New York

‘Dangerous Times:' Cuomo Urges NYers to Be on High Alert Amid COVID Increases

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a sweeping new entry testing policy for people coming into New York; it replaces the previous quarantine order

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What to Know

  • The Port Authority will begin fining people up to $50 starting Monday for failing to wear face-coverings at any of its various facilities; it comes as travel is expected to heavily ramp up ahead of the holidays
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also concerned by the holiday threat; over the weekend he unveiled a sweeping new entry testing policy for people coming into New York that replaces the previous quarantine list
  • People have to provide a negative COVID test before they arrive in New York and another one three days later; if they decline, they must complete a 14-day quarantine. The rules don't apply to NJ, CT or PA

"These are dangerous times."

That was the message Gov. Andrew Cuomo had for New Yorkers on the coronavirus front Monday. He leads a state with the second-lowest positivity rate in the nation, by Johns Hopkins data, but no state is untouched by the U.S. surge.

"We need to stay on high alert," Cuomo said in a Monday conference call with reporters as he reported yet another day with 1,000-plus COVID hospitalizations.

The recent upticks nationwide -- five record-breaking single-day U.S. case records in a week -- have come alongside New York's own cluster battles. While those zones have made progress, the steady upticks continue. New York now meets Cuomo's prior threshold for inclusion on the quarantine list (10.43 new cases per 100,000 over a rolling seven-day average as of Sunday).

He's abandoned that list. Rather than try to quarantine every state, some of which can't be isolated from New York because of proximity, Cuomo unveiled a sweeping new testing policy over the weekend. The current reality is only more threatening with the approach of the holiday season, which means more travel.

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

Source: ny.gov

To help ensure compliance across state lines, the Port Authority says anyone who doesn't wear a mask in its facilities, including its bus terminal in Manhattan, PATH and AirTrain stations and the Oculus, is subject to a $50 fine starting Monday.

The agency says it will continue to emphasize voluntary compliance first, but was moved to a more aggressive action given recent case increases in New York, New Jersey and across the United States.

Just under 50,000 New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 in October, roughly double the number who got the virus in September, according to state statistics. Over the last seven days of the month, an average of around 2,040 people per day tested positive for the virus in the state, up from around 680 people per day the last seven days in August.

The increase mirrored one that has happened across the U.S. and in other nations this autumn, as people have relaxed their guard against the disease and returned to schools, shops, restaurants and other indoor activities. Cuomo warned residents of the "danger signs all around us."

“All I can do is warn New Yorkers and ask them to remember what worked for us, and what worked for us is discipline and (being) smart; that’s what worked for us, and we have to keep it up because these are dangerous, dangerous times,” Cuomo said.

New York City reported its second-highest daily new case average in months Monday (593), a number Mayor Bill de Blasio described as concerning. It was the second time in four days that average nearly hit 600. The daily positivity rate also ticked up to 2.1 percent, another "worrisome" number, according to the mayor.

The seven-day rolling positivity average, which de Blasio calls the "most objective measure" of the city's current standing in the war against coronavirus, was 1.81 percent, which is around where it has been for the last two weeks or so.

"That number suggests some consistency with where we've been the last few weeks. We want to turn the tide now. With all the outreach and the face mask-wearing and the social distancing and the testing, we want to start knocking down that seven-day rolling average," de Blasio said Monday. "We're keeping a very close eye on the situation because we're obviously at a point where that has gone up in recent weeks and we take that very seriously."

New Jersey has experienced significant case increases over the last month across virtually the entire state, with hospitalizations and ICE admissions up and the state having gone two straight weeks with more than 1,000 COVID cases a day. The silver lining — New Jersey has not seen an uptick in cases among the elderly.

Gov. Phil Murphy has pointed to small household gatherings as a burgeoning source of new cases. While an often-somber Murphy has said he is open to another shutdown if it comes to that, he says he can't control what people do behind the closed doors of their homes.

That is where an increasing share of the concern is coming from, he said. Like other tri-state governors, Murphy has urged New Jerseyeans to avoid holiday travel unless absolutely necessary. He said he'd discuss that more later this week.

What the state does have some control over, however, is large gatherings at places like bars — more than a dozen of which in Newark were issued violations or temporarily shut down because of alleged COVID violations over Halloween weekend. At one large warehouse party, a task force seized more than $10,000 worth of alcohol, and the party organizers were charged.

However, Murphy said the illicit Halloween parties were the exception, not the rule.

"Those knuckleheads aside, I thank the overwhelming majority of you who celebrated safely," the governor said.

Despite its recent struggles, New Jersey continues to be in the better quarter of states as far as positivity rates, though it has a transmission rate above 1-to-1, which some would call an "active outbreak." New York vacillates between holding the second- and third-lowest positivity rate in the nation, by Johns Hopkins data. Still, both states know how rapidly the virus can spiral dangerously out of control.

Last week, Murphy gave the people of his state a stern reality check. He said the second wave of coronavirus is no longer a theoretical.

"It's coming. And it's coming now," he said.

Schools, by and large, have been a bright spot in New Jersey and New York as far as infections are concerned. New Jersey has reported a number of "outbreaks" linked to K-12 school transmission, though the overall case totals remain low.

In New York City, de Blasio has said well less than 1 percent of teachers and students tested as part of state-required randomized weekly and monthly testing have been positive. Monday marked the start of a two-week window where parents who opted for fully remote learning to start the year can opt back into blended.

Blended opt-ins will be permitted on a quarterly basis for remote families. To learn more, visit the city's Department of Education website here.

Several dozen schools in red and orange zones that had to switch all-remote due to Cuomo's micro-cluster program can reopen now if students and staff test negative. Then, weekly testing of a quarter of a school's population is required. Asked about those schools Monday, de Blasio said the city was assessing the plan. He first is concerned about what happens within Brooklyn's red zone -- and he said that given the numbers, there could be some easing of restrictions soon.

If the schools were moved to yellow zones instead of red or orange, the requirement would only be weekly randomized testing of students and staff.

Elsewhere, in Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont introduced new rollbacks for restaurants, event venues, and religious gatherings. Effective Friday, restaurants will go back to 50 percent capacity (after having been at 75 percent), can only have up to eight guests per table, and must close by 9:30 p.m. Takeout will still be available after that time.

In the so-called "Phase 2.1," event venues will be capped at 25 people for indoor, and 50 for outdoor areas. Movie theaters and other performing arts spaces will be capped at 100 people, and religious gatherings can only go to 50 percent capacity, or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

"Almost all of the restaurants are doing a really good job, but there have been some problems," Lamont said.

Personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops can remain at 75 percent capacity, saying those businesses have "made enormous efforts there" and didn't believe they have been a source of the spread.

The governor is also encouraging all state residents to stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. He said is not yet considering making the curfew a requirement, just a "strong recommendation."

"Maybe we thought a few weeks ago that we could target our response town by town and keep these flare-ups from becoming wildfires," Lamont said. "I think we're finding, and looking around at our neighbors around the country that right now, what we find are flare-ups on a municipal basis are becoming more like community spread."

The state's COVID-19 positivity rate increased to 3.4 percent and hospitalizations have also increased by 11 since Friday — bringing the total to 340, the highest number since June.

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