NYC Enters Phase III Minus Dine-in; NJ Infection Rate Hits 10 Week-High, Travel Fuels Outbreaks

New Jersey's rate of transmission exceeded 1.0 for the first time in 10 weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday; the state is investigating several new outbreaks tied to out-of-state travel

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What to Know

  • New York City entered Phase III on Monday, reopening personal care services such as nail salons and tattoo palors but not indoor dining. Dog runs in NYC, along with basketball and tennis courts, also return
  • Both NYC and NJ made the decision to postpone indoor dining indefinitely last week as bar- and restaurant-linked COVID cases surge across the U.S.; meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo says this year's NY State Fair is canceled
  • New Jersey's rate of transmission exceeded 1 for the first time in 10 weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday; the state is investigating several new outbreaks tied to out-of-state travel

Nail salons and spas, along with massage and tattoo parlors and other personal care businesses reopened in New York City for the first time in nearly four months Monday as the five boroughs entered Phase III of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening plan. Indoor dining, which the rest of the state resumed when it took that step, remains off the table for now amid heightened concerns about enclosed spaces.

Both New York City and New Jersey made the decision last week to postpone indoor dining indefinitely, citing soaring U.S. virus rates tied to bars and restaurants and citizens' slipping compliance with distancing and face coverings. Meanwhile, travel from viral hotspots may already be having a local impact.

No new timetable for indoor dining has been set -- and Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday it would be a "substantial amount of time" before it returns. The rest of New York has already resumed indoor dining and is permitted to continue it, Cuomo said, noting that the issues that fueled his decision to shelve it in the city are primarily city-specific problems. That marked the first time he diverged from a statewide reopening standard since the pandemic hit -- and it came at a time more than half of U.S. states, many with looser reopenings, battle COVID anew.

Also pausing part of it's Phase III reopening Monday was Connecticut, as Gov. Ned Lamont said that the growing number of cases around the country led to the decision to keep places like bars closed for now. The third phase would have also allowed for 25-person gatherings inside and 100 people outside — both on hold for now. State campgrounds will still reopen on July 8, however.

"If we learned one thing, it's how much safer it is outdoors than indoors," Lamont said, adding that the state never opened restaurants to more than 50 percent capacity. "We're just erring on the side of caution, we see what's going on in other states."

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


America has been smashing its new daily COVID case records on a regular basis for at least a full week. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned the virus may have mutated in a way that allows the pathogen to spread more easily, which only intensified fears ahead of July 4 celebrations.

In New York, photos and videos of people without face coverings partying in large groups that surfaced on social media over the weekend drew swift rebuke from officials in the city and on Long Island. On Fire Island, a commercial district official said a man who wrote on social media that he had COVID-19 symptoms two weeks before attending parties, is no longer welcomed at restaurants there.

“I understand people are fatigued,” Cuomo said. “We’ve been doing this for 128 days. I get it. But it doesn’t change the facts, and we have to stay smart.”

In the city, de Blasio said Monday that more than 1,000 inspectors were out checking al fresco restaurant compliance over the weekend. They found 85 percent to be largely abiding by the rules and stayed at sites with violations until the issues were addressed, the mayor said. He added that this kind of random spot-checking would be the norm going forward. The city has seen more than 7,000 restaurants sign up for its new Open Restaurants initiative, which de Blasio launched to promote outdoor dining ahead of al fresco's return in Phase II.

The former epicenter of the national crisis, New York City has clung to a low infection rate even as the virus consumes much of the country with fresh ferocity. It has a seven-day rolling positive daily COVID test average of just 1 percent, mirroring the rest of the state, a far cry from the 59 percent positive rate it saw in April. Even Queens and Brooklyn, the country's two deadliest COVID counties, have consistently maintained spot positivity rates below 1.5 percent.

De Blasio said he expected up to 50,000 more people to return to work Monday — a significant portion being employees of salons and the other businesses returning for the first time since March — as the city starts Phase III. Hundreds of thousands have gone back in the last month as the city progressed through the first two reopening phases, which the mayor declared Monday to both be successes thus far. More outdoor recreation, from dog parks to tennis and basketball courts, soccer fields and Bocce, also returned in New York City Monday as part of Phase III.

“It will be more of summer again because we did this hard work to get this far and we cannot let up now,” de Blasio said.

With the latest businesses to return, de Blasio addressed whether or not this is what NYC could realistically look like for the foreseeable future, or until there's a vaccine.

"We're making steady progress, I want to see us keep making steady progress. The vaccine will the be the absolute 'crossing the rubicon' moment, but I think we can make a lot o progress in the meantime," the mayor said.

Still unknown is what's happening with schools come this fall, with more than one million NYC families unable to plan schedules and what will be happening. The president tweeted Monday that "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL," but Gov. Cuomo said no decision has yet been made on that front, saying President Trump should not be "a co-conspirator of COVID."

The five boroughs will soon be in Phase III alone, with the Mid-Hudson and Long Island regions expected to enter Phase IV, the last of the governor's reopening stages, in the coming days. Phase IV opens low-risk indoor and outdoor venues like museums, but not malls, gyms, casinos or movie theaters.

Cuomo wants to take a deeper look at air filtration systems and possibly implement new requirements for large indoor spaces to ensure that virus isn't recirculated in the air, as evidence in other states indicates may be the case.

New York hasn't seen any significant infection upticks related to reopenings thus far. Daily death tolls have fallen to the single digits, while total hospitalizations hit their lowest number since March 18 (817) on Monday, Cuomo said.

"The numbers have actually declined since we started our reopening, which, as you remember, no one predicted," the governor added. "Can you control the increase? That was the question. We haven't had to control the increase. Control the activity and monitor the valves to see if the infection rate is up and keep your hand on the valve. If you see it going up, slow your hand on the valve."

That's what New York City and New Jersey did last week in shelving indoor dining indefinitely. Still, both places continue to move forward on reopening. More returns in New Jersey Monday, including full NJ Transit service, summer camps and socially distant outdoor graduation ceremonies.

The state had been poised to soon set a date for its entry into the third and final stage of Gov. Phil Murphy's reopening plan, but the timeline has grown murkier amid the darkening picture nationally. On Monday, Murphy said the state's rate of transmission had exceeded 1 for the first time in 10 weeks. That means each new COVID case translates to at least one other new case, if not more.

Health officials worry after more than a dozen cases confirmed in Hoboken were from people who recently traveled outside of the state. Brian Thompson reports.

"We need to be smarter and work harder," Murphy said Monday. "I do not want to have to hit another pause on our restart because a small number of New Jerseyans are being irresponsible and spreading COVID-19 while the rest of us continue to work hard to stop it."

Out-of-state travel is already impacting the state. Murphy said it's been linked to 12 of 13 new cases in Hoboken, while several new cases in North Jersey are tied to a wedding in Myrtle Beach amid the ongoing national surge in infections.

That U.S. surge in part prompted Cuomo to do something Monday that "makes me personally very unhappy," which was to cancel the famed New York State Fair in Syracuse, an annual event that draws in visitors from all over the state and the country. His office continues to investigate whether a student from Florida may have infected people who attended a drive-in Westchester County graduation last month.

Florida, which has reported more than 10,000 new cases for several straight days and hit a new high of 11,458 new cases Saturday, nearly tying New York's high of 11,571 from April, is among 16 states on the tri-state quarantine list. That list applies to states where the rolling seven-day positive test percentages or number of cases per population exceed certain thresholds. Travelers from states that meet that criteria are told to isolate for 14 days before entering the tri-state area.

The other states currently on that list are Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

"An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. That's the mentality we have to have now," Cuomo said Monday. "We can't protect ourselves as an island because we're not an island. We're seeing it happen."

Murphy emphasized the same message later Monday. He said counties have already identified places to help New Jerseyans isolate safely if returning from a viral hotspot. Anyone who needs help should call their local health department.

Nearly 3 million COVID cases have been confirmed in the U.S. to date, according to Johns Hopkins. The recent surges have fueled spikes in hospitalizations and added to the confirmed national death toll, which has topped 125,000. Officials admit the actual death and case totals are both likely much higher than reported.

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