What to Know
- Five New York regions entered Phase III of reopening on Friday, opening up indoor dining and other services
- New York City hopes to be able to reach Phase II by early July; the mayor's office has already released a comprehensive outdoor dining plan to help provide restaurants with more temporary al fresco space
- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says his state will enter Stage 2 on Monday, opening up outdoor dining and in-person retail
Five New York regions entered Phase III of reopening Friday, while New Jersey gets ready to hurdle another milestone when the entire state enters Stage 2 of its own reopening schedule on Monday.
Governors Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy noted the incredible progress each state has made since the height of the pandemic when their states felt the most deadly and damaging effects of the coronavirus. As other states struggle to contain or even lower coronavirus rates, Cuomo and Murphy on Friday reflected on their states' ability to improve conditions while reopening sectors of the economy.
"You look at what's happening to these states, they reopen and then the number goes up," Cuomo said. "When you reopen and you increase activity, don't be surprised when the infection rate goes up, unless you were very smart and disciplined about the way you reopened."
After being hard hit in the first several weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, New Jersey has seen hospitalizations and cases slow, leading Murphy to set up Stage 2 of his “Road Back” plan, which begins Monday. Outdoor dining and nonessential in-person retail will resume Monday with restrictions aimed at preventing the coronavirus in place.
New Jersey personal care businesses are learning what safety measures must be in place when they reopen from coronavirus closures later this month. The new guidelines being released Friday by Gov. Phi Murphy cover beauty salons, barber shops, day spas, hair braiding shops, massage parlors, nail salons, tanning salons, tattoo parlors and more.
The first-term Democrat said that hygiene, temperature checks, appointment-only visits, face masks for everyone (unless a client is getting a service the requires it to be removed) and other measures will need to be in place for the personal care businesses to reopen. He said the guidelines laid out from his order shouldn't be a big surprise for people.
On Friday, Murphy also said that libraries can begin curbside pickup on Monday. The buildings, however, will remain closed. He also said that the Department of Education is releasing guidance on how summer schools can be held and that the Department of Health will release youth sports guidance this weekend.
Murphy said Friday that his administration is working with casinos, workers and others at laying out a reopening plan for Atlantic City's gaming halls. But, he gave no date on when casinos would reopen.
As of Friday, more than 166,000 people in New Jersey had tested positive for COVID-19. At least 12,489 people had died from coronavirus-related complications. Forty-eight new deaths were announced Friday.
New Yorkers are commuting again, Mayor de Blasio says. By Wednesday, two days after the city entered Phase I of reopening and mass transit expanded service to its closest pre-pandemic service, ridership was up across the system. Ridership was up on subways by 25 percent, on buses by 23 percent, on the Staten Island Ferry by 31 percent. Vehicle traffic into Manhattan was also up, the mayor said.
In its first week of Phase I, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the data does not show any significant upticks in the key coronavirus metrics tracked by the city. There have been no uptick in ER visits or percentage of positive coronavirus cases, he said Friday, and any change might not come until the second half of the month.
New York City’s health department says there has been no significant uptick in coronavirus cases in the past two weeks. Dr. Jay Varma says they typically wait 28 days, the length of two incubation cycles, to know with complete certainty.
Five New York regions enter Phase III of reopening Friday, opening up indoor dining at half capacity and personal care services like nail salons and tattoo parlors for the first time in months. Social distancing and masks are required.
The five regions that will take the next step Friday were the first to reopen when Cuomo's statewide shutdown ended on May 15: the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, North Country and Central New York regions. (Check the latest on what's open and reopening across the tri-state area here).
After shutting NYC playgrounds down more than a month ago, Cuomo also OK'd their immediate reopening, so long as the city believes it would be fine. Pools can also open at local governments' discretion, the governor said. He urged officials to make the moves only if the data supports the changes.
"They have to use their judgment here. They should be looking at the positives, see where those positives are coming from," Cuomo said. "Everybody wants to swim, I understand. Everybody doesn't want to see a spike in COVID again. Sometimes 'yes' is not the right answer."
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said New York City isn't ready to open pools quite yet; he wants to try to open more social distancing-friendly summer venues like beaches first before he tackles how to maintain public health in the pool.
But pools aren't out of the question later this summer, de Blasio said. Lifeguards have been trained under the expectation they'll be needed there and on beaches. In the meantime, the city is looking to alternate means like park sprinklers and cooling stations to initially help keep people cool.
Playgrounds aren't immediately in the cards for the five boroughs either. A de Blasio spokeswoman said Thursday that the city is closely watching health indicators and simultaneously working on a plan "so when it’s safe to open playgrounds, we can.“
De Blasio said earlier this week he understood that some stores didn't find Phase I to be the optimal time to reopen. He said many are looking to Phase II, which is when he says he thinks "retail will really come alive in New York City."
Phase II opens up in-person shopping with restrictions like social distancing and facial covering mandates. De Blasio says the city could get there in early July. It also opens up outdoor dining, which hundreds of restaurants did when Long Island took that next step earlier this week.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
With all 10 New York regions in some phase of reopening, Cuomo has shifted his focus to testing and tracing, meticulously monitoring infection rates, targeting viral hotspots and identifying potential clusters before they emerge.
This week, the state launched a new dashboard that tracks the number of tests conducted and the percentage of positive results across the 10 regions on a day-to-day basis. It also breaks down those metrics by county, helping the state hone in on continuing viral hotspots like the 10 recently identified in New York City.
According to that dashboard, 1.7 percent of 23,521 people in New York City tested Wednesday, which reflects the state's latest data, were positive, though the Bronx (2.4 percent) and Brooklyn (1.9 percent) had higher positivity rates compared with the other boroughs. That compares with a 59 percent positivity rate at the peak of the crisis. De Blasio still considers New York City to be in a moderate state of virus transmission with hundreds of new cases each day. He expects it to lower by fall, if New Yorkers continue to be smart and get tested.
De Blasio has rolled out mobile testing trucks in the hardest-hit communities and the state has added nearly a dozen new testing sites in those neighborhoods recently. More than 240 free testing sites are open across the five boroughs.
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
It's too early to tell if the citywide protests over the death of George Floyd, now ongoing for nearly two full weeks, have contributed to an increase in COVID cases. Cuomo has repeatedly urged any protest attendees to take advantage of one of the more than 240 testing sites now available across the five boroughs.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also urged protest attendees to get tested. He himself did so for the second time this week after attending a rally for justice in his state on Sunday. New Jersey is set to enter its Stage 2 Monday, opening up outdoor dining and in-person retail. One Jersey Shore town has said it will allow limited indoor dining in defiance of the governor's reopening guidelines.
All of the reopenings around the tri-state come amid a local fight against COVID-19 that has lasted longer than 100 days. It may seem like a long time, especially to many residents who were or continue to be stuck primarily inside. But it's also a sobering reminder of how little time it has taken to lose tens of thousands of lives. The tri-state area has confirmed nearly 41,000 virus deaths since New York reported its first on March 14. The actual toll is likely much higher.
Nationally, more than 113,000 people have died from COVID-19. The United States topped a 2 million case milestone on Wednesday.