What to Know
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a slate of new restrictions targeting restaurants, bars, gyms and private home gatherings Wednesday; he also established a yellow micro-cluster zone within Staten Island
- In New Jersey, the latest numbers have been 'devastating,' Gov. Murphy says; new restrictions take effect there Thursday limiting late-night indoor dining hours and suspending interstate youth sports
- The stark developments come amid a U.S. surge that continues unabated; at the current rate, the nation could see 20 million cases by Christmas, almost 2x its highest-in-the-globe total now, NBC says
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has imposed a new slate of restrictions on three key sources of COVID spread in New York, citing spiraling viral rates in the nation and across the globe that threaten to exacerbate numbers locally as the holidays loom.
The governor announced the new measures Wednesday. They take effect Friday. At that point, any establishment licensed by the State Liquor Authority, including bars, restaurants and bowling alleys, must close dining areas at 10 p.m.; they can do curbside food-only pickup afterward. Gyms must also close at 10 p.m.
Small social gatherings at private homes are the third "great spreader" identified by contract tracing, Cuomo said. Starting Friday, those will be capped at 10, similar to the restriction Gov. Ned Lamont recently put in place in Connecticut.
"Bars, restaurants, gyms, house parties, that’s where it’s coming from, primarily," Cuomo said.
Local governments will be tasked with enforcement, which is in and of itself an ongoing point of contention between the New York state and local municipalities. The NYPD will aid in enforcement in the city, Cuomo said, adding that after 10 p.m., “If the lights are on and people are drinking, they get a summons.” The governor said that the restrictions will last indefinitely, and warned that the state could further tighten the health guidelines.
"If these measures aren't sufficient to slow the spread, we will turn the valve more and part of that would be reducing the number of people in indoor dining," Cuomo said, referring to the current 50 percent statewide capacity cap excluding NYC, where it's 25 percent. "If that doesn't work, if numbers keep going crazy, there are some scientists who believe we should close down. I hope that doesn't happen."
"We're seeing a global COVID surge and New York is a ship on the COVID tide," the governor added. "Today, we've seen the country set a new record in terms of COVID cases. It is really getting much, much worse by the day."
The announcement was met with dismay from hard-hit restaurant owners and their advocates. The move "is a huge blow to the restaurant industry that is desperately trying to stay afloat," said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association.
New reported cases in New York and New Jersey have nearly doubled in just the last week, reflecting a national trend that shows no signs of abating and appears only to be worsening on the cusp of the busiest travel time of the year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the new rules, a spokesperson tweeted.
“We must do everything we can to hold off a second wave and these steps will help us fight it back in New York City,” said the spokesperson, Bill Neidhardt.
Meanwhile, New York City schools are teetering perilously on the edge of closure, with the mayor reporting a 2.52 percent seven-day rolling positivity rate as of Wednesday. That marks a 14 percent increase in the last two days. De Blasio has said schools will have to switch all-remote for a time if it hits 3 percent.
The mayor has cited parts of Staten Island as being particularly problematic; on Wednesday, Cuomo said he would transition a narrow geographic area of that borough to a yellow zone, which mandates randomized weekly school testing of students and staff but allows nonessential businesses to remain open. Catholic schools in the borough announced that they would be switching to fully remote learning starting Thursday, lasting for the foreseeable future. The governor indicated Staten Island's rising rates could be due to its proximity to New Jersey.
The newly established micro-cluster zone in Westchester County's Port Chester will transition to an orange zone, which moves schools all-remote for a period.
"If you look at the places in our state where we're having issues, they're very often near the neighboring states," Cuomo said. "If the national numbers are going up and the states around you are going up, be prepared."
The trend up is painfully obvious already.
New York reported nearly 5,000 new COVID cases Wednesday (4,820), nearly half the number it was seeing daily at the peak of the crisis and a 21.5 percent increase over the previous day. The daily positivity rate dipped slightly, to 2.9 percent, on Wednesday. The seven-day rolling positivity rate, which provides a more accurate picture over time, is at its highest level (2.43 percent) since May 31.
In New York City, the rolling rate hit 2.52 percent Wednesday. A day earlier, de Blasio doubled down on his threat to move schools all-remote if it reaches 3 percent. Large-scale closures could be on tap if it continues to climb above that.
The city's daily case average has also soared considerably since the start of November. Last week, it hit 600 for the first time since early June. By Wednesday, it was 817. It has climbed every single day since Oct. 30, city data shows.
"This is our last chance to stop a second wave. We can do it, but we have to act now," the mayor pleaded via tweet.
The numbers are nowhere near what they were in April, at the peak of the crisis, officials emphasize. At that point, New York was reporting 10,000 cases a day, had 18,000 people in the hospital and was losing roughly 800 people a day. Hospitalizations have more than doubled in New York since the first week of October, hitting a recent high of 1,628 on Wednesday, but remain manageable.
While treatment is generally much more effective than it was in April, and ventilator use remains much lower for hospitalized patients, it should be expected hospitalizations will continue to rise among vulnerable populations over the next few weeks. Those lag increases in cases. And deaths lag upticks in admissions.
The incline has been steeper in neighboring New Jersey, which reported nearly 4,000 (3,877) new COVID cases Tuesday, roughly eight times the daily numbers it was seeing at the end of September. It topped the 3,000-mark again (3,087) on Wednesday. The state hadn't reported back-to-back days of cases above 3,000 since the end of April. For perspective, roughly one out of every 500 New Jersey residents has been diagnosed with the virus in the last seven days, data shows.
By comparison, about one in every 800 New Yorkers has tested positive in the last week.
Gov. Phil Murphy called New Jersey's latest numbers "devastating" in a Tuesday tweet. On Thursday, he rolls out a slate of new statewide restrictions targeting late-night indoor dining at bars and restaurants — where both sitting and standing at bar areas will be prohibited — and interstate youth sports. He has said there's no evidence indoor dining is contributing to the spike, but late-night activities at bars and restaurants have presented higher risks of exposure. Indoor youth sports, specifically hockey, also have fueled the latest COVID surge.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
The town of Montclair sent a letter to parents explaining that in-person learning won't begin again on Monday as planned, but rather remote classes will continue at least through Dec. 1, when the district will reevaluate. Also on Wednesday, news broke that the Garden State's attorney general was in quarantine at home after a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.
Communications director Steven Barnes said that Attorney General Gurbir Grewal immediately took a rapid test that came back positive, but that a different follow-up test returned a negative result.
Barnes said Grewal, who has no symptoms, is following federal and state health guidance and quarantining at home while officials notify everyone who may have come into contact with him during the potential infection window.
Murphy said in a tweet Wednesday that he was keeping Grewal in his prayers.
While Murphy has said the latest COVID increases encompass virtually the entire state, some counties are harder-hit than others. Essex County alone reported 360 new cases Wednesday, smaller compared with the 675 it saw a day earlier. It is home to New Jersey's largest city, Newark, where the mayor imposed additional restrictions by executive order Tuesday to combat the spikes.
- Mandatory 9 p.m. weekday curfew (10 p.m. weekends) for nonemergency or nonessential work for ZIP codes 07104 (Seventh to Second avenues and from Broadway to Clifton Avenue) 07105 (entire ZIP code); and 07107 (Third Avenue North to Berkley Avenue and North Third Street to 11th Street)
- All sports of any kind played in the city cease immediately for two weeks; all players, coaches, trainers must test negative for COVID-19 to resume play
- Any sport team or team member that doesn't follow face-covering protocol may be subject to canceled games, removal from the team or termination
- Indoor and outdoor gatherings and events are capped at 10 people
- No visitation permitted at long-term health facilities for two weeks; senior housing buildings residents are allowed one nonessential visitor per unit per day and visitors are subject to temperature checks (must be below 100.4)
- Religious services attendance is restricted to 25 percent capacity; anyone speaking or singing during services must wear a mask; no one will be allowed inside an institution with a temperate above 100.4 degrees
- No holiday gatherings or events of 10 or more people at restaurants; reservations for more than 10 people are banned
Mayor Ras Baraka enacted the new protocols Tuesday as Newark's three-day rolling positivity rate (19 percent) soared to more than double the statewide average (7.74 percent), according to the data provided in the news release. The city said it would reassess the situation after Dec. 1 to determine the next steps.
“Newark’s prescription is not the state’s prescription,” Baraka said. “Stricter measures are required in the city’s hotspots in order to contain the virus and limit the spread. I know we are all tired, but the virus is not, therefore we must remain vigilant and do what is necessary to get this under control and save lives.”
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
Hospitals across the state (and country) have been stocking up on PPE supplies for months since the virus' first wave started to subside, and now are bracing for potentially having to access those stashes. Hospitalizations in the Hackensack Meridien Health Care system have increased six-fold in just two months.
No state has been untouched by the latest U.S. surge. The country has well surpassed 10 million cases, by far the highest total of any nation in the world, and reported more than 240,000 deaths, according to NBC News. It took just 10 days to get from nine million to 10 million cases -- and the next milestone likely isn't far off. Eight states have seen their COVID case reports increase by 100 percent over the last 14 days. New NBC News data shows the U.S. could see 20 million cases of COVID-19 by Christmas, double its highest-in-the-globe total now, at this rate.
Hospitalizations nationally have also hit record levels as of Tuesday. The new wave appears bigger and more widespread than the surges that happened in the spring and summer — and threatens to be worse. But experts say there are also reasons to think the nation is better able to deal with the virus this time around.
"We’re definitely in a better place" when it comes to improved medical tools and knowledge, said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious-disease researcher.
For the eighth day in a row on Wednesday, the U.S. hit more than 100,000 daily cases. The country also set a new record high in daily cases, with more then 144,000 confirmed infections, topping the previous record of 134,000 on Monday.