6 Months Ago Today, WHO Declared COVID-19 a Pandemic: What's Next From Here?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls the post-Labor Day period a new phase in New York's war against the coronavirus

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What to Know

  • The United States has confirmed well more than 6 million virus cases in the last six months, though a new study finds it may have hit that toll as early as April, begging the question of what the actual count could be now
  • Six months ago Friday, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic; no states have been harder hit than New York and New Jersey
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls the post-Labor Day period a new phase in New York's war against the coronavirus as even more activities resume

Exactly six months ago Friday, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Half a year later, nearly 200,000 Americans -- about 15 percent of them New Yorkers -- have died of a virus no one had ever heard of this time last year. Thousands more will die, health officials warn -- and while daily COVID cases have been declining, fall presents new challenges.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls the post-Labor Day period a new phase in New York's war against COVID-19. Today, the state is in the midst of a 35-day streak with daily COVID positive test rates below 1 percent. Back in April, that daily positivity rate was closer to 60 percent in New York City.

The former epicenter of the national crisis has taken major reopening steps just over the last month -- allowing the return of gyms, malls and setting a date to resume indoor dining. In just over a week, New York City schools will open, becoming the nation's largest public school district to welcome most of its students back in person on a part-time basis.

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


Nearly 40 percent of New York parents have opted to start the year remotely amid ongoing concerns about kids' and teachers' safety in the age of COVID-19. There are ventilation questions. There are social distancing questions. There are face-covering questions. And there are very few clear-cut answers.

What will happen when flu season compounds the COVID threat? When will it truly feel safe to go out to eat indoors? When can we send our children to school with the confidence they won't become infected -- and then return home to infect us?

Amid the unknowns, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, is warning Americans not to let down their collective guard.

“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter, because it’s not going to be easy,” Fauci said Thursday during a panel of doctors from Harvard Medical School.

Parts of society may never recover. Millions have lost their jobs. The mental health and economic tolls are devastating -- and lasting. Officials say there may be no sign of any true return to a new normal until a widely distributable vaccine is available. And that could take half a year or longer.

In the meantime, Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio continue to urge New Yorkers to practice the precautions that bent the curve in the first place: Wash your hands. Socially distance. Wear a mask. And get tested.

"New Yorkers are complying with state guidelines across the board, which has led to our low infection rate. We have taken care of one another," Cuomo said Thursday. And he asked New Yorkers to keep doing just that in the months ahead.

No state has lost close to the number of confirmed lives to COVID than New York. New Jersey, though, has been the second-most impacted, reporting well more than 14,000 confirmed virus deaths and nearly another 2,000 probable ones as of Friday. Like New York, the Garden State has taken its biggest reopening steps in the last month, allowing movies, indoor dining, gyms and more to resume.

With much remaining wrapped in bureaucratic tape and access to in-person public services, like the Motor Vehicle Commission, an ongoing issue, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that he would extend valid license photos from eight years to 12 and extend key deadlines for new registration and resident licenses.

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