What to Know
- NYC is on track to enter Phase IV, the final stage of the state's reopening plan, on Monday; but will do so without reopening new indoor venues
- The rest of the state is well into Phase IV, reopening museums and malls with capacity limits and other restrictions; those will stay closed when the city initially starts Phase IV. Zoos and botanical gardens will be OK to open
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he remains concerned about compliance in NYC regarding bars and restaurants; going forward, any that get three violations will receive an immediate shutdown order
New York City will enter Phase IV Monday, making it the last region to move into state's final phase of reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed in a Friday afternoon conference call.
Cuomo says he waited to make the final decision after a panel of international experts reviewed the five boroughs' metrics. The Phase IV green light from Cuomo comes without the long-awaited returns of malls and museums. The governor doused any anticipation for that Thursday, when he said New York City's Phase IV would include none of the additional indoor activities that have come with the transition for the rest of the state.
"I feel like we are standing on a beach, and we're looking out at the sea and we see the second wave building in the distance, so I want all New Yorkers to be on high alert," Cuomo said Friday.
Phase IV also reopens low-risk outdoor venues like zoos and botanical gardens with strict capacity limits (only a third of standard capacity) and mandatory COVID precautions in place. Those will be allowed to return in New York City when it moves to the next phase Monday. Production of media and TV shows can also return, as well as fanless pro sports — meaning Yankees and Mets will play this weekend in front of an empty Citi Field.
"We'll get to watch it on television, I think it's going to be a great relief to a lot of us. Particularly to all the baseball fans out there, and I'm one of them," Bill de Blasio said.
Cuomo offered no new timeline for indoor reopenings. That includes indoor dining, which he similarly left out from New York City's move into Phase III nearly two weeks ago amid heightened national concerns about enclosed spaces.
De Blasio had said he expected a tweaked or delayed Phase IV rollout in the city, given the current national climate and the heightened risk of infection indoors compared with outdoors. The five boroughs have sacrificed too much in their months-long war against coronavirus to risk having to start the process all over.
"Now that we've gotten this far let's hang onto it. Let's stay focused. Let's stay disciplined," the mayor said Friday. "We've got to strike a balance, and we've got time -- watch what's happening around the city, watch what's happening around the country, and we'll do that working closely with the state of New York."
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
While Liberty Island is prepared to partially reopen Monday, the anticipated start of the city's Phase IV, Ellis Island will remain closed, while the indoor Met says it won't return until late August. Cuomo said the Met can still plan to reopen at that time, despite his ongoing indoor restrictions, but added, "We'll see."
It wasn't clear if the modified Phase IV plan for the city would still allow for the cap on social gatherings to be increased from 25 to 50, which has been the case for other regions taking that fourth step.
In the meantime, de Blasio said the city's wildly popular Open Restaurants initiative would be extended through Halloween, with another 40 blocks expected to open for weekend al fresco dining in the coming weeks.
The Phase IV timeline is a uniquely critical one for New York. It is tied directly to the fate of schools. Regions have to be in Phase IV and maintain a daily infection rate of 5 percent or lower over a 14-day rolling average in order for Cuomo to even consider their school districts' reopening plans, all of which will likely involve a mix of in-person and remote learning to start the year in September. The governor said he would make a decision on New York schools the first week of August.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
New York City's current seven-day rolling average is just 1 percent, a far cry from the 59 percent daily positivity rates it was seeing at the peak of the crisis in April. Daily death tolls have consistently been in the single digits or a touch higher, while statewide COVID hospitalizations hit their lowest Friday (765) since March 18.
The rest of the state's regions have maintained seven-day rolling averages around 1 percent through their transitions into Phase IV, though certain counties have seen spot spikes recently. Out-of-state travel has been blamed for some spikes, but Cuomo is exceedingly concerned about COVID protocol compliance locally.
Reports of mask-off parties in the city have popped off on social media. Day after day, New Yorkers are seen lingering outside bars and restaurants, many packed close together and some not wearing masks -- for an extended period of time. Restaurants don't always have al fresco tables 6 feet apart, which is required.
In total, Cuomo said the state had looked at more than 5,000 restaurants in downstate New York and found "many cases of a failure to comply."
He invoked new regulations Thursday to better promote compliance. First, any bar or restaurant that receives three COVID protocol violations will be closed. Single egregious violations can also result in immediate shutdown. Second, those establishments can only serve people alcohol if those people also order food.
“We allowed outdoor dining. We never allowed outdoor drinking” and partying crowds, Cuomo emphasized Friday. De Blasio, on the other hand, maintained the city hadn’t seen any “really profound problem with compliance.”
”It’s wrong, it’s dangerous, it’s selfish, it’s unacceptable, it’s also illegal," Cuomo said of ongoing violations. "If we do not enforce compliance, the virus will spread. It is that simple."
"Nobody could have expected we would be in the position we're in today. This is a second wave but it is a manmade second wave," he added, referring to the surging cases nationwide. "This is a situation where we just failed to learn the lessons of the first wave. Rather than the wave coming from the East to hit New York, the wave is going to come from the West and hit New York. There's no reason for this nation to be going through what it's going through now."
Cities and states are scrambling to contain rapidly-spreading outbreaks the CDC has warned may already be beyond the nation's ability to control.
At least 21 U.S. states have paused or reversed their reopenings amid the national surge. Florida, one of the 22 states on the tri-state quarantine-restricted list, set a new daily COVID case record over the weekend. Daily confirmed cases topped 15,000 there, blowing past the previous record New York set in April. On Thursday, the state reported another record day of hospitalizations and deaths — as the U.S. once again set a new single-day record number of new cases, blowing by the previous mark of more than 71,000, according to NBC News.
As of Thursday, just two states -- New Jersey and Vermont -- are on track to contain coronavirus, according to CovidActNow, a group cited by both Cuomo and Gov. Phil Murphy that uses real-time metrics to assess risk. New York and Connecticut have fallen out of that category and controlling disease growth. Virtually the entire southern part of the country is in an active outbreak state.
Nationally, the virus has killed more than 139,000 people, by NBC News estimates. New York alone accounts for nearly 20 percent of those fatalities, though its share of the national death toll is declining amid spiraling outbreaks in other states. The head of the CDC says America could see 200,000 deaths during the upcoming flu season if more isn't done to slow the spread of coronavirus.