What to Know
- Long Island made the move to Phase III Wednesday, leaving NYC alone in Phase II. Five regions will enter Phase IV on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, but he won't reopen malls, gyms or movie theaters at that time
- New York City beaches will reopen for swimming July 1, Mayor de Blasio confirmed Wednesday; meanwhile, NY state and New Jersey are two of just three U.S. states on track to contain COVID, new data shows
- The tri-state governors jointly announced a 14-day quarantine on travelers from viral hotspots as they strive to keep their low infection rates down
Five New York regions are set to enter the fourth and final phase of the state's reopening plan Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. Social gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed, up from 25, but at this point, shopping malls, gyms and movie theaters are not part of Phase IV.
Cuomo said New York is continuing to study the most recent developments on those fronts "to ensure we make informed decisions." He's concerned AC systems in some large venues may circulate rather than cleanse the virus.
"There's new information that comes out on this virus every day and anyone who thinks this is a static situation is wrong," Cuomo said Wednesday. "We're looking at what's happening in other states."
Asked whether that means he plans to add a fifth phase to the state's reopening strategy at some point, Cuomo indicated he wasn't saying that. He said he's working closely with health officials and will reopen those bigger venues when he's confident they don't pose some unexpected public exposure risk.
Phase IV reopens low-risk indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment venues, including museums, historical sites, aquariums, zoos and botanical gardens. Social distancing and facial coverings are mandatory. Capacity is restricted to 25 percent for indoor venues and to 33 percent for outdoor ones. Higher education, media production and fanless pro sports can also resume with limitations.
The first five regions that will take that next step are the handful that initially reopened when Cuomo lifted the statewide shutdown on May 15: Central New York, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes regions.
The entire state except for New York City is now in Phase III of reopening, which allows indoor dining and personal care services like spas, tanning and beauty salons, massage and tattoo parlors and more with restrictions. Long Island became the latest newcomer to that third phase on Wednesday. Thus far, each region has spent two weeks in each phase before transitioning to the next.
New York's phased reopenings haven't caused any significant spikes in infections so far, though Cuomo continues to monitor the data closely. Statewide, confirmed daily virus deaths and hospitalizations are seeing pandemic lows.
Today, New York boasts one of the lowest COVID transmission rates in the nation. The state's seven-day rolling average of percent positive daily tests is just 1 percent; that's also the case in New York City, the former U.S. virus epicenter. Even Queens and Brooklyn, the two deadliest COVID counties in America, are holding their daily positivity rates well below 1.5 percent on a consistent basis.
Cuomo pointed to new study data from COVID Act Now that shows the Empire State is one of just three states (New Jersey is another) on track to contain COVID as new U.S. cases surge to their highest level in two months.
In an effort to protect those low infection rates, Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont jointly announced a 14-day quarantine on travelers to the tri-state area from viral hotspots like Florida, Arizona and the Carolinas. The new restriction takes effect at midnight.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told NPR Wednesday that while the U.S. spikes can't definitively be linked to looser reopenings in other states, he finds it "highly suspicious." The U.S. reached a new single-day high for new coronavirus cases Wednesday, according to NBC News, with 45,557 new infections. That tops April 26, when there were more than 36,200 new cases and the tri-state was in the midst of some of its darkest days of the pandemic.
The situation has been worsening worldwide as well. The director of the World Health Organization warned Wednesday the globe will likely cross a 10 million-case milestone in the next week. More than 4 million cases have been reported in the last month alone, WHO said. A quarter of the 9,295,365 global cases to date have come from the United States, Johns Hopkins reports. Nearly 500,000 people have died worldwide already, including almost 122,000 in America.
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
Amid heightened national and global concerns, the New York Road Runners made the decision to cancel the 2020 TCS New York City Marathon in coordination with Mayor Bill de Blasio's office. The world's largest race of its kind, it had been scheduled for Nov. 1. Registered runners will be contacted next month; they'll have the option of getting a refund or deferring their entry.
"While the marathon is an iconic and beloved event in our city, I applaud New York Road Runners for putting the health and safety of both spectators and runners first,” de Blasio said in a statement. "We look forward to hosting the 50th running of the marathon in November of 2021."
However, there are other signs that show the city and the region are slowly but steadily getting back on track. NJ Transit announced Wednesday that full weekday service for rail and light rail will start again July 6, as more and more people are heading back to work. The MTA also announced that Tuesday's ridership on NYC subways topped one million, the first time since March daily ridership had hit that level (more than 5.4 million people used the subways each day pre-pandemic). Buses hit the one million mark on June 19, as both inch back from some all-time lows in terms of passengers.
The mayor also had some positive reopening news to share Wednesday. He said New York City's 14 miles of public beaches will reopen for swimming on July 1, the same day the Yankees and Mets start their delayed spring training in New York.
De Blasio reiterated state safety guidelines apply when the city's eight beaches -- Orchard Beach in the Bronx; Coney Island and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn; Rockaway Beach in Queens; and Midland Beach, South Beach, Cedar Grove Beach, and Wolfe's Pond Park Beach on Staten Island -- reopen next week.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Beach-goers must maintain their 6-foot distances and wear facial coverings when they can't. They're asked to only visit the beach with members of their own households, which may be difficult to enforce. Beach blankets and chairs must also stay 10 feet apart from other groups' equipment. Lifeguards will be on duty daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; swimming is banned outside those hours.
Even with the restrictions, the timing couldn't be better, with New Yorkers desperate for relief amid the hottest (and most humid) weather of 2020 so far.
De Blasio also announced Wednesday that the city will allow private camps to use space in its parks this summer. Parks and health officials are reviewing more than 350 applications for camp permits already, he said.
The mayor has been asked repeatedly about pools, which Cuomo said could reopen anytime at local governments' discretion. De Blasio wanted to tackle beaches first, which are more conducive to social distancing. He has not ruled out the possibility of reopening pools in time to salvage a bit of summer.
Previously, city beaches were open only for sunbathing. Beach-goers were banned from going into the water above their knees, so many flocked to Long Island or other state and county beaches which were less restricted. Eager to preserve those beaches for local communities, many Suffolk and Nassau County towns made their stretches of sand resident-only. It wasn't clear if they'd allow visitors from the city when its beaches open for swimming in exactly one week.
De Blasio said he had spoken with the Long Island county executives recently and respects their decisions. While he said he'd like to see those beaches open to NYC residents as well, he's just happy to be able to open the local ones.