What to Know
- The entire state of New York is now in Phase IV, the final step of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening; New York City has taken a modified approach to the last two phases as it relates to indoor activities
- Both Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have opted cautiously to protect hard-earned progress; at the same time, both are concerned slipping compliance locally may compound the problem of out-of-state travel
- 31 states are now on the tri-state quarantine list; people coming to the region from those states, which are in the midst of viral outbreaks, must self-isolate for 14 days
More than half of America is now on the tri-state quarantine list, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, as COVID continues to surge virtually unabated across the country. A total of 31 states are now on the list, with 10 added and one removed.
The newcomers are Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington. Minnesota came off the list this week, no longer meeting the hotspot threshold. It could return just as easily though; Delaware only spent a week off the list before its numbers rose again.
Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont jointly implemented the restricted travel list last month in an effort to ward off local COVID resurgence. It applies to states that exceed 10 percent daily test positivity rates or 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling period.
Apart from the new additions, the other states on the quarantine list currently include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
“The infection rate across the country is getting worse, not better,” Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters.
New York state, as well as New York City, the former epicenter of the national COVID crisis, both have a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of just 1 percent. With tens of thousands already dead, protecting progress is paramount.
At the same time, Cuomo says a second wave of the virus in New York is inevitable. It's just a matter of how hard it hits.
"It's only a matter of time in my book until you see the New York infection rate go up because people from the other states are coming to New York and they're now bringing the infection rate," he said Tuesday. "The virus will travel. It's not a maybe or a possibly -- it will."
Right now, travelers to the tri-state area from those states are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Those who fly into New York airports must fill out a form state officials will use to ensure they abide by the rules. Failure to submit one can result in a $2,000 fine and mandatory quarantine. The form also is required for out-of-state travelers coming to New York by car, bus or train -- though enforcement via those means of transportation may be more difficult.
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
Cuomo acknowledged Tuesday that the quarantine is itself imperfect; he called for improved community action to better control the spread. He traveled to one of the states on that quarantine list -- Georgia -- on Monday, part of his effort to return the favor to states in need, as New York was so desperately in April.
He said he wouldn't quarantine upon his return, since he is an "essential worker," but will be re-tested. In Georgia, the number of people hospitalized because of the respiratory illness has tripled in the past month. Cuomo portrayed his mission to deliver PPE, test kits, and set up contact tracing as an effort to help overcome political divisions on how to fight COVID-19.
“This virus, it preys upon the weak and the vulnerable,” Cuomo said. “It’s the weak body that has trouble resolving the virus. The American body is in many ways, weak, right now. The body politic is weakened.”
Political warring over masks has become commonplace in a number of states -- and in the country, given President Donald Trump's aversion to them himself (he appears to be shifting his message on that one, though). Factions of mask-flaunters outrightly refuse to wear them as required in certain establishments, often leading to confrontations at stores or with neighbors.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told NPR Tuesday it was difficult to give a single explanation as to why it's been so challenging to convince Americans to wear masks. Authority pushback could be a factor.
"Masks aren’t the only way we can turn things around, but it is an important component," Fauci said. "I’m not sure it’s time for a federal mask mandate, but a signal from the top is very important."
Cuomo said Tuesday he was "repulsed" by the lack of a federal mask order; he cited research that suggests up to 40,000 U.S. lives could have been saved with one. Both he and Murphy have emphasized the importance of masks, which studies increasingly show to be an effective virus-fighting tool, in their own states.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
"One state can only do so much to protect itself from COVID," Cuomo tweeted Tuesday. "The virus can and will cross state lines. There must be a national plan to get this virus under control. Five months later, we’re still waiting."
Out-of-state travel is one of two key threats to New York's progress in the coronavirus war, the governor says. The other is noncompliance at home. He issued a stern warning on that Monday, threatening to roll back New York City's hard-earned reopening over maskless street parties and ongoing rule violations by bars and restaurants. The latter could be shut down again, he said.
Four more bars and restaurants in New York -- three in Queens and one on Long Island -- have had their licenses suspended over infractions in the last few days. Those include Brik Bar in Astoria, M.I.A. Made in Astoria, Maspeth Pizza in Maspeth and Secrets Gentleman's Club in Deer Park.
The entire state of New York is now in Phase IV, the final step of Cuomo's reopening plan. Being in that phase is a requirement for the governor to consider school reopenings in the fall. Certain health metrics requirements also must be met. Cuomo said he'll make his decision on schools the first week of August.
If New York's health data stays where it is now, Cuomo said he would announce Aug. 1 that schools will open for some level of in-person learning in September.
New York hasn't seen any significant infection upticks from its phased regional reopenings. Just two new deaths were added to the toll Tuesday, Cuomo said, the lowest number since the first fatalities of the pandemic. He called that a "milestone." For the second time this month, both New York City and Connecticut had zero new deaths.
But the pendulum could just as easily swing the other way. And if the metrics decline, Cuomo said he'll have to consider alternatives.
"You can't open a school if the virus is on the increase," the governor said.
New York City has said parents will have the option to go full remote learning if they'd prefer to keep their kids out of the school building. On Monday, Murphy announced parents will have the same choice in New Jersey.
A growing number of hotspot states are changing their reopening plans amid the ongoing, record-breaking COVID surge. Some that planned to fully reopen in person are shifting to fully remote instruction, at least to start the year. Nearly two dozen states have paused or reversed their reopenings over COVID spikes.
To date, the United States has confirmed more than 3.5 million cases and lost at least 141,000 people to the virus. Given the current climate, experts are now predicting higher ultimate death tolls for the United States -- especially once flu season hits -- if more isn't done to get the spread of the virus under control.