What to Know
- New Jersey has postponed indoor dining indefinitely while Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reevaluating dine-in for New York City, which had been scheduled to start that next week, as well as the rest of the state
- The number of states under the tri-state's quarantine order has doubled to 16: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah
- Meanwhile, 15 of New York City's 53 outdoor pools will open by August 1, according to City Hall, though it was not immediately clear which pools would be opening by that time
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut doubled the number of quarantine-restricted states to 16 Tuesday as the rate of new U.S. COVID infections surged to a level the CDC warned may be beyond the nation's ability to control.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert, further amplified the alarm Tuesday, telling the Senate he could see new daily U.S. cases soar to 100,000 new cases a day, a striking increase from the already record-breaking daily totals in the 40,000s, if current trends hold.
The tri-state travel restriction now applies to the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
It initially listed eight states when the tri-state first announced the order last week, a joint effort by governors Andrew Cuomo, Phil Murphy and Ned Lamont to protect the progress they've made in fighting coronavirus as more than half of U.S. states wage war anew. It asks travelers to self-isolate for 14 days if coming to the region from states where the seven-day rolling average of positive tests or positive cases exceeds a certain threshold. Violators may face heavy fines.
"Our numbers have come way down, probably as much as any American state, but we paid a huge price," Murphy said on "TODAY" Tuesday. "We've gone through hell. The last thing we want to do is go through hell again."
Cuomo, who leads a state that was losing 800 people a day at the height of the crisis in April, agrees. He blames the surges on the White House, which he says pushed rapid state reopenings over meticulous, data-driven restarts amid President Trump's overwhelming drive to reboot the starved national economy.
"Time to wake up, America," Cuomo said. "If that spread comes to New York, we could have to do this all over again. Doing this once in life is enough. We don't need to climb another mountain."
New York has been the nation's most-impacted COVID state by far, with nearly 400,000 confirmed cases and almost 25,000 confirmed virus fatalities, though officials acknowledge both tolls are likely much higher. New Jersey added nearly 2,000 more deaths to its toll, now above 15,000, last week when it added probable fatalities to the overall count as New York City has done.
While both states have maintained low infection rates amid their reopenings, the spikes elsewhere are contributing to a rapidly accelerating national toll. The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the U.S. has hit an all-time high; hospitalizations have also increased in a dozen states, the head of the CDC said. The surge has been so dramatic that the European Union left America off the list of "safe" countries it released Tuesday regarding international travel.
A growing number of states, from Texas to Arizona to Florida, are now halting or slowing their reopenings. Cuomo and Murphy are now reevaluating New York and New Jersey's reopening processes, especially where indoor dining is concerned.
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. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
Future of Indoor Dining in Limbo
Murphy shelved indoor dining indefinitely in New Jersey Monday, just three days before it was set to resume in his state, albeit it at 25 percent capacity. Crowding, flagrant disregard for social distancing and limited mask-wearing fueled his decision, he said.
In New York, Cuomo cited noncompliance and lacking enforcement as reasons to reevaluate indoor dining in the city, particularly given evidence of heightened risk in other states.
Cuomo said he'd make a final decision by Wednesday on the fate of indoor dining in New York City, which had been scheduled to resume next week when the five boroughs enter Phase III of the state's reopening strategy. The governor told NY1 Tuesday that state police, health officials and the state liquor authority would be in New York City later that night to check COVID protocol compliance.
Cuomo indicated any potential tweaks to New York City's plan could possibly affect the rest of the state, which has already opened up indoor dining. Six New York regions have already moved into the fourth and final phase of Cuomo's reopening plan, with Western New York the latest newcomer Tuesday.
Murphy didn't set a new reopening date for indoor dining in New Jersey, but said he expected it to take a matter of weeks, not days, riling pandemic-devastated restaurant and bar owners in his state who are growing increasingly desperate.
At the same time, a handful of restaurant owners expressed relief over the indoor dining delay, saying they've noticed local establishments not abiding by the rules.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Uzziel Arias, the owner of Charritos, a Mexican restaurant in Hoboken, says he's one of few he's seen following social distancing guidelines.
"I don't think a lot of restaurants are ready, no. I've been seeing all over Hoboken and in Jersey City and some parts of Edgewater, tables are like a foot or two feet apart. Come on, they said 6 feet," Arias said.
Six feet between tables is also the rule of thumb under New York's indoor dining guidelines. If that's not possible, restaurants and bars are required to use barriers as spacers. Staff and unseated customers must wear masks. People are only supposed to eat out with members of their own household. They're not allowed to congregate outside busy bars. Those are also the guidelines for outdoor dining -- and Cuomo says in many cases, they're not being followed.
The stakes are uniquely high for the city's restaurant industry. The New York City Hospitality Alliance said it will defer to public health officials to prevent another spike in coronavirus cases, but said that "small businesses urgently need certainty and immediate support on rent, expanded outdoor dining and other responsive policies if they are to have any real chance of survival and recovery."
Even as indoor dining hangs in the balance, New York City will go forward with the rest of Phase III on Monday, reopening personal care businesses from spas to nail and tanning salons, massage and tattoo parlors and more. Expanded outdoor recreation options like tennis, basketball and Bocce will also return then.
Meanwhile, as part of the city's budget agreement, 15 of New York City's 53 outdoor pools will open by August 1, according to City Hall. There will be multiple pools opening in each borough. The decision comes after de Blasio initially said there would be no pools at all in 2020. And with hotter weather on the way as early as next week, there may be a push to get some of the 15 pools open sooner than August.
The five boroughs' 14 miles of public beaches are still scheduled to reopen for swimming on Wednesday, while New Jersey's amusement parks, boardwalk rides and playgrounds will return the following day. Casinos are also permitted to reopen Thursday at 25 percent capacity, though a late-night executive order from Murphy's office has wreaked havoc on some of their plans.
That executive order banned smoking on casino floors, which has long been a draw. It also prohibited the serving of beverages of any kind as well as food consumption within New Jersey casinos in line with the indoor dining delay.
Atlantic City's top-performing Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was the first to say Monday it would stay closed in light of Murphy's indoor dining decision. The smoking ban could be a deal-breaker for additional casinos.