What to Know
- The governors of New York and New Jersey are reminding their residents, especially the younger ones, not to let their guards down; both states are seeing COVID upticks among young people, many tied to bars and parties
- The two states have already slowed their reopenings in the wake of the record-breaking national surge; the governors warn they may have to take harsher steps if enforcement and compliance don't improve
- The approaching flu season will only complicate matters, Cuomo warned Thursday; symptoms may appear similar to COVID and given the current testing delays on the national front, he wants state labs to prepare now
A house party linked to 50 new COVID cases among people age 15 to 19. An LBI party that sidelined nearly three dozen lifeguards. A Long Island July 4 bash that sickened one in five attendees. And officials haven't begun to estimate how many may have gotten sick at a 700-person party that took cops hours to break up.
These are all real-life scenarios in New Jersey and New York this month alone -- dangerous examples of individuals flaunting social distancing, mask and other COVID rules that the states' governors warn could upend months-long progress.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeated a now familiar refrain to their citizens this week: Being young isn't an excuse to let your guard down. You're not immune. Don't be complacent. We can't slide backward after all this.
New Jersey has regressed to the number of daily new COVID cases it was seeing a month ago, reversing some of the progress that has vaulted it to the top of the nation's low-transmission list after months leading the other side of the curve. It reported fewer than 300 new daily COVID cases Thursday though, a sharp improvement from the 500-a-day average over the last few days.
Asked on a conference call with reporters Thursday whether he would consider adding New Jersey to the growing list of states on New York's quarantine-restricted list, Cuomo said he didn't see how that would work.
"I don't know how you could quarantine New Jersey," Cuomo said. "We're not blockading roads. They don't use airports to get to New York."
He said New York remained invested in helping New Jersey through any bumps along its COVID journey, calling the state "our neighbor."
Officials in that "neighbor" have run into trouble tracking down contacts from some of the larger house parties because attendees resist giving them up. Such tracing is critical to containment efforts, officials say. Murphy wants people to cooperate -- but he'd rather them not go to any packed house parties at all.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
With all of New York state in some phase of reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shifting his focus to monitoring test results on a daily basis across each region to identify potential hotspots before they emerge. Here's the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
"They are not safe. They put the hard work we’ve all undertaken since March at risk of being undone," Murphy said Wednesday. "Do not become the person who unknowingly contracts coronavirus at a party and then spreads it to loved ones who may be more susceptible to this virus."
Cuomo has issued similar stark reminders in New York, where COVID hospitalizations have ticked up among people in their 20s in recent weeks. He recently launched a national mask campaign targeting that age group. In it, young people act invincible from the virus. The narrator reminds them they're not.
The governor takes it a step further: "It can kill you."
New York has not seen its seven-day rolling average of positive tests increase in a statistically significant way since its phased reopening launched in mid-May. Total hospitalizations fell to 586 Thursday, the lowest number since March 17. But the state has seen new clusters, some stemming from parties or crowded bar areas.
Cuomo has threatened to reverse New York City's reopening as it relates to bars and restaurants, despite no COVID increase, saying "outdoor dining," which the city was allowed to resume when it entered Phase II, is not "outdoor drinking."
He likened sustaining progress against COVID to a dieter sustaining progress in a weight loss fight.
"What you're saying is my weight hasn't gone up. Why shouldn't I be eating cheesecake and indulging in desserts? Because if you had been doing that, your weight would have gone up," Cuomo said.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
He has called on local government -- and more recently called out the NYPD specifically -- to do a better job of enforcing COVID rules. Are tables spaced 6 feet apart? Are bars allowing people to congregate on sidewalks after serving them? And are they serving people just alcohol, which is banned, or food as well?
More than 150 bars and restaurants in New York City and Long Island were cited for COVID violations over a five-day period starting Friday, with Cuomo adding another 55 violations Monday and Tuesday nights in the city. On Wednesday night, more than two dozen more bars were cited, 20 of them in Manhattan.
Since March, nearly 60 New York bars and restaurants have had their licenses pulled. Each must file a correction plan to get its license back.
"This is an international phenomenon that we're dealing with," Cuomo said, referring to new infections tied to young people and crowded bars. "But all COVID is local."
At the same time, flu season is approaching, which Cuomo warns could complicate the COVID fight. It's one thing to combat a never-heard-of-before virus that has already killed hundreds of thousands worldwide. Try battling that at the same time as a known virus that does the same every year.
Cuomo said Thursday he's preparing state labs for that challenge now. He announced more than $30 million to enhance COVID-19 contact tracing and flu prevention in advance of the fall flu season.
Most of the funds, available to counties in the form of grants, will be used to increase local health department staffing capacity for enhanced detection, surveillance and prevention of COVID-19. The governor also announced $2 million in additional immunization funds to expand flu vaccination rates statewide to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system in the event of a severe flu season.