What to Know
- New Jersey hospitalizations have tripled in seven weeks and new restrictions are imminent
- New York and Connecticut have seen their key indicators rise considerably; the latter reimposed some capacity caps as of Friday, and its governor said Thanksgiving celebrations should be 10 or less
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he would increase National Guard presence at NY airports ahead of the holidays to enforce the new entry test requirement as U.S. cases continue to surge unabated
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he'd increase National Guard presence at New York airports to enforce new COVID entry test requirements ahead of the holiday season, as he tries to fight back the state's biggest viral increases in months.
Acknowledging the aggressiveness of the measure, Cuomo said, "You should not land if you do not have proof of a negative test upon landing. I want people to know we're serious." While he did not provide details on how frequently travelers would be checked, the governor also said he had spoken with Mayor Bill de Blasio about enhancing NYPD presence to assist with the same.
Cuomo announced a sweeping new entry test policy a week ago, abandoning the previous quarantine list, as the country's surge continues unabated.
It requires travelers to provide a negative COVID test before traveling to New York and to take another one four days after they arrive. If that second test is negative, they need not quarantine for 14 days. New Yorkers returning from travel under 24 hours outside the state don't need to take a test before returning but must do so after they re-enter. In his initial announcement on the test policy, Cuomo had said failure to comply comes with mandatory 14-day quarantine. It wasn't immediately clear Friday if quarantine in lieu of a negative test remained an option.
Cuomo said airlines and the Port Authority are both assisting on the entry test front; the airlines are disseminating the information and the Port Authority is aware that travelers should provide evidence of the test upon landing. He also said officials can check with passengers' departure states to verify test results.
The enhanced enforcement measures come as Cuomo and de Blasio grow increasingly concerned with state and citywide numbers over the last month.
"We are obviously in a different phase with COVID," Cuomo said on a Friday telebriefing with reporters. "You're seeing global and national surges that are dramatic. That's the new reality of COVID. The challenge for our state, like other states, is managing the increase."
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
More than 3,000 (3,209) new cases were reported in New York Friday, the highest daily case number since early May and a 7 percent increase over the previous day's report (2,997), which also had been the highest new daily total in months. New York City reported more than 700 new cases of COVID Friday, well above the mayor's 550-case threshold (and, again, the highest number in months). It comes after three consecutive days above 600, which marked the first time in recent memory it had even gone that high. Each day this week, it ticked higher.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate, which de Blasio has called the "most objective measure" of the city's standing on the coronavirus front, hit 1.93 percent Friday -- again, the highest number in months and up from 1.81 percent Thursday. The mayor had said indoor dining could be shuttered across the five boroughs if that metric hits 2 percent, though that would be the governor's call.
"We are now really threatened with a second wave in New York City," de Blasio said during his weekly radio segment on WNYC Friday.
A day earlier, he highlighted two new ZIP codes in Staten Island that he said were areas of concern. De Blasio said the city planned targeted and robust new outreach; he hopes a quick response would avoid the need for cluster restrictions.
The micro-cluster approach has proven an effective containment tool, Cuomo has said. On Friday, he said Queens' Far Rockaway cluster, which was recently moved to a yellow zone from a red zone, will no longer be considered a cluster zone, effective immediately. He downsized the Brooklyn red and yellow zones by 50 percent and added a new yellow zone, in Westchester County's Port Chester, which mandates weekly randomized school testing of staff and students. Rockland and Orange counties also saw restrictions ease to varying degrees.
Upstate New York is becoming an area of increasing concern; Cuomo said Friday at this point, the Buffalo Bills' stadium cannot open to fans with the numbers in western New York being so high (an infection rate that has nearly doubled from 1.5 to 2.8). The governor said he would study the most problematic counties -- Erie, Monroe and Onondaga -- over the weekend to develop a micro-cluster strategy for that area.
“In general, downstate New York is doing better than upstate New York, which is a total reversal from the first phase of COVID,” Cuomo said during a telephone briefing.
Despite the overall cluster progress, core COVID metrics are rising across the state, mirroring the trend seen in virtually every U.S. state. No state has been untouched by the latest surge, which has seen the nation smash its single-day case records at almost a daily rate over the past week and a half. That happened again Friday, when the nation topped 122,000 new cases, eclipsing its previous record, set just the day before.
The after-effects of the case increases are starting to become more apparent. Statewide, COVID hospitalizations are in the midst of a two-week stretch above 1,000 for the first time since breaking that streak in June. Friday's hospitalizations were the highest since June 17 (1,321). The daily death toll dipped a bit, to 18, after topping 20 for the first time in months Thursday, and while that's mercifully below the 800 New Yorkers who were dying a day in April, it's a disturbing sign.
Deaths lag increases in hospitalizations, which lag increases in cases. All are on the rise. Cuomo has said weddings, birthdays and other private gatherings have fueled the spread, on top of universities and schools opening their doors.
To that end, Cuomo announced on Friday that all SUNY schools would be halting in-person learning after Thanksgiving, in an effort to try and contain the spread, and "exit testing" will be conducted for students before they leave for the break. He may apply the same policy to private schools in the state, but was not yet ready to do so.
"Go to remote learning, and then we'll figure out next semester, next semester," Cuomo said.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
New COVID Restrictions Imminent in NJ; CT Rolls Back Some Reopenings
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday he was "close" to implementing new restrictions in the Garden State, which has seen COVID hospitalizations triple in the last seven weeks and daily case totals soar to early May highs.
"We're working on making sure that we've got a right balance between strategic scalpel-like actions and some broader actions that we'll almost certainly take sooner rather than later," Murphy said Friday.
Murphy didn't elaborate on what any potential new rules might look like at the time, noting he had widespread discretion. He said his administration was reviewing multiple options -- a position necessitated by a soaring statewide positivity rate that he blasted as "unacceptable."
New Jersey reported a third consecutive day of more than 2,000 cases Friday, the first time that's happened since April. The state has tallied about 8,600 new cases since Murphy's report on Monday.
In his Thursday briefing, he said Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties each reported more than 200 new cases overnight while another trio of counties each had at least 100. Absent new statewide restrictions, a number of cities in high-increase counties, including Hoboken, Newark and Paterson, have reimposed rules locally in recent weeks. Murphy has sent hotspot teams for support.
In Clifton, schools will be going virtual once again, less than a month after finally opening. In just the past week, students and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The statewide transmission rate is 1.26, Murphy said Thursday, meaning each sick person infects more than one other person. That's an active outbreak.
His health commissioner says most of the new cases are not easily traced back to a single exposure and are likely related to routine gatherings in private homes. She urged New Jerseyeans to wear masks even when with their own families.
Connecticut has also seen some severe upticks as of late. Gov. Ned Lamont rolled back some of Connecticut's reopenings this week; his Phase 2.1 took effect Friday. He took additional steps Thursday, issuing a statewide public health advisory for people to stay home and limit nonessential outings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Lamont also asked Connecticut residents to keep Thanksgiving celebrations to 10 people or less. He hopes limiting the size of private, indoor gatherings will limit community spread and make tracking and tracing easier.
"It's a tough pill to swallow, I get it," Lamont said. "Do it this Thanksgiving, put up with it a little longer, we're going to be much better in a long-term."
Overall, the tri-states' positivity rates remain well below the national average. New York alternates between the second- or third-lowest in the nation; some states seeing rampant virus spread have positivity rates more than 30 times higher, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
The surging cases and hospitalizations across the tri-state area and the country reflect the challenge that either President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden -- whoever wins the still-undecided presidential election -- will face in the coming months over the pandemic, with winter and the holidays approaching.
Public health experts say the country won't return to any semblance of normal until well after an effective vaccine is available, given concerns about delivery, distribution and administration of any treatment. Cuomo and Murphy have both shared their initial vaccine rollout plans; both describe it as a momentous task. In New York, Cuomo has expressed doubt one would be deliverable by year's end.