New York

NJ Suspends Indoor Sports, Outdoor Restrictions Come Monday as NYC Reopens Schools

New York and New Jersey have both seen significant growth in COVID hospitalizations in just the last few weeks -- and with the "post-Thanksgiving effect" yet to fully materialize, concerns are mounting

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What to Know

  • As of Saturday morning in New Jersey, all indoor youth and adult winter sports — including hockey, basketball, swimming and more — are suspended
  • No state has been untouched by the latest surge; NY and NJ have seen alarming growth in hospitalizations in just the last few weeks -- and the "post-Thanksgiving effect" has yet to fully materialize
  • Elementary schools in NYC can reopen Monday with increased testing and de Blasio wants kids to be able to attend five days a week; a number of principals say they just don't have the capacity

As of Saturday morning in New Jersey, all indoor youth and adult winter sports — including hockey, basketball, swimming and more — are suspended. Starting Monday, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people.

The latest round of restrictions in the Garden State come nine months after New Jersey's first confirmed coronavirus case. It smashed its single-day case record Friday for the second time in two days. By Saturday, the state reported 5,367 new positives, down slightly from the record 5,673 the day before.

"This is going to be rough," Gov. Phil Murphy said of the next few months. "But people's behavior can make it less rough."

He urged people to be especially conscious with Christmas coming up just as he had done for Thanksgiving. It's still too early to tell if climbing rates could stem from Thanksgiving travel because the virus incubation period is 10 to 14 days.

When pressed about the potential for larger-scale restrictions, he continues to say "everything is on the table" -- and did so most recently on "Morning Joe" Friday.

The clock is ticking on new restrictions in New Jersey. On Saturday, indoor sports will be suspended and outdoor gatherings are capped at 25 people starting Monday. NBC New York's Pat Battle reports.

Murphy is expected to delve into the state's COVID modeling next week, when his health commissioner, who has been quarantined after exposure to an infected person, returns to join his briefings.

According to an NJ.com report ahead of Murphy's Friday briefing, the state's "moderate" projection model has New Jersey peaking around 5,400 new daily cases by mid-December and nearly 5,000 hospitalizations by New Year's Day. The latter metric isn't expected to substantially decline until March under the moderate model, which presumes people continue with mitigation efforts.

The 5,000 hospitalization projection includes nearly 1,000 people in intensive or critical care and more than 600 on ventilators, NJ.com reported.

Those projections are markedly higher than where the state stands currently, though not nearly as what it saw in spring, when there were more than 8,000 people in hospitals. As of now, New Jersey is averaging more than 4,100 new daily cases over the last week. Hospitalizations have topped 3,300, numbers not seen since May, with 615 patients in intensive care and 386 on ventilators.

While hospitalizations have soared in recent weeks, officials do expect fewer critical hospitalizations and less death than they saw at the crisis' peak in the spring, given improvements in treatment. Murphy says capacity is OK for now.

All options are on the table in New York City as well. The five boroughs have seen daily case averages soar to late April highs (they topped 2,000 new daily cases Friday for the first time since April 30) and hospitalizations soar by more than 120 percent in just the last three weeks. The city's seven-day rolling average is now above 5 percent, just two weeks after it hit the mayor's 3 percent threshold to close schools to in-person learning. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he's discussing potential additional restrictions with Cuomo but didn't elaborate.

The mayor's words come as NYC elementary schools get ready to reopen on Monday for in-person learning, and de Blasio is still pushing schools to offer classroom learning five days a week.

"To all our principals and educators: This is a decision that the chancellor and I have made. It's not up for debate. We need to provide the most in-person instruction possible for our children," the mayor said.

The overall mortality rate is lower than it was in the spring. Cuomo says it's about 8 percent of hospitalized patients in New York now compared with about 23 percent earlier this year. But those at-risk populations are by default more likely to never recover if they contract the viral respiratory illness.

"Currently, instead of 25 percent going to ICU [in the spring], 18 percent [now] go to ICU," Cuomo said on a press call Friday. "Instead of 85 percent, only 45 percent are intubated. The length of stay in the hospital in March and April: 11 days. It is now less than half that, it is down to five days."

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

Shoring up hospital capacity is a top priority right now, along with developing optimal plans for vaccine distribution and public messaging. Leery of a surge that has seen New York's hospital admissions top 4,000 (up to 4,222 on Friday) for the first time since late May, Cuomo triggered emergency protocol this week to boost hospital capacity. The state's ICU capacity, Cuomo said Friday, hovers around 40 percent.

The number of positive cases reported Friday climbed to 11,271 -- nearly setting a new single-day record for New York. The state's all-time high was set back on April 14, when 11,521 positive cases were reported from 26,869 tests. Since the spring, New York's daily testing has multiplied; on Friday the 11,271 results came from a total of 208,297 tests.

Cuomo said New York's statewide daily positivity rate rose above 5.4 percent on Friday, but added that number isn't "relevant anymore." He clarified, "We're really focusing on the hospitalization rate and hospital capacity."

No new micro-cluster zones were announced by the governor ahead of the weekend. Cuomo said he's waiting to see the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the anticipated holiday surge may not be felt for weeks. He described the current climate as "a little bit of blip" in an interview on the "TODAY" show Friday.

"That's the concerning thing because the numbers in and of themselves are alarming, and then you realize that it is likely we'll see more of a surge as we get two to three weeks past the Thanksgiving holiday," Fauci said.

Fauci pleaded with Americans again Friday to continue with precautions as the nation braces for the hit: "Please, as best as you can, uniform wearing of masks, keep distances to the best possible way you can, avoid crowds in congregate settings, particularly indoors, and if you are indoors in that circumstance, always wear your mask."

The CDC came out with a new advisory on Friday regarding masks, urging everyone to adopt universal mask usage indoors when not at home.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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