New NYC Program Brings COVID Testing to You; Mayor Details More Monday Reopening Plans

The developments come a day after confirmed virus deaths in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut topped 40,000. Officials acknowledge the actual toll is likely much higher

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What to Know

  • New York City will enter Phase I of reopening on Monday; Mayor Bill de Blasio says the five boroughs could be poised for Phase II by early July
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday he expected to be able to make an announcement on the reopening of outdoor pools, both municipal and private, early next week.
  • The developments come a day after confirmed virus deaths in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut topped 40,000. Officials acknowledge the actual toll is likely much higher

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a new mobile COVID testing program Friday that will bring tests to New Yorkers' own front doors as he laid out new rules for construction sites ahead of the city's reopening, now three days away.

More than 30,000 construction sites will reopen Monday as the five boroughs City enter Phase I of reopening following their months-long shutdown, de Blasio said. Department of Buildings inspectors will sweep every permitted work site to ensure compliance with social distancing and other health department guidance.

For the first 30 days, enforcement will consist of education campaigns and non-monetary orders. After that, inspectors will start issuing violations. A first violation comes with a stop-work order and a $5,000 penalty. Subsequent violations will incur $10,000 fines, the mayor said.

Up to 400,000 people are expected to return to work in Phase I. Many of those employees will return to a transit system that's seen a 90 percent drop in ridership over the course of the pandemic and faces questions on how to maintain social distancing. The MTA installed new, no-touch payment scanners in half its subway stations to help prevent some contact, and is asking City Hall for 60 miles of priority bus lanes in the Bronx, Brooklyn and on Staten Island.

As part of Phase 1 of reopening, construction will also be allowed to resume — and the city's Department of Buildings released guidance on how those more than 33,000 sites should re-open. Social distancing protocols should be followed, and masks should be worn on sites. There will also be updated logs for cleaning and disinfecting, capacity limits for small areas and other precautions taken to enhance health

The mayor expects hundreds of thousands more to return when the city enters Phase II, which he said Thursday could happen in early July. He has already laid out an outdoor dining plan to help restaurants prepare for that next step.

Region by Region Status

Source: New York State; Report as of May 18

As the city and the state continue toward reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that may be one the first steps in having schooling return in person. The order allows for necessary in-person special education instruction to take place over the summer, provided any district that provides the service follow state and federal guidance. It has yet to be determined if any or all in-person schooling will return in the fall.

Social distancing and facial coverings will be the rule of thumb going forward. They've both proven to reduce the spread of infection. New York City recorded its lowest daily percentage of people testing positive (2 percent) on Thursday since the pandemic hit. It ticked up slightly to 4 percent in the mayor's briefing Friday, still well below the 26 percent positivity rate the city saw at the peak of the crisis.

The mobile testing program will launch with two trucks in the Bronx's Soundview neighborhood and Kew Gardens, Queens, next week. The city plans to add another eight trucks in the coming weeks. Each truck can conduct 80 tests a day, which would boost the city's testing capacity with up to 800 more tests daily. No appointments are necessary. The trucks will accept walk-ins only.

The mayor also announced Friday that three more Gotham Health sites in Jackson Heights, Bushwick and Tremont will host COVID-19 centers, as the city tries to provide more help to some of the hardest-hit areas. The coronavirus pandemic has had a much more severe impact on communities of color, with black and Latino New Yorkers dying around twice the rate of their white counterparts, according to the city. Opening in the fall, the COVID-19 Centers of Excellence will provide pulmonary care, radiologic and diagnostic services, as well as mental health services to help address anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychological distress.

Anyone can get tested regardless of symptoms; the mayor's office opened up testing universally earlier this week as New Jersey's governor has done in his state. Last week, the city conducted more than 33,000 tests in a single day. Test and trace will be key to mitigating infection spread going forward. The mayor encourages everyone to take advantage of the expanded testing opportunities, especially as ongoing mass protests over the death of George Floyd raise the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

More than 200,000 New York City residents have tested positive for COVID-19 to date, though antibody testing data suggests more than 2 million may have had the virus at some point. Some likely never even knew they were infected.

The scope of the tragedy is likely far more extensive than confirmed virus deaths indicate as well. To date, New York City accounts for nearly 16,000 of the state's 24,133 confirmed virus deaths. The city adds another 4,727 probable virus deaths to that toll -- and the CDC says there are still another 5,000 "excess" deaths not confirmed or probably related to the virus that may still be connected.

The tri-state area's confirmed virus death toll topped a grim 40,000 milestone this week. New Jersey has lost more than 12,000 people to date while Connecticut's toll surpassed the 4,000-mark on Thursday. Nationally, nearly 110,000 lives have been lost.

The Garden State is expected to enter Stage 2 of its three-stage reopening on June 15, opening up in-person retail and hair salons, among other businesses. In-person customer services will resume at New Jersey's motor vehicle centers at that time, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday. The Motor Vehicle Commission hopes to start road tests and issue new licenses and permits two weeks later.

Murphy also said Friday he expected to be able to make an announcement on the reopening of outdoor pools, both municipal and private, early next week.

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