuomo called a conservative estimate, Long Island could see a coronavirus explosion.

"If it goes up 20 percent? 1,400 people per day going into the hospitals. That, my friends, is a problem," Cuomo said.

After a weekend that saw more air passengers than at any time since the start of the pandemic, many travelers say they are not paying attention to experts' warnings because they are not willing to give up spending Thanksgiving with family. NBC New York's Jen Maxfield reports.

As the country’s uncontrolled spread led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to renew calls for Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, the United States topped 12 million cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, according to a tally by NBC News.

Thus far, the U.S. has recorded nearly 259,000 COVID-related deaths, according to NBC News.

In a bit of promising news, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, told CNN that the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine could be approved and ready for immunizations as soon as Dec. 12.

Contact Us