What to Know
- Out-of-state travel and slipping citizen compliance are contributing to new COVID concerns in New York and New Jersey; the latter is now seeing its highest viral transmission rate in 10 weeks as U.S. cases surge
- Confirmed COVID cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states
- With fall school still in limbo, NYC's Board of Health approved a plan Tuesday to reopen more than 3,000 childcare centers across the five boroughs starting July 13 to give parents some relief
Three more states -- Delaware, Kansas and Oklahoma -- have been added to the growing list of states under the tri-state quarantine order as New York and New Jersey investigate new travel-related outbreaks amid the U.S. virus surge.
As of Tuesday, travelers to the tri-state area from 19 hotspot states are told to isolate for 14 days. In addition to the three newcomers, the restricted states included: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, Idaho, Georgia, California, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Nevada.
Many of those states are among at least 21 to reverse or pause reopenings entirely as they scramble to curb a COVID surge the CDC warned more than a week ago may already be beyond the nation's ability to control. It's only gotten worse since. The mayor of Atlanta, whose state is among the 19 on the tri-state restricted list, said Tuesday she believes Georgia moved too fast.
"I think we were too aggressive in opening up," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told ABC. "It was too aggressive, it was too soon, and we’re paying for it not just in Georgia, but we’re paying for it across the country."
The tri-state area first implemented its 14-day quarantine order two weeks ago to try to keep new infections out. It applies to states where the seven-day rolling average of daily positive tests or the number of cases per 100,000 residents exceeds a certain threshold. Travel already appears to be having an impact.
In New Jersey, 12 of 13 new cases in Hoboken are "directly linked" to travel, Murphy says. New Jerseyans returning from a wedding in Myrtle Beach also brought more virus back home. In New York, Cuomo is investigating whether a sick Florida student may have infected four others at a Westchester County drive-in graduation. That ceremony preceded the quarantine order by four days.
The national surge has prompted New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are reevaluating their own opening strategies, which had been going smoothly. Connecticut — which reported zero COVID-related deaths Tuesday for the first time since March — became the latest state to pause its reopening process, hitting the brakes on bars and larger gatherings Monday amid growing national concerns enclosed spaces may pose a significantly heightened risk of infection.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, meanwhile, warned he may have to hit pause for the second time in roughly eight days. His state is now seeing its highest transmission rate in 10 weeks; it's at 1.0, meaning one sick person infects at least one other person. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that defines an outbreak.
Both New York and New Jersey are experiencing slipping citizen compliance when it comes to mask-wearing and social distancing, the governors say. That combined with the out-of-state travel factor only intensifies the risk.
Cuomo is increasingly concerned soaring U.S. infections will lead to soaring infections in New York.
"New Yorkers did the impossible - we went from the worst infection rate in the United States to one of the best - and the last thing we need is to see another spike of COVID-19," the governor said Tuesday.
New York City, the former epicenter of the national crisis, can least afford that. More than 20,000 lives -- at least -- have been lost to the virus already. Millions of jobs have vanished. The five boroughs are just now slowly beginning to emerge from one of the bleakest chapters in their history, progressing successfully through two of Cuomo's reopening phases.
Hundreds of thousands have returned to work. Subways and buses have each seen daily ridership top 1 million, though the numbers are still jarringly below what they were prior to the pandemic. The MTA says it plans to start charging bus passengers again in August; rides have been free since March due to rear-only boarding to protect drivers.
Also looking to return to normal procedures are NYC's courts, which will have grand juries convene once again starting August 10 throughout the five boroughs. There will also be more matters that may be heard in person, including preliminary hearings for those held on felony offenses, some plea and sentencing proceedings, and arraignments for defendants who were issued desk appearance tickets.
Up to 50,000 more were expected to return to work Monday when the city entered Phase III. That transition happened absent indoor dining, as Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed now is not the time to move that forward.
New Jersey has also postponed indoor dining indefinitely. Simply put, Murphy and Cuomo say it's easier to delay the start than it is to reverse a mistake. Ask parts of Florida and California, which are closing restaurants all over again.
While shopping malls have reopened with strict limitations in New Jersey, Cuomo won't yet commit to that move in New York, nor will he open casinos, movie theaters or fitness centers at this point. He won't even commit to New York's schools reopening in some capacity in the fall, even as de Blasio repeatedly and in no uncertain terms has told parents that will be the case.
As the fate of schools hangs in the balance, the city's Board of Health voted Tuesday to reopen more than 3,000 childcare centers across the five boroughs starting July 13 to give parents some relief. Requirements would include a 15-child per room cap and mandatory face coverings as well as daily health screenings and intense sanitizing.
Those measures have all been discussed for school in the fall as well, but Cuomo says the current climate is too dangerous and unpredictable to say they'll definitively open at all. The state's 700 school districts have been told to submit their reopening plans to his office for approval in the meantime.
"At the moment, no decisions have been made on whether schools are reopening in the fall. We will follow the data, and make a decision on the data," the governor said Monday. "The numbers all continue to show that we are right where we need to be, but what's happening around the country is a cold reminder that we must all continue to be cautious, smart and disciplined."
He has blamed the federal government for pushing uninformed reopenings over public health in a desperate attempt to revive the starved national economy.
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
New York hasn't seen any significant infection upticks related to reopenings thus far. Daily death tolls have fallen to the single digits or low double digits, while total hospitalizations are consistently setting new three-month lows.
As the state continues to move forward in its fight against coronavirus, there is growing anxiety among many, particularly in NYC, regarding rent and eviction protections put into place earlier in the shutdown that may soon expire, triggering a large number of evictions of those who have not been able to pay their rent.
"We have to especially protect the people who need it most. There's almost 200,000 tenants right now who can't pay their rent," said NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at a rent protest in the Bronx Tuesday.
In a statement, the governor's office said they have made it a "priority to provide assistance to struggling New Yorkers," including signing the Tenant Safe Harbor Act. Cuomo's office also said $100 million in rental assistance had been given out to New Yorkers suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19, while new measures allowed for "renters to use their security deposit to make rent payments, banning late fees for missing rent payments, and extending the state's moratorium on commercial evictions until August 20th for anyone who is suffering financial hardship" as a result of the virus.
The state's Mid-Hudson region, which includes Westchester, Rockland and five other counties, transitioned to the fourth and final phase of Cuomo's reopening plan on Tuesday. That phase reopens low-risk indoor and outdoor venues like museums, aquariums and zoos with capacity limitations and other restrictions. It also raises the cap on social gatherings, indoor and outdoor, to 50. Long Island was cleared by health experts advising the state on its reopening to move to Phase IV on Wednesday, Cuomo said.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
When it does, New York City will once again be in a phase alone. Given how the state's phased reopening has proceeded thus far, the five boroughs could be on track to get to Phase IV as early as July 20. But much has changed in two weeks. Cuomo already broke the mold once to delay the return of indoor dining in New York City, even while the rest of the state is allowed to continue it. He may again.
"We continue to closely monitor the regions to track the infection and hospitalization rate and be sure neither is going up," Cuomo said. "We will tighten or loosen the reopening speed as necessary depending on the data. If we see spikes in data or lack of compliance, we will slow down the reopening and adjust accordingly."
According to Covid Act Now, a group that assesses each state's COVID risk and whose data has been cited by both Cuomo and Murphy, now says neither New York nor New Jersey are on track to contain COVID. Both had that distinction about a week ago and now are downgraded to controlling the disease. Connecticut and Rhode Island both fell out of the green in the last five days, leaving Massachusetts and Vermont the only U.S. states on track to contain the virus, according to Covid Act Now. The group evaluates risk based on testing and hospital capacity, infection and death trends and contact tracing efficiency.