What to Know
- Long Island reopened Wednesday, leaving New York City the state's only region left on PAUSE; NYC is targeting early June to reopen
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo says now is the opportunity to supercharge reopenings; he is meeting with President Donald Trump Wednesday to talk about accelerating major infrastructure projects
- The positive developments come amid the pandemic's staggering emotional and economic cost; the tri-state area has confirmed nearly 40,000 virus deaths, while the U.S. toll topped 100,000 Wednesday
Long Island became the state's latest region to start its reopening process Wednesday, leaving New York City alone on PAUSE. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with the president in Washington to talk infrastructure, as America's death toll eclipsed a grim 100,000 milestone.
Cuomo's meeting with President Donald Trump came a day after the governor said it was time to turn the page on New York's battle with coronavirus, shifting focus to helping New York City reach the initial reopening phase and "supercharging" the regional reopenings already in progress. By "supercharge," Cuomo wants to accelerate long-overdue infrastructure programs like rebuilding Penn Station and expanding cross-river transit tunnels while ridership is still low.
Asked about his Wednesday meeting with Trump, Cuomo said the two had a productive discussion on certain projects, despite their "political differences." He didn't offer a potential timeline for federal investment, saying Trump pledged to get back to him in the next week or so. A day before the meeting, Cuomo said, "it's just common sense" to invigorate infrastructure development at this point in the crisis -- and he doubled down on that point Wednesday.
"We already know that tens of thousands of small businesses closed and won't come back. We already know corporations are going to lay off thousands of workers and use this pandemic as an excuse to get lean," Cuomo said. "We know there is work to do in this nation. You have an infrastructure that's crumbling, you need to jumpstart the economy, you need to create jobs. Do it now."
At the same time, Cuomo is zeroing his focus on New York City. He plans to target resources to its highest-impact ZIP codes, which are the prime sources of new infections and hospitalizations, state data shows. In some of those communities, the infection rate is double the citywide average, the governor said.
"We're going to attack the virus at its source. That will really bring the numbers down in New York City," Cuomo said Tuesday. The state began its hyper-targeted effort last week but will "bring it to a new level this week," he added.
Both Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have said New York City is currently on track to reopen in the first or second week of June. De Blasio said Wednesday the city is "getting closer every day." In preparation for Phase I, his team is assessing the needs of the businesses that will be eligible to open at that point and studying transit patterns to ensure public safety once more people start returning to work. The mayor expects "easily" hundreds of thousands more people to get back on the job in Phase I and even more to return in Phase II.
He also realizes people will still get sick in the future, even as infection rates steadily decline over time. He wants to ensure those who do have a safe place to isolate until they get through the period of contagion. On Wednesday, de Blasio announced newly coined resource navigators, 200 staffers from community-based organizations, will support anyone who can isolate safely at home. They'll help provide meals and medical assistance, among other benefits, for free.
The program launches next week. If COVID patients can't isolate safely at home, the city has 1,200 hotel rooms available, also for free, to accommodate them for up to 14 days. De Blasio plans to double that number in the coming weeks.
"Anyone who needs that hotel room to safely separate from someone they live with, they will get that hotel room for free," de Blasio said, noting the free hotel rooms also come with medical and emotional support services.
While New York City, now facing a $9 billion revenue shortfall that will likely extend beyond the next fiscal year, anxiously awaits its entry into Phase I, the rest of the state has started to reopen. Five regions could qualify to enter Phase II, opening up more professional services and retail, as early as Friday. Starting Wednesday, the MTA is increasing subway service and Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road service starting to accommodate more commuters.
Region by Region Status
Source: New York State; Report as of May 18
Uncertainty Looms as More States Reopen; U.S. Projected Death Toll Rises
Some restrictions have already been relaxed in New York statewide as it pertains to gathering size, socially distant outdoor activities and professional sports. Gov. Phil Murphy has similarly eased rules on gatherings and activities in New Jersey.
The Garden State remains in Stage 1 of what Murphy describes as a three-stage process, though the governor says New Jersey is nearly ready for Stage 2. He'll make the move when the data supports it, he says, citing his oft-repeated mantra again Wednesday: "Public health creates economic health. Data drives dates."
Right now, the data suggests he proceed cautiously, even as some businesses threaten to reopen Monday in defiance of the shutdown. Next to Connecticut, New Jersey reports more COVID deaths and cases per 100,000 residents than any other state in America. New Jersey led the nation on both those metrics just a few days ago and still reports more hospitalizations per 100,000 residents than any other state. It has lost at least 11,339 people to the virus, more than were lost in all its wars combined yet still not half the death New York has seen.
Overall, Murphy says the state is seeing "many" more good days than bad," adding he has a high degree of confidence summer camps will be able to operate this year, albeit likely in an adjusted format. He also believes daycare operations can return soon, presuming the numbers continue to go in the right direction.
"The stronger our data becomes, the stronger our confidence will become that we can take the next steps in responsibly restarting our economy and getting our recovery underway," Murphy said Wednesday, shortly after he and his wife got tested for coronavirus.
A new composite virus projection model has improved its outlook for New Jersey over the next month. The COVID-19 Forecast Hub from the University of Massachusetts Amherst curates data from diverse projection models to develop a more accurate picture of the upcoming few weeks than any single model can offer, project leader Nicholas Reich says.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
The hub's latest projection, published late Tuesday, averages data from 10 different models. It predicts New Jersey could ultimately see 12,617 virus deaths by June 13, more than two hundred fewer than it predicted the state could lose by that time a week ago.
The hub also predicts a more favorable three-week snapshot for New York, projecting the Empire State to lose up to 30,801 total to the virus by June 13. Last week, the projection for June 13 was 716 fatalities higher. The projections for Connecticut haven't changed significantly over the last week by this model.
They have, however, increased slightly for the nation, which topped 100,000 deaths and then some on Wednesday, by NBC News estimates. The hub predicts the country could lose a total of 117,607 by June 13, up by several thousand since last week. By June 20, the U.S. could see more than 123,000 thousand dead -- and there's a 10 percent chance the toll could top 130,000 by that time, Reich says.
“At this critical juncture in our nation’s COVID-19 response, when many states are making decisions to loosen restrictions on society, individual models are saying quite different things about what comes next at the state level," said Reich, director of the UMass Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence. "Looking at the full range of possible futures presented by these different teams is an important tool to better understand our uncertain future.”