COVID-19

Timeline: Tracking the Spread of COVID-19 in Tri-State

Here's what we know so far about the spread of coronavirus in New York and surrounding areas

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What to Know

  • More than 1.4 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the tri-state area; New York state accounts for more than half of all cases nationwide
  • While testing of suspected cases started in February, the first case in NYC was confirmed on March 1
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other officials have said to expect the number of infected to continue increasing as testing capacity expands

To date, more than 1.4 million people in the tri-state area — the lion's share in New York City — have tested positive for the potentially deadly novel coronavirus that began spreading at the end of last year in China. Thousands of deaths have been reported in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

While states won't give out medical or personal information on those who have contracted the virus, here's what we know so far about its spread, in reverse-chronological order of when the cases were reported:

December 18, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to insist a new shutdown is not inevitable, even as the state set a new single-day case record Friday (along with a record number of tests) and Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to insist that another round of restrictions is not only necessary in New York City but needs to come soon.

De Blasio issued his latest plea Friday, citing ongoing increases in the city's hospitalization rate and cases. Vaccine distribution has begun, but it will be an agonizing months-long wait for large-scale access to these "vials of hope."

The mayor has pitched a post-Christmas start to a PAUSE-like shutdown, one he hopes would just be in effect for a few weeks to curb a level of viral spread that has "everybody really concerned." He acknowledges it is Cuomo's decision.

The governor, who shut down indoor dining in the five boroughs earlier this week, has put forth a more tempered response. He hasn't spoken of anything looming immediately post-Christmas, pushing any potential move at least into January. Unlike de Blasio, Cuomo says there's not an inevitable need for a shutdown -- yet.

"I understand local officials are warning of a shutdown if the growth increases. I understand why. The public needs to know the status and the consequences," the governor said Friday. "I have said, if we don't slow the spread we could be headed for a shutdown. But we can slow the spread. And the hospitals can manage it."

Asked point blank if he would bet on the likelihood of a new shutdown, Cuomo went as far as to theoretically wager $100 that it wouldn't happen. (He offered the same theoretical wager on the odds the Bills will make the NFL playoffs).

Cuomo puts the ultimate responsibility for shutdown aversion on the backs of New Yorkers themselves, saying it's their actions -- as far as masks, social distancing and holiday gatherings -- that will decide what happens. He is hopeful they will have learned lessons from the Thanksgiving surge and act differently.

Could there be another surge over Christmas and New Year's if they don't? It's too soon to tell. But at this point, it may also be hard to tell where one surge ends and another begins.

As de Blasio says, the numbers are all continuing to trend in the wrong direction in the city -- a consequence of the national flood in exposures, holiday travel and general pandemic fatigue that saw cases begin to increase in late September. Cuomo debuted his micro-cluster approach in response to those initial clusters and said they worked as far as reducing positivity rates in certain small areas.

The problems now, though, aren't isolated to a certain section of Brooklyn and Queens like they were in September and October. The increase in viral rates has been far more encompassing, both in the city and the state this time around.

New York City's seven-day positivity rate topped 6 percent for the first time Thursday and rose to 6.16 percent Friday, Mayor de Blasio said. It was almost exactly a month ago (Nov. 19) that he moved schools all-remote for two weeks when that number hit his controversial 3 percent positivity rate threshold.

The city's rolling hospitalization rate per 100,000 residents is at 3.1, de Blasio said Friday, the highest it's been since he debuted the new indicator as part of his regular briefings earlier this month. Cuomo's decision to close indoor dining in the five boroughs hasn't appeared to have had an impact yet on rising trends. (In case you missed it, the city has unveiled new outdoor dining rules. Bathrooms are OK.)

The numbers are even starker for most of the rest of New York state. Seven-day rolling positivity rates are above 8 percent in two regions (8.31 percent in the Finger Lakes; 8.21 percent in Mohawk Valley. The Finger Lakes also have the highest hospitalization rate of New York's 10 regions, though the increases have been apparent statewide. Total hospitalizations statewide topped 6,000 for the first time in nearly nine months earlier this week and have sustained that level.

The state set a new single-day COVID case record Friday, the same day Cuomo reported it had conducted a record number of tests. The 12,697 new cases reported Friday mark a 9 percent increase over the previous single-day record of 11,571 from April 14. Daily deaths have topped 100 three of the last four days.

The current climate is remarkably and mercifully not the same as the nightmare of April, when 800 New Yorkers were dying a day. But for the former epicenter of the national COVID crisis, wounds from spring are still fresh; anxiety is high.

According to data from The New York Times, New York state has seen a 97 percent increase in COVID deaths over the last 14 days. Cases are up 30 percent, while hospitalizations are up 60 percent. Cuomo has tied regional hospitalization rates to new restrictions. If a region appears on track to hit 90 percent capacity within 21 days, that warrants a red zone shutdown, an essential PAUSE.

Hospitals are required by law to notify the state when they are 21 days from 85 percent maximum capacity. That's when the shutdown mechanism starts to kick in, Cuomo said. No hospital in the state has given that three-week notice yet.

Statewide, hospitals have 27 percent of beds and 33 percent of ICU beds available. New York City and Long Island, which had that first metric in the teens last week, both boosted capacity in line with Cuomo's mandates this week. They're up to 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, of hospital beds available now and have 28 percent and 29 percent, respectively, of ICU beds available.

Some hospitals in southern California are reporting 0 percent ICU capacity. Cuomo says he's not going to let that happen in New York -- not again.

In addition to ordering hospitals to boost capacity by 25 percent (NYC Health & Hospitals did that this week by suspending elective surgeries, it's president and CEO said), Cuomo has told hospitals to statewide to shift to crisis management mode. That involves transferring patients as needed to ensure a balanced load and prevent any hospitals in the system from being overwhelmed.

Managing hospital capacity is also top priority in neighboring New Jersey, which also has experienced significant viral increases over the last month. According to the Times, New Jersey's increases have been less steep than New York's over the last two weeks -- 66 percent increase in deaths, 20 percent increase in hospitalizations and 14 percent increase in cases, by the paper's latest data.

Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday he believes New Jersey's latest surge is starting to level off. Daily cases, which topped 6,000 for the first time amid the pandemic this month, dropped below 4,000 as of Friday. Hospitalizations also dipped for the second day in a row. Murphy said that doesn't make a trend, but it inspires hope.

Unlike New York, Murphy has said -- even amid the highest increases in late November and early December -- he is not considering sweeping new statewide restrictions to curb the spread. While he often says "everything is on the table," he has opted to stick with what he describes as a surgical approach to attacking high-risk places and activities rather than employ a fuller shutdown.

The plea to his residents, though, is the same as the one coming from officials in New York: Hold on, hang tight, keep up with the protocol that works. We just have to wait until vaccine distribution hits critical mass. It'll just be a few more months.

Will it? Pfizer's distribution efforts have already hit a snag. It put out a statement Thursday saying there are millions of doses of the vaccine sitting in its warehouse as it awaits instructions from the federal government as to where to ship them.

In recent days, governors and health leaders in more than a dozen states, including New Jersey, have said the federal government has told them that next week’s allocation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be less than originally projected. New Jersey anticipates a 38 percent decline in its expected allotment, the state's health commissioner, Judy Persichilli, said Friday.

For the month, the state is now expecting 33 percent fewer Pfizer doses for the entire month of December than it had originally anticipated, she added.

Separately, New Jersey is now also expecting a reduction of about 20 percent in the Moderna allocation it anticipated for the month, Persichilli and Murphy said. Still, the intent is to vaccinate the entirety of the eligible population in New Jersey within six months, Persichilli said. Murphy said that Pfizer said "it's not us" as far as the reason for delays. As of Friday, he said his state has not received a "satisfactory" reason for the reductions in expected allocations. Persichilli agreed.

In Washington, D.C., two senior Trump administration officials told the Associated Press that states will receive their full allocations, but misunderstandings about vaccine supply and changes to the delivery schedule may be creating confusion.

One official said the initial numbers of available doses that were provided to states were projections based on information from the manufacturers, not fixed allocations. Some state officials may have misunderstood that, the official said.

Changes made to the delivery schedule, at the request of governors, may be contributing to a mistaken impression that fewer doses are coming, the officials said. The key change involves spacing out delivery of states’ weekly allocations over several days to make distribution more manageable.

The first U.S. doses of the vaccine were administered Monday. Already this week, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly healthcare workers, have been vaccinated. The pace is expected to increase next week with the expected Moderna rollout. An FDA panel endorsed that vaccine on Thursday, the same day Cuomo launched a new website for all vaccine-related info in the state.

On Friday, Cuomo said New York State's independent Clinical Advisory Task Force had approved the Moderna vaccine, following the FDA panel's decision. He said the state expects to get about 346,000 doses of that vaccine next week.

The race to vaccinate the most vulnerable -- and the general public -- couldn't be more urgent. One of every 220 Americans was diagnosed with COVID in just the last week, Cuomo said.

The country surpassed 17 million COVID cases Wednesday and has reported well more than 300,000 deaths, according to NBC News data. The U.S. also set new daily highs in cases (230,365) and deaths (3,234), both previously set on Dec. 10. Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned the U.S. could see its tragic toll near 450,000 by February at this rate.

December 17, 2020

Just a few days into the historic rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, there have already been some hitches and confusion over when and how many doses will be distributed in the coming weeks, NBC News reports.

Several governors have reported that half as many Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shots as expected are going to be delivered in the next few weeks and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has suggested that Pfizer is having manufacturing problems.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services, however, released a statement Thursday denying the number of doses are being reduced.

“Reports that jurisdictions’ allocations are being reduced are incorrect,” an HHS spokesperson said in a statement. “As was done with the initial shipments of Pfizer vaccine, jurisdictions will receive vaccine at different sites over several days.”

The confusion appears to have started Wednesday during a briefing led by Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, when it was announced that some 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be allocated next week. That is 900,000 fewer doses than this week.

Read the full story at NBCNews.com.

December 16, 2020

Restrictions akin to PAUSE in the spring could shut down New York City again as early as the end of next week if COVID-19 numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction, Mayor Bill de Blasio says. At least, he thinks they should come.

The mayor emphasized in three briefings this week that he felt it was necessary to impose some sort of shutdown on nonessential business right after Christmas for a few weeks to contain the surge, but noted the decision was the governor's.

For his part, Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn't willing to call any shutdown inevitable just yet. He said Wednesday that while officials predicted the Thanksgiving surge, he believes New Yorkers actually saw it happen and will act more prudently this time.

It's simply a function of people's behavior, Cuomo says: "If New Yorkers are responsible and hospitals step up their game, we may not have a shutdown."

In the city, de Blasio says the hospitalization increases are growing increasingly concerning relative to where they were. He's worried about overwhelming hospitals, which could trigger an even longer, more drastic shutdown comparable to the months-long closure from earlier this year. The mayor suggested a post-Christmas start to not interfere with holiday shopping but said he'd be comfortable shutting down sooner if the state chose to do so.

"Everybody's really concerned. The number of cases is too high. The infection level is too high. The hospitalizations are too high -- and unfortunately, it's just growing," de Blasio said Thursday. "None of us likes restrictions, but I think we need them sooner rather than later. It's something that has to be put into effect soon based on the very consistent information we're seeing."

The city's rolling hospitalization rate per 100,000 residents is now at 3.06, de Blasio said. That's the highest it's been since he debuted the new indicator as part of his regular briefings earlier this month. The seven-day rolling positivity rate hit 6 percent Thursday, another months-long high.

The mayor has been sowing the seeds as to the need for additional restrictions for weeks, and lately, for the most part, Cuomo has been planting them alongside him. Shuttering indoor dining in New York City may have been just an initial move.

Hospitalization rates continue to rise in New York City and across the state; the total surpassed 6,000 Wednesday for the first time since May 15. The total statewide stood at 6,147 as of Thursday. At the same time, Cuomo reported more than 100 COVID deaths (120) for the second time in three days.

That tragic toll has been climbing slowly, along with the other numbers increases. New York has seen an 83 percent increase in deaths over the last 14 days, a 62 percent increase in hospitalizations and a 37 percent increase in its daily case average, according to New York Times data.

Those, Cuomo and de Blasio say, are alarming trends that could threaten to overwhelm the hospital system if not contained.

Cuomo said Wednesday statewide hospitals were being told to shift to crisis management mode, which involves transferring patients as needed to ensure a balanced load and prevent any hospitals in the system from being overwhelmed.

He has also ordered hospitals to boost capacity by 25 percent. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, said that network suspended elective surgeries as of Tuesday to meet Cuomo's mandates.

The governor's goal is to ensure no individual hospital is overwhelmed, which is what happened at the height of the pandemic earlier this year.

"We had one hospital overwhelmed and five blocks away we had a hospital with plenty of capacity," Cuomo said, referring to challenges from spring. "That can't happen again. They need to watch the numbers and they need to be prepared."

Earlier this week, he ripped critics who challenged his decision to close indoor dining in New York City on grounds bars and restaurants contributed to less than 2 percent of statewide exposures and the city's positivity and hospitalization rates remain lower than much of the state -- all but one region as of Wednesday.

Cuomo accused those and any other critics of having a short memory.

"The virus spreads much faster in New York City," Cuomo said. "Anyone who doubts that wasn't here in the spring or has the shortest memory imaginable."

At the same time, the governor warned that if current trends hold, some regions within the state would be poised to hit 90 percent hospital capacity within 21 days. That would trigger a red zone shutdown, closing nonessential businesses and schools, under his adjusted micro-cluster winter plan.

As of Thursday, New York City had 23 percent of beds available, up from 22 percent the day before and also up from the 19 percent it saw through last week. Long Island also had a higher share available (23 percent) than Wednesday.

The numbers amid this latest surge aren't nearly as stark as they were in the spring by any means, but new daily cases have been on the steep incline for weeks and the positivity rate has been rising steadily, along with hospitalizations.

While the respective rates are still much lower than most other major U.S. cities and states, they are disturbingly high by New York standards. As Cuomo has said, New York has seen how quickly the numbers can spiral beyond control; families along with business owners and workers have suffered the consequences.

Should any shutdown be ordered for a period of time, de Blasio does have one suggested adjustment from previous restrictions: Keep schools open.

They'll be closed anyway for the holiday break just before Christmas and through New Year's, which would knock at least a week off any potential two-week to four-week shutdown. The city's largest teacher's union isn't necessarily on board with that. Its president said Tuesday that if a shutdown was needed to curb soaring viral rates, it would be unsafe to keep school buildings open to in-person learning.

At this point, the discussion is moot unless Cuomo makes a move. The governor pointed to a series of headlines in his briefing Wednesday about a looming New York City shutdown.

"Is a close-down possible in January?" he asked rhetorically. "Of course."

A number of other states have already made that move to address ongoing COVID spread. New York fares better than all of them numbers-wise. Cuomo says it's too early to make any decision on a "close-down" in January, saying, "it's the future actions of New Yorkers that will decide what happens."

"I believe they're going to be more prudent through Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, etc., because they saw what happened on Thanksgiving," Cuomo said Wednesday. "We predicted the Thanksgiving surge but I think they actually saw that happen. I think they're going to be more careful through this holiday season."

He called once again for people to embrace personal responsibility, including not holding gatherings inside their homes. He also called on local governments once again to step up enforcement and launched a new holiday PSA campaign.

The potential restrictive approach being discussed by officials in New York differs starkly from the response in New Jersey, where the governor says he has no plans to implement new sprawling restrictions, much less close indoor dining, amid the latest surge. Gov. Phil Murphy has said most of his state is more similar to New York's Westchester County or even Long Island, suggesting the same density concerns that apply uniquely to New York City to do not apply to the Garden State.

The latter does happen to be the most densely populated state in the country, Murphy has acknowledged. New Jersey also has seen significant or notable increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths over the last few weeks.

According to data from The New York Times, death reports are up 78 percent in New Jersey over the last two weeks (Murphy's Tuesday report of 97 new daily deaths was his highest in months). Hospitalizations are up 22 percent in that time, while the case average has increased 19 percent over the last 14 days. The governor says those numbers are manageable in terms of hospital capacity for now and urges people to keep up with proven COVID precautions as the state starts its vaccine rollout.

As of Thursday, total hospitalizations in New Jersey stood at 3,637, the highest number since May 14. Murphy reported another 77 deaths overnight, a drop from the prior two days but indicative of the overall higher trend in fatalities nationwide.

The national increases over the last 14 days have been less stark than the New York percentage changes. By New York Times data, cases are up 28 percent over the last two weeks, deaths are up 60 percent and hospitalizations are up 17 percent. All the core numbers are at all-time pandemic highs for the U.S.

And this latest surge is expected to swell more before it ebbs. Dr. Anthony Fauci and Cuomo, among others, expect it to peak in mid-January following a holiday surge on top of the surge that has been underway for more than a month.

The country surpassed 17 million COVID cases Wednesday and has reported well more than 300,000 deaths, according to NBC News data. The U.S. also set new daily highs in cases (243,645) on Thursday and deaths (3,234) on Wednesday. Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned the U.S. could see its tragic toll near 450,000 by February at this rate.

The arrival of the vaccine won't help stem the COVID tide for months, but officials are working to expedite their rollout plans and ensure equity and access for all. New York state and city have administered thousands of shots so far this week. Cuomo said New York has received 87,750 total Pfizer doses so far, including 77,025 just on Tuesday. He expects another 80,000 Pfizer does in the coming days and, if the FDA grants emergency use authorization to Moderna, the state could get another 346,000 doses from that pharmaceutical company next week.

To help expedite availability to the public when the time comes, Cuomo says the state is setting up Regional Vaccination Hubs that will be led by local hospital systems. Those hospital systems will develop plans in coordination with community leaders for a regional vaccination network that will launch once the state has enough doses to start vaccinating essential workers and vulnerable members of the general public (Phase II of his vaccination plan).

The hubs are required to submit their plans to the state for approval by the first week of January. The state Department of Health will review those and provide operational support as well as logistical direction in hopes of starting Phase II in late January. All that presumes continued flow of vaccine supplies, Cuomo said.

"No person will pay a penny for a vaccination," the governor said. "We want people to get vaccinated. It shouldn't be about wealth. No one will pay a penny."

December 15, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed for the second time in two days Tuesday that believes a full shutdown akin to PAUSE in the spring is needed to curb the current COVID surge. It's the latest indication that harsher restrictions may come soon.

De Blasio says he has been in close contact with the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who would make the ultimate decisions on any new COVID rules. But the mayor did offer up a suggestion -- one that involves a shutdown right after Christmas. It's not clear if Cuomo is on board with that idea or how long any such shutdown might last, but the mayor says he's hopeful it would just be a matter of two to four weeks.

"Clearly these numbers are going in the wrong direction," de Blasio said Tuesday. "Unfortunately, and I don't say it with anything but sorrow, but I do think it's needed. We're going to need to do some kind of shutdown in the weeks ahead, something that resembles the PAUSE we were in in the spring."

That would mean essential work only and no outdoor dining, though the mayor said there could be some minor differences to the early pandemic closures.

"If we implement that with some good luck and hard work and the vaccine starting to help us we could be out of that in a matter of weeks," he said. After 73 city health care workers were given the vaccine on Monday, another 41,000 doses arrived at dozens of city hospitals on Tuesday, allowing more frontline workers to be vaccinated.

De Blasio said in an interview on CNN later Tuesday that the primary reason behind a possible PAUSE would be to protect the hospitals to ensure they are not overrun, and said he suggested after Christmas in order to not interfere with holiday shopping — but if the state wanted to start even sooner, he would be on board.

"What our health folks always say is that it takes between two and four weeks to really see the effects of any kind of restrictions. The sooner we start, the sooner we will reap the benefit," de Blasio said. "Somewhere between two weeks and a month is typically is when you can have a real impact and knock down the infection rate substantially."

The mayor added that he would not want to see schools closed as part of any PAUSE shutdown, saying that the infection numbers show students are safest staying in school.

The mayor's comments came a day after indoor dining was shuttered once again in the city by order of the governor. While no decision has been made -- at least publicly -- at this time, an apparent alignment between the mayor and governor on the issue is enough to raise eyebrows about the immediacy of new closures.

On Monday, as he celebrated the first vaccine dose in New York and confronted critics of his indoor dining closure, Cuomo warned that the state (or various regions within it) could be headed to total shutdown if current trends hold.

"If we do not change the trajectory, we could be headed to shutdown. That is something to worry about," the governor said. "We go back to where we were."

Cuomo has said he would order a shutdown if any region in the state appears on track to hit 90 percent hospital capacity within 21 days. No region is there yet. He says he authorized the dine-in closure in New York City to try to prevent that worst-case scenario. While the city's hospitalization and positivity rates are lower than most other regions in the state, the density that makes it one of the world's most vibrant places also makes it more vulnerable to exponential spread.

"The virus spreads much faster in New York City," Cuomo said. "Anyone who doubts that wasn't here in the spring or has the shortest memory imaginable."

In response to the shutdown, more than 1,000 restaurant workers, owners and operators in the city, as well as trade groups and supporters, held a rally in Times Square urging the federal government to pass the Restaurants Act to help provide some relief. They also called on the city and the state to take steps to help restaurants, including an extension and enhancement of the commercial rent eviction moratorium through 2021, eliminating local taxes, and more.

"It's now or never," said Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, who spoke at the rally. "When considering the cost in terms of jobs and revenue, the impact of empty store fronts on neighborhoods and other local businesses, and the repercussions for tourism and spending from commuters and daily visitors, the government can't afford NOT to save the industry."

The numbers amid this latest surge aren't nearly as stark as they were in the spring by any means, but new daily cases have been on the steep incline for weeks. Hospital admissions have been rising more slowly, a consequence of the flood in cases. More than 1,700 patients were hospitalized in the city with COVID-19 infections as of this weekend, almost triple the number a month ago.

The city's positivity rate was at 5.51 Thursday, still above the 5 percent mark de Blasio said the city should be aiming for. The statewide rate was just below that at 5.33 percent, with nearly 6,000 hospitalizations.

Some patients will die, a tragedy the former epicenter of the national COVID crisis can least afford. The city has confirmed nearly 17,000 COVID deaths since March and likely has thousands upon thousands more fatalities that never were definitively linked to the virus but could be attributed to it in some way.

Cuomo reported more than 100 new COVID fatalities statewide Tuesday (128) for the first time in months. That put the state's total over 28,000 people who have died from the coronavirus.

This latest surge is expected to swell more before it ebbs. Cuomo and others, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, agree that the numbers locally and nationally will continue to increase well into January. The objective, Cuomo says, is to lessen the blow -- hence a revised winter plan that prioritizes hospitalization rates but also factors positivity rates, risk level of economic activity, transmission rates and population density into the equation.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to battle a crisis that appears only on track to intensify over the course of the next month or so despite the promise of a vaccine. To date, the country has confirmed more than 16 million COVID cases and topped 300,000 deaths, according to NBC News data.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned the U.S. could see its tragic toll near 450,000 by February without aggressive actions to contain the anticipated holiday surge on top of the surge that has been underway for well more than a month across the nation.

December 14, 2020

Almost 300 days after New York City's first confirmed case of the coronavirus, the first of the nation's vaccine doses were administered to frontline healthcare workers.

Northwell Health, the state's largest healthcare provider, began vaccinating hospital workers Monday morning. The first vaccine in the state, and reportedly first in the nation, went to critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens.

“It didn’t feel any different from taking any other vaccine," Lindsay reassured. "I feel hopeful today, relieved. I hope this marks the beginning to the end of a very painful time in our history."

The ICU nurse got the vaccine dose, with much of the world watching, after learning just moments earlier she would be the first in New York to receive the shot. Back in the spring, Lindsay treated hundreds of COVID patients as her hospital tripled the size of its ICU.

New York's first shipment of the vaccine arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport shortly before 6 a.m., not far from LIJ-Queens, several people briefed on its timeline tell News 4. Officials were able to prepare and inoculate the first person by 9:15 a.m.

A short time later, Dr. Yves Duroseau, chair of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, became the second to be vaccinated. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 10,000 people would get vaccinated on Monday.

Also poised to receive the first shots arriving in New York this week: residents and staff of long-term care and nursing home facilities. It's a historic day in the battle against the virus that has killed nearly 300,000 in the U.S. and at least 50,000 people locally.

Hospitals will stagger inoculations over the coming days for the most at-risk frontline healthcare workers: respiratory therapists, ICU nurses and emergency room physicians.

"Some people will have mild flu-like symptoms the next day or two after getting the vaccine. What we don't want to therefore vaccinate in one hospital every ICU nurse and therefore risk that we have no ICU nurses to take care of patients on the next day, so we'll stagger it," Dr. Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals CEO, said Monday.

Five hospitals in New York City, including Lenox Hill and LIJ-Queens, were scheduled to receive their first shipments of the Pfizer/BioTech vaccine on Monday. Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi says shipments will arrive at 37 additional hospitals on Tuesday and two more hospitals Wednesday. In total, New York City is preparing to receive some 465,000 vaccine doses in the first three weeks following the emergency use authorization, Chokshi said.

The focus, for tri-state officials, will be an expedited and equitable vaccine rollout -- one that recognizes the challenges in reaching historically underserved communities as well as undocumented immigrants. New York City opened a new Vaccine Command Center Monday, a hub intended to streamline distribution and ensure its hardest-hit communities have access. States have also outlined plans.

Looking beyond the first shipments of the vaccine from Pfizer/BioTech, health leaders in New York and New Jersey hope to see a review of Moderna's vaccine by the end of the week, ensuring additional vaccine doses could come soon after.

Experts say 75 percent to 85 percent of the entire state population must be vaccinated in order for the economy to return to some semblance of normalcy. That may not happen until June 2021, Cuomo has said. That's the finish line.

In the meantime, more needs to be done now to mitigate the current surge continuing its warpath across America. Indoor dining in New York City is suspended as of Monday by order of the governor.

Hospitalization rates have increased almost across the board in New York state, a consequence of the latest national flood in cases. Daily deaths are on the rise, too, though both those and hospitalization rates are at much lower levels than they were in April. Length of admission has also been profoundly reduced.

The core metrics also have been rising in New Jersey, which set another new single-day COVID case record of the weekend. That state plans to start administering vaccines Tuesday out of University Hospital in Newark. Gov. Phil Murphy hopes all residents will have vaccine access by April or May, he has said.

University Hospital's COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic has the capacity to conduct at least 600 vaccinations daily, the governor's office said. During Murphy's visit on Tuesday, a number of the hospital's "healthcare heroes" are expected to receive their first dose of the vaccine.

He’s urging people not to relax efforts to stem the spread of the virus, especially limiting holiday celebrations to immediate family, since he said 60 to 80 percent of transmission is now occurring in private settings.

University Hospital and Hackensack University Hospital have received their first shipments of the vaccine, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli confirmed Monday afternoon. 53 hospitals in total will receive the Pfizer vaccine, with another 18 awaiting the vaccine from Moderna once it receives emergency use authorization.

By her figures, Persichilli says approval of the Moderna vaccine could come this weekend and the first shipments following early next week. The state is expected to get 154,000 of the Moderna vaccine once its ready.

Connecticut, too, inoculated its first frontline workers on Monday. Director of Infectious Diseases at Hartford Healthcare Keith Grant received his first dose of the vaccine not long after New York administered its first doses.

December 13, 2020

The first shipments of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine departed a manufacturing facility early Sunday morning -- and Gov. Phil Murphy has announced where the first doses in New Jersey will be administered.

Murphy says the first vaccines will be administered at University Hospital in Newark. He, alongside Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, will be at the hospital Tuesday morning for the first inoculations.

"We're gonna be putting shots in the arm Tuesday morning in Newark, this is coming. I think by April, May, everyone will have access to one of these vaccines," Murphy said on ABC's "This Week."

University Hospital's COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic has the capacity to conduct at least 600 vaccinations daily, the governor's office said. During Murphy's visit on Tuesday, a number of the hospital's "healthcare heroes" are expected to receive their first dose of the vaccine.

The governor said he believes that by April or May, everyone in the state will have access to one of the vaccines. He’s urging people not to relax efforts to stem the spread of the virus, especially limiting holiday celebrations to immediate family, since he said 60 to 80 percent of transmission is now occurring in private settings.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the vaccine Friday, saying it is highly protective and presents no major safety issues. While U.S. regulators worked for months to emphasize the rigor and independence of their review, they faced political pressure until the final stages.

Concerns that a shot was rushed out could undermine vaccination efforts in a country with deeply ingrained skepticism about vaccines. The head of the FDA said the agency’s decision was based on science, not politics, despite a White House threat to fire him if the vaccine wasn’t approved before Saturday.

New Jersey's health care workers and residents at long-term care facilities are expected to be the first groups to get the vaccine in the state.

Persichilli said the Garden State expects a first shipment of 76,000 doses to six hospitals that are “pre-positioned” so they can begin administering soon the vaccine's arrival.

“We do expect doses every week, and then by the second week we’ll have doses of both Pfizer and Moderna," Persichilli said Friday. Moderna will be reviewed by an expert panel next week and soon afterward could be allowed for public use.

Persichilli didn’t specify which hospitals they were, but the state’s approach to tracking hospitalizations from the vaccine has centered on northern, central and southern regions, suggesting the hospitals would be located around the state.

NorthJersey.com reports the other hospitals getting the first vaccine, in addition to University Hospital, are Hackensack University Medical Center, Morristown Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, and Cooper University Hospital in Camden.

Earlier this week, Gov. Murphy and Persichilli laid out the best- and worst-case scenarios as the state battles the pandemic. They projected a major strain on the state's hospitals by January if families gathered for December holidays and there were no change in compliance with mask mandates or guidance to avoid gatherings.

On Saturday, Murphy reported an addition 71 deaths and 6,247 new cases of the virus.

December 12, 2020

The U.S. gave the final go-ahead Friday to the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine, marking what could be the beginning of the end of an outbreak that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans, according to a person familiar with the decision but not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Shots for health workers and nursing home residents are expected to begin in the coming days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency rollout of what promises to be a strongly protective vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech.

Initial doses are scarce and rationed as the U.S. joins Britain and several other countries in scrambling to vaccinate as many people as possible ahead of a long, grim winter. It will take months of work to tamp down the coronavirus that has surged to catastrophic levels in recent weeks and already claimed 1.5 million lives globally.

While the FDA decision came only after public review of data from a huge ongoing study, it has also been dogged by intense political pressure from the Trump administration, which has accused the agency of being too slow and even threatened to remove FDA chief Stephen Hahn if a ruling did not come Friday.

The move sets off what will be the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history -- but it also has global ramifications because it’s a role model to many other countries facing the same decision.

The world desperately needs multiple vaccines for enough to go around, and the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is the first based on rigorous scientific testing to emerge from that worldwide race -- a record-setting scientific achievement that shaved years off the usual process.

“I don’t think you would have found a scientist on this planet that would have predicted this 11 months ago,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who advises the FDA.

The U.S. is considering a second vaccine, made by Moderna Inc., that could roll out in another week. In early January, Johnson & Johnson expects to learn if its vaccine is working in final testing.

Europe is set to make its own decision on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots later this month, an important step as some other candidates that multiple countries were anxiously awaiting have hit roadblocks. Friday, Sanofi and GSK announced a months-long delay after early tests showed their vaccine didn’t work well enough in older adults.

And China and Russia didn’t wait for final-stage tests before beginning vaccinations with some homegrown shots.

About 3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected in the first shipments around the country, according to officials with Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program. A similar amount is to be held in reserve for those recipients' second dose.

December 11, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he is suspending indoor dining in New York City as of Monday, a result of sustained increases in the five boroughs' hospitalization and COVID-19 positivity rates. The potential for harsher shutdowns looms.

Mitigating increases in the state's hospitalization rate has become Cuomo's top priority -- and he recalibrated the state's micro-cluster model as part of a revised overarching post-holiday plan he unveiled Friday. That plan includes new standards for red, orange and yellow cluster zones and adjusted focus metrics.

If any region in the state is projected to hit 90 percent hospital capacity within 21 days, the governor will impose a red zone shutdown. That means nonessential businesses, schools and restaurant table service close in a given region for an indefinite period of time, a measure reminiscent of strict lockdowns from spring.

Going forward, areas will be deemed orange zones if they are at 85 percent hospital capacity and a positivity rate of at least 4 percent for 10 days or the Department of Health determines hospitalization rates to be unacceptably high.

One other adjustment from previous rules: gyms and salons will be permitted to continue operating in orange zones with increased testing and reduced capacity (25 percent; the current limit on those businesses within non-orange zones is 33 percent). Cuomo said he made the change because says capacity limits and additional regulation have dramatically reduce spread in those places.

As for yellow zones, those will be areas with positivity rates of 3 percent or higher for 10 days that also are in the top 10 percent for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and see week-over-week growth in daily admissions. Cuomo says his team plans to review the latest data this weekend and will announce any new cluster zones Monday. He'll also reassess indoor dining outside the city.

The changes announced Friday are the core of Cuomo's revised winter plan, which prioritizes hospital capacity and acutely focuses on positivity rates, density, risk level of economic activity and rate of transmission. It's an interwoven strategy.

New York City has a lower hospitalization rate than 3/4 of the state's regions and most major U.S. cities, but its density is a heightened risk factor. The new restrictions set to take effect Monday ensure that risk isn't underestimated.

The city also happens to have the least bed availability of the state's 10 regions after Long Island (18 percent and 19 percent, respectively). Cuomo said Friday that all statewide hospitals must remain below 85 percent capacity. They can reach that goal either by adding an extra 25 percent capacity, suspending elective surgeries or both. They have the flexibility, he said.

Medical outcomes have substantially improved since spring; the death rate is 8 percent, compared with 23 percent in the spring. Thirty percent fewer patients are in intensive care and 50 percent less are intubated. The average length of hospital stays has dropped from 11 days to just five days. This is good news, Cuomo says.

But the spikes in hospitalizations will by default generate some critical cases and more death. And the hospitalization rates are increasing at a rapid pace.

"This," Cuomo said Friday, "is the ultimate cause for concern."

Statewide, hospitalizations jumped to 5,311 Friday after topping 5,000 for the first time in nearly nine months a day earlier. Also Friday: New hospital admissions in New York City topped the mayor's 200 threshold for the first time since May 9.

The city's hospitalization rate per 100,000 residents has risen every day since Mayor Bill de Blasio debuted the new metric on Monday and is also above threshold, while the seven-day rolling positivity rate now stands at 5.35 percent.

"We've been holding the line up til now but this is a sign the hospitalization issue is becoming a bigger challenge -- and one that we're going to have to confront," de Blasio said.

Asked to comment on the anticipated new restrictions ahead of Cuomo's Friday briefing, de Blasio acknowledged shuttering indoor dining would hurt. The mayor said the return of it in November was credited with the restoration of about 100,000 jobs. But the priority has to be protecting public health, he adds.

"I feel tremendous empathy for restaurant owners, a lot of them are mom and pop businesses, we want them to survive. We need them to survive," de Blasio said. "At the same time, these numbers don't lie. For the first time unfortunately all three of our indicators are past their thresholds. That's a second wave. We have to fight it back to save lives. We have to fight it back to start our recovery."

Those who represent the city's restaurant industry, including the NYC Hospitality Alliance, argue it's unfair to close indoor dining in the five boroughs as restaurants upstate, where the hospitalization rate is double, are allowed to remain open.

"It will be the last straw for countless more restaurants and jobs," NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie said in a statement. "New York City’s restaurants have gone above and beyond in ensuring their businesses create a safe and healthy environment for their customers and employees that meet the state’s required safety protocols – at a significant cost – and it’s worked."

While statewide hospitalizations today pale in comparison to the 19,000 admitted at the peak of the crisis in April, they are at their highest since May 19, and mark a steep increase over recent months for freshly beleaguered hospital staff and facilities. Cuomo has attributed part of the surge to Thanksgiving gatherings.

Household and small gatherings account for 74 percent of viral spread, based on contact tracing data. Restaurants and bars account for significantly less -- around 1.43 percent of exposures in September -- but the concern is magnified in an area as dense as New York City given the increasing numbers across the board.

The state's transmission rate is 1.3 as of Friday, Cuomo said. That's up from 1.2 on Monday and well above what the governor classifies as an "active outbreak." The raw numbers back that up. New daily cases have been on the rise, topping 10,100 in New York each of the last three days. Part of that is connected to increased testing but it also reflects a U.S. crisis that shows no signs of abating.

Despite its struggles, New York continues to fare better than most of the rest of the country. The Finger Lakes has the highest positivity rate of the 10 regions at this point, but even that 7.81 percent rate is lower than 40 states, Cuomo said.

The Race to Shore Up Hospitals in NJ

Hospitalizations have also become the core metric in neighboring New Jersey, which has seen sharp increases on that measure as well over the last 14 days. As of Friday, state hospitalizations stood at 3,571, the highest total since May 14.

Cases have been substantially rising too, but the hospitalization number is more important to Gov. Phil Murphy, as it is to Cuomo in New York.

"The one third rail we cannot touch is hospitals and hospital capacity," Murphy said Friday. Earlier this week, he said those are the numbers that come to determining the next steps he needs to take for the state.

Right now, those next steps do not include any plans to limit indoor dining anew. Asked yet again about the issue Friday, given Cuomo's announcement in New York and a new indoor dining ban in Pennsylvania, Murphy held tight.

"We're staying with what we got," the governor said. "We are trying to be as surgical as we can be."

While New Jersey is the densest state in the country, Murphy likens it overall more to Westchester County or Long Island, where indoor dining remains open at reduced capacity for now, than the high-density mecca that is New York City. Dine-in remains capped at 25 percent capacity in the Garden State, and its governor says there's no major evidence indoor dining is fueling the surge.

The governor has taken steps to improve compliance, including imposing a 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants statewide. Those late-night hours were when usually compliant spaces turned into unmasked, crowded spaces, Murphy said.

On Friday, he announced varying crackdowns on nearly a dozen New Jersey bars and restaurants over repeat infractions. At least one could be shut for 70 days.

"Let these charges send a perfectly clear signal to any bar or restaurant owner who thinks that the rules don't apply to them. This will happen to you," Murphy said. "Our job is to protect both public health and our economy. We will not tolerate knucklehead behavior and we will not hesitate to shut you down."

Compliance -- both on the part and business and the public -- can't be underestimated as a weapon in the COVID fight. The worst-case and moderate projection models New Jersey debuted earlier this week underscore the point.

Under the nightmare scenario, which presumes no change in public behavior, daily case totals could double in a month and hospitalizations could climb to peaks not seen in April by mid-January. That level of strain could overwhelm the system.

Under the moderate outcome scenario, which presumes some increased level of public compliance with masks, social distancing and avoidance of gatherings, new daily cases would still climb but hospital levels would remain manageable.

The desperation to shore up hospital capacity and resources comes as state and local officials expect to get their initial shipments of the Pfizer vaccine within days, following an FDA panel's endorsement of the drug Thursday. The agency is expected to grant the pharmaceutical company's emergency use request.

States could begin doling out shots next week. They expect additional allocations from Pfizer and then initial allocations from Moderna, which the FDA panel takes up next week, before the end of the month. While welcome news, officials acknowledge the initial rollout won't help stem the COVID holiday tide.

And that tide grows more fearsome by the day. New U.S. cases per day are running at all-time highs of over 209,000 on average. The number of people in hospitals nationwide for COVID-19 is setting records nearly every day. On Thursday, the country set a new single-day death toll, recording 3,110 fatalities.

The U.S. has already lost a world-high 293,000 people to the virus, according to data from NBC News. Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned the U.S. could see its tragic toll near 450,000 by February without aggressive actions to contain the anticipated holiday surge on top of the surge that has been underway for weeks across the nation.

December 10, 2020

New York state could get its first Pfizer vaccine doses as early as this weekend if the FDA grants the pharmaceutical company's emergency use request Thursday as expected after an advisory board endorsed it. Additional allocations are expected from Pfizer later this month -- a potential breath of relief as officials combat soaring COVID hospitalization rates.

As of Thursday, New York had more than 5,000 hospitalized for the virus statewide, nowhere near the 19,000 admitted at the peak of the crisis in April but still the highest number since May 20, and a steep increase over recent months for freshly beleaguered hospital staff and facilities.

The state has averaged 50 daily new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days -- topping 10,600 the last two days. Daily cases are not the core indicator for states this time around, given the testing-related increases -- but some portion of new daily cases do translate into hospital stays. Some of the admissions could be extensive, as was the case with ventilator patients in the spring. As of Thursday, there were nearly 1,000 people statewide in ICUs for COVID.

“This is a hospital capacity crisis, and more and more, it’s becoming a greater crisis for hospitals because their capacity is further diminished. This is the weapon that will win the war,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the vaccine Wednesday.

Cuomo said the state's independent review panel will assess the vaccine and he expects to begin deploying the initial Pfizer delivery of 170,000 doses as early as next week, with the first shipment of the vaccine departing the Pfizer facility for New York as early as Friday. High-risk hospital and nursing home staff and patients will get it first, followed by, first responders, essential workers and then the general public. The governor's office expects to announce more detailed distribution plans on Friday, in addition to new restrictions on indoor dining.

The state has opted into a federal program that will involve CVS and Walgreen's administering vaccines by Dec. 21. It has 90 regional distribution centers capable of cold storage needed for storing vaccines, according to Cuomo. The governor also called on U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to implement an equitable distribution of the vaccine, and said the current federal plan ignores many minority and poorer communities.

"Black, Hispanic, Asian and low-income communities paid the highest price during COVID-19 ... The Black and brown communities that were first on the list of who died from COVID cannot be last on the list of who receives the vaccine," Cuomo wrote in a letter to Azar. "With the first round of vaccines being distributed as soon as next week, there is no time to waste ... By relying on a flawed, biased system, the administration approach will only serve to further widen existing disparities in health outcomes."

New York City will get the majority of the state's initial allocations, Cuomo said. Mayor Bill de Blasio said his administration will move quickly to vaccinate high-risk healthcare workers and the estimated 100,000 people who either are residents of long-term care facilities in the city or work at them.

“That whole group of 100,000 people needs to be reached. We’re going to move that very, very quickly. That’s a very finite universe," he said. "I'm very confident in the ability of our health department to distribute the vaccine effectively...The real question is going to be, how many doses do we get each week and our ability to make sure we constantly stay on that plan for distribution."

Other high-priority groups will be vaccinated soon afterward, de Blasio said, but no one should try to secure a vaccine before their turn. For the first week, the city is set to receive 72,000 doses, but health officials warn that total is only enough for 36,000 people since everyone needs to get two shots.

Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said that 54 of the city’s 55 acute-care hospitals either have the ultracold freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccine or have access to ultracold storage through other facilities in their networks. The one hospital that lacks ultracold storage capacity will wait to vaccinate patients until the Moderna vaccine, which does not require a special freezer, is distributed. The FDA takes up that emergency request next week.

While de Blasio said that the vaccine is the key to turning the pandemic tide, he acknowledges the fallout from the health crisis will be felt well into the future. With this in mind, the city announced a 2021 Student Achievement Plan to close the COVID achievement gap that became apparent during the ongoing health crisis that forced schools to close and turn to remote learning for months. The pandemic has also caused emotional trauma and challenges for many children.

"We have to have to have a clear plan going into next school year to maximize achievement," the mayor said. "Our schools are going to come back stronger than ever, I don't doubt it. Our 2021 student achievement plan will give us the foundation to make sure that approach reaches every single child."

Richard Carranza, the Chancellor for New York City Schools, said the district will share more details on the plan in the weeks and months to come.

Right now, the top focus is on the immediate crisis at hand, which continues to worsen by the day. The city's rolling seven-day positivity rate has soared above 5.32 percent as of Thursday and the hospitalization rate is still above threshold.

These immediate challenges won't be helped by the imminent approval of a vaccine, officials say. The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, but de Blasio and Cuomo have been quick to caution the tunnel is long.

The governor has said in recent weeks that experts say 75 percent to 85 percent of the population must be vaccinated in order for the economy to return to some semblance of normalcy. Even if the state received 300,000 vaccine doses by year's end and had 300,000 people willing to take them immediately, that's just 1.5 percent of New York's population.

December 9, 2020

COVID-19 numbers in New Jersey have been at their steepest levels -- and higher, at times -- than they were in the spring, a trend reflective both of enhanced testing and a U.S. crisis that shows no signs of abating. How much worse could they get?

Hospitalization numbers could turn direr than they were in April and daily cases could double in the next month with no change in public behavior, under the Garden State's worst-case scenario.

If public compliance improves -- and people heed holiday warnings -- it doesn't have to get to that point, according to the moderate projection outcome model Gov. Phil Murphy outlined Wednesday.

Two New Jersey agencies -- the Department of Health and the Office of Innovation -- devised independent analyses for both worst-case and moderate scenarios as far as the state's next six weeks battling the coronavirus. Both are based on real-time data, trends and a series of assumptions on human behavior.

Under the worst-case scenario, which assumes no change in compliance with masks, social distancing and avoidance of mass gatherings, New Jersey would see weeks of increasing cases, peaking between 12,595 and 9,932 in mid-January to early February, based on the two agencies' models. The state would see more hospitalizations than its 8,300 April peak under either analysis -- and that metric would be most magnified between mid-January and early February.

Right now, statewide hospitalizations are at 3,533, about 40 percent of the level to which New Jersey predicts they could grow by early February, at the latest, under the worst-case scenario projections. Patients in ICUs and on ventilators would be fewer than in April, a projection that considers treatment improvement since then.

Under the moderate projection model, which presumes New Jersey residents "do a little more to continue with our masking, social distancing and avoiding gatherings," hospitalization metrics would remain within the state's safety zone.

They would peak around 6,333 in mid-January, by the Department of Health assessment, or 5,752 by the Office of Innovation' review. Both are lower peaks than April numbers and leave some room for a holiday-associated increase from the current number of people hospitalized the state as of Wednesday. New daily cases would continue to climb through at least Christmas if not longer.

It's not the daily case number in and of itself that New Jersey is most worried about, though. It's hospitalizations. That'll be the most critical metric in the weeks ahead, Murphy has said, as states brace for the anticipated increase from initial case spikes associated with Thanksgiving. The more hospitalizations, the more strain on the hospital system -- and the increased likelihood for additional virus deaths to weigh on the state's already stark -- and still growing -- toll.

"While the numbers of new cases are what provides the shock values for the headlines, and they should, it is the numbers in our hospitals which are of the greatest concern and the hardest numbers, if you will, when it comes to determining the steps we need to take as a state," Murphy said. "The metrics in our hospitals, and their ability to ensure treatment for those who need it, are the greatest indicators of our on-the-ground realities."

Unlike the April crisis peak, New Jersey is better equipped for this viral wave, having a stockpile of necessary PPE and lessons learned, said Judy Persichilli, the state's health commissioner. She urged people to do their part mitigation-wise to lessening the overall impact and hospital strain this time around.

While Persichilli's and the Office of Innovation's modeling have some variations in potential outcomes over the next few weeks, there's one constant, Murphy said: "Our vaccination rates will not yet be in a place where they will have any significant impact on our path."

That's been the same message in neighboring New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also looking to shore up hospital capacity and resources ahead of an anticipated holiday-related surge. That's the top immediate priority, he has said. Earlier this week, Cuomo announced that the fate of indoor dining -- and possibly more -- hinged on the hospitalization rates in each of New York's 10 regions.

Indoor dining could be suspended entirely in New York City as early as Monday if it's hospitalization rate continues to increase, which Cuomo has said he expects it to do. Mayor Bill de Blasio debuted revised health indicators for his daily briefings on Monday, including the rolling hospitalization rate per 100,000 residents. It has increased in every report since and is well above the 2.00 he wants to stay below.

New hospital admissions have slowly ticked up over the last month but hit their highest daily number (196) Wednesday since May 10, de Blasio said. The city currently has a lower hospitalization rate than half of the state's regions, as of Cuomo's last report, but there's no singular threshold in this case. It's a matter of whether a given region can thwart ongoing increases.

For the rest of the state, excluding orange zones where indoor dining is suspended, indoor dining capacity will be cut to 50 percent or 25 percent if hospitalization rates don't stabilize within a matter of days. He didn't immediately provide an update on regional numbers at his briefing Wednesday but is expected to reveal a revised, comprehensive post-Thanksgiving hospital plan within days.

In New Jersey, Murphy has consistently declined to implement new indoor dining limits, citing no significant evidence that dine-in has contributed to the state's ongoing case surge. Asked to support his approach Wednesday, Cuomo said indoor dining is not as significant a spreader as it was at the height of the pandemic -- but he said that's because he has strict capacity limitations in place.

"They are still a source of spread," Cuomo said. "It's places of gatherings."

Some may disagree with his plan, but targeting indoor dining is merely one latest action in Cuomo's effort to avoid more draconian containment measures.

For the governor, the bottom line is whether hospitals can handle the increased patient volume until COVID rates start to see vaccination-related reductions. If they can't, and hospitals in a given region appear on track to hit 90 percent of capacity within three weeks, based on a seven-day average, it's shutdown time.

That means all schools, nonessential businesses and restaurant table service in the region in question - a level of lockdown most of the state hasn't seen since spring. No region is close to that yet, though Long Island and New York City are the nearest, with state data showing just 18 percent and 19 percent, of hospital beds open in those respective regions. Cuomo wants at least 30 percent free.

He ordered hospitals earlier this week to boost capacity by 25 percent and called on retired nurses and doctors to reenlist. They'll be reregistered at no cost in New York state as Cuomo looks to shore up resources for the expected winter spike.

More than 4,990 COVID-19 patients are now hospitalized statewide, more than double the number Nov. 18 and the highest total since May 20. With 19,000 or so admitted at the peak of the crisis in spring, Cuomo said the state isn't yet at a “critical” level of COVID-19 hospitalizations. But the growth rate is worrisome.

Daily deaths are on the increase in both New York and New Jersey -- New York reported its highest daily toll in months Wednesday (95) as New Jersey saw 91. Those statistics are nowhere near the jarring numbers from April, when the Empire State was losing about 800 people a day. But increases in critical hospitalizations will lead to some level of increase in deaths by default, despite enhancement in treatments for the most at-risk populations.

A vaccine is also on the near horizon -- and high-priority groups may get it within the next few weeks if the U.S. approves Pfizer's emergency use request as expected on Thursday.

New York and New Jersey both expect to receive initial doses of Pfizer's shipment within one week; they expect tens of thousands from Moderna, which takes up its request with the FDA a week after Pfizer, before the end of the month as well.

Cuomo said he expects New York to receive its initial allocation of 170,000 Pfizer doses as early as this weekend, presuming the FDA approves it, and further allocations in the coming weeks. High-risk healthcare workers and hospital staff receive first priority, followed by long-term care staff and residents. First responders get it next, then essential workers and finally, the general public.

By region, New York City is poised to receive the most initial doses from the state.

While a critical first step toward what will be a long road of recovery -- for states, cities and the nation as a whole -- widescale vaccination likely won't happen until at least midway through 2021. That won't stem the tide of an anticipated Christmas and New Year's surge on top of an expected Thanksgiving surge.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this week he expects the surge-upon-surge peak to fully materialize by mid-January. Without substantial and continued mitigation efforts, the nation's leading infectious disease expert warned that first month of 2021 could feature some of the nation's darkest days since the pandemic's onset.

For the nation, the days are already dark -- and darkening more by the day. U.S. deaths have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached in April, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse.

December 8, 2020

New York state is starting to see its daily COVID deaths climb along with an increase in hospitalizations. It reported its highest single-day fatality toll (80) in months Monday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered hospitals to boost bed capacity by 25 percent. If rates keep rising, indoor dining will suffer the consequences first.

More than 4,800 COVID-19 patients are now hospitalized statewide, double the amount reported Nov. 18 and the highest total since May 22. With 19,000 or so admitted at the peak of the crisis in spring, Cuomo said the state isn't yet at a “critical” level of COVID-19 hospitalizations. But the growth rate is worrisome.

For the governor, the bottom line is whether hospitals can handle the increased patient volume until COVID rates start to see vaccination-related reductions. If they can't, and hospitals in a given region appear on track to hit 90 percent of capacity within three weeks, based on a seven-day average, it's shutdown time.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who warned of additional looming restrictions weeks ago as he sought to mollify frustrated parents about the latest all-remote school switch said when asked about it Tuesday he fully expected closures to come within days.

As of Tuesday, the city's rolling hospitalization rate was 2.30, up slightly from the previous day and well above the mayor's self-professed 2.00 threshold. De Blasio also reported 2,624 new daily COVID cases, which includes the probable figure. That's more than quadruple the 550 new daily case threshold he set months ago.

Given the stark and continuing increases, de Blasio supports new restrictions, even as he acknowledges the renewed difficulty for struggling business owners.

"This health situation has to be addressed. I do think we're going to see restrictions coming and I think other restrictions have to be on the table so we can be ready to address whatever comes," the mayor said. "We want people to have their livelihoods. But we've got to stop this surge that we're facing."

December 7, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled new rules Monday that inextricably tie each of the state's 10 regions' hospitalization rates to the availability of indoor dining, though the level of potential clampdown is harshest in New York City.

Citing new CDC guidance that identifies indoor dining as a key COVID spreader, the governor said dine-in would shut down completely in New York City, where it is currently open at 25 percent capacity, if the citywide hospitalization rate doesn't stabilize over the next five days. There's no singular hospitalization rate threshold, Cuomo says. It's simply a matter of avoiding further increase.

"Stabilization is stabilization," the governor explained. "Where you are now -- stabilize, instead of going up. If your hospitalization rate is 4 percent, instead of going from 4 to 5, you have to stay at 4 and stabilize. Right now it's increasing."

Cuomo expects it to continue to increase between now and mid-January. If current trends hold, indoor dining could be closed in the five boroughs as early as next Monday. Should that happen, there's no timetable to reopen it at this time.

For the rest of the state, indoor dining would be reduced to 50 percent or 25 percent capacity if the regional hospitalization rates are unstable for more than five days. All that excludes orange cluster zones, where indoor dining is closed.

Right now, the story is markedly reversed from what it was in the spring. New York City and Long Island both have lower hospitalization rates than upstate regions.

Hospitalizations have been on a steady rise for weeks now, both in the city and statewide, trends reflective of a national crisis that shows no signs of abating. As of Monday, New York state had 4,602 total hospitalizations, its highest total since May 22 but a mere fraction of the 19,000 or so admitted at the peak of the crisis.

The state's rate of transmission is about 1.2 right now, Cuomo said Monday, meaning every infected person infects more than one other person. The governor has long said that defines an active outbreak. He also reported 80 new deaths statewide, the highest single-day toll in months. Like hospitalizations, deaths are a lagging indicator -- and will likely ebb and flow with critical hospitalizations.

While hospitals are not as taxed by any means at this point as they were in April, they are stretched in each of the state's 10 regions. Cuomo wants to ensure the flexibility to "surge and flex" resources as needed between upstate and downstate. He triggered emergency hospital protocol late last month to ensure facilities had the PPE and resource stockpiles necessary to adapt as needed.

The problem in the spring, Cuomo said, wasn't that the entire hospital system was overwhelmed. It was that individual hospitals were overwhelmed. The flex component of his hospital strategy allows for the balancing of patient load. If it can't be, other measures, like suspending elective surgeries, may be needed.

Amid the rising numbers, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio debuted new daily health indicators, including the rolling hospitalization rate per 100,000 residents, on Monday as part of an effort to provide a more complete picture of the city's standing in its ongoing war against coronavirus. As of Monday, that metric by his data was 2.28. His goal is to keep it below 2.00.

The mayor also added probable daily COVID cases to the overall new cases toll. As of Monday, de Blasio reported 616 "probable" COVID cases to the 2,180 confirmed (based on a seven-day rolling average). He and his health commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokski, say incorporating antigen data is more accurate than including PCR diagnostic tests alone, which the city had done in the past.

"Data is the lifeblood of our COVID response. But data is also at the center of New Yorkers' response," Chokshi said in explaining the metrics shift. "In order to act on this data, people must know the data."

Previously, the daily cases reported were based solely on PCR tests, which are molecular. They didn't include results from antigen tests, which check for a virus protein and are being used more frequently as a screening test for COVID-19. Going forward, those will account for the probable cases added to the daily tally.

The mayor also said he will no longer include the daily positivity rate in his daily indicators' report, opting exclusively instead for the seven-day rolling average. That was 4.98 percent as of Monday. It was less than three weeks ago that that rate hit his controversial 3 percent benchmark to move schools all remote.

The nation's largest public school district welcomed back 3K, pre-K and K-5 students to in-person learning Monday (and will do the same for special education students Thursday) after a two-week shutdown. Middle and high school students will have to wait to return at least into next year, part of a by-design phased reopening that de Blasio and education officials hope will protect the long-term viability of in-person learning amid the pandemic.

No timeline has been given for the older kids' return to school. Pressed about that Monday, de Blasio says he anticipates middle school students will return to in-person learning at some point in January, while high schoolers will delay longer.

All of the reopening schools have been told to pivot from a hybrid schedule to five-day-a-week in-person instruction, though a number of the larger ones say they can't accommodate that. De Blasio insists most schools have the capacity to move to that schedule at some point in January if not earlier. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza says early data shows about 150 schools made the five-day-a-week move starting this week, but expects more complete data by Tuesday.

Parents sending their kids back to school this week also must submit a consent form to have their children tested for COVID. The reopening strategy includes mandatory weekly randomized testing of students and staff.

All public schools have been closed to in-person learning since Nov. 19, a day after the city's rolling seven-day positivity rate hit de Blasio's oft-criticized 3 percent threshold for closure. That controversial mark is no longer part of the equation to keep schools open, with the citywide positivity rate now well topped 5 percent, according to the latest data, and no significant spread traced to schools.

Up to 190,000 students are returning to the classroom this week at 850 school buildings across the five boroughs, de Blasio says. That includes orange zone cluster schools on Staten Island with additional testing requirements.

Keeping schools open for in-person instruction is a core tenet of the mayor's and governor's separate but parallel battle plans for managing the ongoing pandemic through the dreaded winter months. Winter means more indoor activity, which is linked to higher COVID exposure risk. It means more travel, more socializing.

No state has been untouched by the latest U.S. surge. Across the river, New Jersey is also seeing stark increases in new cases and hospitalizations. Gov. Phil Murphy's suspension of indoor youth and adult winter sports took effect over the weekend and outdoor gatherings are limited to just 25 people starting Monday. That's a 95 percent reduction from the 500-person limit in place through summer.

The new restrictions come as New Jersey's state health department recorded more than 6,000 new positive cases on Sunday, another record-breaker just two days after the state reported more than 5,000 new daily cases for the first time. The daily case number, which relies on PCR tests, dipped back down to around 3,500 on Monday, likely a product of typically lower weekend testing numbers.

Asked about the future of indoor dining in the wake of Cuomo's announcement Monday, Murphy said he learned of the New York governor's plan minutes before his own daily briefing began. He firmly defended keeping restaurants open to indoor diners in his state, saying any closure would be a measure of last resort.

"If you shutter something completely, you're driving this into underground activity, behind closed doors, private settings. We already have an issue with that," Murphy said. "If we think we can control that manageable risk in an enforceable space, such as a restaurant as opposed to Ed's living room, then that is our preference."

Controlling manageable risk would be much easier, Murphy added, if New Jerseyeans did their collective part assisting with contact tracing efforts. As of Monday, he said the rate of noncooperation is up to an "unacceptable" 74 percent.

"This is not a witch hunt," the governor pleaded. "We’re only trying to stop the spread of this virus. Work with our contact tracers."

While acknowledging record daily case totals in recent days, Murphy and other officials believe their states and others likely would have hit such peaks earlier if spring testing capacity and public acceptance of it had been up to current levels.

The key metrics states are monitoring this time around are hospitalizations and deaths, both of which lag increases in cases. Murphy told CNN Monday that hospitalization is a metric his team will review "very carefully" a week or two from now for any potential early impacts of the post-Thanksgiving effect.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who joined Cuomo at the governor's Monday briefing, said the Thanksgiving impact would likely start to become evident in the next 10 days.

"The problem is, that's going to come right up to the beginning of the Christmas/Hannukah potential surge -- so you have a surge upon a surge and then before you can handle that, more people are going to travel over Christmas, they're going to have more of those family and friends gatherings," Fauci said. "If those two things happen and we don't mitigate well, we could start to see things really start to get bad in the middle of January. Without substantial mitigation, the middle of January can be a very dark time for us."

The numbers were alarming even before the dreaded holiday surge. Last week, the United States set new records on both total hospitalizations and daily deaths -- and promptly broke those records. And given the latest trends in cases, it is expected to set new records again soon.

The desperation is growing. A new stay-at-home order that applies to millions of people in California took effect Sunday night. Asked on CNN Monday whether he might consider such a measure for New Jersey, Murphy issued his oft-repeated phrase of "everything is on the table" but said he didn't anticipate that scenario.

Like officials at every level of government and public health across the country, Murphy is urging his people to continue with proven mitigation measures through the distribution and administration of a vaccine. Multiple states, including New York and New Jersey, are expected to receive initial doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines pending federal emergency use authorization within the next two weeks. High-risk healthcare workers and nursing home staff will get first priority.

Larger-scale distribution to the public is not expected until well into 2021. Mitigation efforts like masks and social distancing may be necessary well beyond that, health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have cautioned. Even with a 95 percent vaccine efficacy rate, some people will get COVID despite getting vaccinated.

Cuomo says experts say 75 percent to 85 percent of people need to be vaccinated in order for the economy to return to some semblance of normalcy. That in and of itself is a tall order, given heightened public skepticism of this particular vaccine. According to a new union survey, fewer than half of FDNY firefighters -- first responders who face heightened risk as part of their jobs -- would take the vaccine once it becomes available to them in a few weeks.

December 6, 2020

Two days after reporting more than 5,000 cases for the first time, New Jersey's state health department recorded over 6,000 positive cases on Sunday, raising questions of whether the Garden State was already feeling the impact of a post-holiday spike.

It's been more than nine months since the Garden State recorded its first confirmed case of the virus and the state's still smashing single-day records, day after day. Including the latest figure reported on Sunday, New Jersey has surpassed its former single-day case record set back in April nine times in the past three weeks.

The previous record set in New Jersey back on April 17 was 4,391. As of Sunday, that new high hit 6,046, Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted.

Roughly 1 out of every 250 people in New Jersey has tested positive for COVID-19 in just the last week.

Murphy has rolled back a number of restrictions limiting the size of gatherings and halting a number of indoor activities altogether, but he's not ruled out larger-scale restrictions. He reiterated his stance on "Morning Joe" Friday, saying "everything is on the table."

Come Monday, outdoor gatherings will be capped in the state to 25 people, Murphy first announced last week. The previous limit was set at 500 before Murphy lowered it to 150 a couple weeks ago.

On Saturday - the same day the state's ban on indoor youth and high school sports began - Murphy announced an amendment to his Executive Order on the limits for outdoor gatherings. Entertainment venues, he said, such as movie theaters and concert venues, can continue to hold performances at the venue's maximum indoor capacity as long as they are held outside.

The governor urged people to be especially conscious with Christmas coming up just as he had done for Thanksgiving. It's still too early to tell if climbing rates could stem from Thanksgiving travel because the virus incubation period is 10 to 14 days.

One mayor in the state thinks his city is already experiencing a post-holiday case spike. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted Saturday that cases in his city jumped past 200, an almost 50 percent increase from what was the city had previously been seeing.

Hospitalizations have continued to climb in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported Sunday. The state added another 124 patients to hospitals statewide.

The governor recently unveiled his winter plan last week that called for an overall of hospital capacity resources and creating new metrics that would trigger necessary regional or statewide restrictions based on hospital conditions.

"We're closely monitoring hospital capacity and have implemented triggers to ensure hospitals have what they need," Cuomo said in a press release Sunday.

"Public health experts agree households and private gatherings are a major driver of transmission right now, demonstrating once again that it is our actions that determine the infection rate," he added.

New York added another 9,700 cases on Sunday as the virus continues to spread across the Empire State. The rolling seven-day positivity average now sits above 4 percent in 9 of the state's 10 regions. Only the Southern Tier holds the lowest stat just above 2 percent.

December 5, 2020

As of Saturday morning in New Jersey, all indoor youth and adult winter sports — including hockey, basketball, swimming and more — are suspended. Starting Monday, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people.

The latest round of restrictions in the Garden State come nine months after New Jersey's first confirmed coronavirus case. It smashed its single-day case record Friday for the second time in two days. By Saturday, the state reported 5,367 new positives, down slightly from the record 5,673 the day before.

"This is going to be rough," Gov. Phil Murphy said of the next few months. "But people's behavior can make it less rough."

He urged people to be especially conscious with Christmas coming up just as he had done for Thanksgiving. It's still too early to tell if climbing rates could stem from Thanksgiving travel because the virus incubation period is 10 to 14 days.

When pressed about the potential for larger-scale restrictions, he continues to say "everything is on the table" -- and did so most recently on "Morning Joe" Friday.

The overall mortality rate is lower than it was in the spring. Cuomo says it's about 8 percent of hospitalized patients in New York now compared with about 23 percent earlier this year. But those at-risk populations are by default more likely to never recover if they contract the viral respiratory illness.

"Currently, instead of 25 percent going to ICU [in the spring], 18 percent [now] go to ICU," Cuomo said on a press call Friday. "Instead of 85 percent, only 45 percent are intubated. The length of stay in the hospital in March and April: 11 days. It is now less than half that, it is down to five days."

December 4, 2020

Exactly nine months to the day since New Jersey reported its first confirmed coronavirus case, it smashed its single-day case record for the second time in two days. Friday's number -- 5,673 -- topped the previous record by 700-plus.

It's a pattern reflective of the current plight in America, with the United States setting and then besting again new single-day case, death and hospitalization records over the last 72 hours. The holiday effect won't even be known for weeks.

How much worse could it get? Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to delve into the state's COVID modeling next week, when his health commissioner, who has been quarantined after exposure to an infected person, returns to join his briefings.

Like Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York, Murphy says the numbers will get worse -- it's just a matter of degree.

According to an NJ.com report ahead of Murphy's Friday briefing, the state's "moderate" projection model has New Jersey peaking around 5,400 new daily cases by mid-December and nearly 5,000 hospitalizations by New Year's Day. The latter metric isn't expected to substantially decline until March under the moderate model, which presumes people continue with mitigation efforts.

The 5,000 hospitalization projection includes nearly 1,000 people in intensive or critical care and more than 600 on ventilators, NJ.com reported.

Those projections are markedly higher than where the state stands currently, though not nearly as what it saw in spring, when there were more than 8,000 people in hospitals. As of now, New Jersey is averaging more than 4,100 new daily cases over the last week. Hospitalizations have topped 3,300, numbers not seen since May, with 615 patients in intensive care and 386 on ventilators.

While hospitalizations have soared in recent weeks, officials do expect fewer critical hospitalizations and less death than they saw at the crisis' peak in the spring, given improvements in treatment. Murphy says capacity is OK for now.

Murphy, New Jersey's ordinarily mild-mannered governor, also had strong words Friday for Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and a group of New York City Young Republicans who held a gala event in Jersey City in violation of social distancing rules.

The event was held Thursday night, and photos on social media show a tightly packed crowd -- with no masks -- surrounding Gaetz, who represents part of the Florida Panhandle and who was apparently a guest of honor at the event.

"That guy in the middle, the tall, handsome fella in the gray suit, that is Representative Matt Putz - oh sorry, Matt Gaetz, and based upon his past performances, it is obvious being a knucklehead is not beyond the pale for him," Murphy said at a news conference. "He was actually Sarah Palin's backup act for this event."

Calling the outspoken Republican a "fool," Murphy then addressed him directly.

"I hope you're watching Matt -- you are not welcome in New Jersey, and frankly I don't ever want you back in this state," the governor said.

Meanwhile, in New York City, the five boroughs have seen daily case averages soar to late April highs (they topped 2,000 new daily cases Friday for the first time since April 30) and hospitalizations soar by more than 120 percent in just the last three weeks. The city's seven-day rolling average is now above 5 percent, just two weeks after it hit the mayor's 3 percent threshold to close schools to in-person learning. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he's discussing potential additional restrictions with Cuomo but didn't elaborate.

The local challenges are reflective of national trends that officials say are deeply alarming and grow more so by the day.

December 3, 2020

New York City's three core indicators are the most aligned they've been in months and all trending in the wrong direction, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday as he more firmly than ever declared "the second wave upon us."

The city's daily case average is on the verge of 2,000 (1,962, by the mayor's data) for the first time since late April, while the seven-day rolling positivity rate has topped 5 percent. It was just two weeks ago that the mayor closed schools to in-person learning because that rate hit his 3 percent threshold. Before the October clusters, it had been around 1 percent for more than a month.

"What we're now seeing more than we have seen in a long long time is these three indicators all moving in the wrong direction, or in the case of daily cases, moving greatly in the wrong direction," de Blasio said.

Statewide, hospitalizations topped 4,000 Thursday for the first time since May 27 as New York's rolling positivity rate surpassed 4 percent -- another first in months. Gov. Andrew Cuomo triggered emergency hospital protocol earlier this week to shore up the state's capacity in advance of any potential admissions surge.

Even amid the latest crush, intensive care and intubation numbers are nowhere near what they were in the spring, nor are fatalities. New York's COVID death rate for those who went into the hospital in the spring was 23 percent. Now, it's 8 percent, Cuomo said Thursday. Still, the increased spread of a virus with no vaccine widely yet available is problematic for a number of reasons.

To date, the state of New York has seen 674,093 positive coronavirus cases and 76,955 related death.

Across the river, New Jersey notched another record -- a new single-day case record high of 4,913 diagnoses as the state surpassed 350,000 confirmed cases since March. Hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise there as well. The tri-state predicaments mirror the national climate amid an ever-worsening viral surge with the so-called "post-Thanksgiving effect" yet to fully materialize.

Connecticut has reported 126,177 cases and 5,111 deaths.

December 2, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has warned for months of the associated surge-upon-surge stemming from the holiday season, says he expects the latest infection increase to continue through January at least. What happens next?

Aside from shoring up hospital capacity as the state faces its steepest viral increases in months, Cuomo is focused on keeping schools open, testing and ensuring a smooth and efficient vaccine rollout when it becomes available.

He said Wednesday that New York expects enough Pfizer doses by Dec. 15 to vaccinate 170,000 people, assuming the process continues at its current pace, and about 40,000 initial allocations from Moderna this month. Both vaccines require two doses. Nursing home staff and patients will get top priority.

According to the governor, experts say 75 percent to 85 percent of the population must be vaccinated in order for the economy to return to some semblance of normalcy. Even if the state received 300,000 vaccine doses by year's end and had 300,000 people willing to take them immediately, that's just 1.5 percent of New York's population. As Cuomo says, the launch of the vaccine is the beginning of a long process forward. It's hardly a time to declare "coronavirus is over."

In many ways, this newest phase is the most dangerous yet for the United States. The White House Coronavirus Task Force told states earlier this week that "the COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high," according to a copy of the report obtained by NBC News.

That report included a stark warning for people older than 65 and those with preexisting conditions. It urged them to limit nonessential activities outside the home, echoing the pleas New York City's top doctor made to the city on Tuesday.

It also included a message for those under 40: If you celebrated Thanksgiving outside your own home, you "need to assume" you got infected.

The numbers behind the concern are undeniable; no state has been untouched by the latest surge. In New York, roughly 1 of every 134 residents tested positive for COVID-19 in November, nearly triple the number in October. Cuomo reported nearly 9,000 new cases Wednesday along with 69 COVID deaths. Statewide hospitalizations are at their highest total since May 27 (3,924), while citywide hospitalizations are up more than 120 percent in just the last three weeks.

To date, New York has reported 664,238 coronavirus cases and 26,889 COVID-19 deaths.

New Jersey has also seen a stark increase in hospitalizations, which are at their highest levels since mid-May. The state reported its highest daily COVID death toll Tuesday (90) since May 4, a sobering statistic that likely will continue to climb.

A month ago, Murphy expressed concern as multiple New Jersey counties were reporting at least 100 new COVID cases a day. On Wednesday, five saw at least 300; three of those -- Middlesex, Passaic and Hudson -- saw well more than 400. The statewide positivity rate had soared to 13.68 percent, Murphy said.

New Jersey has reported 346,206 cases and 17,145 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths. Meanwhile, Connecticut has seen 121,426 cases and 5,091 COVID deaths.

December 1, 2020

New York City's health commissioner issued a new public warning Tuesday advising older adults and people with preexisting conditions who are at an increased risk of severe COVID-related illnesses to limit nonessential activities outside the home effective immediately.

Household members and caregivers of high-risk people are also advised to avoid going out except for essential purposes like medical care, grocery shopping and pharmacy necessities. Vulnerable people shouldn't have guests, either, city officials pleaded Tuesday as they said hospitalizations had doubled in just the last three weeks and are now at their highest levels since early June.

"This escalation unfortunately follows a tragically familiar pattern," a somber NYC Commissioner of Health Dr. Dave Chokshi said. "Cases grow. Hospitalizations follow. And sadly, too many result in critical illness or even death."

New York City has launched a campaign to encourage blood donations at a time when the ongoing pandemic has pushed the city’s blood supply to the brink creating an "urgent situation," Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

Although the ideal supply of blood should stand at seven days, the mayor said during his daily coronavirus press briefing that the city's current supply is down to just "a few days" -- three days to be exact. The reason for the shortage is the ongoing pandemic which has forced a number of blood drives to be canceled. In order to encourage New Yorkers to donate blood, the city launched a campaign with a goal of acquiring 25,000 blood donations by New Year's Day.

Cuomo reported more than 7,200 new cases in New York Tuesday, about 3,000 short of what the state was seeing on a daily basis at the peak of the crisis.

Total statewide hospitalizations have more than tripled in the last six weeks as well -- and while those and fatalities are still overwhelmingly lower than they were at the height of the pandemic this past spring, both metrics have steadily climbed as cases have surged. Hospitalizations topped 3,700 as of Tuesday, Cuomo said, an alarming volume not seen in New York since late May.

A federal stimulus plan would help school matters and beyond, de Blasio has said. Across the river, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy agrees.

He recently restricted indoor dining hours and banned bar seating, dealing yet another blow to struggling restaurants and their staff. On Monday, he imposed new limits on outdoor gatherings for the second time in two weeks, saying they'll be capped at 25 starting Dec. 7. Until last month, that capacity cap was 500.

Murphy also announced a soon-to-take-effect ban on indoor youth and school sports through the rest of the year as the state combats a steadily rising rate of COVID-19 infections with many more major holidays still to come.

New Jersey's Health Department is advising residents against all holiday parties with nonimmediate household members for the rest of the year, as it did ahead of Thanksgiving. Now even visits to Santa Claus should be from a distance, too.

"If malls offer in-person visits, they should be socially distant and reservations. Children shouldn't sit on Santa's lap," Murphy said.

November 30, 2020

Hospitals are key to New York's success in combatting the current surge in coronavirus spread, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday when he triggered emergency hospital procedures statewide as part of his new five-point winter strategy to shore-up the state's weak points.

"Literally every region is dealing with a hospital issue now," Cuomo said. Hospitalizations surged past 3,500 over the weekend, an alarming volume not seen in New York since May. What the state can't do now, the governor pointed out Monday, is exchange health care resources between upstate and downstate hospitals if all regions are already on alert.

Cuomo's most stark warning came Monday when he warned the state could go back on "PAUSE" if the hospitals become overwhelmed. He added that the number one priority is ensuring the state has enough hospital capacity to treat all patients.

The state has ordered hospitals across the state to identify retired doctors and nurses to return to the frontlines, confirm a 90-day PPE stockpile, and increase bed capacity by 50 percent. Elective surgeries will be halted in regions when necessary, starting with Eric County on Friday.

Hospital factors will become a center point of Cuomo's micro-cluster designations. The governor said new metrics will inform the red, yellow and orange zones based upon hospital availability and demand. He said the state is waiting to review the "post-Thanksgiving effect" before finalizing those metrics, which will be tracked on a new state department of health dashboard.

"We're going to have a problem in the hospitals, I'm telling you that right now. It's going to be a serious situation," Cuomo said.

Cuomo also said the state is mandating "load balancing" of patients within hospital systems so that one hospital in a certain area doesn't become overwhelmed while others have more capacity. Cuomo said failing to do so will be considered malpractice by the hospital systems.

Beyond preparing the state's hospitals for the "war against COVID," the governor's winter strategy also prioritizes increased testing, keeping schools open, minimizing small gatherings and deploying the vaccine, once approved and available. Additional restrictions, like limiting indoor dining in New York City, don't appear to be on the table at the moment.

"The valve no longer controls the spread," Cuomo said, effectively conceding that throttling indoor dining, gyms and other indoor activities doesn't work anymore. "Either people are going to hear it and get it, or they're not."

Small gatherings are the biggest enemy to controlling the spread of the virus, Cuomo reiterated at his briefing. According to the governor, 65 percent of transmission can be traced back to small gatherings.

New Jersey will once again sharply reduce the number of people allowed to gather outdoors, and will ban indoor youth and school sports through the rest of the year, as the state combats a steadily rising rate of COVID-19 infections.

But the efforts to fight the virus are running into a huge problem -- nearly 70 percent of people reached by contact tracers are refusing to comply. Gov. Phil Murphy implored the public to cooperate, saying there was no "witch hunt" involved.

All indoor youth and adult sports will be paused as of 6 a.m. Dec. 5 through Jan. 2, Murphy said, with the only exceptions for collegiate and professional teams.

The state will also once again lower its outdoor gathering limit. The limit was 500, then reduced two weeks ago to 150, and now it will be cut again to 25 as of Dec. 7.

But Murphy also made clear that any talk of a full lockdown was just a social media rumor, and that while all options are on the table, the situation is different now than it was six months ago.

NJ.com first reported the planned restrictions.

The crackdown comes amid a surge in infections in the state. Whereas New Jersey was reporting about 1,000 new cases a day at the end of October, it's now routinely posting more than 4,000 new cases a day.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID tripled over the same timeframe, and the daily death toll rose back to six-month highs.

Murphy has blamed a variety of factors, including COVID fatigue and excessive gatherings behind closed doors. But he has also hesitated to go back to the full restrictions the state saw in the spring, during the virus's first wave.

November 29, 2020

After previewing the return of in-person learning ahead of Thanksgiving, Mayor Bill de Blasio returned from the holiday on Sunday to announce the scheduled return of public schools starting with elementary and special education students.

The first school buildings will reopen Dec. 7, de Blasio said Sunday. City officials plan to reopen public school buildings in a phased approach, starting with 3-K, Pre-K and K-5 students. District 75 students of all grade levels will get the opportunity to return to the classroom a few days later on Dec. 10.

The city is reopening schools in phases, in part, to make sure enhanced testing resources will be available for returning students. The mayor did not offer a timeline of reopening school buildings for middle and high school students, saying the city was not ready yet to open every school.

School buildings returning to in-person learning, wherever possible, will transition to classroom instruction five days per week, the mayor said. Before the suspension of in-person instruction, students attended school one to three days a week.

When the schools reopen, weekly coronavirus testing will be in effect for students and faculty.

The mayor estimates 190,000 students enrolled in the public schools will be eligible to return the week of Dec. 7. Returning students must have a parent consent form, the mayor said.

The weekend announcement was welcome news for parents who argued vehemently this week that their children desperately needed in-person school to reopen.

"We won. We're elated that the mayor heard the desperate cries from tens of thousands of parents here who really united to say that school never should have closed and needed to reopen right away," parent Mia Eisner-Grynberg said.

School buildings across New York City have been closed to in-person learning since Nov. 19 due to the city's 3 percent rolling positivity rate. The previously set 3 percent threshold will no longer guide the decision to close schools citywide.

The city is reopening schools "because we have so much proof now of how safe schools can be," de Blasio said Sunday. "We feel confident that we can keep schools safe."

The plan laid out by Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza had the support of Michael Mulgrew, president of the largest union representing the majority of city's teachers.

"While schools in the city's high-impact red and orange coronavirus zones will continue to abide by the state's 3 percent closing rules, we are supportive of a phased reopening of schools in other neighborhoods as long as stringent testing is in place. This strategy - properly implemented - will allow us to offer a safe in-person instruction to the maximum number of students until we beat the pandemic," Mulgrew said in a statement.

Schools in the city's orange zone are also being eyed for an early December reopening. The schools in Staten Island's orange zone could open as early as the week of Dec. 7 as the city expedites enhanced testing requirements pursuant to the state's guidelines, the mayor said Sunday.

"We know that if you put a heavy emphasis on testing and you continually reinforce those health and safety measures, you monitor carefully with the situation room, we know we can keep our schools safe for the duration and link up to that day when we have the vaccine that changes the whole reality for all of us," de Blasio added.

According to the city's data, 1,636 new cases of the coronavirus were reported on Sunday. The current 7-day rolling average stands at 3.9 percent, the mayor tweeted.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw his support behind the decision to reopen schools in New York City.

"I think that's the right direction," the governor said a couple hours after de Blasio's announcement. "Just about every professional says the schools, especially K-8, should be kept open whenever its possible to keep them open safely."

The news of schools reopening in the city comes as the state continues to face a rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The number of New Yorkers hospitalized due to the virus rose 3,287, Cuomo said Sunday. It's the highest number of people hospitalized in the state since May, according to state data.

New York's positivity rate climbed as well. By Sunday, the statewide rate reach 4.27 percent, up by an entire percentage point from Monday's report. 55 people died from the virus, the governor said Sunday.

New Jersey reported 3,800 cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths to the state's count; hospitalizations also ticked up. The state's transmission rate dropped slightly since last week but it isn't clear how many people were tested over the holiday weekend.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he won't rule out a statewide shut down, but would only do so as a last resort.

"I'll tell you what would really make a difference here: a big federal stimulus sooner than later with a lifeline to small businesses, restaurants, folks who are unemployed. That would be a game changer," Murphy said on Fox News Sunday morning.

November 28, 2020

New York's statewide positivity rate for the coronavirus rose to a new high for the fall season aided by the increase in the state's 29 different micro-cluster zones -- the highest zone held a 7-day average just shy of 10 percent.

The state's positivity rate has continued to climb in recent weeks, jumping from 3.08 percent on Monday to 3.98 percent by Saturday, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. While the most recent day reflects the highest positivity rate seen in months, the 7-day average sits a bit lower at 3.32 percent.

Western New York continues to pull ahead from the other regions, reaching an average positivity of 6.53 percent as of Saturday. State data shows the region holds a rate 2 percent above the second highest region: the Finger Lakes.

Eric County, which sits in the region and where Buffalo is located, reported the highest number of new cases Saturday outside of New York City. The county, right now, holds both an orange and yellow micro-cluster zone.

"We are entering a challenging period of sustained COVID-19 spread across this state," Cuomo said in a Saturday press release. "It's up to you, your neighborhood and your community to slow the spread."

Additional testing begins for students in Rockland County's yellow zone on Monday. The school district in the zone has until Dec. 9 to test 20 percent of students and staff, per the state's requirement once a yellow zone designation is declared.

Minors must bring a parent consent form to get tested at the new sites. Testing will be provided by staff from Good Samaritan Hospital.

Testing for members of the school communities in the zone runs Monday to Friday between 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Monday: Palisades Center Mall Garage Entrance. This is a drive-up site or walk-up for those arriving by bus.
  • Tuesday: Suffern High School located at 49 Viola Road in Suffern
  • Wednesday: Spring Valley High School located at 361 E. Route 59 in Spring Valley
  • Thursday: Rockland BOCES, Bldg. 10 located at 65 Parrott Road in West Nyack.
  • Friday: Palisades Center Mall Garage Entrance. This is a drive-up site or walk-up for those arriving by bus.

Saturday's report from the state followed two straight days of record testing -- performing 219,442 tests on Thursday. The number of New Yorkers hospitalized for the coronavirus was 3,287, up by 184 from the previous day.

The U.S. reached 13 million diagnosed cases of Covid-19 on Friday, another milestone in a month riddled with them.

It was the fourth such marker the country has counted in November, which has seen 3.8 million cases of the coronavirus. The U.S. is on pace to tally more than 4 million cases this month alone, more than doubling the previous record of 1.9 million cases set in October.

November 27, 2020

Coronavirus cases continued climbing Friday in New York and hospitalizations rose even as the state recorded a record high in testing for COVID-19.

Western New York’s positivity rate spiked to a seven-day average of 6.28 percent, outpacing other parts of the state, according to figures released by the state. And Erie County, which includes Buffalo, reported more coronavirus deaths — six — than any other county in the state for a second consecutive day.

The state reported 8,176 new cases, the figures show, and statewide hospitalizations climbed to 3,103.

“We’re seeing an increase with the numbers across the country and within our own state,” Cuomo said in a news release. “It started with the fall, and it’s going to continue and probably worsen in the winter.”

Cuomo insisted this week that New York is “doing phenomenally well” compared to the rest of the country.

The governor said 219,442 COVID-19 test results were reported to the state on Thursday — a record high for the second straight day.

In New Jersey, more than 4,100 new cases of the virus were reported on Friday and 19 people died, Gov. Murphy announced on Twitter. The state's positivity rate rose above 11 percent while the number of people in the hospital dropped.

The U.S. reached 13 million diagnosed cases of Covid-19 on Friday, another milestone in a month riddled with them.

It was the fourth such marker the country has counted in November, which has seen 3.8 million cases of the coronavirus. The U.S. is on pace to tally more than 4 million cases this month alone, more than doubling the previous record of 1.9 million cases set in October.

November 26, 2020

Officials in New York are working on a COVID-19 winter plan in anticipation of an increase in cases during the colder months.

During his coronavirus press briefing Thanksgiving Day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo broadly detailed what the plan will focus on.

Although the state needs to assess the consequence of the Thanksgiving holiday in its plan, Cuomo said "there are a number of theories about how bad the increase will be after thanksgiving, but they all project an increase post-Thanksgiving. We see the air travelers increase, we see the car travelers increase and we know that the more social activity the higher the infection rate."

According to the governor, the winter plan will continue with a micro-cluster approach in which certain areas are deemed yellow, orange or red zones depending on their infection rates. With each zone, restrictions will be put in place in that particular area.

The new winter plan would tweak the rules for red, orange and yellow zones. The idea is to impose restrictions based not just on infection rates, but also hospitalization numbers too.

Another component of the winter plan will be keeping schools open, especially k-8. "Junior high, high [school] is a different situation," Cuomo said.

Part of the equation in keeping the schools open is continued testing in schools.

The third component of the potential plan is going to focus on developing a vaccine distribution plan that is "fair" and "effective."

Cuomo revealed Thursday that 6,933 additional COVID-19-positive cases were reported for a 3.18% positive state rate, bringing the statewide case total to 620,199. The latest data also reveals an additional 3,056 coronavirus-related hospitalizations and 67 deaths throughout New York. To date, 26,549 people in New York have died due to COVID.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has reported a total of 322,378 positive cases and 15,096 confirmed deaths (with an additional 1,829 probable COVID-19 deaths).

November 25, 2020

The fight to control and eventually eradicate COVID-19 continues, including in New York City where new restrictions begin Wednesday for parts of the Big Apple as COVID-19 patients overwhelm hospitals in one of its boroughs.

Part of the fight against coronavirus involves COVID-19 testing. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City has been at the forefront of testing, with more than 1 million COVID tests given since the start of the pandemic.

An astonishing feat when one considers that at the start of the pandemic, the city of New York couldn't get federal help to assist in providing COVID tests, de Blasio said during his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday -- Thanksgiving Eve.

De Blasio acknowledged that due to the ongoing health crisis, the holidays will be "different" and "tough" for many people. In the days leading up to holiday, he has urged people to not travel this holiday season. However, he is not the only official to make this plea.

Of the 173,085 tests reported Tuesday, 6,265 were positive (3.62% of total).Total hospitalizations are at 2,982, with 41 COVID fatalities, Cuomo said Wednesday. This marks the first time since April 24 the state topped 6,000 cases in a day. However, it should be noted that in late April, New York was testing about a quarter of the people being tested today.

On Wednesday, de Blasio once again said he was concerned about rising number of COVID-19 coronavirus hospitalizations in city after announcing 141 additional admissions and 1,447 confirmed cases in a single day. The mayor went on to say that the percent of New Yorkers who tested positive is at 2.74 percent -- with the 7-day rolling average still above 3 percent, a rate that has prompted the closure of schools last week.

On Thanksgiving Eve, Cuomo held a press conference, not only announcing that the state was giving away 50,000 turkeys for Thanksgiving, but also as a final plea for residents to not travel or hold large gatherings on the holiday, particularly since cases and deaths are increasing once again with statewide positivity at 3.04 percent.

Cuomo said New York is working on a winter COVID plan after health officials advised the state to prepare in anticipation of accelerated increase in cases from December to February. The plan will focus on the areas with the highest case rate and hospitalization.

While the holiday rush is taking place, despite officials warning against traveling and hosting events during the holidays, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement on Thanksgiving Eve on the state's travel advisory guidance.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout our nation, New Jersey will no longer utilize previously outlined metrics to inform its travel advisory. Given the increased risk of spreading COVID-19 for both residents who travel outside the state and for visitors into the state, New Jersey continues to strongly discourage all non-essential interstate travel at this time," Murphy's statement reads in part.

Travelers and residents returning from any U.S. state or territory beyond the immediate region (New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) should self-quarantine for 14 days, Murphy added. The Department of Health will issue additional information in the coming days regarding travel precautions.

As of Wednesday, New Jersey reported 4,073 new positive cases with a total of 317,905 cases in the state since the start of the pandemic. New Jersey informed of 50 new confirmed deaths for a total of 15,057 total deaths. As hospitalizations also continue to increase, reaching 2,902 in the latest state update. According to the state, 52 percent of the 545 people in intensive care are on ventilators.

November 24, 2020

New restrictions begin Wednesday for parts of New York City as COVID-19 patients overwhelm hospitals in one of its boroughs, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen an emergency field hospital as health officials anticipate another surge in the states rising infection rate.

Yellow and orange restrictions come to businesses midweek in a handful of counties in New York City and Long Island but the changes to schools won't start until the Thanksgiving holiday, Cuomo tweeted. Parts of Staten Island and Syracuse will move into orange zones, with indoor dining closing in those areas, while parts of Upper Manhattan, Riverhead, Hampton Bays, Great Neck and Massapequa Park move to yellow.

Westchester and Orange County were put on alert. If things don't improve each county could see a number of communities go orange or red. The latter designation closes all non-essential businesses.

The wave of new restrictions for some communities comes as hospitalizations linked to the virus in New York have climbed from 1,227 to 2,724 over the past three weeks. On its current trajectory, Cuomo believes that number could reach 6,047 within three weeks.

November 23, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined upcoming restrictions in parts of New York City as COVID-19 patients began to overwhelm hospitals ahead of the holiday season, a period in which the governor and health officials anticipate another surge in the state's and country's rising infection rate.

Hospitalizations linked to the virus in New York have climbed from 1,227 to 2,724 over the past three weeks. On its current trajectory, Cuomo believes that number could reach 6,047 within three weeks.

Top of mind for the governor is what he coined Monday as the "37 days of socialization": a several week period over the holidays that could send the state's numbers on an unpredictable tailspin.

The area of New York City that has been a particular concern for Cuomo is Staten Island, where large sections of the borough are already a yellow zone. The governor said those areas could turn orange and others red.

"Staten Island is a serious problem. Staten Island is also a problem in terms of overburdening hospitals, and we're running into a hospital capacity issue on Staten Island that we have to be dealing with over these next few days," Cuomo said.

At the request of hospitals on Staten Island, Cuomo announced on Monday the reopening of an emergency facility for COVID patients at South Beach. Roughly 200 patients received treatment at the facility in the spring, state officials said, which is located across from Staten Island University Hospital.

Upper Manhattan as well as parts of Suffolk and Nassau County could join the list of communities designated a yellow zone, while parts of Syracuse and Rochester could go orange, Cuomo said.

“It’s about life and death,” Cuomo said, imploring New Yorkers to make the safest decision for the holiday and stay home.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the same Monday, noting that for all the restrictions the state has put in place, people ultimately have to do the right thing themselves.

“There is only so much you can do, so we’re pleading with people keep Thanksgiving really small, immediate family, don’t travel and don’t let your guard down just because you’re at home," Murphy said in a "Good Morning America" interview. “We expect this to get worse before it gets better.”

But the public does not appear to be heeding their pleas. TSA data show more than 900,000 people flew each day from Thursday through Sunday last week, the highest four-day stretch of travel volume since mid-March. Sunday's 1.048 million travelers was the highest single-day figure since March 16.

November 22, 2020

One million.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut crossed a collective milestone Sunday, reached by only a couple of states (California and Texas), when the tri-state region tallied its one millionth positive coronavirus case.

By a count from each state's coronavirus database, the three states reported a total of 1,003,690 positive test results since the start of the pandemic. New York and New Jersey reported 9,389 new cases on Sunday to bring the total over the one million mark for the first time.

The milestone total for the region comes as the states' governors bring back measured restrictions to curb the spread, although no recent restriction has been as severe as the lockdown measures triggered back in the spring.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has so far focused on his micro-cluster approach to targeting COVID hotspots within a given region. There have been some action taken on a statewide level, however. For over a week now, dining areas have been ordered to close by 10 p.m. in bars, restaurants and bowling alleys. Gyms must also close at 10 p.m.

Small social gatherings at private homes are the third "great spreader" identified by contract tracing, Cuomo said. Those have since been capped at 10 people.

In terms of the micro-cluster strategy, Cuomo warned on Sunday that a growing number of communities were on track to face tighter restrictions as soon as this week. Parts of Staten Island, for example, which large sections of are already a yellow zone, could turn orange and others red.

"Staten Island is a serious problem," the governor said. "We're running into a hospital capacity issue on Staten Island that we have to be dealing with over these next few days."

Upper Manhattan as well as parts of Suffolk and Nassau County could join the list of communities designated a yellow zone, while parts of Syracuse and Rochester could go orange, Cuomo said.

Heading into this weekend, New Jersey's largest city of Newark was told to prepare for a 10-day stay-at-home advisory starting Nov. 25.

“We are, from Wednesday before Thanksgiving to Dec. 4, going to lock the city down,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a radio appearance on WBGO 88.3 FM’s Newark Today Friday. “We want people to shelter in place. We only want folks to come out for essential purposes. Do not go outside if you don’t have to. Don’t mingle with other people if you don’t have to. Stay (with) your family in your immediate household.”

Baraka’s office didn’t respond to a request for more details Friday, and it wasn’t immediately clear how the city of 280,000 would enforce the new restrictions, particularly for the Thanksgiving holiday. A message was left with the Newark police department.

Baraka recently instituted curfews in three areas of the city and other restrictions on restaurants and nonessential businesses in response to a steep increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the city.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Phil Murphy halted indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and last week he lowered the limit on indoor gatherings from 25 people to 10 and urged people to stay home for Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2020

Renewing restrictions on indoor dining in New York City amid surging coronavirus infections could deal a crippling financial blow to restaurants and their workers and should come with financial support, an industry group said Friday.

The NYC Hospitality Alliance made the plea as Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that he expected the state to impose restrictions in the city around the first week of December that would limit restaurants to outdoor dining.

The alliance had not seen any contact tracing data showing that indoor dining, which resumed this fall under tight restrictions, is causing recent infections, executive director Andrew Rigie said.

“(A)nd thus struggling small business owners and their employees should not be the left holding the bag as a default reaction without being justly compensated,” Rigie said in a statement.

He called for the city, state and federal governments to provide financial support for business owners and workers.

"We are going into the holidays and we are going to lay off tens of thousands and shutter businesses? We need to support them," Rigie said.

Restaurants were among the hardest-hit businesses when New York City emerged as a pandemic hot spot in March. Nearly 150,000 industry employees are out of work, and another shutdown could result in 90,000 New Yorkers possibly losing their jobs again, Rigie said.

Statewide, the leisure and hospitality industry was down nearly 330,000 jobs compared with last October. The state’s unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in October, and the city’s was 13.2 percent.

New York City restauranteur Danny Meyer made the surprise decision Friday to close his restaurants for both indoor and outdoor service, citing the recent uptick in coronavirus cases. Those closing for indoor service include Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke; all will continue to offer pickup and delivery.

"The minute winter weather is behind us and the environment returns to feeling safe, we will eagerly return to on-site dining -- first on our sidewalks, and eventually in our dining rooms," Meyer said in a press release.

De Blasio, speaking on WNYC, said restrictions are needed before the situation worsens.

“When you think about the restaurants, when you think about the gyms right now, thank God they have not been a major nexus of the problem,” he said. “But the rate things are going, unfortunately, they well could be.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that New York City as a whole has not reached 3 percent positive tests on a seven-day rolling average — his main metric for placing areas of the state into orange zones where schools, indoor dining and risky nonessential businesses like gyms are shuttered.

But he said it’s possible his administration could designate communities like Staten Island as an orange zone.

Staten Island has reported at least 3 percent of tests coming up positive on a seven-day rolling average since Nov. 8.

New York reported 5,468 new positives as of Thursday — the highest in a single day since 5,902 on April 25.

The state has averaged 4,835 new positives and nearly 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. Those figures have doubled in two weeks.

New York has reported an average of 2.9 percent tests coming up positive over the past seven days, while hospitals have averaged 2,080 patients. Both figures are up 70 percent from two weeks ago.

Cuomo stressed that New York is doing more testing than many other states, and that hospitalizations are far below the April peak of over 18,000 COVID-19 patients at once.

November 20, 2020

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says he's uncertain as to whether he will be able to avoid another total shutdown as his state's COVID rates soar to May highs. He's hopeful as the prospect of an effective vaccine draws ever closer. But Murphy says he's confident in at least one thing for sure.

"The next two or three months are going to be brutal. It is going to get unequivocally worse," the governor said Friday. "We're in a vortex of cold weather. It's getting darker. And you've got one holiday after another."

The last month has already been brutal for New Jersey -- and Newark has seen its positivity rates nearly double the state's soaring positivity rates, which topped an "unacceptable" 10 percent earlier this week. The state's health commissioner said it was up to 11 percent Friday, the same day Newark's latest rules go into effect.

New Jersey's largest city of Newark has been particularly hard-hit by the latest surge, prompting Mayor Ras Baraka to implement stricter local restrictions than the statewide ones Murphy has unveiled in recent weeks. The most stringent of those takes effect at 8 p.m. Friday, when he will shut down streets leading into the East Ward neighborhoods (ZIP code 07105) -- and require proof of residence or essential business for those traveling in the area past curfew.

The closures last from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Right now, it's just a day experiment. But harsher restrictions appear on tap for Newark in the coming days.

Nearby Hoboken also debuted a new mitigation measure Friday. Businesses like restaurants, gyms and salons are now required to secure customers' contact information and record arrival times to assist with contact tracing efforts. Take-out, delivery, grocery stores and other businesses where people don't have prolonged contact are exempt from the new mandate.

Contact tracing has been a frustrating matter for Murphy across the board in New Jersey. He has cited indoor youth hockey as a key COVID spreader -- and said recently only 60 percent of parties involved were cooperating with contact tracers.

It appears restaurants and bars are next on the chopping block for New York City anyway via Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And the crackdown will come soon. In his weekly radio segment Friday, de Blasio said he expects it the first week of December, based on the latest numbers and projections.

Cuomo first sowed the seeds of takeover Wednesday when he announced he would transition the entirety of New York City to a micro-cluster orange zone if the citywide seven-day rate hits 3 percent and stays at 3 percent for 10 straight days. State reporting of that metric differs from city data. As of Thursday, New York City held at 2.53 percent, by state data -- and has not yet hit the first of what will have to be 10 days of 3 percent or higher. Other regions within the state hold a seven-day rolling rate well above 3 percent, including Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson area, though Cuomo has not imposed sweeping orange zone restrictions there.

Under orange zone rules, schools move all-remote, a moot point now for public schools but one that would affect private and charter schools, which are not subject to de Blasio's shutdown.

Orange zones also ban indoor dining and close gyms, salons and other high-risk nonessential businesses. It caps houses of worship capacity at 33 percent and limits social gatherings to 10 people, the latter of which has already been implemented statewide by gubernatorial order ahead of the holidays.

While the city hasn't hit Cuomo's threshold yet, de Blasio says it's "just a matter of time," given the stark case increases over the last month. The seven-day daily case average topped 1,300 Friday for the first time since May 6; it has risen almost every day since Oct. 29.

November 19, 2020

Today in New York City you can have dinner inside a restaurant. You can go to a salon or barbershop. You can visit museums. You can't send your child to public school.

Parents were left in anxious limbo for a week as the city kept inching closer to the mayor's 3 percent positivity rate closure threshold. It eventually hit that Wednesday, according to city data. Now families once again are scrambling to ensure their kids have the tools they need to learn fully remotely indefinitely -- and to ensure someone will be home to care for them full-time for the duration.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says he's hopeful the closure will last just a few weeks. He expects to provide clarity on reopening benchmarks before Thanksgiving after consultation with the state. In the meantime, city officials say they understand the sudden -- and all-too-familiar -- inconvenience parents are facing yet again.

Many frustrated parents question why bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open when they're at higher risk of spreading COVID-19 and the city's own data has shown an in-school positivity rate under 0.2 percent — a number Gov. Andrew Cuomo says indicates schools are safer than New York City streets.

To parents angry that restaurants and bars stay open as schools close, de Blasio had a stark message Thursday: It's just a matter of time before those shut, too.

De Blasio said he expects them in a week or two. The ongoing growth of the city's daily case average, which topped 1,200 for the first time Thursday since May 8, makes it almost inevitable that the city's rolling positivity rate will eventually meet the governor's criteria for an orange zone -- unless, somehow, the volume of negative tests manages to defy current trends and hold the positivity rate down.

New York has averaged more than 4,800 new cases over the last seven days, nearly five times the number it was seeing at the end of October. Hospitalizations are climbing, too. The 2,276 total reported Thursday is the highest since June 8. The daily death toll, which is a lagging indicator, is also slowly rising, reaching a total of 26,257 deaths by Thursday. To date, the state has seen 579,382 COVID infections.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has reported 293,744 cases and 14,877 confirmed deaths. Connecticut is on path to reach 100,000 infections, with a total of 99,381 cases as of Thursday and 4,805 COVID-related deaths.

November 18, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that New York City schools will switch all-remote Thursday -- and until further notice -- after hitting his 3 percent rolling positivity rate threshold Wednesday following nearly a week of teetering on the brink.

De Blasio, who formalized the New York City schools announcement in a live briefing five hours after his scheduled 10 a.m. press conference, said the difficult decision pleased no one in his administration.

More sweeping restrictions appear on tap for the five boroughs beyond that, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepared to transition the city to an orange zone if it meets his micro-cluster criteria. That bans indoor dining and closes gyms and salons.

"The state has made very clear additional restrictions are coming and coming soon" to the entirety of the five boroughs, the mayor said in his afternoon briefing.

A short time earlier, Cuomo said the city would become an orange zone under his micro-cluster strategy if its rolling positivity rate hits that same 3 percent benchmark. That closes schools for at least two weeks anyway; the "test out" that allows orange zone schools to return sooner could not apply in New York City. The governor said the sheer volume of students makes his testing requirements impossible; he said he would devise a new formula for NYC schools if needed.

Even reporters present at Cuomo's briefing expressed their extensive confusion over the governor's Wednesday announcement. The governor's previous claims he would not intervene aside, state and city reporting of positivity rates vary.

On the issue of New York City schools in this particular case at this particular time, Cuomo deferred back to the city -- and only after he was asked about de Blasio's tweet just as he appeared prepared to leave his briefing room.

Five hours after his Wednesday briefing had been scheduled to start, de Blasio, flanked by NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, formalized the all-remote announcement in a live press conference. The rolling rate hit 3 percent on the dot.

That 3 percent benchmark alone has drawn the mayor extensive criticism; the governor has also questioned it himself in the past. The positivity rate within New York City schools is below 0.2 percent -- a number Cuomo says indicates schools are safer than New York City streets as far as COVID exposure risk.

After the closure was announced, the archdioceses of New York and Brooklyn both confirmed that their private schools will remain open for in-person learning. The Catholic schools said that they will close schools "on an as-needed, school-by-school basis."

Overall, New York has averaged more than 4,700 new cases over the last six days, more than quadruple the number it was seeing at the end of October. Hospitalizations are climbing, too. The 2,202 total reported Wednesday is the highest since June 8. The daily death toll, which is a lagging indicator, is also slowly rising.

The viral increases have been steeper in neighboring New Jersey, which also is testing at record levels. The Garden State's positivity rate has now topped 10 percent, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday, calling that "unacceptably high."

On Wednesday, all but six of the state's 21 counties reported more than 100 new cases, state data showed. Five counties reported more than 300. Hospitalizations are at their highest levels since late May. Murphy reported 38 new deaths Tuesday, the highest daily toll since May 21. It dropped a bit, to 27, Wednesday.

November 17, 2020

Hundreds of thousands of New York City public school parents await what appears to be an almost certain fate in the shutdown of in-person learning, days after Mayor Bill de Blasio told them to have an alternative plan at the ready.

That warning from the mayor came Friday, as the city's seven-day rolling positivity rate came the closest to his 3 percent shutdown threshold that it has ever been. The weekend came and went. Schools stayed open Monday. Schools are open Tuesday. They will be open again Wednesday; the citywide rate is 2.74 percent.

Will kids get another day after that? It's been an every 24-hour question. And anxious parents are still on edge.

For days, it has seemed all but certain New York City's rolling positivity rate would top 3 percent at any point, given the consistent increases in cases. On Tuesday, de Blasio reported the city's seven-day daily case average had hit 1,117, the highest total since May 10. It has risen every day but one since Oct. 29. The daily positivity rate was 3.2 percent on Tuesday, de Blasio said.

The mayor has faced growing criticism of the 3 percent threshold for school closure over the last week, given the in-school positivity rate is well below 0.2 percent. Asked again Tuesday about that 3 percent as a benchmark for assessing in-school risk, de Blasio admitted none of the thresholds are perfect.

"Everything with the coronavirus has been the best choices available. They are not perfect choices in general. We are still trying to understand this disease," he said. "Each of the markers we've set, everything is based on the best available data and science. No one is saying it's perfect, but we have to set standards. The 3 percent standard was out of an abundance of caution -- and we stated it as such."

That threshold, which applies only to public schools in the city, was set at a time when the teachers' unions were threatening to strike over allegations in-person learning was unsafe back in August; the need to instill trust was paramount. The same threshold likely won't apply for bringing in-person schooling back if it comes to the point of closure. The city and state are working to devise new benchmarks.

To date, the state of New York has seen 568,778 coronavirus cases and 26,189 related deaths.

Meanwhile, the mayors of four New Jersey cities in the state's hardest-hit Essex County have agreed to impose a 24-hour curfew on all nonessential business if COVID cases continue to rise. If that measure and other recent mitigation efforts fail, they are prepared to impose a three-day shutdown order, one of the officials tells News 4.

The cities involved are Newark, Orange, East Orange and Irvington, all of which have seen COVID positivity rates skyrocket well above the already surging statewide average in recent weeks. Essex County has more confirmed COVID cases (30,780) than any other county in New Jersey and has been adding hundreds more each day, most recently 355 on Tuesday, state data shows.

"If the numbers continue to go up, we're going to ask the community to shut down for 24 hours," East Orange Mayor Ted Green told News 4, adding he and the other three mayors agreed on the curfew in a Zoom meeting a day earlier. "We're going to have to stop the stores opening up. We're going to have to stop the beauty salons opening up. And if the numbers go up again, [we] shut down for 72 hours."

A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy's office says the mayors would need state permission before enacting either of those curfews. It wasn't immediately clear if any of the Essex County mayors involved had sought that out as of Tuesday.

In addition to the most cases, Essex also has confirmed the most deaths of any county in New Jersey since the pandemic began. East Orange ranks second in Essex County in terms of both cases and deaths behind Newark.

Green didn't offer a particular threshold that would trigger a 24-hour nonessential business shutdown, but he says city officials are monitoring daily data closely.

In just the last five days, New Jersey has broken its own single-day pandemic case record twice. The state's positivity rate has soared well above 9 percent. All but six of the state's 21 counties reported more than 100 new cases overnight, state data showed Tuesday. An equal number of counties, including Essex, reported more than 300. Hospitalizations are at their highest levels since late May. Murphy reported 38 new deaths Tuesday, the highest daily toll since May 21.

Nearby Connecticut has reported 94,986 COVID cases and 4,771 deaths to date.

November 16, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday he would lower indoor and outdoor capacity limits in New Jersey in the coming days, potentially one outcome of an emergency weekend summit convened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with other Northeast governors, many of whom rolled out new protocol over the last week to stem their states' soaring rates of virus spread. More restrictions may follow.

Five percent of New Jersey's cumulative COVID case total since March, which has topped 281,000, have come in just the last four days, a sober Murphy said. The state's positivity rate has soared well above 9 percent. ICU patient counts are up.

Amid that swell, indoor gatherings will be capped at 10, down from 25, starting Tuesday -- echoing a move made by Cuomo last week in New York and another Gov. Ned Lamont made in Connecticut the week before that. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 150, a reduction of 70 percent, as of Nov. 23. Indoor weddings, religious services, funeral services and performances can continue to operate under the prior 25 percent capacity limit (up to a maximum of 150 people).

Indoor sports practices and competitions can exceed the 10-person limit only for essential game personnel like players, coaches and referees. In most cases, where the number of essential parties top 10 people, no spectators are allowed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of New York City public school parents await what appears to be an all but certain fate in the re-closure of in-person learning, with the city clinging to a rolling positivity rate just below the 3 percent threshold that triggers the all-remote switch. That number was 2.77 percent Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Schools remain open for now.

While weekend reporting may have held the rolling positivity rate in check for the last two days, the city's overall numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction. The daily case average topped 1,000 on Monday, according to the city's data. The 1,057 daily case average de Blasio reported is the highest since May 11, a number he called "very worrisome on its face." It has risen almost daily since Oct. 28.

In Westchester County's Mount Vernon, a stay-at-home advisory went into effect Monday. The city has recently seen a double-digit increase in daily cases, with 84 new cases reported this month. Only absolutely essential travel is advised.

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania reported alarming COVID-19 numbers over the weekend, setting new pandemic highs for single-day case totals. The Garden State broke its spring record on Saturday when Murphy announced 4,395 new cases of COVID-19. It took 24 hours to break it again, with 4,540 on Sunday.

The numbers dropped back down to the 2,000 range on Monday, but the trend lines are stark and disturbing. Over the last four days, Murphy says New Jersey has confirmed more than 14,500 new cases. That's 5 percent of the cumulative 281,493 cases it has reported since its first case was announced in March.

Despite those highs, New Jersey hospitalizations (2,115) are less than a third of their end-of-April highs. Testing is far more expansive now than it was at the start of the pandemic, which leads to more identifiable cases. Treatment is more effective now, which may translate to fewer and shorter hospitalization and ultimately, less tragedy. On the other hand, hospitalizations lag increases in cases and deaths lag increases in new admissions, which means the full impact of the latest COVID surge may not yet have fully materialized in those regards.

"Small family gatherings are a significant driver of increasing cases," New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Monday as she urged families not to take vulnerable relatives from care facilities for Thanksgiving.

She said those should be avoided as a rule if possible -- and went as far as to say people should be encouraged to even avoid singing to lower the risk of viral spread. It's a somber mantra that health officials across the country have repeated often these last few weeks; their pleas have only grown more urgent.

Gov. Ned Lamont is self-quarantining after his director of communications tested positive for COVID-19. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, along with the governor’s chief of staff, Paul Mounds, and chief operating officer Josh Geballe are also in quarantine after Max Reiss, the governor’s director of communications tested positive for COVID-19.

November 15, 2020

New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two of the six summit states, reported new record case totals on Saturday, higher than any single-day numbers counted back at the pandemic's first peak in the spring.

The Garden State broke its spring record on Saturday when Gov. Phil Murphy announced 4,395 new cases of COVID-19. The state broke that new record again just one day later; 4,540 cases were reported on Sunday.

Currently, the number of daily tests conducted in New Jersey is three times the volume performed back in the spring. The state data also shows 2,000 people were hospitalized in the state on Friday -- less than a third of the state's record at the end of April.

"A second wave of #COVID19 is now here," Murphy tweeted Sunday, who reiterated his calls for caution over the upcoming holiday season.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said city schools will be open Monday after weekend numbers in the Big Apple stayed below the closing threshold of a 3% positivity rate.

November 14, 2020

Six northeast governors are having an "emergency summit" on COVID-19 this weekend as multiple states report record high virus cases and additional restrictions feel all but certain in an effort to curb the spread throughout the region.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two of the six summit states, reported new record case totals on Saturday, higher than any single-day numbers counted back at the pandemic's first peak in the spring.

The record count in the Garden State followed four straight days of more than 3,000 new cases. The latest single-day virus total rose to 4,395 cases, surpassing the previous high by four cases, state records show. Currently, the number of daily tests conducted in New Jersey is three times the volume performed back in the spring. The state data also shows 2,000 people were hospitalized in the state on Friday -- less than a third of the state's record at the end of April.

New COVID restrictions went into effect in New Jersey, some of them mirroring limits that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced would be imposed in New York a day later, as the Garden State's governor seeks to beat back what he has described as a "devastating" recent increase in viral numbers.

Bar seating is banned completely (congregating upright within bars is already probibited), while bars and restaurants must halt indoor service from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. That includes casinos, though gaming can continue 24/7. Restaurants can place tables closer together than 6 feet, but only if they're separated by barriers. Outdoor dining and takeout aren't affected.

The governor didn't establish new limitations on indoor dining outside the curfew hours; he also has left the current 25 percent capacity caps in place. Most of the spread has been linked to social gatherings, from weddings to parties to small groups in private homes, as well as indoor sports at the K-12 level.

In New Jersey's largest city of Newark, which has seen its positivity rate soar beyond double the increasing statewide number, Mayor Ras Baraka has already taken steps beyond what Murphy has done statewide as it relates to mandatory curfew, sports, senior housing, religious services and non-essential businesses.

After Newark's more intense restrictions, another city in the Garden State has gone beyond the state's new measures as well. East Orange is ordering all non-essential businesses to close by 8 p.m. as part of what the mayor is calling a "Tough Love" shutdown.

Murphy said Thursday he would sign an executive order giving municipalities and counties the option to regulate operating hours of nonessential businesses after 8 p.m., as Newark has done, but any local actions must comply with state rules.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the group of governors will discuss potential coordination of restrictions on restaurants and bars, as well as interstate travel and quarantine rules. Several states have passed new restrictions this week, including New York's 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants and a ban on gatherings over 10 people in private residences.

“We believe we’re going to have to be taking additional steps,” Cuomo said, though he said he doesn’t expect any major changes to existing rules over the weekend.

Cuomo said he expects infection rates will keep increasing in New York and nationwide as the holiday season begins.

New York has reported more than 45,700 new coronavirus cases in the past 14 days. The state is reporting an average of 4,163 new cases per day over the past seven days. That’s nearly double the rate 11 days ago and quadruple where things stood at the end of September.

“You cannot take this rate of increase and survive pending the arrival of a vaccine,” Cuomo said.

With new restrictions taking effect across the tri-state area and New York City schools poised to shut down, the anxiety is familiar to millions of people who once again find themselves concerned about their children and their livelihoods.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told parents Friday to be prepared for the city's school system to end all in-person learning instruction as soon as Monday if the spread of the virus continues to accelerate.

The Democrat has said he will close school buildings if 3 percent of coronavirus tests conducted in the city over a seven-day period came back positive. As of Saturday that rate dipped slightly to 2.47 percent -- down from Friday's 2.8 percent -- but was expected to rise as additional test results were returned, the city's health commissioner tweeted.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has intervened on closure matters in the past, opted not to in the case of New York City schools. He reiterated Friday that he had left local school decisions up to local school districts, provided any given district's thresholds fall within the parameters set by the state. By Saturday, he suggested the mayor and school leaders look at adding additional factors to the shutdown threshold for schools.

“Since the 3% was set we have become more sophisticated and have more capacity than we did at that time,” he said on a morning conference call.

Cuomo argued that school-specific testing of students and staffers was introducing new data into the equation and should be taken into account.

“Add to your calculus a positivity rate in the school, because if the school is not spreading the virus, or if the school has a much lower positivity rate than the surrounding area, then the school is not part of the problem -- and you could argue keeping the children in the school is part of the solution," he added.

De Blasio's 3 percent is well below the 9 percent mark Cuomo set for closure and the 5 percent mark he set for the initial reopening a few months ago. That said, he'd prefer to have them open for now, and urged the mayor and the teachers union to consider a higher threshold in the future.

The city is preparing to close all school buildings if the rate crosses the threshold over the weekend, de Blasio said.

“I want to urge parents to have a plan ready that they can put into effect as early as Monday,” de Blasio said during his weekly talk on WNYC radio. “Parents should have a plan for the rest of the month of November.”

November 13, 2020

New COVID restrictions go into effect Friday night across New York state imposing curfews on restaurants and gyms and limiting gatherings in private homes to 10 people, while New York City is preparing to move schools all-remote.

Hours before the start of the new restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday afternoon he believes additional measures will be necessary. He has planned an emergency weekend summit with five other Northeast governors to discuss next steps and try to align strategies. The numbers will keep rising, he warns.

Mayor Bill de Blasio told parents Friday to have a plan in place as early as Monday in the event the citywide rolling positivity rate hits the school shutdown threshold (3 percent) over the weekend. As of Friday, the seven-day rate had climbed to 2.83 percent, by city data, the highest number since June 8. The daily case average is at its highest level since mid-May, the mayor reported.

"This is not something any parent wants to have to deal with but we should get ready and parents should have a plan for the rest of the month of November," de Blasio said on WNYC. "Have an alternative plan for beginning as early as Monday for whatever will help them get through this month if school is not open."  

For the last week, the mayor has emphasized a citywide school shutdown did not have to be inevitable, trying to empower New Yorkers to seize control of their fate and drive the positivity rate down. At this point, it seems a foregone conclusion.

Cuomo, who has intervened on closure matters in the past, opted not to in the case of New York City schools. He reiterated Friday that he had left local school decisions up to local school districts, provided any given district's thresholds fall within the parameters set by the state. De Blasio's 3 percent is well below the 9 percent mark Cuomo set for closure and the 5 percent mark he set for the initial reopening a few months ago. That said, he'd prefer to have them open for now.

"Schools are not the problem," Cuomo said as far as what contact tracing indicates to be key sources of spread. "I would hope that the mayor and teachers and parents work to open the schools, if you close them, as quickly as possible."

As of Friday, New York City's rolling positivity rate was 2.83 percent, up nearly 9 percent from the previous day and on pace to hit the shutdown threshold at any point. It has ticked up every single day this week, mirroring the daily increase in cases since late October. If it hits 3 percent, de Blasio says city schools would move all-remote the next school day. The city's Department of Education sent a letter to principals Thursday asking them to prepare for that potential reality.

Effective Friday night, bars and restaurants must halt indoor service by 10 p.m., though they may continue curbside food-delivery pickup. Gyms must also close at 10 p.m. Social gatherings at private homes are capped at 10 people.

Similar measures took effect in New Jersey Thursday, while Connecticut's governor moved on private residential gatherings a full week ago.

New Jersey reported its fourth straight day of more than 3,000 new cases Friday, marking the first time it reported back-to-back-to-back tallies so high since April. Hospitalizations are at their highest levels for all three tri-states since June.

While a vaccine is on the horizon, which the New York governor says is good news, it's not here -- and people should not start celebrating by any means.

"You cannot sustain a rising COVID rate until you have a vaccine. That is wrong. The vaccine is not here," Cuomo said. "The vaccine is on the horizon and you cannot take this rate of increase and survive pending the arrival of a vaccine. This level of infection rate is going to make vaccine distribution harder."

President Donald Trump on Friday hailed developments in the race for a vaccine for the resurgent coronavirus as he delivered his first public remarks since his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden, even as he refuses to concede the election.

Trump spoke from the the Rose Garden as the nation sets records for confirmed cases of COVID-19, and as hospitalizations near critical levels and fatalities climb to the highest levels since the spring. He said a vaccine would ship in “a matter of weeks" to vulnerable populations, though the Food and Drug Administration has not yet been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals. In addition, there’s no information yet as to whether the vaccine worked in vulnerable populations or only in younger, healthier study volunteers.

Trump, aiming to settle political scores, said he would not ship vaccines to hard-hit New York until Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs off, noting that the state has promised to do its own review to ensure their safety. “The governor will let us know when he’s ready," Trump said.

Although the president has consistently played down the pandemic, which has killed more than 240,000 Americans and infected more than 10 million people in the U.S., public health experts expressed worry about Trump’s silence on the troubling spike in cases, as well as his refusal to begin coordination on virus issues with Biden's transition team.

November 12, 2020

New COVID restrictions have gone into effect in New Jersey, some of them mirroring limits that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced will be imposed in New York a day later, as the Garden State's governor seeks to beat back what he has described as a "devastating" recent increase in viral numbers.

Gov. Phil Murphy has acknowledged the new restrictions, which target late-night indoor dining and indoor youth sports, might be painful for some.

The weariness of the latest surge appeared to weigh on him as he issued an uncharacteristically blunt response to more questions about the impact Thursday: "You know what's really uncomfortable and annoying? When you die."

The state has confirmed 51 "outbreaks" associated with in-school K-12 transmission since Aug. 1, Murphy said Thursday. But the total cases stemming from those situations remain relatively low, below even 200. The governor says New Jersey's precautions appear to be working in schools. Now he needs to cast a wider web of restrictions on places where they have not stayed effective.

Effective as a of 5 a.m. Thursday, bar seating is banned completely (congregating upright within bars is already prohibited), while bars and restaurants must halt indoor service from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. That includes casinos, though gaming can continue 24/7. Restaurants can place tables closer together than 6 feet, but only if they're separated by barriers. Outdoor dining and takeout aren't affected.

Also prohibited in New Jersey as of Thursday: interstate indoor youth sports tournaments and games, including cheerleading and competitive dance. Murphy has cited increased COVID risk from those settings, especially as it relates to indoor hockey. The ban applies through high school.

In New Jersey's largest city of Newark, which has seen its positivity rate soar beyond double the increasing statewide number, Mayor Ras Baraka has already taken steps beyond what Murphy has done statewide as it relates to mandatory curfew, sports, senior housing, religious services and non-essential businesses.

Murphy said Thursday he would sign an executive order giving municipalities and counties the option to regulate operating hours of nonessential businesses after 8 p.m., as Newark has done, but any local actions must comply with state rules.

New Jersey reported its third straight day of more than 3,000 new cases Thursday, marking the first time it reported back-to-back-to-back tallies so high since April. The 3,877 new cases reported Tuesday aren't that far off from the single-day high of 4,391 the state reported at its pandemic peak. Wednesday's report dipped to just above 3,000, while Thursday's bounced back up to 3,517.

To date, New Jersey has reported 266,986 COVID cases and 16,495 confirmed and probable COVID-related deaths.

Hospitalizations have reached levels the state hasn't seen since early June. For perspective, roughly one out of every 500 New Jersey residents has been diagnosed with the virus over the last seven days or so, data shows.

By comparison, about one in every 800 New Yorkers has tested positive in the last week. And the numbers in the former epicenter of the national crisis are worsening along with the numbers across virtually the entire country.

New York City's daily case average has soared since the start of November. Last week, it hit 600 for the first time since early June. By Wednesday, it was 817. On Thursday, it hit 870. That daily case average has climbed every single day since Oct. 30, city data shows.

New York City schools are teetering perilously on the edge of closure, with the mayor reporting a 2.60 percent seven-day rolling positivity rate as of Thursday. That marks a nearly 20 percent increase over the last three days. De Blasio has said all public schools will have to switch all-remote for a time if it hits 3 percent.

Asked directly Thursday if he intended to make good on that pledge, the mayor said, "We're preparing for that possibility. It's a rule we put out there very clearly -- and if any day we see in the morning the indicators come out and they reach that level, then we will move immediately. The next day schools will shut down."

De Blasio said he had spoken with Cuomo's office on the matter, given the state's ability to assume authority over any closures, and he said he believes the governor will accept his longstanding 3 percent-threshold as a shutdown mark.

To date, New York state has seen 545,762 positive COVID cases and 26,055 related deaths. Meanwhile, neighboring Connecticut, has reported 85,899 positive cases as of Thursday and 4,726 deaths,

November 11, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has imposed a new slate of restrictions on three key sources of COVID spread in New York, citing spiraling viral rates in the nation and across the globe that threaten to exacerbate numbers locally as the holidays loom.

The governor announced the new measures Wednesday. They take effect Friday. At that point, any establishment licensed by the State Liquor Authority, including bars, restaurants and bowling alleys, must close indoor areas at 10 p.m.; they can do curbside food-only pickup afterward. Gyms must also close at 10 p.m.

Small social gatherings at private homes are the third "great spreader" identified by contract tracing, Cuomo said. Starting Friday, those will be capped at 10, similar to the restriction Gov. Ned Lamont recently put in place in Connecticut.

Local governments will be tasked with enforcement, which is in and of itself an ongoing point of contention between the New York state and local municipalities.

New reported cases in New York and New Jersey have nearly doubled in just the last week, reflecting a national trend that shows no signs of abating and appears only to be worsening on the cusp of the busiest travel time of the year.

Meanwhile, New York City schools are teetering perilously on the edge of closure, with Mayor Bill de Blasio reporting a 2.52 percent seven-day rolling positivity rate as of Wednesday. That marks a 14 percent increase in the last two days. De Blasio has said schools will have to switch all-remote for a time if it hits 3 percent.

The mayor has cited parts of Staten Island as being particularly problematic; on Wednesday, Cuomo said he would transition a narrow geographic area of that borough to a yellow zone, which mandates randomized weekly school testing of students and staff but allows nonessential businesses to remain open. He indicated Staten Island's rising rates could be due to its proximity to New Jersey.

New York reported nearly 5,000 new COVID cases Wednesday (4,820), nearly half the number it was seeing daily at the peak of the crisis and a 21.5 percent increase over the previous day. The daily positivity rate dipped slightly, to 2.9 percent, on Wednesday. The seven-day rolling positivity rate, which provides a more accurate picture over time, is at its highest level since June 2 (2.2 percent).

In New York City, the rolling rate hit 2.52 percent Wednesday. A day earlier, de Blasio doubled down on his threat to move schools all-remote if it reaches 3 percent. Large-scale closures could be on tap if it continues to climb above that.

The city's daily case average has also soared considerably since the start of November. Last week, it hit 600 for the first time since early June. By Wednesday, it was 817. It has climbed every single day since Oct. 30, city data shows.

Hospitalizations have more than doubled in New York since the first week of October, hitting a recent high of 1,628 on Wednesday, but remain manageable.

The incline has been steeper in neighboring New Jersey, which reported nearly 4,000 (3,877) new COVID cases Tuesday, roughly eight times the daily numbers it was seeing at the end of September. It topped the 3,000-mark again (3,087) on Wednesday. The state hadn't reported back-to-back days of cases above 3,000 since the end of April. For perspective, roughly one out of every 500 New Jersey residents has been diagnosed with the virus in the last seven days, data shows.

November 10, 2020

This is our last chance."

That was the message Monday from Mayor Bill de Blasio as he delivered yet another sobering report of New York City's latest metrics on the COVID front.

His tone Tuesday didn't waver in urgency as he reviewed the same series of health indicators he does in each briefing. Unlike the summer, when de Blasio would applaud progress, his descriptors have changed to phrases that include "of tremendous concern" and "very worrisome." It's not difficult to grasp why.

For weeks now de Blasio has expressed mounting concern over the city's daily caseload, which topped 600 three days last week for the first time in months and ended last week with a report of more than 700 new cases. On Monday, that shot up to 779, well above the mayor's 550-case threshold. By Tuesday, it was 795.

Hospital admissions have seen upticks across the five boroughs, but for now remain at a manageable level, de Blasio said. As the city saw in the spring, though, hospitalizations lag increases in cases. Death follows admission spikes.

On Tuesday, governor Andrew Cuomo said the positivity rate from the previous day was at 3.09 percent, the third-lowest in the country but still quite elevated from what it was just a few weeks ago. The numbers are worse in the so-called micro-cluster areas, where the positivity rate reached 5.59 percent; the rest of the state sits at 2.56 percent — far better than almost every other part of the country, but still worse than what levels were at the end of the summer.

New Jersey reported nearly 4,000 (3,877) new COVID cases Tuesday, roughly eight times the daily numbers it was seeing at the end of September. That was only six weeks ago. Tuesday's report marked the highest new daily case total since April 20; for perspective, roughly one out of every 500 New Jersey residents has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last seven days.

Essex County alone reported 675 new cases overnight. Newark, which had implemented local restrictions ahead of Monday's state announcement, said Tuesday it would impose additional measures given its spiraling numbers.

Those include:

  • Mandatory 9 p.m. weekday curfew (10 p.m. weekends) for nonemergency or nonessential work for ZIP codes 07104 (Seventh to Second avenues and from Broadway to Clifton Avenue) 07105 (entire ZIP code); and 07107 (Third Avenue North to Berkley Avenue and North Third Street to 11th Street)
  • All sports of any kind played in the city cease immediately for two weeks; all players, coaches, trainers must test negative for COVID-19 to resume play
  • Any sport team or team member that doesn't follow face-covering protocol may be subject to canceled games, removal from the team or termination
  • Indoor and outdoor gatherings and events are capped at 10 people
  • No visitation permitted at long-term health facilities for two weeks; senior housing buildings residents are allowed one nonessential visitor per unit per day and visitors are subject to temperature checks (must be below 100.4)
  • Religious services attendance is restricted to 25 percent capacity; anyone speaking or singing during services must wear a mask; no one will be allowed inside an institution with a temperate above 100.4 degrees
  • No holiday gatherings or events of 10 or more people at restaurants; reservations for more than 10 people are banned

Mayor Ras Baraka enacted the new protocols Tuesday as Newark's three-day rolling positivity rate (19 percent) soared to more than double the statewide average (7.74 percent), according to the data provided in the news release.

November 9, 2020

New Jersey unveiled a slate of new indoor COVID restrictions Monday, while New York established three new micro-cluster zones upstate as the governors of both states seek to beat back the biggest viral increases they've seen in months.

Starting Thursday, bar seating will be banned completely in New Jersey, while bars and restaurants must halt indoor service from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily; that includes casinos, though gaming can continue around the clock. Outdoor dining and takeout aren't affected. Restaurants will be permitted to place tables closer together than 6 feet, but only if they're separated by barriers, Murphy announced.

Interstate indoor youth sports games and tournaments up to and including the high school level are also prohibited as of Thursday, the governor said.

Murphy had set the stage for imminent restrictions late last week, when he blasted the state's soaring positivity rate as "unacceptable." He noted the restrictions announced Monday did not reflect a new lockdown, but a surgical approach that he hopes will mitigate the current increasing rate of spread.

He didn't outline a potential end date for the new restrictions but noted New Jerseyeans need to try to fight back their COVID fatigue for a few more months until there is an effective and widely available vaccine. He urged them to cling to the mindset that helped drive down the state's infection rate at the crisis' peak.

"This is not forever and always. We basically have a six-month window to beat the fatigue back and beat the virus into the ground," Murphy said. "This virus hasn’t gone away, and it is posing its greatest threat to us in months."

The moves come as New Jersey has seen its COVID hospitalizations triple in two months. They hit 1,537 Monday, the highest total since June 9 and surpass New York's growing total. More than 300 COVID patients are in intensive care for the first time since mid-June. Daily cases have soared to highs not seen since early May. Murphy has reported six straight days of 2,000-plus positives; that has happened since April. His state now has confirmed well over a quarter million.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Sunday the next two months could be some of the worst the country has seen, with numbers spiraling worldwide as colder weather looms.

The local metrics continue to rise across the board, too. More than 3,000 new COVID cases were announced in New York for the second straight day Monday, a tally that illustrates the state's tenuous hold on the progress it made reigning in the virus over this summer. Total hospitalizations are at their highest level since June 16 (1,444 as of Monday) and increasing daily. The daily death toll has moved from the low single digits to the low double digits to a recent high of 26 Monday. While that's mercifully below the 800 New Yorkers who were dying a day in April, it's a disconcerting trend for those acutely monitoring the numbers.

While New York City's numbers have been better than much of the rest of the state as of late, as Cuomo has noted, its population is both bigger and denser than other regions, meaning community spread could lead to a much faster downward spiral. For weeks now Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed growing concern over the city's daily case averages, which topped 600 three days last week for the first time in months and ended last week with a report of more than 700 new cases. On Monday, that shot up to 779, well above the mayor's threshold.

De Blasio has said two Staten Island ZIP codes have become particular points of concern in recent weeks. He scheduled a Staten Island Day of Action Tuesday, during which volunteers will distribute face coverings, testing information and health messaging. They'll focus on the Staten Island ferry and shopping areas.

Cuomo said later Monday the state is watching the numbers on Staten Island and notes the concern, but said the state didn't plan additional actions at this time. Tottenville has the highest positivity rate there; it was 6.57 percent over a rolling seven-day basis the week of Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, nearly three times higher than the city's.

To date, New York has seen 532,180 coronavirus cases and 25,973 deaths. Meanwhile, nearby Connecticut has reported a total of 78,125 confirmed and probable cases to date, with 4,671 deaths.

Also on Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 among those without evidence of prior infection, hailing the development as “a great day for science and humanity.”

“I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla told CNBC’s Meg Tirell on “Squawk Box.” “I believe this is likely the most significant medical advance in the last 100 years, if you count the impact this will have in public health, global economy.”

The announcement comes as drugmakers and research centers scrambled to deliver a safe and effective vaccine to help bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over 1.2 million lives worldwide.

Scientists are hoping for a coronavirus vaccine that is at least 75% effective, while White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said one that is 50% or 60% effective would be acceptable.

November 8, 2020

Positive coronavirus cases in the U.S. topped 10 million on Sunday, accounting for one in every five recorded cases globally, that's according to tallies kept by Johns Hopkins University and NBC News.

The rise in numbers continue to alarm tri-state officials who have either warned of tightening coronavirus-related restrictions heading into the fall and winter months, or have already put their states on a path toward the restrictions first implemented in the spring.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the next two months are critical to maintaining some kind of control over the virus while vaccine preparations continue.

"Look we're coming up to the worst two months that we may have seen vis-a-vis COVID," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "Scientists said this was going to happen and you're seeing it in the Fall with the cold coming back, and we're going to have a long two months."

Despite the state's best efforts, the virus has spread through clusters in a handful of counties, bringing the positivity rate above 2 percent for the first time since June. New York reported back-to-back days this weekend with a positivity above 2 percent, with the highest on Sunday at 2.37.

Double-digit death counts continue in New York, with another 18 dead from the virus, Cuomo said Sunday. In the last week alone, a total of 120 New Yorkers died from COVID-19, according to the state's data.

Gov. Phil Murphy shared deep concerns last week of the growing virus spread in his state, which has seen hospitalizations triple in the last seven weeks. New Jersey's daily case totals have skyrocketed in recent weeks. 3,207 cases were reported on Saturday, the highest in the state since April.

The statewide transmission rate is 1.23, meaning each sick person infects more than one other person. That's an active outbreak. His health commissioner says most of the new cases are not easily traced back to a single exposure and are likely related to routine gatherings in private homes. On Thursday, she urged New Jerseyeans to wear masks even when with their own families.

No state has been untouched by the latest U.S. surge. Gov. Ned Lamont rolled back some of Connecticut's reopenings this week; his Phase 2.1 took effect Friday. He took additional steps Thursday, issuing a statewide public health advisory for people to stay home and limit nonessential outings between 10 p.m. and 5 p.m. Lamont also asked Connecticut residents to keep Thanksgiving celebrations to 10 people or less. He hopes limiting the size of private, indoor gatherings will limit community spread and make tracking and tracing easier.

The number of cases worldwide surpassed 50 million on Sunday, according to John Hopkins University. The same day, the U.S. saw its virus total cross over 10 million. At least 1,000 people died from the virus Saturday for a total of more than 239,000 nationwide. Health officials warn that the U.S. could reach 2,000 deaths per day by January.

Many had hoped that a new administration could turn the tide of the country's grip on controlling the spread of the virus.

"Unfortunately, the Biden administration doesn't take office until January 20," Cuomo said. "If [the Trump] administration rolls out a flawed vaccination plan, it's going to be a problem because it's going to be very hard for the Biden administration to turn it back."

President-elect Joe Biden signaled on Sunday he plans to move quickly to build out his government, focusing first on the raging pandemic that will likely dominate the early days of his administration.

Biden named a former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs of a coronavirus working group set to get started, with other members expected to be announced Monday.

November 7, 2020

New heights were reached over the weekend as the coronavirus took more tri-state lives and expanded its already rising infection rate in New York and New Jersey.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his state's latest numbers on Saturday, which not only showed continued growth in the spread of the virus but specifically reached a new high not seen since June. On Friday, New York's positivity rate hit 2.19 percent. The state's 7-day average is slightly lower, around 1.8 percent, according to the state's data.

Among the rising cases and alarming spread of infection, the state's death count has steadily increased as well. That count has stayed in the double-digits for the last week, with 18 New Yorkers reported dead from the virus the last two days.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have each seen varying degrees of success controlling the spread of COVID-19, but it hasn't been since the spring that all three have sounded simultaneous alarms of rising numbers.

On Saturday, both Cuomo and Gov. Phil Murphy said their states recorded more than 3,000 new daily virus cases on Friday. New Jersey reported 3,207 news cases while New York had an additional 3,587 positive cases.

Cuomo said Friday he'd increase National Guard presence at New York airports to enforce new COVID entry test requirements ahead of the holiday season, as he tries to fight back the state's biggest viral increases in months.

Acknowledging the aggressiveness of the measure, Cuomo said, "You should not land if you do not have proof of a negative test upon landing. I want people to know we're serious." While he did not provide details on how frequently travelers would be checked, the governor also said he had spoken with Mayor Bill de Blasio about enhancing NYPD presence to assist with the same.

Cuomo announced a sweeping new entry test policy a week ago, abandoning the previous quarantine list, as the country's surge continues unabated.

It requires travelers to provide a negative COVID test before traveling to New York and to take another one four days after they arrive. If that second test is negative, they need not quarantine for 14 days. New Yorkers returning from travel under 24 hours outside the state don't need to take a test before returning but must do so after they re-enter. In his initial announcement on the test policy, Cuomo had said failure to comply comes with mandatory 14-day quarantine. It wasn't immediately clear Friday if quarantine in lieu of a negative test remained an option.

Cuomo said airlines and the Port Authority are both assisting on the entry test front; the airlines are disseminating the information and the Port Authority is aware that travelers should provide evidence of the test upon landing. He also said officials can check with passengers' departure states to verify test results.

November 6, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he'd increase National Guard presence at New York airports to enforce new COVID entry test requirements ahead of the holiday season, as he tries to fight back the state's biggest viral increases in months.

Acknowledging the aggressiveness of the measure, Cuomo said, "You should not land if you do not have proof of a negative test upon landing. I want people to know we're serious." He also said he had spoken with Mayor Bill de Blasio about enhancing NYPD presence to assist with the same.

Cuomo announced a sweeping new entry test policy a week ago, abandoning the previous quarantine list, as the country's surge continues unabated.

It requires travelers to provide a negative COVID test before traveling to New York and to take another one four days after they arrive. If that second test is negative, they need not quarantine for 14 days. New Yorkers returning from travel under 24 hours outside the state don't need to take a test before returning but must do so after they re-enter. In his initial announcement on the test policy, Cuomo had said failure to comply comes with mandatory 14-day quarantine. It wasn't immediately clear Friday if quarantine in lieu of a negative test remained an option.

More than 3,000 (3,209) new cases were reported in New York Friday, the highest daily case number in months and a 7 percent increase over the previous day's report (2,997), which also had been the highest new daily total in months. To date, the state has reported 522,021 COVID cases and 25,910 related deaths. New York City reported more than 700 new cases of COVID Friday, well above the mayor's 550-case threshold (and, again, the highest number in months). It comes after three consecutive days above 600, which marked the first time in recent memory it had even gone that high. Each day this week, it ticked higher.

The rolling seven-day positivity rate, which de Blasio has called the "most objective measure" of the city's standing on the coronavirus front, hit 1.93 percent Friday -- again, the highest number in months and up from 1.81 percent Thursday.

 New Jersey reported a third consecutive day of more than 2,000 cases Friday, the first time that's happened since April. The state has tallied about 8,500 new cases since Murphy's report on Monday.

To date, New Jersey has reported 249,380 coronavirus cases and 16,416 confirmed and probable deaths.

Connecticut has also seen some severe upticks as of late. Gov. Ned Lamont rolled back some of Connecticut's reopenings this week; his Phase 2.1 takes effect Friday. He took additional steps Thursday, issuing a statewide public health advisory for people to stay home and limit nonessential outings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Lamont also asked Connecticut residents to keep Thanksgiving celebrations to 10 people or less. He hopes limiting the size of private, indoor gatherings will limit community spread and make tracking and tracing easier.

"It's a tough pill to swallow, I get it," Lamont said. "Do it this Thanksgiving, put up with it a little longer, we're going to be much better in a long-term."

In total, Connecticut has seen 78,125 probable and confirmed COVID cases and 4,671 related deaths.

November 5, 2020

New York City's mayor is growing increasingly concerned as the five boroughs' core COVID metrics keep trending up, while New Jersey's governor blasted his state's soaring positivity rate Thursday as "unacceptable" -- to the point where he said "we'll clearly be taking action" as far as new restrictions.

The Garden State has seen nearly 6,500 new cases just since Gov. Phil Murphy's last COVID briefing on Monday; hospitalizations are three times what they were seven weeks ago. The numbers aren't much less concerning in New York City, which topped 600 new cases, well above the mayor's threshold, for the third straight day -- and the count only ticked higher with each report.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has described the latest numbers as reasons for "real concern," said Thursday that parts of Staten Island -- ZIP codes 10305 and 10314 -- were becoming problematic. Asked specifically about whether they needed new restrictions, the mayor said he felt those areas were more addressable than the spread in Brooklyn and Queens last month as long as the city acted quickly.

He didn't rule out the need for new restrictions, but that's not his call anyway. Any movement on that front would be necessitated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order. In the meantime, de Blasio said the city would launch targeted outreach and testing campaigns to those Staten Island communities as it has done in other areas.

Staten Island, as of the latest state report, has the highest rolling seven-day positivity rate of all five boroughs by a fair amount (2.5 percent). It wasn't clear if de Blasio believed those ZIP codes were contributing to a case increase citywide.

On Thursday, the city's daily case average topped 600 (633) for the third time in three days, though new daily hospital admissions dipped back below 100 after hitting a recent high of 114 a day earlier. The seven-day rolling positivity average, which he calls the "most objective measure" of the city's standing in its ongoing coronavirus fight, stood at 1.81 percent Thursday, up from 1.74 percent the prior day. It has hovered in that area after a steady increase throughout October.

De Blasio had warned indoor dining could be shuttered across the five boroughs again if that rolling rate hits 2 percent. That would also be up to the governor, who continues to note progress in the state's remaining red zone areas.

November 4, 2020

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio reported the highest new daily hospital admissions in recent memory (114). He described that as "cause for concern." The daily case average topped 600 (628) for the second time in two days Wednesday -- and for the first time since de Blasio started publicly tracking that case average over a seven-day rolling basis. That's also a concern, he said.

The seven-day rolling positivity average, which de Blasio calls the "most objective measure" of the city's standing in its ongoing coronavirus fight, stood at 1.74 percent Wednesday. It has hovered around there after a steady increase over the course of the last month or so. De Blasio had warned indoor dining could be shuttered across the five boroughs again if that rolling rate hits 2 percent.

The mayor continues to urge people to avoid holiday travel unless absolutely necessary. He has also called for a national testing mandate for air travel, both domestic and international. In the meantime, Cuomo's new policy will have to do.

Both New Jersey and Connecticut have seen severe upticks as of late. Connecticut rolled back some of its reopening in the last week, while the Garden State is seeing daily case totals it hasn't seen since early May.

On Wednesday, Murphy reported 2,472 new positives, the highest total since May 6. It was the second time in less than a week the state saw daily cases top 2,000. The latest upticks are sprawling across the entire state -- and Murphy says much of the spread is tied to small household gatherings, which he can't regulate.

Instead, he urges people to be smart. Wash hands, socially distance and mask up

November 3, 2020

Around 1.7 million people in New York City have been infected with the coronavirus and the disease was shown to have been spreading before the first confirmed case was reported eight months ago, a new study found.

While other studies have also shown that the coronavirus made its way to the region before the city reported its first case on March 1, the Mount Sinai study made public Tuesday also found that the fatality rate of the virus is close to 1%, which is ten times deadlier than the flu.

Due to the lack of COVID-19 tests at the beginning of the pandemic (as well as many asymptomatic and mild cases that went undetected), researchers say they used more than 10,000 plasma samples that were taken between February to July from two groups, some from patients who were admitted to urgent care and others who visited the hospital for other routine visits.

Dr. Florian Krammer, a corresponding author on the study, said that the data suggests the infection fatality rate of COVID-19 is 0.97% after the first epidemic wave in New York City. According to the World Health Organization, seasonal influenza's mortality rate is well below 0.1%.

Krammer added that the infection rate is far below what can be considered herd immunity. It is apparent that the virus continues to spread despite the finding that one in 10 New Yorkers may have already been infected.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday warned that "These are dangerous times" as the number of cases begin to rise back up.

Just under 50,000 New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 in October, roughly double the number who got the virus in September, according to state statistics. Over the last seven days of the month, an average of around 2,040 people per day tested positive for the virus in the state, up from around 680 people per day the last seven days in August.

The increase mirrored one that has happened across the U.S. and in other nations this autumn, as people have relaxed their guard against the disease and returned to schools, shops, restaurants and other indoor activities. Cuomo warned residents of the "danger signs all around us."

November 2, 2020

"These are dangerous times."

That was the message Gov. Andrew Cuomo had for New Yorkers on the coronavirus front Monday. He leads a state with the second-lowest positivity rate in the nation, by Johns Hopkins data, but no state is untouched by the U.S. surge.

"We need to stay on high alert," Cuomo said in a Monday conference call with reporters as he reported yet another day with 1,000-plus COVID hospitalizations.

The recent upticks nationwide -- five record-breaking single-day U.S. case records in a week -- have come alongside New York's own cluster battles. While those zones have made progress, the steady upticks continue. New York now meets Cuomo's prior threshold for inclusion on the quarantine list (10.43 new cases per 100,000 over a rolling seven-day average as of Sunday).

He's abandoned that list. Rather than try to quarantine every state, some of which can't be isolated from New York because of proximity, Cuomo unveiled a sweeping new testing policy over the weekend. The current reality is only more threatening with the approach of the holiday season, which means more travel.

To help ensure compliance across state lines, the Port Authority says anyone who doesn't wear a mask in its facilities, including its bus terminal in Manhattan, PATH and AirTrain stations and the Oculus, is subject to a $50 fine starting Monday.

The agency says it will continue to emphasize voluntary compliance first, but was moved to a more aggressive action given recent case increases in New York, New Jersey and across the United States.

New York City reported its second-highest daily new case average in months Monday (593), a number Mayor Bill de Blasio described as concerning. It was the second time in four days that average nearly hit 600. The daily positivity rate also ticked up to 2.1 percent, another "worrisome" number, according to the mayor.

The seven-day rolling positivity average, which de Blasio calls the "most objective measure" of the city's current standing in the war against coronavirus, was 1.81 percent, which is around where it has been for the last two weeks or so.

"That number suggests some consistency with where we've been the last few weeks. We want to turn the tide now. With all the outreach and the face mask-wearing and the social distancing and the testing, we want to start knocking down that seven-day rolling average," de Blasio said Monday. "We're keeping a very close eye on the situation because we're obviously at a point where that has gone up in recent weeks and we take that very seriously."

New Jersey has experienced significant case increases over the last month across virtually the entire state. Gov. Phil Murphy has pointed to small household gatherings as a burgeoning source of new cases. While an often somber Murphy has said he is open to another shutdown if it comes to that, he says he can't control what people do behind the closed doors of their homes.

That is where an increasing share of the concern is coming from, he said. Like other tri-state governors, Murphy has urged New Jerseyeans to avoid holiday travel unless absolutely necessary. He said he'd discuss that more later this week.

Despite its recent struggles, New Jersey continues to be in the better quarter of states as far as positivity rates, though it has a transmission rate above 1-to-1, which some would call an "active outbreak." New York vacillates between holding the second- and third-lowest positivity rate in the nation, by Johns Hopkins data. Still, both states know how rapidly the virus can spiral dangerously out of control.

Last week, Murphy gave the people of his state a stern reality check. He said the second wave of coronavirus is no longer a theoretical.

"It's coming. And it's coming now," he said.

Schools, by and large, have been a bright spot in New Jersey and New York as far as infections are concerned. New Jersey has reported a number of "outbreaks" linked to K-12 school transmission, though the overall case totals remain low.

In New York City, de Blasio has said well less than 1 percent of teachers and students tested as part of state-required randomized weekly and monthly testing have been positive. Monday marks the start of a two-week window where parents who opted for fully remote learning to start the year can opt back into blended.

Blended opt-ins will be permitted on a quarterly basis for remote families. To learn more, visit the city's Department of Education website here.

Several dozen schools in red and orange zones that had to switch all-remote due to Cuomo's micro-cluster program can reopen now if students and staff test negative. Then, weekly testing of a quarter of a school's population is required. Asked about those schools Monday, de Blasio said the city was assessing the plan. He first is concerned about what happens within Brooklyn's red zone -- and he said that given the numbers, there could be some easing of restrictions soon.

If the schools were moved to yellow zones instead of red or orange, the requirement would only be weekly randomized testing of students and staff.

November 1, 2020

The White House is strongly pushing back on a new interview in which Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said the U.S. is in a terrible position to face the upcoming months of the pandemic.

"We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post on Friday. "All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly."

Fauci said the country needs to make an "abrupt change" in its public health practices and behaviors as the holiday season nears. He also said 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign "is taking it seriously from a public health perspective" while President Donald Trump is “looking at it from a different perspective," which he said was "the economy and reopening the country."

In a lengthy statement, White House spokesman Judd Deere called it "unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President’s Coronavirus Taskforce and someone who has praised President Trump’s actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics."

"As a member of the Task Force, Dr. Fauci has a duty to express concerns or push for a change in strategy, but he’s not done that, instead choosing to criticize the president in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the president’s opponent — exactly what the American people have come to expect from The Swamp," Deere continued, adding that Fauci "has no confidence in the American people to make the best choice for themselves armed with CDC best practices."

October 31, 2020

New York's quarantine list, which had most recently restricted travel from 41 U.S. hotspots, is no more. Instead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says travelers coming into the state must take a coronavirus test before starting travel and again four days after entering the state.

As described by the governor, there are two classifications of travelers entering New York: residents who traveled outside the state for less than 24 hours, and everyone else. Both kinds of travelers entering New York must now quarantine for at least a 3-day period before taking a coronavirus test. As long as the test comes back negative, the governor says, the quarantine period can end.

New Yorkers returning from travel under 24 hours outside the state do not need to take a test before coming back, but must still take a test after re-entering. Everyone else, in the general categorization, must take a test before traveling to New York, Cuomo said. Within three days of traveling to the state, people must take a test before commuting via plane or other mode of travel.

Anyone opting not to take a test four days after arrival must still complete a 14-day quarantine period.

"They'll be no quarantine list, they'll be no metrics," Cuomo said on his daily press briefing Saturday.

New York's quarantine list required travelers to the tri-state area from U.S. hotspots to self-isolate for 14 days before roaming freely in the region. It also required residents of the tri-state area to self-isolate after returning home from an identified hotspot.

The newest testing mandate for people entering the state does not apply to neighboring New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts due to regional proximity. While acknowledging rising virus positivity in nearby states, Cuomo said there is too much daily travel across their borders to regulate.

"It would disrupt everything if you quarantined those states," he added.

Cuomo continues to urge New Yorkers, to the extent they can, to avoid nonessential travel between those nearby states for as long as they meet the quarantine threshold. Govs. Phil Murphy and Ned Lamont have issued similar pleas to the people of New Jersey and Connecticut in recent weeks.

The state's shift in policy comes as New York teetered on the edge of meeting its own standards for the tri-state quarantine list, reporting 9.99 new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day rolling period as of Thursday. The threshold is 10, which the neighboring states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey have already topped.

October 30, 2020

New York state is teetering on the edge of meeting its own standards for the tri-state quarantine list, reporting 9.99 new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day rolling period as of Thursday. The threshold is 10, which the neighboring states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey have already topped.

The latter likely saw that metric climb even higher Friday, as Gov. Phil Murphy announced more than 2,000 new COVID cases for the first time since May 6, bringing the statewide total of positive coronavirus cases to 236,523, with more than 14,500 confirmed deaths.

Hoboken became the latest to impose a virus curfew Thursday as it reported its highest daily case total since the end of April. Newark and Paterson also announced virus curfews -- ordering businesses and indoor dining to close at 8 p.m. each night and adding new cleaning requirements for gyms -- this week.

In New York, the metric is driven by high numbers in the Southern Tier (25.07 per 100,000) and Mid-Hudson (12.74 per 100,000) regions. Long Island's rate of new cases per 100,000 residents (9.39) over the last week is lower than the statewide average and New York City's is even lower (9.12), even as its mayor warned that he was concerned about the recent growth of the city's rolling positivity rate.

The numbers had improved slightly Friday over Thursday, including the seven-day rolling positivity average (1.87 percent vs 1.92 percent), which Mayor Bill de Blasio describes as the "most objective" measure of standing in the COVID war.

Statewide, the numbers are going up across the board, even as New York continues to hold the third-lowest positivity rate in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins data. Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported nearly 2,500 new cases Thursday, the highest daily total since mid-May, and another 2,255 Friday, bringing the statewide total to 505,431. The state also saw more than 1,000 total hospitalizations Friday for an eighth straight day, which it hasn't done since it first came down off that 1,000 marker toward the end of June. To date, 25,804 New Yorkers have died due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported a total of 71,207 coronavirus cases and 4,616 deaths.

October 29, 2020

All hospitals in the state are supposed to keep at least a third of their regular beds and a third of their ICU beds open to handle any potential resurgence. As of Friday, the state was short on the regular bed goal (25 percent). Long Island had just 21 percent open, while New York City only had 18 percent available. Both areas were low on ICU beds, too. Still, hospitals say they feel "very confident" in their ability to handle a resurgence, armed with hard-earned lessons from the spring.

"It's coming. And it's coming now."

That's how New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy described the threat of a second wave of the coronavirus Thursday as he said cases continue to rise "exponentially."

Murphy has reported well more than 1,000 new cases a day for more than a week straight. Along with those increases have come upticks in hospitalizations, which hit 1,072 Thursday, the highest total since the last week of June.

Daily deaths have increased marginally, though those tend to lag increases in hospitalizations, which lag increases in cases. Compared with the spring, all the metrics remain remarkably low -- but no one in the hard-hit tri-state area can even fathom the experience of hitting that crisis peak again.

To date, New Jersey has reported 234,547 positive coronavirus cases and a total of 16,332 confirmed and probable related deaths.

Murphy once again Thursday urged New Jerseyans to double down on the mitigation efforts that helped them flatten the curve in the first place.

Some major cities within New Jersey, though, have taken matters into their own hands regarding new restrictions. Paterson became the latest to do so Wednesday, imposing a curfew due to a recent spike in COVID cases.

The city's number of new cases has nearly tripled over the past three days in Paterson, prompting its mayor to issue an executive order clamping down on indoor dining and nightlife starting at midnight Thursday. Compliance has also become an issue; Paterson officials shared photos and videos of crowds partying and gathering closely inside bars, nightclubs and hookah lounges without masks.

The move in Paterson comes on the heels of the mayor of Newark's decision earlier this week to impose new restrictions as its case growth threatened to spiral. Newark recorded more new cases of coronavirus than all of the other cities in Essex County combined on Monday; some neighborhoods there have recorded positivity rates above 25 percent, more than five times the state average.

Hours earlier, Mayor Bill de Blasio emphatically called for the same in New York City as he expressed mounting concern over the recent growth of its seven-day rolling positivity average, which he calls the "most objective" measure of standing.

On Thursday, the mayor said that metric hit 1.92 percent, the highest average in months and precariously close to the 2 percent-threshold he has warned could lead to the re-closure of indoor dining across all five boroughs.

While that 1.92 percent, which is higher than state reporting, is extremely low compared with what major U.S. cities are seeing, de Blasio called it "worrisome."

Overall, as of Thursday, the state of New York has reported 503,176 COVID cases and 25,792 deaths. Meanwhile, nearby Connecticut has seen 70,446 cases and 4,609 COVID-related deaths.

October 28, 2020

Nearly eight months to the day it announced its first coronavirus case in New York City, the Empire State has topped a half-million confirmed COVID cases, the fourth-highest total in the nation behind Texas, California and Florida.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo added 2,031 new cases to the tally Wednesday, the highest single-day number in months, bringing New York's total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 500,677. Officials acknowledge the actual number of cases could be 10 times higher -- or more -- given testing and societal constraints. New York tests more per capita than any place in the world, Cuomo has said. Still, asymptomatic and other cases inevitably slip through the cracks to some degree.

Back in April, that 500,000-case milestone seemed like a rapidly approaching inevitable for New York. Then, over the summer, as infection rates plunged to record lows, it appeared the former epicenter of the national crisis had cracked the code to containment. Now, as cases rise in virtually every U.S. state (and deaths in most of them), the numbers are creeping up in New York.

Despite its recent upticks, the Empire State has the nation's second-lowest infection rate, according to Wednesday data from Johns Hopkins. Cuomo says New York has "defied the rate of increase" overwhelming the rest of the country thus far, adding, "Knock on wood," for good measure.

New York City reported a recent high of 105 new hospital admissions Wednesday, while the daily COVID case average topped Mayor Bill de Blasio's 550-threshold (552) for the third time in about a week. Those numbers are at months-long highs.

Meanwhile, Suffolk County officials doled out nearly $20,000 in fines for a series of COVID crowd violations that left more than 50 people infected and nearly 300 quarantined in recent days, officials said Wednesday.

The most serious violation stemmed from a wedding in Cutchogue, where about a third of 91 guests have tested positive and nearly 160 others were quarantined as a precaution. Six school districts have been impacted by the positive cases and associated risk of exposure, Suffolk County officials said. Seventeen thousand dollars in fines were issued as a result of that event.

In New Jersey, a school district has postponed in-person instruction after finding out necessary air filters were never installed.

More than 7,000 students at a New Jersey school district were supposed to go back to class next month but now they're going to have to wait a few months longer after officials discovered that new air filters were actually not installed.

In a letter addressed to the South Orange-Maplewood School District on Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronald G. Taylor said the district will need to assess and update as many as 1,000 filters in all classrooms after the district's Facilities Department lead falsely reported that ventilation boxes in each classroom had been updated with filters with a Merv 16 rating.

In-person schooling that was set to resume in November is now pushed to restart again on Jan. 19, Taylor said, or after all the filters are upgraded.

To date, New Jersey has reported 232,997 positive COVID-19 cases and 16,324 confirmed and probable related deaths.

October 27, 2020

California became the newest addition Tuesday to New York's quarantine list, which now restricts travel from 41 U.S. hotspots. No areas were removed, an expected result as new cases are rising in practically the entire country.

Massachusetts, like New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, now meets the new-cases-per-residents threshold to be including on the quarantine order, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it's not practical to do border control with those states.

That said, he continues to urge New Yorkers, to the extent they can, to avoid nonessential travel between those nearby states for as long as they meet the quarantine threshold. Govs. Phil Murphy and Ned Lamont have issued similar pleas to the people of New Jersey and Connecticut over the last week.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was the latest to join the chorus Tuesday, as he called for the federal government to mandate all domestic and international travelers test negative for COVID before they board planes.

"Everyone's going to make their own decision, and I know there are painful choices," de Blasio said. "For those who do travel, recognize how important it is to get tested -- and recognize there's a very strict quarantine in New York state. The vast majority of American states are now on the quarantine list."

The travel restriction applies to the following U.S. states and territories: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

Additionally, Cuomo announced Tuesday that the MTA will begin a voluntary COVID-19 screening program for frontline transit workers.

The initiative will allow for up to 2,000 frontline MTA employees to be screened weekly under the initial phase of the program.

Under this new initiative, free COVID testing will be offered at rotating field locations, as well as at medical assessment and occupational health services centers to frontline NYC Transit, LIRR, Metro-North and Bridge and Tunnels employees.

To date, New York has reported 498,646 COVID cases and 25,758 deaths.

The out-of-state threat only compounds the threat at home, as all three tri-state governors face varying increases of COVID cases and hospitalizations, along with overall positivity rates, in their respective states. Cuomo's micro-cluster strategy is ongoing in certain highly specific geographic areas of Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland, Orange and other counties. Now the largest city in New Jersey is implementing new virus control measures to curb its recent case surge.

Starting Tuesday in Newark, which has seen COVID cases rise at unparalleled levels compared with the rest of Essex County as of late, nonessential businesses, including indoor dining, must close by 8 p.m. nightly. Salons and barbershops can be appointment only and gyms must close for half an hour each hour for sanitizing, cutting service time essentially in half. The new restrictions are expected to be in place until at least Nov. 10.

The localized rules were ordered by the mayor of Newark, not by New Jersey's governor, and are less severe than the hyper-targeted geographic ones Cuomo imposed on narrow hotspots within New York. Gov. Murphy said he supports Mayor Ras Baraka's decision in Newark and will provide additional state assistance on testing, contact tracing and enforcement.

To date, 231,331 New Jerseyans have tested positive for coronavirus, with 16,306 confirmed and probable virus-related deaths. Connecticut has seen 68,637 cases and 4,595 deaths.

October 26, 2020

New York City topped its 550 daily case average total for the second time in days Monday, while the mayor of New Jersey's largest city moved to implement new local restrictions as the Garden State's COVID numbers continue to soar.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wouldn't make any changes when asked about potential fallout from that daily case average number (551) topping his 550 threshold again. The other indicators show stable or even promising trends, he said, and urged people not to take any single number out of the larger context.

As of Monday, New York had the third-lowest infection rate in the nation (1.27 percent), behind only New Hampshire and Maine, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Seven states have a positivity rate above 20 percent.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has championed the effectiveness of his micro-cluster strategy as "focus zone" areas continue to see positivity rates dip, though statewide hospitalizations, which tend to lag new cases, have hit June highs. New York, which is on the verge of a half-million confirmed COVID cases, is in the midst of a four-day stretch of hospitalizations above 1,000 for the first time in months, which isn't surprising given the recent increase in cases. Hospitalizations tend to lag new case increases; and death lags hospitalizations.

To date, the state of New York has reported 496,655 positive coronavirus cases and 25,742 related deaths.

New Jersey has experienced significant upticks in its daily COVID case totals, hospitalizations and infection rate as of late. It reported its highest number of new daily cases (1,994) since early May over the weekend as Gov. Phil Murphy extended the public health emergency he put in place at the start of the pandemic for another 30 days.

The governor, who has been in voluntary isolation since learning of his exposure to a COVID positive staff member on Wednesday, said he will still hold his scheduled briefing virtually Monday testing negative a number of times in the last few days. That's not the only reason; as Murphy said Monday, "the numbers are surging" and virtual briefings will be his bias for at least the next week, he said.

Multiple counties saw more than 100 cases overnight yet again, though the governor acknowledged at least one bright point: Ocean and Monmouth counties, where New Jersey's recent upticks initially were traced, appear to have leveled off.

On the downside, the COVID increases have swallowed virtually the rest of the state, he has said. Hospitalizations hit 948 Monday, the highest total since early July. Essex County has been one of the state's highest viral growth areas in recent weeks. In Newark, the state's largest city, Mayor Ras Baraka took it upon himself to implement new control measures, saying his city is seeing more new cases than every other city in the county combined.

Based on testing information for Newark from Oct. 11 to Oct. 17, the city's positivity rate is 11.8 percent. It hasn't been that high since the end of May.

Starting Tuesday, nonessential businesses must close by 8 p.m. nightly and restaurants must end dine-in at the same time. Beauty and nail salons, along with barbershops, must be appointment-only and health clubs are required to close for half an hour each hour for sanitizing, cutting the amount of service time in half.

Murphy said the state would ramp up testing in key hotspot areas of the city and assist with contact tracing and enforcement efforts. The governor said he had spoken with Baraka and stood beside him amid the latest viral uptick in Newark.

As of Monday, 229,684 New Jerseyans have tested positive for coronavirus. The state has seen a total of 16,292 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths.

With the new coronavirus surge in New Jersey, Murphy laid out his administration's plan to roll out a coronavirus vaccine once it is ready.

The first-term Democrat revealed his three-part plan for an "equitable" rollout of a vaccine over time during his virtual Monday coronavirus news briefing.

The state hopes to vaccinate 70% of adults over six months. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that would mean vaccinating tens of thousands of people each day.

October 25, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the Trump administration has surrendered to the pandemic after comments made by the president's chief of staff suggest fewer efforts should be pursued to curb the spread of the virus as the country reports record numbers entering a third peak of its spread.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday morning on CNN that the country's federal response cannot control the pandemic and should be focusing efforts on vaccine and other treatment solutions.

"What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments, to make sure people don't die from this," Meadows said on CNN before getting into a back-and-forth with Jake Tapper over calls to "quarantine all of America."

Rather than focusing efforts and resources to try and control the spread of COVID-19, Meadows says the administration is prioritizing finding effective therapeutics and vaccines.

The comments from Trump's chief of staff follow back-to-back record-breaking daily coronavirus numbers, with over 80,000 new cases of the virus reported Friday and Saturday.

On a teleconference call with reporters on Sunday, Cuomo said the stance from the administration encapsulates their handling of the pandemic from its start.

"They have believed from the beginning that they can't control the virus, that's the only rational that explains the denial and the lying. If you believed you could control it, then you try to control it. If you don't believe you can control it, then you lie about it, deny it and minimize it," Cuomo said. "Meadows spoke the truth today, as to their opinion."

The New York governor pointed to progress made by his own state, which has maintained low infection rates for months after accounting for the country's largest numbers of cases and virus-related deaths in the spring. Cuomo countered Meadows's point, saying that "flattening the curve," which New York did in June, is a way to control the spread of the virus.

"They surrendered without firing a shot. It was the great American surrender," Cuomo said of the federal government's response.

In New York, the state reported 1,632 new cases of the virus, down a few hundred from 2,061 reported on Saturday. Both New York and New Jersey posted daily totals on Saturday that hovered around 2,000, totals not seen in each state since May.

The average positivity rate in the realigned micro-cluster zones was 3.18 percent as of Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, while the rate outside those areas hovers just above one percent. Total hospitalizations ticked down to 1,015, a 30-person decline from the previous day. The daily death toll was once again in the double digits, albeit the low ones (12), continuing the trend of recent weeks.

"To give you an idea of the progress we've made with New York's micro-clusters, the positivity rates in Brooklyn, Rockland and Orange Counties are all down this week," Cuomo said Sunday. "That is great news. It says the focus works, and it says we can get the positivity under control. As we saw in Queens this past week, we get the numbers down and we then open up the areas."

More reopenings in New York are expected next week as more than 100 public schools resume in-person learning on Monday, following Cuomo's lift of restrictions in certain cluster zone areas.

October 24, 2020

New Jersey and New York each reported nearly 2,000 positive cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, daily totals that haven't been as high for each state since May, data collected from each state shows.

Gov. Phil Murphy marked his state's seventh straight day of more than 1,000 cases of the virus by extending New Jersey's public health emergency declaration that began on March 9.

The daily case count reported on Saturday was 1,994, Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted. His state's latest report rose by 855 from the previous day, an increase of nearly 75 percent.

"Today's new COVID-19 case count marks our highest daily figure since May. As we face a steep increase in cases, it could not be more important to ensure we have access to all available resources," Murphy said in a statement.

New Jersey's governor has been in quarantine as a precaution following contact with a staffer who tested positive for COVID. Murphy said Saturday he tested negative for the virus as did one of his senior advisors who tested positive on Wednesday.

"Again, I urge every New Jerseyan to stay vigilant. This virus has not gone away simply because we are tired of it. Stay #JerseyStrong," Murphy tweeted with Saturday's numbers.

To date, New Jersey has confirmed more than 225,000 COVID cases and reported more than 16,000 deaths, including probable fatalities. New York's numbers are more than double those tolls.

In New York, while the overall infection rate remains low, the state recorded 2,061 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily total since May 21.

The average positivity rate in the realigned micro-cluster zones was 2.58 percent as of Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, while the rate outside those areas rose just above one percent. Total hospitalizations ticked up to 1,045, up by 22 from the previous day. The daily death toll was once again in the double digits, albeit the low ones (11), continuing the trend of recent weeks. Increases in hospitalizations tend to lag increases in cases; increases in deaths follow last, as the tri-state area learned all too painfully earlier this year.

Nationally, coronavirus cases reached a daily record amount for the second day in a row, with nearly 77,993 cases reported Friday — topping Thursday's total by about 350. The new benchmarks were hit as the pandemic has accelerated at a pace not seen since the summer and as many local governments have reimposed restrictions to stop the spread of a virus that has killed more than 225,000 people in the U.S., according to the latest tally.

"As new cases climb across the country, in New York we are continuing our strategy of aggressively targeting micro-clusters whenever they pop up and implementing measures to stop any potential spread quickly," Cuomo said in a Saturday statement. "We are able to be surgical in our approach because we have developed such large testing and contact tracing programs."

October 23, 2020

New York state COVID hospitalizations topped 1,000 Friday for the first time since late June, while New Jersey hospitalizations hit a three-month high on the same day, likely a lagging effect from the case increases both states have been battling.

The average positivity rate in the realigned micro-cluster zones was 2.21 percent as of Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Total hospitalizations ticked up to 1,023, the highest number since June 23. The daily death toll was once again in the double digits, albeit the low ones (11), continuing the trend of recent weeks. Increases in hospitalizations tend to lag increases in cases; increases in deaths follow last, as the tri-state area learned all too painfully earlier this year.

New Jersey, meanwhile, is dealing with some spikes of its own. Gov. Phil Murphy, who remains in isolation as a precaution following contact with a staffer who tested positive for COVID, reported a sixth straight day of more than 1,000 new cases in the Garden State on Friday. Hospitalizations hit 874, the highest total in more than three months.

Murphy has said cases and positivity rates are increasing in virtually every part of the state. Most of the surge is tied to small household gatherings and parties, he has said. Since he can't regulate what happens within people's private homes, he continues to urge New Jerseyans to be smart and take appropriate precautions.

To date, New Jersey has confirmed more than 225,000 COVID cases and reported more than 16,000 deaths, including probable fatalities. New York's numbers are more than double those tolls. To date, New York has seen 491,771 coronavirus cases and 25,705 related deaths. Meanwhile, neighboring Connecticut has reported 66,052 cases and 4,577 COVID-related deaths.

Despite the recent upticks, the states' reopening process continues. Movie theaters in New York state can reopen beginning Friday with restrictions on audience size and other precautions in place -- except for those in New York City, which also lagged the rest of the state in reopening on indoor dining and malls.

Welcoming audiences for the first time in seven months, the big screens are restricted to 25% of capacity with a maximum of 50 people per screen, Cuomo said. Masks are required and seating is assigned to ensure social distancing.

The economic fallout due to the ongoing crisis has caused financial strains on various business across the tri-state, country and world. The famed Strand Book Store is the latest to reveal its dire financial state.

Strand Book Store, the famed independent bookstore beloved by New Yorkers, issued a plea for help due to the economic fallout brought on by the ongoing health crisis.

Nancy Bass Wyden, Strand's owner, put out a letter asking for assistance and addressing the bookstore's dire financial situation.

"The Strand’s revenue has dropped nearly 70% compared to last year.And while the PPP loan we were given and our cash reserves allowed us to weather the past eight months of losses, we are now at a turning point where our business is unsustainable," the letter reads in part.

October 22, 2020

It's a tale of two cities in New York, two weeks after Gov. Andrew Cuomo implemented new restrictions in highly specific hotspot areas in Brooklyn and Queens. Nonessential businesses, including indoor dining, can reopen Thursday in parts of Queens, where Cuomo eased the rules a day earlier.

In Brooklyn's highest-risk area, its red zone, strict virus control measures will be extended, with Cuomo citing ongoing issues as far as COVID positivity rates and community compliance. He didn't change the maps for Orange or Rockland counties either. While he noted improvement, he said it wasn't enough.

Cuomo said Thursday the positivity rate in the micro-clusters (red, orange and yellow zones combined) was 3.2 percent, and that the statewide positivity rate excluding those clusters was 0.96 percent (1.2 percent if the clusters are included.) Those numbers are improved from a day prior.

For his part, Mayor Bill de Blasio has touted improved compliance on behalf of New Yorkers during this initial cluster zone time. He acknowledged that parts of Brooklyn still had more work to do but said he was pleased by the turnaround in Queens.

"There's still real work to do, but the two weeks of restrictions in place had a big impact, and we saw people really changing their approach in a lot of ways that were really helpful," De Blasio said Thursday.

To date, New York has reported 490,134 cases statewide, with 25,694 COVID-19-related deaths.

A day after Cuomo said that mental health has become a serious problem due to the ongoing pandemic, New York City announced steps it is taking to tackle the mental wellbeing of the youth.

Deputy Chancellor for School Climate and Wellness LaShawn Robinson, who leads the city's DOE efforts to provide student support services, joined de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray in touching upon the "tremendous challenge our children have faced over the last seven to eight months."

New Jersey's daily case totals have doubled over the last month, with officials pointing to small household gatherings and parties as a primary source.

Gov. Phil Murphy says there's evidence of the problem virtually everywhere in the state and he can't regulate what happens within people's private homes. Instead, he urges people to be smart. The governor had to pull himself "off the field" abruptly Wednesday after learning two senior staff members with whom he had been in contact had tested positive for COVID-19. Murphy and his wife were retested Wednesday, the second time in 72 hours, and their tests came back negative. Both said they would isolate through the weekend as a precaution.

"I think this is proof if nothing else that no one is immune from this virus," Murphy said Thursday in a Zoom news conference. It was the fifth consecutive day that the state reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19; New Jersey now has four counties reporting more than 100 new daily cases each.

"New Jerseyans should avoid all unnecessary interstate travel," he said. "The numbers we're getting day to day are sobering."

As of Thursday, 224,385 New Jerseyans have been infected by the virus and the state has seen 16,263 confirmed and probable deaths. Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 65,373 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,569 related deaths.

October 21, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has realigned his cluster zone maps, announcing Wednesday that virus control measures will be eased in two red zone sections of Queens and intensified in Brooklyn's red zone, given ongoing infection rate and compliance issues there.

Nonessential businesses will be permitted to reopen Thursday in areas where red zone restrictions were lifted. Schools that switched all-remote in those areas as well as those no longer in orange zones can reopen in person Monday.

"When we see progress, we adjust the target," the governor said. (Here's a quick look at all the updated cluster zone maps and a quick reminder of the rules.)

Going forward, the cluster zone maps will be reassessed over a moving 10-day period, Cuomo said. He revealed benchmarks for cluster zone reopenings Wednesday that differ substantially from the standards he used for the phased statewide reopening process earlier this year.

Additionally, Cuomo addressed the rising mental health concerns brought on by COVID-19 Wednesday, saying "we have a serious problem of the emotional stress and anxiety that COVID has caused."

While acknowledging that he initially didn't fully understand "COVID fatigue" and took it to mean that people were just tired of wearing a mask or social distancing, he has come to realize that "there are different facets to fatigue that are frankly more problematic. COVID has caused tremendous stress on society and tremendous individual stress."

New York City children will be able to go trick-or-treating this Halloween, but it won't resemble the spooktacular event of years past.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled guidelines Wednesday for not only trick-or-treaters, but those giving candy. And if you're thinking about hosting a house party? Forget about it!

The guidelines, the city said, is to keep New Yorkers healthy and safe.

According to Wednesday data from Johns Hopkins, New York has the third-lowest infection rate in the nation (1.16 percent), based on a seven-day rolling period. Only Massachusetts (1.13 percent) and Maine (0.52 percent) have lower positivity rates on a weekly basis. The state with the highest, Nevada, has a rolling positivity average more than 50 times higher than New York's (58.84 percent).

New Jersey and Connecticut are among the 15 lowest-transmission rate states -- 2.71 percent and 1.92 percent, respectively -- even as they battle a surge in new cases that has them both meeting the new-cases-per-100,0000 threshold to land on New York's travel quarantine list, along with Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania/New York border has become particularly problematic, Cuomo said Wednesday, noting he is tracking new micro-clusters breaking out there. Evidence indicates some of those micro-clusters are tied to specific clusters, but it also shows a community spread factor, which is more problematic. The governor said he would focus on enhancing testing efforts in those areas and applied a yellow zone rating to part of Steuben as well as Chemung counties.

Cuomo said there will be no travel restrictions among the four states, calling that impractical and potentially disastrous for the local economies. He said Wednesday he would talk to global experts about testing and any alternate methodologies to quarantine, though didn't immediately elaborate on what those might be. A day earlier, Cuomo urged people to avoid non-essential tri-state travel.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who said Wednesday he would self-isolate after being in contact with a COVID-positive person, and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont agreed on that non-essential travel point. There remains no quarantine requirement across tri-states and no penalties apply for traveling between them.

To date, New York has seen 488,506 coronavirus cases and 25,679 related deaths. Neighboring New Jersey has reported 223,223 and 16,245 confirmed and probable deaths. Meanwhile, 64,871 people in Connecticut have tested positive for the virus; 4,567 COVID-19 -related deaths have been reported in the state.

October 20, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that 40 U.S. hotspots are on the New York quarantine list, apparently unmoved by Connecticut's pitch to loosen criteria as it, along with New Jersey and Pennsylvania, now meet the threshold for inclusion.

New York will not move to add either of those three states to its quarantine order; Cuomo has repeatedly said that would be impractical. He did say, however, that he is open to limiting non-essential tri-state travel and will have more to say on that, after speaking with Govs. Ned Lamont and Phil Murphy, on Wednesday.

It wasn't immediately clear what limiting tri-state travel would look like or how it could be enforced, but Cuomo says it's a more sensical option than a quarantine.

At least seven U.S. states have recently set new records for single-day increases in coronavirus cases, prompting some to set new restrictions as concerns mount over possible "superspreader events" during the upcoming holiday season. The situation globally isn't much better; the world topped 40 million cases on Monday.

Currently, the quarantine list in New York applies to U.S. jurisdictions that either have at least a 10 percent positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average or more than 10 new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day rolling average.

To date, New York has reported 486,480 cases to date, with 25,672 COVID-19-related deaths.

Both Connecticut (11.2) and New Jersey (10.3) hit that new case threshold on Monday (New York is averaging seven new cases per 100,000 residents over the last week), but their positivity rates remain well below the 10 percent threshold.

New Jersey has seen 222,193 cases and 16,227 confirmed and probable deaths. Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 64,455 coronavirus cases and 4,559 deaths due to the virus.

Lamont had pitched switching to an "and" threshold scenario rather than the "or" involving positivity rates and new cases per 100,000 residents. Under his plan, from which he has since backed down, the same new case average threshold would apply, but a state must hit that, along with averaging a 5 percent positivity rate, to land on the list. That would keep New Jersey and Connecticut off it in theory -- but it's a moot point because Cuomo says he wouldn't add those neighboring states to it anyway.

After Cuomo's announcement Tuesday, Lamont said he would not shift Connecticut's metrics after all, saying it was more appropriate for the tri-state to act as one region: "That said, we urge everybody to stay close to home as best you can … there’s no need to do non-essential travel."

As of Tuesday, Cuomo said 40 U.S. states and territories are on the quarantine list, an increase of two from last week. Arizona and Maryland were re-added, while no hotspots were removed. The restrictions now apply to Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to halt the spread of the virus has taken center stage when it comes to public health, but the MTA is still shining the light on Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Although the MTA's Mask Force has been working to halt the spread of the coronavirus in public transportation by distributing free masks Tuesday to customers who many need one, they are showing solidarity during Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease -- by distributing pink masks. The color pink has become synonymous through the years with the disease.

Meanwhile, students, parents and teachers in Newark waiting for in-person instruction will have to wait a bit longer -- until late January, at the earliest.

Newark Schools initially said students will undergo remote learning until at least the end of the first marking period -- which would have been around early November. That will no longer be the case.

The decision was driven by the data: the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Newark are rising again, averaging 63 a day over the past few days.

October 19, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he expects to announce a realignment of New York's cluster zones later this week, touting the effectiveness thus far of his acutely targeted approach that stamps out hotspots on a "block-by-block" level.

Any shift in mapping would likely affect restrictions in certain areas, the highest risk of which have seen schools move all-remote and nonessential businesses closed for nearly two weeks. That 14-day period is the minimum window Cuomo had set for the closures; it will be up in New York City on Thursday.

Cuomo said his team was working to develop appropriate reopening benchmarks for the cluster zones. The benchmarks will differ substantially from the standards he used for the statewide reopening process earlier this year. Cuomo said the micro-cluster strategy will remain his approach through the fall, when he said he expects to see more viral flare-ups. Data indicates it's working.

As of Monday, 485,279 people in New York have tested positive for COVID-19 and 25,659 died due to the virus.

New Jersey, meanwhile, could be nearing a situation that warrants reinstatement of some COVID restrictions in certain areas. Gov. Phil Murphy reported more than 1,200 new cases Sunday, New Jersey's second-highest daily total in five months as the statewide positivity rate topped 10 percent -- the threshold for the tri-state quarantine list -- over a seven-day rolling average per 100,000 people.

Cuomo has said it's not practical to "do border control" with New Jersey and Connecticut, though he acknowledged the surge in cases is problematic.

New daily cases dipped slightly Monday but still hit 1,192 -- with five counties (Ocean, Essex, Union, Middlesex and Bergen) each reporting more than 100 new cases, Murphy said. Positivity rates have been rising in virtually every part of the state. Essex County now has one of the 20 highest positivity rates among counties nationwide, according to Covid Act Now, which uses real-time data to assess risk.

According to data from Johns Hopkins on Monday, New York, the former epicenter of the national crisis, has the third-lowest infection rate among U.S. states. Only Massachusetts and Maine have lower positivity rates. The state with the highest, Iowa, has a seven-day rolling positivity average about 50 percent higher than New York's (50.58 percent). New Jersey and Connecticut, despite recent upticks, both still fall within the top 10 lowest U.S. transmission rates.

To date 221,205 New Jerseyans have tested positive for the virus. The state has seen 16,214 confirmed and probable deaths related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 64,021 cases and 4,554 deaths.

October 18, 2020

New York state health officials have begun drafting plans to disperse coronavirus vaccines in anticipation of the completed testing of a federally-funded drug to combat the virus that has so far led to the deaths of nearly 220,000 Americans.

A state vaccine task force has created a draft of a distribution plan for New York ahead of a completed vaccine the federal government has hinted at having ready in the coming months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. In order to effectively distribute a vaccine to 20 million New Yorkers, the governor says more information from the government is required to ready and finalize a prioritized distribution formula.

The distribution of a vaccine has already been divided into five phases, prioritizing healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities first, followed by first responders, child care providers, seniors and people deemed "most at-risk."

"What are you gong to do and what do you expect the states to do?" Cuomo wants the Trump administration to answer. To get these answers, the National Governors Association is sending the president a list of 36 questions - curated by bipartisan governors across the county - to help states get information to start planning for their role.

New York has identified the need for 40 million doses of the vaccine; 2 rounds of an anticipated drug will be needed for each resident of the state, Cuomo said. Executing the administration of some 40 million doses is an unprecedented task for the state, which has already accomplished never-before-seen testing volumes since the start of the pandemic.

"This is a larger operational undertaking than anything we have done under COVID to date; this is a more complicated undertaking and task. 20 million people in state, most of the vaccinations require two dosages depending on which one," Cuomo said.

"It took us seven months to do 12 million [coronavirus] tests, how long will it take to do 40 million vaccinations?" he reflected.

New York City officials have not yet asked for the governor to lift restrictions, News 4 learned on Sunday. Despite optimism expressed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday, improvements in lowering the number of coronavirus infections within clusters has not dropped to benchmarks set by the city.

"Cluster zone numbers have seemed to level off, which is encouraging, but we have more to go. We must make progress this week in driving these numbers down further," said Bill Neidhardt, press secretary for the mayor.

A second surprise loosening of restrictions implemented in March came Sunday when the governor announced ski resorts could operate at 50 percent indoor capacity beginning Nov. 6.

New positive cases of the coronavirus have continued to rise in New Jersey, with state reported data showing a 10.4 percent positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average per 100,000 people.

The Garden State recorded 1,283 positive cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. It's the second highest daily total for the state since May 23, when 1,394 positive tests were reported by state health officials. The highest daily total since then was reported 10 days ago, data shows, when 1,301 positive results were reported on Oct. 8.

October, 17, 2020

Health officials in New York delivered a ban days before a scheduled wedding after receiving reports that "upwards of 10,000 individuals" were scheduled to attend the ceremony in Brooklyn, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

At his briefing Saturday, the governor explained that state officials received word of a the wedding after the Rockland County Sheriff's Office issued a warning against attending an event in clear violation of gathering limits.

New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Ducker signed a Section 16 order prohibiting the wedding scheduled for Monday in Williamsburg. The order was served Friday evening by the New York City Sheriff's Department, officials said.

Although the location of the wedding was projected to be held outside of the red, orange and yellow COVID cluster zones under careful watch by city and state officials, the projected size of the event triggered action from state officials in accordance with current gathering limits.

"We received a suggestion that that was happening. We did an investigation and found that it was likely true," Cuomo said. "Look, you can get married, you just can't have 1,000 people at your wedding."

The state had not heard back from the parties served the shutdown order but they have the opportunity to request a hearing with Zucker, Beth Garvey, special counsel to the governor, said.

Tensions have escalated in the past week in Brooklyn between residents living in neighborhood clusters and city and state officials.

Lawsuits filed against the state accuse Gov. Cuomo of "anti-Semitic discrimination" after the recent crackdown on religious gatherings within cluster zones. The lawsuit filed in federal court this week accused the governor of making negative, false, and discriminatory statements about the Jewish Orthodox community as he imposed new coronavirus measures to counter the state’s rising infection rate in so-called “red zone” areas.

October 16, 2020

A week into the latest COVID-19 restrictions in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it's still too early to tell whether the spread of the virus has slowed down enough to bring kids back to school and reopen businesses in hotspots.

It'll ultimately be his call whether to lift restrictions next week. They were put in place in geographically mapped cluster areas shaded red, orange and yellow based on risk for a minimum of 14 days, though that period could be extended.

Week to date, state numbers show Brooklyn red zone positivity rates are 5.47 percent, down from 5.86 percent the week prior and 6.69 percent the week before that. The Queens red zones are at 2.5 percent this week, down from 3.36 last week and the week prior (2.97 percent). Rockland and Orange counties' red zone positivity rates have dipped as well amid the latest surge in enforcement efforts.

The red zones, which cover 2.8 percent of the state's population, are accounting for a smaller share of the state's new daily case totals as well, though the numbers are still disproportionate. As of Friday, they accounted for 11.9 percent of new daily cases this week, compared with 17.6 percent last week and 21.8 percent the week prior. They drove 11.7 percent of all cases statewide Thursday.

As of Friday, the state reported 918 total hospitalizations, up 21 from Thursday and down from 938 the Wednesday. Those numbers are still double what the state was seeing in early September. The clusters have driven about 70 percent of the admissions uptick.

New York has had 481,107 coronavirus cases to date and 25,628 related deaths. Meanwhile, New Jersey had reported 217,804 cases and 16,202 confirmed and probable cases. Connecticut has reported 62,830 cases and 4,542 COVID-19-related deaths.

Students at New York City schools with higher Black and Latino populations had noticeably lower engagement levels when classes had to go remote as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, a new report by the city found.

The findings, which came from 1,200 schools throughout the five boroughs, were compiled by the city's Department of Education in response to a subpoena from the New York City Council last week. The data showed racial disparities in student engagement, which was loosely defined as attendance tracked by student emails or participation in remote check-ins, Council Speaker Corey Johnson said on Thursday.

The disparities were also present in studies from 2019 as well, highlighting that inequalities in education continued (or were possibly even exacerbated) as students were forced to go remote to end the 2019-2020 school year, as well as for summer classes and to begin the current school year.

Doctors are warning that a rare but serious condition previously only reported among children diagnosed with COVID-19 is now appearing in some adults with the disease, NBC News reports.

MIS-A, or "multi-system inflammatory syndrome in adults," is the adult form of a dangerous condition first seen in kids this spring that caused inflammation around the heart and other organs and a rash. Kids often developed MIS-C, with the C standing for "children," weeks after their initial infections with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Many doctors may not, in fact, be recognizing the condition in adults. Just a few dozen cases of MIS-A have been reported. And not all patients have obvious rashes.

October 15, 2020

New York state is cracking down harder on enforcement in red zone cluster areas as hospitalizations soar to months-long highs, while the governor of New Jersey urged people not to let their guard down even in their homes Thursday. There are increasing signs of community spread -- and small gatherings are a key reason.

The developments come as roughly three dozen U.S. states see increases in new daily cases and hospitalizations -- an alarming trend CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield says is being driven largely by small household and other gatherings where precautions are not up to par, despite large-scale compliance overall.

Frustrated again, Cuomo issued a "last and final warning" Wednesday as he signed an executive order giving himself the authority to withhold state funding from any "public or nonpublic school or school district and/or to a locality" that violates the order he signed last week establishing the cluster zone restrictions.

He said he didn't have a choice.

"I don't know how else to get them to actually do the enforcement they need to do," Cuomo said Wednesday. "I guarantee if a yeshiva gets closed down and they’re not going to get state funding, you’re going to see compliance.”

Cuomo didn't immediately say exactly how much money would be withheld or name schools that were breaking the rules. He said the state has wide discretion; it could withhold all state funding if the governor decided to do so.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stayed true to his oft-repeated line Thursday that overall, the city is in compliance. A few are not -- and threaten the greater good. He said the city has inspected more than 18,000 inspections in the last two weeks and issued 288 summonses separate from the sheriff's office. Eleven of those summonses came with $15,000 fines each, he said. He didn't say how many were in red zones -- and he said he was awaiting further state guidance on child care in those areas.

Restaurants in New York City looking to continue outdoor dining into the chillier fall and even winter months got good news from Mayor Bill de Blasio: heating devices can be used to help keep customers warm as they enjoy a meal.

The city, along with the FDNY, released guidance for businesses to use the devices safely during the months ahead. There are three options for heating outside dining areas, involving three different types of heating: electric, natural gas and propane.

To date, 479,400 coronavirus cases and 25,618 related deaths have been reported in New York.

Like New York, New Jersey has seen some of its highest new daily case totals and hospital admissions in months in recent days. On Thursday, it reported 733 COVID hospitalizations, the highest total since Aug. 5. Its new daily caseload has nearly doubled in recent weeks amid upticks in Ocean and Monmouth counties.

Murphy talked about the upcoming threats posed by Thanksgiving and the broader holiday season the ongoing impact that small family gatherings are having on the state's case total.

"It's where we can't get inside your house, where we can't get inside of packed-in congregate multi-generational family living, especially, that's where we're seeing not all of the challenges, but the bulk of them," Murphy said.

Some of New Jersey's increase had been tied to the time period around the Jewish high holy days. The state has also confirmed 22 separate public school outbreaks and 83 cases as of Thursday, up from 16 outbreaks and 58 cases as of Murphy's last report. New Jersey oversees more than 3,000 school buildings.

New Jersey has reported 216,994 cases and 16,197 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths.

Octobre 14, 2020

Statewide hospitalizations hit 938 Wednesday, the highest total since June 25; they've more than doubled in the last month, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo says cluster areas have driven about 70 percent of the increase in admissions.

He is oversampling the cluster areas in an effort to stamp them out, which has prompted higher daily case totals as well in recent weeks. The governor warned in a telebriefing with reporters Wednesday that flare-ups will be the norm for a year or longer -- until an effective vaccine is widely available and administered.

Enforcement has to be executed more efficiently until that happens, Cuomo said. He announced Wednesday he was sending local governments in New York City, Rockland and Orange counties a letter warning the state would withhold funding if enforcement didn't improve. He also said he was sending a letter to red zone schools notifying them in writing of the closure order -- and another one to a number of schools already in violation. They lose funding immediately.

Cuomo also sanctioned Suffolk County's Miller Place Inn, which hosted a Sweet 16 party that led to more than three dozen new COVID cases. The Suffolk County executive said Tuesday the restaurant had been fined $12,000 for violations.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day said shortly after Cuomo's briefing Wednesday that he had spoken with the governor the night before and developed a more targeted enforcement plan. Day specifically called out Ramapo and Spring Valley, saying they "have outright refused to step up and protect their residents and the residents of our county" and added 10 personnel to the state enforcement team.

To date, New York has reported 477,940 coronavirus cases and 25,605 related deaths.

Like New York, New Jersey has seen some of its highest new daily case totals and hospital admissions in months in recent days. On Wednesday, it reported 699 COVID hospitalizations, the highest total since Aug. 5. In total, 216,023 New Jerseyans have tested positive for the virus. There have been 16,191confirmed and probable coronavirus deaths.

Connecticut is also facing its highest COVID hospitalizations since June, though the 172 as of the state's last report is much lower than the neighboring tri-states' totals. As of late, Fairfield County has consistently had one of the state's highest hospitalization levels. The state has seen 61,861 cases and 4,537 deaths.

October 13, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in his daily briefing Tuesday that there were some indications the case surges were beginning to level off -- the positivity rate in the hotspots hasn't been consistently increasing and the citywide seven-day rolling infection rate hasn't spiked further. That said, both he and Gov. Andrew Cuomo caution more testing over more days is needed to determine a potential trend.

De Blasio said the city should have a fairly solid idea by the end of this week if the new measures are helping and whether the restrictions could be relaxed after their 14-day minimum implementation period. That will be decided with the state.

The previous evening, the mayor told NY1 this cluster period marks "the first time we’ve had to deal with the danger of a full-blown resurgence." But the issues are highly specific to small areas; the new restrictions are an effort to contain them.

They came last week as citywide daily case averages topped 500 -- and steadily higher -- for the first time in months. The city had 450 hospitalizations Tuesday, its highest total since June 29, while statewide hospitalizations hit their highest total Tuesday (923) since June 25. Those have more than doubled in the last month.

Dr. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Monday the United States was "facing a whole lot of trouble" as cases continued to climb.

The 14-day tri-state quarantine advisory first jointly announced by Cuomo, Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont in late June to stem the out-of-state tide remains in effect. It requires travelers from viral U.S. hotspots -- defined as states or territories with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate on a weekly rolling basis -- to isolate for 14 days before entering the tri-state area. The same rules apply for tri-state residents who travel to one of the hotspots and then return home.

As of last report, 38 U.S. states and territories were on the list, which was updated Tuesday. It currently applies to the following areas: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

As of Tuesday, 476,708 coronavirus cases have been reported in the state of New York, which has also reported 25,598 related deaths. Meanwhile, New Jersey has seen 215,085 cases and 16,182 confirmed and probable deaths. Connecticut has reported 61,697 COVID-19 cases and 4,533 related deaths.

October 12, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo denied rumors Monday he was being eyed for positions in a potential Biden administration and remained hopeful New Yorkers could squash the small pockets of virus outbreaks to avoid another statewide shutdown. He appeared on "TODAY" to promote the release of his book on the pandemic.

The governor of New York reiterated the message he has delivered for a number of weeks now: overall, the statewide positivity rate remains low despite spikes in a handful of counties. New York's overall positivity still holds steady around 1 percent despite the state's red zone clusters reporting 5.74 percent positivity.

That said, hospitalizations have more than doubled in the last month, hitting their highest statewide total Monday (878) than July 1 -- a concerning sign with colder weather approaching and more people leaving their homes for work and school.

Local, state and national health and science experts warned of the potential for a resurgence of the virus in the fall back in the early days of the virus' detection. So far, New York's numbers have stayed low and talk of expanding the latest wave of restrictions targeting the outbreak zones is not on the table -- yet.

Fines for violators of New York's new restrictions on mass gatherings have amounted to at least $172,000 in three days, the city's sheriff's office said Monday -- and that doesn't include enforcement actions by other local agencies.

The fines come amid a new COVID crackdown targeting clusters that have contributed to a doubling of hospitalizations statewide in just a month. Statewide, 878 people were hospitalized as of Monday, the highest total since July 1.

New York City sheriffs deputies cited five religious institutions in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn for violating the city health code by holding a gathering of more than 10 people. Each violation carries a $15,000 fine.

New York has seen a total of 475,315 coronavirus cases and 25,587 related deaths to date. Meanwhile, neighboring New Jersey has reported 214,097 coronavirus cases and 16,175 confirmed and probable COVID deaths. Also to date, 61,377 individuals in Connecticut have had the virus. The state reported 4,532 related deaths to date.

October 11, 2020

Fines from violators of New York's new restrictions on mass gatherings totaled at least $150,000 by Sunday afternoon, according to the City of New York.

New York City sheriffs deputies cited five religious institutions in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn for violating the city health code by holding a gathering of more than 10 people - each violation carries a $15,000 fine.

Since the start of increased restrictions began Friday in New York's color-coated cluster zones, law enforcement personnel have delivered 62 summonses, according to the city.

Of the coronavirus test results returned Saturday from the state's red zones, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 170, or 5.74 percent, came back positive. The previous week's average for the red zones reached 6.13 percent, down slightly from 6.91 percent from the previous week, according to the state's reporting.

Enforcement continued outside of the cluster zones as well. Deputies made four arrests and issued 13 criminal court appearance tickets at a rave in Queens early Sunday morning, located outside of the borough's cluster zone.

According to Sheriff Fucito, social media posts tipped deputies to the after hours party at Cunningham Park. At least 100 people were discovered at the party, in addition to a DJ, private security and hookah attendants, he said.

Penalties of up to $15,000 a day apply for violations on mass gathering rules; in red cluster areas, those are banned entirely. Twenty-five percent capacity or a max of 10 people caps apply to houses of worship, while schools switch all-remote and nonessential businesses have been shut down. Fines of up to $1,000 a day accompany social distancing and mask-wearing infractions -- and Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned people who don't adhere to the rules will face consequences.

Orange and yellow cluster zone areas see varying restrictions, though schools are only allowed to stay in-person, with mandatory weekly testing, within the latter. The new restrictions are in place for at least two weeks; they won't be lifted until the infection rate trend reverts to the numbers New York has seen this summer.

The New York restrictions, which apply to clusters in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as in Orange, Rockland and Broome counties, cover only about 6 percent of the entire state's population, the governor said. The harshest restrictions, which apply to red cluster zone areas, cover just 2.8 percent of the state's population. That same 2.8 percent is accounting for 20 percent of the state's daily cases, Cuomo said -- and the infection rate in those red zones alone is higher than 6 percent.

The governor has launched an aggressive, targeted testing strategy focused on those red zone areas, along with 20 hotspot ZIP codes that have seen positivity rates soar in recent weeks. While the overall infection rate remains low, total COVID hospitalizations are hitting recent highs both statewide and in the city.

Cuomo reported 820 total hospitalizations in New York Sunday, down by six from the previous day.

October 10, 2020

The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with the coronavirus continues to rise, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday, as authorities heightened their focus on banning mass gatherings in COVID-19 hot spots.

Cuomo announced that 826 people were hospitalized with the virus — the highest number since July 15. State officials said eight New Yorkers died of the coronavirus on Friday.

Still, the governor insisted the “numbers remain good news,” noting that public health officials traced 18% of positive tests this week to a so-called “Red Zone” that’s home to 2.8% of the state population.

Six coronavirus clusters have cropped up in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Broome, Orange and Rockland counties. The state has closed schools and nonessential businesses in those areas and limited gatherings.

“It’s going to take the work of all of us now to make sure we don’t go backwards on our hard-fought progress,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We must all continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, remain socially distant, and above all, stay New York Tough.”

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said Saturday that church officials “are left with no choice” but to abide by new restrictions that temporarily limit the size of religious gatherings in the COVID-19 hot spots. The restrictions limit attendance at all houses of worship to 25% capacity, or a maximum of 10 people.

The diocese had sued the state in federal court this week, saying Cuomo’s plan would effectively force over two dozen of its churches to close their doors even though they “have been reopened for months in strict adherence to all medical and governmental guidance without any COVID-related incidents whatsoever.”

U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee called the case a “difficult decision” but sided with Cuomo in denying the church’s request for a temporary restraining order. The government, he ruled late Friday, “is afforded wide latitude in managing the spread of deadly diseases under the Supreme Court’s precedent.”

“There is no reason for this latest interference with our First Amendment right to celebrate Mass together,” DiMarzio said in a statement responding to the ruling. “So we will continue to press the courts and our elected officials to end it as soon as possible.”

The ruling followed a similar decision Friday by another judge in the Eastern District of New York who refused to block Cuomo’s plan. That ruling followed an emergency hearing in a lawsuit brought by rabbis and synagogues who said the restrictions were unconstitutional and sought to have enforcement delayed until after the Jewish holy days.

October 9, 2020

New York City will start handing out hefty fines Friday as the city and state step up enforcement of new COVID restrictions amid months-long highs in total hospitalizations that have followed soaring infection rates in some areas.

Penalties of up to $15,000 a day apply for violations on mass gathering rules; in red cluster areas, those are banned entirely. Twenty-five percent capacity or a max of 10 people caps apply to houses of worship, while schools switch all-remote and nonessential businesses have been shut down. Fines of up to $1,000 a day accompany social distancing and mask-wearing infractions -- and Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned people who don't adhere to the rules will face consequences.

Orange and red cluster zone areas see varying restrictions, though schools are only allowed to stay in-person, with mandatory weekly testing, within the latter. The new restrictions are in place for at least two weeks; they won't be lifted until the infection rate trend reverts to the numbers New York has seen this summer.

The state will take the lead on enforcement in the hotspot areas, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. A source familiar with the state’s enforcement plans told News 4 Friday those plans involve sending two-to-three person teams to targeted ZIP codes, where they'll assess compliance in malls, supermarkets, parks and other areas. They'll issue citations to those repeatedly violating the rules.

The announcement of the cluster zones earlier this week prompted severe protests, mainly from heavily affected religious communities who criticized the renewed restrictions on houses of worship. Cuomo has said the rules aren't targeted against any particular community but were devised based on science and data. They apply to areas that have, in his view, violated COVID protocol that allowed the clusters to form -- and grow -- in the first place.

Cuomo's office said Friday evening a federal judge denied an injunction to halt the state's restrictions on houses of worship in the state's red zones. Religious gatherings are limited to 25 percent capacity - 10 people maximum - in red zones. A prominent Orthodox Jewish organization based out of Queens and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced separate lawsuits Thursday to halt restrictions on religious gatherings put in place by the state of New York, just as a third day of protests over the new lockdown orders got underway in Brooklyn.

People younger than age 25 fueled the COVID-19 surges across the U.S. over the summer that ultimately led to higher positivity rates among older, more vulnerable groups, a new Centers for Disease Control report finds. Notably, their impact was marginal in the Northeast, which had record-low infection rates at the time.

The report released Friday analyzes U.S. hotspot counties by region to determine whether specific age groups were driving the increases. The CDC looked at positivity rates by age group in 767 hotspot counties during June and July 2020 -- both before and after the counties were identified as viral hotspots. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are all included in the Northeast analysis, though the time period assessed by the CDC did not cover the latest upticks in the tri-state.

To date, 471,696 individuals in New York have tested positive for COVID, with 25,561 deaths attributed to the virus.

Meanwhile, 212,013 coronavirus cases have been reported in New Jersey. Confirmed and probable COVID deaths stand at 16,164. Connecticut has reported 60,038 coronavirus cases and 4,530 COVID-19-related deaths as of Friday.

October 8, 2020

Protests erupted in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood for a second straight night Wednesday, as members of the ultra-Jewish Orthodox community took to the streets to decry what they perceive to be unfair targeting of them by the latest round of New York City COVID restrictions. Those took effect on Thursday.

Some in that community take issue with the new limitations on crowd sizes and religious gatherings. The sweeping slate of restrictions also shutters nonessential businesses and closes schools in the highest-risk neighborhoods. Borough Park is one of nine of those in the city. Some areas are subject to lesser restrictions, based on the color-coded system Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled this week.

While images of protesters burning masks in the street earlier this week may be seared into people's minds, they reflect only a subset of the Jewish community -- one that is divided even among its own members. On Thursday, the New York Jewish Agenda released a statement signed by more than 400 rabbis and other Jewish religious leaders in support of the "data-driven, life-saving measures" to prevent the spread of COVID that were newly unveiled in New York this week. Orthodox clergy members were among those who signed their names.

October 7, 2020

Parts of New York, including areas of Brooklyn and Queens, will see their most severe COVID restrictions in months resume Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, with nonessential businesses closed and mass gatherings banned in state-identified cluster zones that have seen positivity rates soar over the last month.

De Blasio warned heavy fines -- up to $15,000 a day for violating the rules on mass gatherings and up to $1,000 a day for social distancing and mask violations -- will be issued as officials work to contain the worst outbreak in months.

There are three different levels of restrictions, according to the color-coded maps unveiled Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office. The highest-risk areas are colored red, surrounding areas in orange and precautionary spots in yellow. Schools in the red zones were closed earlier this week by Cuomo, while schools in the orange zones will switch all-remote Thursday, de Blasio said. Those shaded yellow can remain open to in-person learning but must conduct weekly testing.

The United Federation of Teachers, the city's rank-and-file teacher's union, said 124 schools across 153 locations will now have to go all-remote on Thursday. That includes 33 more schools than an initial shutdown proposed by Mayor de Blasio over the weekend. 308 other schools were in the yellow zone requiring weekly testing.

Members of the ultra-Orthodox community in New York City gathered on the streets late Tuesday to protest the new restrictions imposed on neighborhoods with alarming numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

Some protesters attempted to block the camera when NBC New York's crew arrived at the scene in 13th Avenue and 50th Street in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, but video shows at least over a hundred people demonstrating against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's latest rules which include limiting capacity at houses of worship to 10 people or 25%.

As the gatherings continued into early Wednesday morning, one person was injured "from a physical confrontation with other congregant(s)" but it's unclear what led up to it, according to the NYPD. A fire was started in the middle of a crosswalk. Protesters were seen throwing cardboard boxes and even masks into the flames.

During his Wednesday coronavirus briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said assaults will not be tolerated and "that there will be consequences for those who are found to have perpetrated that act."

De Blasio said the city has a tough few weeks ahead, but urged New Yorkers to come together to address the outbreak head on.

"It's up to all of us," the mayor said. "It will take hard work and discipline and certainly there will be sacrifice. I feel for everyone in the communities who will be affected. If we act quickly and decisively we can overcome this for all of us, for the whole city. We need to stop this outbreak dead in its tracks."

Cluster maps were also drawn for parts of Orange and Rockland counties that have seen extensive COVID upticks in recent weeks, so much so that they, along with the ones in the city, are driving up numbers statewide: Hospitalizations hit their highest total Tuesday since July 22 (705). The positivity rate is also up.

As of Wednesday, the overall positivity rate for the 20 hotspot ZIP codes was 5.1 percent (Brooklyn - 2.2%; Orange County -- 3.9%; Rockland County -- 4.5%; Broom County -- 6.1%), Cuomo said. The statewide infection rate hit 1.25 percent; without the hotspot areas, it would be around 1.05 percent, the governor said.

No known positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in connection to the Bedminster, New Jersey, fundraiser President Donald Trump attended last week, hours before he was diagnosed with the virus, health officials said Wednesday.

The White House supplied state officials with a list of at least 206 people who were in attendance at the indoor fundraiser, which White House officials say they allowed to proceed despite knowing Trump had been exposed.

New Jersey health officials said their contact tracing investigation is ongoing, given the 14-day monitoring window. To date, they say they've been able to inform 184 of the 206 attendees about their exposure and provide recommendations regarding self-monitoring and testing. The Somerset County Department of Health has also contacted staff of the club who were present at the Oct. 1 event.

October 6, 2020

New York is ramping up its crackdown on COVID-19 hotspot "clusters," with new rules that include closures of schools and businesses, bans on mass gatherings and restrictions on restaurants, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

Cuomo announced what he called a "Cluster Action Initiative" to try and combat the virus's spread -- essentially, concentric shapes with different levels of restriction, centered on clusters based on the number of cases. He identified one such cluster in south Brooklyn and two in Queens, with a central area (red), a surrounding area (orange) and a precautionary area (yellow). There are other clusters outside the city as well, in places like Rockland and Orange counties where the rollbacks will take place as well.

In red areas, mass gatherings are prohibited, schools and non-essential businesses are closed, dining is takeout only and houses of worship are limited in capacity. These are the areas that have been deemed to be most at-risk of spreading COVID-19, with numbers already spiking.

Schools in orange zones would also be closed and mass gatherings limited to 10 people maximum, indoor or outdoor. Places of worship would be limited to 33 percent capacity or 25 people, whichever is fewer, and high-risk businesses (like gyms and salons) would have to close, though others could stay open. Only outdoor dining would be allowed in orange areas, with each table limited to 4 people maximum.

Schools in the yellow zones can be open with mandatory weekly testing for students and staff, and all businesses can remain open as well. Places of worship can maintain 50 percent capacity, and gatherings are limited to 25 people. Indoor dining will also be also to continue in those areas.

October 5, 2020

About 300 public and private schools in nine New York City hotspot ZIP codes, all in Brooklyn and Queens, will switch to all-remote learning Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday, taking a more immediate approach to curb the city's biggest virus problem in months than the one its mayor had proposed a day earlier.

While the governor did not move to reimpose restrictions on nonessential businesses and indoor dining as Mayor Bill de Blasio had proposed, the mayor said Monday, after Cuomo's briefing, that the city would move ahead with that as planned Wednesday morning unless the state says otherwise. It's not clear if he also planned to still suspend indoor dining in 12 watchlist ZIP codes, also in Brooklyn and Queens, that have yet to hit a certain seven-day positivity threshold.

"Until there is a different plan, we are preparing to implement this plan," de Blasio said when asked about the discrepancy. "The state is reviewing that right now. But we're going to be ready to move as early as Wednesday morning. If the state comes back with a modification, we'll of course follow that modification."

As for the discrepancy between the state and city plans regarding businesses, the mayor said it's part of an "ongoing conversation" between the two entities, and that there is "legitimate concern from both the city and state on how to balance the factors." Cuomo said no decision had been made on whether to close some businesses, and wanted to wait for more information before making a ruling.

Asked why he didn't immediately impose a similar spate of restrictions, Cuomo said schools and large gatherings are top priority given the greater potential for mass spread. In that vein, the governor took a step Monday de Blasio did not propose in his briefing a day earlier and put houses of worship on strict notice. Cuomo threatened state action to close them if community leaders do not agree to abide by and enforce the rules on facial coverings and social distancing.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Gov Phil Murphy said Monday that no one should have come in person last week to President Donald Trump's fundraiser at his Bedminster golf club because of the risk of COVID-19 infection.

White House officials acknowledged last week they knew of the president's exposure risk before he traveled to the Garden State for Thursday's event but allowed it to proceed anyway. A spokesman later said Trump didn't have any contact with donors or staff that would be considered close, based on the CDC guidelines of longer than 15 minutes and within 6 feet.

In a series of TV appearances Monday, Murphy issued yet another condemnation, calling the trip the “wrong decision at every level.” He said the fundraiser should have been canceled.

October 4, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says all non-essential businesses, public and private schools will close Wednesday in nine zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens, if approved by the state, after reporting coronavirus cases above a 3 percent positivity rate for at least seven consecutive days.

The closures would impact roughly half a million people in the following zip codes: 11691 (Edgemere/Far Rockaway), 11219 (Borough Park), 11223 (Gravesend/Homecrest), 11230 (Midwood), 11204 (Bensonhurt/Mapleton), 11210 (Flatlands/Midwood), 11229 (Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay), 11415 (Kew Gardens), 11367 (Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok).

Within those nine zip codes, the mayor says approximately 100 public and 200 non-public schools would be closed. Students in the identified zip codes would be allowed to return to their schools on Monday and Tuesday to meet with teachers and plan for a school-wide return to remote learning.

"This was not an easy choice to make, and let me be clear: we haven’t seen any issues in these schools. We must, however, be proactive about the safety and health of New Yorkers," de Blasio said. "This is out of an abundance of caution and in coordination with a larger strategy that mirrors what we did successfully in the spring of a larger shutdown to make ensure we stopped the spread."

Schools in affected ZIP codes could theoretically switch all-remote for as little as two weeks or as many as four weeks, depending on success of efforts to lower positivity rate, contain the clusters, de Blasio says.

New York City’s teacher’s union had been demanding that the city close public schools in the handful of neighborhood where the virus was spreading fast. Michael Mulgew, president of the union, called the decision to close schools "one that helps protect our schools, our neighborhoods, and ultimately our city."

Indoor and outdoor dining services would be pulled from restaurants as well, with dining options reserved to take-out orders and delivery. Shuls and other house of worships, the mayor says, would not be closed but limited to individual worship, the mayor's deputy press secretary confirmed in a tweet.

De Blasio says Wednesday was selected to begin these drastic rollbacks in the city's reopening strategy to allow the impacted communities enough time to prepare for the expected closures.

Another 11 zip codes that the city says are cause for alarm but don't yet reach the 3 percent positivity threshold could also face their own setbacks. De Blasio says part of the city's proposal to the state includes closing indoor dining, gyms and pools in these 11 zip codes, but stopped short of extending closures to schools and other businesses deemed non-essential.

"We are waiting for the state's approval and support before we move forward," de Blasio reiterated during his Sunday announcement. "This is an action being taken out of an abundance of caution."

The decision to "rewind" part of the city's reopening comes days after hundreds of thousands of students returned to school for in-person instruction and restaurants in New York City were allowed to serve customers inside once again.

Over the past two weeks, the number of new cases of the virus has been rising in pockets of the city, predominantly in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that are home to the city’s large Orthodox Jewish population.

Nearly 1,100 people have tested positive in Brooklyn in just the last four days, according to state figures.

If the state approves de Blasio's proposed rollbacks, the mayor has set two potential scenarios to that would trigger communities' reopening steps.

This announcement comes on the heels of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's instruction to send New York State Police to begin "aggressive" enforcement throughout the zip codes reporting the highest rates of positivity for the coronavirus.

Citing a lack of action from local governments, the New York governor told reporters on a conference call Sunday the time for education is over.

"We are putting together a task force... and we will be doing targeted enforcement in each of these clusters," he said. "But it's the same thing we did with bars and restaurants which was very effective. It will be targeted enforcement. It will not be public education, we are past that point."

The collection of 20 zip codes identified by state health officials struggling to contain recent outbreaks had a positivity rate of 4.8 percent yesterday, Cuomo said. The percentage is down slightly from the day before, which the state reported was 5.2 percent, but the governor said weekend data "can be a little off."

October 3, 2020

New York state’s daily count of new coronavirus cases is continuing on an upward trend.

The state reported on Saturday that there were more than 1,700 new confirmed cases on Friday, up slightly from the day before — case totals not seen in New York since May.

Some of the hotspots in the state included the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where more than 350 people tested positive, and in suburban Rockland County, which saw at least 120 new cases.

New York City health officials added yet another ZIP code to the burgeoning cluster situation in Brooklyn and Queens late Friday, bringing its current number of hotspot ZIP codes to 12 and identifying four separate clusters.

They now account for about 30 percent of all new cases citywide over the last two weeks despite representing less than 9 percent of the city's population. The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for those ZIP codes is down slightly from 5.86 percent to 5.72 percent, while that overall metric for the city is 1.42 percent.

"We'll know a lot more over the next few days. We're hovering around a level right now that's 50 percent of the way to the standard that would cause us greater concern citywide," the mayor told WNYC's Brian Lehrer on Friday, referring to the 3 percent citywide threshold that would immediately shutter New York City public schools.

New York recorded the results of more than 134,000 virus tests Friday, the most ever performed in a single day.

“This pandemic is not over,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. He added: “My message to New Yorkers is please stay vigilant.”

The hardest hit regions of the state, on a per capita basis, were the Southern Tier area along the Pennsylvania border and the Mid-Hudson Valley.

Both of those areas were seeing the virus spread at a rate that, if they were independent states, they would be subject to New York’s rules requiring out-of-state travelers to quarantine.

The quarantine cutoff, currently for states like Illinois, Colorado and Florida, is based on a seven-day rolling average of positive cases exceeding 10 per 100,000 residents.

The Southern Tier’s average Friday was at 17 per 100,000.

An often-cited measure of the virus’ spread — the percentage of tests that come back positive — remained low, about 1.3 percent.

October 2, 2020

The White House learned of Hope Hicks' positive coronavirus test -- and exposure to the virus by President Donald Trump and others -- before Trump arrived in New Jersey for an indoor fundraiser on Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said, but allowed the event to go forward anyway.

Hours after the fundraiser at Trump's Bedminster golf club, the president was diagnosed with COVID-19.

"Hope Hicks, we discovered (her positive test) as Marine One was taking off yesterday," Meadows said. "We pulled some of the people traveling in close contact."

Hicks, a senior advisor to Trump, traveled with the president on Air Force One and Marine One on Tuesday and Wednesday. CDC guidelines recommend anyone in close contact with an infected person to quarantine, but Trump traveled to New Jersey and held the indoor fundraiser. Meadows did not explain why.

"It was deemed safe for the president to go," White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. "He socially distanced, it was an outdoor event and it was deemed safe by White House operations."

The state of New Jersey has started contact tracing on Friday for people who attended the fundraiser at Trump's Bedminster golf club.

Instead of his normal coronavirus news conference, on Friday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy held a roundtable discussion in a county responsible for the most recent cases of COVID-19.

Murphy and state officials were joined by members of the Ocean County community and religious communities at the 1 p.m. event held outdoors.

Murphy said that over the past few weeks, Ocean County has led the state in cases per capita, positivity rate and other key coronavirus metrics.

Just on Friday alone, Ocean County reported nearly 200 new COVID-19 cases and a positivity rate of nearly 16%, Murphy said. Hot spot Lakewood, specifically had a positivity rate of nearly 28%, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

Murphy noted that other New Jersey communities are also seeing upticks of cases. He said no hatred should be tolerated as all of New Jersey is in the fight against the virus together.

Nearly 207,000 COVID-19 cases had been reported in New Jersey with nearly 800 new cases reported on Friday. At least 14,344 people are confirmed to have died of coronavirus-related complications.

Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to impose fines on local governments over lacking compliance Friday, saying the state's hotspots are a "significant problem" and a product of failed enforcement of COVID safety protocols and regulations.

"The numbers are continuing to go up in many of these ZIP codes," Cuomo said on a telebriefing with reporters shortly after New York City reported its highest daily COVID case average in well over a month. "If local governments don't step up compliance, they can actually be in violation of the law and they can be fined."

By law, any potential fines could be upwards of $10,000 a day, though certain assessments would have to be made as far as compliance and enforcement steps and whether a local government's actions meet the standard for penalty.

The governor, for the third time in three days, slammed the notion that these communities needed more education and outreach, saying we're beyond that: "Compliance is not public education. People know what the rules are. Local governments have to do enforcement. It's the law. Their job is to enforce the law."

To date, New York has reported 461,629 coronavirus cases and 25,497 deaths. Meanwhile, Connecticut has seen 58,897 cases and 4,513 deaths related to the virus.

October 1, 2020

Twenty ZIP codes considered to be "areas of concern" in New York state given alarming increases in COVID cases now are averaging a 6.5 percent positivity rate, a full percentage point increase overnight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

They now account for 26 percent of all statewide cases the last two weeks, despite representing just 6 percent of New York's total population.

Cuomo once again called on local governments in New York City, home to half of those ZIP codes, and in Rockland and Orange counties to aggressively executive compliance and test-and-trace strategies, warning of potential consequences New Yorkers have experienced all too painfully already over the last year.

The 20 ZIP codes are driving a slow uptick in the state's daily infection rate, which hit 1.3 Thursday. Prior to the clusters, it had a 38-day stretch below 1 percent, though the seven-day rolling average is still around that number. Hospitalizations are also ticking up statewide, climbing back above 600, a 50 percent jump in recent weeks, Cuomo has said. Sadly, more deaths could follow -- tragedy the hardest-hit state in America can least afford to endure, to any degree, again.

In New York City, the increases come as the final wave of blended-learning students return to physical classrooms for the first time Thursday, adding to the hundreds of thousands already in school buildings and fueling deeply intensifying concerns as more and more neighborhoods appear to be affected by the clusters.

Schools across New York have reported that at least 1,200 students, teachers and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday, though that number is almost certain to be an undercount.

As of Tuesday, 693 public and private schools across the state had reported at least one infection since classes began to resume in early September. Schools reported that over 700 students and 400 school staff had tested positive for the virus.

No information was available on whether the sick students had any opportunity to infect other members of their school community, or whether they had even returned to in-person learning before they tested positive.

Amid the heightened concerns, Cuomo debuted a new, free COVID alert app Thursday that notifies users if they've spent more than 10 minutes within six feet of someone who tested positive. Find more details on that here.

To date, New York has reported 460,031 coronavirus cases and 25,490 virus-related deaths.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has seen 205,889 coronavirus cases and 16,127 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths. Connecticut has reported 57,742 cases and 4,511 deaths related to the virus.

September 30, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued his harshest rebuke yet of local governments in New York City, Rockland County and Orange County Wednesday, blaming their "incompetence" for burgeoning COVID clusters and warning, "Either you do the job or people will die."

"We know how to contain the infection rate. We're just not doing it with these clusters," the governor said in a telebriefing with reporters. "This kind of incompetent activity will cost lives. I'm not going to let it happen."

Right now, the state's 20 hotspot ZIP codes are averaging an infection rate more than five times the statewide average, Cuomo said Wednesday. Those 20 ZIP codes account for 23 percent of new statewide cases despite representing just 6 percent of New York's population, he added. Rockland County posted the highest daily positivity rates of all New York counties Wednesday by far (6.5 percent).

At this point, the governor describes the problem as a "cluster problem," albeit the largest one he said the state has had to address since the one in New Rochelle in March, which marked the first "superspreader event" in New York for COVID-19.

To date, New York has reported 458,649 coronavirus cases and 25,479 deaths related to the virus.

At Wednesday's COVID-19 news conference, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the state had released an online dashboard tracking COVID-19 cases at schools.

The dashboard doesn't specifically name schools or districts. Rather, it breaks down cases by counties.

The dashboard lists "outbreaks" -- defined as two or more lab confirmed virus cases within students of staff who don't share a household within 14 days -- and cases that are linked to "in-school transmission."

In-school transmission is defined as "transmission between students and/or school staff that occurs on school property in the context of curricular activities."

There are 11 in-school transmission outbreaks in 11 different schools as of Wednesday, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. The schools are located in Bergen, Burlington (2 outbreaks), Cape May (3), Gloucester (2), Ocean, Passaic and Sussex counties.

There have been a total of 43 cases due to school transmission -- 10 each in Cape May and Gloucester counties. Some of those cases include staff that were in session prior to school opening, officials said.

On Wednesday, Murphy announced 722 new COVID-19 cases. He expressed alarm at the positivity rate being at 3% for the first time since mid July.

Murphy again, reiterated that Ocean County is leading the way in new cases. Persichilli said the positivity rate in Lakewood is 27%. The state is working with religious and local officials to try and slow the spread of the virus. Murphy said they would hold a roundtable-like event in the county on Friday.

Since the start of the outbreak, more than 205,000 positive COVID-19 cases had been reported. At least 14,335 people are confirmed to have died from coronavirus-related complications. Nine new deaths were announced Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 57,550 cases and 4,508 COVID-19-related deaths.

September 29, 2020

The overall number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York City is ticking up, as officials fight to combat soaring infection rates in certain neighborhoods in recent weeks that threaten to evolve into more widespread transmission. Outbreaks in Rockland and Orange counties are also fueling heightened concern -- to a degree Gov. Andrew Cuomo said makes it the "largest cluster" the state has addressed.

"We have at this point a cluster problem. A cluster problem is caused by lack of compliance," Cuomo said Tuesday. "Why was there lack of compliance? Because the local government failed to do its compliance job. If you do not now control and attack the cluster, you have community spread. We're not there yet."

Cuomo warned if local governments didn't improve compliance and attack the clusters from all sides, reopening rollbacks are on the table -- and soon.

The clusters in Brooklyn and Queens are starting to affect the city's daily positivity rate overall, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday, while the statewide rate remains just above 1 percent. For the first time, the daily indicator on that metric by city data was above 3 percent by the mayor's data, which he described as cause for "extreme concern."

While the mayor urged positivity rates be taken into context on a weekly average, which would put the city's at 1.38 percent Tuesday, he said more extensive actions had to be taken in certain ZIP codes to curb the spread. In ZIP codes of concern, a longer 14-day average is used because they're more highly influenced by a larger testing push or spikes within the neighborhood, the city health department said.

If that seven-day rolling average hits 3 percent, de Blasio said public schools, which will complete their phased reopening this week, will be re-closed.

n addition to outreach efforts, the mayor said new enforcement actions effective Tuesday include fines for mask refusal. The maximum fine for not wearing a mask is $1,000.

He also warned measures like bans on social gatherings above 10 people and non-essential business closures may be next.

At the same time New York battles emerging clusters, COVID cases continue to rise at concerning rates nationally and globally, prompting Cuomo to issue a new quarantine order on international travel. The tri-state quarantine list got an update Tuesday, with Arizona and Virginia being removed and Colorado the latest addition. The total number of U.S. states and territories from which travelers arriving to the tri-state area must quarantine for 14 days now stands at 34.

As of Tuesday, those areas are Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

September 28, 2020

Alarmed by soaring infection rates in nearly a dozen New York ZIP codes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo felt compelled to hold a second conference call in two hours Monday to discuss the clusters and warned drastic measures may come next.

Of 1,769 ZIP codes in the state, Cuomo said 10 are averaging an infection rate of about 15 percent compared with the overall statewide infection rate of 1.5 percent as of Monday. Those 10 ZIP codes account for 25 percent of the state's new daily cases despite representing just 2.9 percent of the state's population.

Cuomo stressed the state would immediately launch targeted outreach to those communities, as he did in his first call earlier Monday, and said his administration would make 200 rapid testing machines immediately available. He also called on local governments in the affected areas to reach out to the state for assistance.

Without improvement, he warned more "drastic alternatives" may be required to curb the spread, echoing recent warnings from New York City officials.

Data is starting to show an uptick in the number of hospitalized patients in two hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens; hospitalizations tend to lag new cases and deaths lag hospitalizations, meaning the city that has lost at least 21,000 people to COVID already -- and likely more than that -- may lose even more lives. New York state's daily toll hit 11 Monday, much lower than the 800 a day in April but significantly higher than the single-digit numbers most common as of late.

The nine New York City ZIP codes identified by the city as seeing extensive COVID growth over the last two weeks account for more than 25 percent of new cases citywide despite representing just under 7 percent of the city's overall population. And those numbers are continuing to increase on a daily basis.

According to the city's Department of Health, the most worrisome ZIP codes include the Gravesend/Homecrest area, where the positivity rate hit 6.72 percent Monday. Other problems areas include Midwood (5.53 percent), Kew Gardens (3.61 percent), Edgemere/Far Rockaway (3.98 percent), Borough Park (5.26 percent), Bensonhurst/Mapleton (5.15 percent), Sheepshead Bay (4.05 percent), Flatlands/Midwood (4.08 percent) and Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok (3.04 percent).

In addition to those nine ZIP codes, health officials identified three others they say are emerging points of concern: Rego Park (2.49 percent positivity rate), Kensington/Windsor Terrace (2.5 percent) and Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay (2.63 percent). Williamsburg (1.84 percent) remains an area the department is continuing to observe, even though its positivity rate is below 2 percent.

September 27, 2020

The union representing New York City's principals and other top school administrators delivered a "no confidence" vote for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza days before the majority of students opting for in-person learning were set to return to schools.

Alongside its vote, the union wants control over New York City schools to be under the purview of the state.

"CSA calls on Mayor de Blasio to cede mayoral control of the Department of Education for the remainder of this health crisis and for Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza to seek the immediate intervention of the New York State Education Department," the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators wrote Sunday.

The vote comes a day after the union blasted de Blasio over an agreement announced late Friday that allows educators to work remotely if they live with family vulnerable to the coronavirus.

It was not immediately clear how this allowance would impact New York City schools already hurt by staffing shortages. The agreement made with teachers came four days before elementary schools reopen Tuesday.

"I think parents should be confident that any student that arrives at a building will receive the utmost care," Mark Cannizzaro, president of the principals' union, said on a conference call Sunday afternoon. Come Tuesday, he says, principals will still be at schools alongside teaching staff and supervisors.

Among the union's top concerns, Cannizzaro says, are decisions made by city leadership too close to the reopening of school buildings and without notification prior to the schools' administrators. Cannizzaro said principals were forced to make further last-minute changes over the weekend after receiving no prior information about the deal made with the United Federal of Teachers.

The last-minute scramble to fill schools has prompted some to change their plans. On Saturday, Tottenville High School on Staten Island announced an entirely virtual plan to accommodate students. Principal Battista said students will still be welcome into school this week, but all learning will be done virtually with staff providing supervision to those attending in person.

"For the past six months, we've worked with our labor partners to navigate completely uncharted waters and accomplish our shared goal of serving students this fall. We'll continue this work to guarantee a safe, health and successful open for all. This week, more kids will be safely sitting in New York City classrooms that in any other major American city - a testament to city leadership and our educators' commitment to their students, and the importance of in-person education," DOE Press Secretary Miranda Barbot said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

As of last week, 46 percent of New York City students have chosen all-remote, up from 42 percent the week prior.

The return to schools last week went forward without too many hiccups, but pre-kindergarten and special education students that returned make up a fraction of the nearly half million heading back later this week.

September 26, 2020

More than 1,000 New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 in a single day, marking the first time since June 5 the state has seen a daily number that high.

The number of positive tests reported daily in the state has been steadily inching up in recent weeks, a trend possibly related to increasing numbers of businesses reopening, college campuses reopening and children returning to school. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday there were 1,005 positive cases tallied on the previous day, Friday, out of 99,953 tests, for a 1% positive rate.

From late July through the start of September the state was seeing an average of around 660 people test positive per day. In the seven-day period that ended Friday, the state had averaged 817 positive tests per day.

Cuomo aide Gareth Rhodes stressed Saturday that the new positive-case number came out of nearly 100,000 tests, compared to about 60,000 tests daily in June.

“Is there cause for concern? As long as COVID is here, yes,” Rhodes posted on Twitter, noting that certain ZIP codes in Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley have seen increases in new cases and hospital admissions. "Key is ensuring these clusters don’t spread into neighboring/other ZIPs.”

Rhodes also noted improving numbers among college-aged people, suggesting better compliance on campus.

That number of daily positive tests in a state of more than 19 million people still puts New York in a much better position than many other states. Florida, for instance, reported 2,795 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

And New York is in a far better situation than in April, when the number of positive tests per day routinely topped 9,000, even though tests then were hard to get and people were being encouraged not to seek one unless they were gravely ill.

Still, the uptick has been a cause for concern. In New York City, health officials have sounded alarms about a rising number of cases in certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens where many private religious schools opened for in-person instruction in early September, warning that those communities could see severe restrictions on public gatherings reinstated if current trends continue.

Public school students in New York City's elementary, middle and high schools are set to resume in-person instruction next week Sept. 29 and Oct. 1.

Days before the city was scheduled to resume in-person classes for the majority of students who opted for blended learning, one of the largest high schools told parents it was pivoting all students to virtual instruction. The principal of Tottenville High School on Staten Island wrote a letter to parents on Saturday informing students of last-minute change due to "multiple variables out of our control" and "begin the school year with virtual instruction while having in-person supervision and supports as needed."

"To execute the original plan of blended and remote learning, Tottenville High School would need an excess of additional teachers that is just not presently available," Principal Gina Battista wrote. "Due to this decision, our students will be provided with live (synchronous) virtual and asynchronous instruction five days a week by our own Tottenville faculty."

Department of Education Spokesperson Nathaniel Steyer expanded upon the school's announcement, saying the school would still offer in-person classes next week.

"The idea that Tottenville has gone fully remote is patently false. They will welcome students in person on October 1 like high schools across the City." Steyer wrote in a statement.

September 25, 2020

A screaming, unmasked heckler interrupted the start -- and later additional parts -- of a briefing by health officials in Brooklyn Friday as they provided an update on emerging COVID clusters there and in Queens that have become so severe they may prompt the first new shutdowns in New York City in months.

The heckler identified himself as Heshy Tischler, a regular on the anti-mask, anti-crowd restriction circuit, and repeatedly interrupted President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals Mitchell Katz, calling him a "filthy animal" as he discussed COVID safety.

The briefing, which also included Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Dr. Dave Chokshi, lasted less than 20 minutes; it's unclear if the heckler affected the timing. In the brief time he spoke, Chokshi made it clear that the situation is dire.

"This may be the most precarious moment that we're facing since we have emerged from lockdown," Chokshi said, warning the clusters could soon evolve into widespread transmission. "We will move as swiftly as the situation warrants."

The clusters have seen such alarming growth in the past week -- and again over the past few days -- that the health department says reopening rollbacks may be implemented for the first time in the city's recovery period if progress is not made. It set a Monday deadline for that.

The increase in positive COVID cases was largest in the Gravesend/Homecrest area, where the positivity rate hit 6 percent Thursday. Other problems areas include Midwood (4.95 percent), Edgemere/Far Rockaway (4.08 percent), Kew Gardens (3.99 percent), Borough Park (3.53 percent), Bensonhurst/Mapleton (3.16 percent), Sheepshead Bay (3.07 percent), Flatlands/Midwood (3.06 percent) and Williamsburg (1.67 percent).

While some of those areas saw slight declines in positivity rates since the health department's last update earlier this week (like Williamsburg, Bensonhurst and Borough Park), the others have seen notable upticks -- and the cluster appears to be affecting more neighborhoods than it had been earlier this week.

The city's implementation of the Open Streets and Open Restaurants initiatives during the course of the ongoing pandemic was so successful, it plans to make them permanent, year-round programs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday.

The Open Restaurants program, which rolled out this summer, expands seating options for restaurants on select restaurant corridors citywide by temporarily closing streets to traffic to create outdoor dining space.

Meanwhile, the Open Streets initiative was successfully introduced late spring. The idea was to provide pedestrians enough room to enjoy the outdoors while adhering to social distancing norms by closing certain streets to traffic.

To date, 453,755 coronavirus cases have been reported in New York, with 25,446 deaths attributed to the virus.

Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey health officials are seeing an uptick of coronavirus cases in some counties.

Murphy at his Friday news conference singled out Ocean County for the most alarming increase, calling it a "hot spot." Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that more than 400 new cases have been reported in Ocean County since Monday, with Lakewood the center of the new cases.

Young people between 18 to 29 years old are making up a large percentage of the new Ocean County cases.

Gloucester County along with Bergen, Middlesex and Monmouth counties are also seeing an uptick in cases.

On Friday, Murphy announced 612 more people had tested positive for COVID-19 statewide, bringing the case total since the pandemic began to more than 202,000.

Connecticut has 56,587 coronavirus cases to date, and 4,501 COVID-related deaths.

September 24, 2020

Even as New York City officials combat a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases in multiple neighborhoods, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday it was already time to start looking to and planning for the future.

“I don’t want for a moment to forget what we experienced. It’s unforgettable, very sadly, March, April, one of the worst times in the history of this city,” de Blasio said in a major policy address outside Manhattan's Alexandria Center for Life Science. “I don’t want to minimize how bad it has been and how long it’ll linger with us.”

But he said that thanks to the work of first responders and residents alike, the city has turned the corner.

De Blasio laid out the foundations of what he called the city's "recovery agenda," saying "public health is economic health."

There were four core principles to the agenda: continued progress against COVID-19, investment in innovation in public health research, creation of new jobs to improve public health, and focus on historically underserved communities.

The city is expected to offer more details on De Blasio's agenda in the coming weeks -- though with only 15 months left before he leaves office, it remains to be seen how much change is possible before the next mayor takes over.

Yet even as de Blasio laid out his vision for the future, city employees just a few miles away were still battling the present crisis. On Wednesday, the mayor said "urgent action" like outreach, education and social distancing/mask enforcement were being taken to stop the increased spread of the coronavirus in six Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods. De Blasio didn't indicate any potential rollbacks of reopenings, but he didn't rule anything out either, vowing to do, "Whatever it takes."

On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for a Congressional oversights investigation into what they say is the Trump Administration's politicization of government functions that impeded the country's appropriate response to the ongoing pandemic.

Two weeks ago, Cuomo made the announcement that on Sept. 14 the MTA would start issuing fines to passengers who do not comply with wearing a mask. A little over a week after the mask fine went into effect, MTA data showed over 3,000 public interactions with riders, but only two summonses issued -- ultimately revealing the vast majority of MTA riders are following the mask rule.

To date, 452,847 coronavirus cases have been reported in New York, with 25,439 deaths attributed to the virus.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci put a focus on New Jersey’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as he joined Gov. Phil Murphy for a Facebook Live chat Thursday morning.

During the conversation, Fauci warned that cases will occur as temps as temps cool and more people gather indoors. He said a plan must be in place to slow the spread.

He also offered advice on how people can protect themselves from the virus.

New Jersey has reported almost 202,000 positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. At least 14,300 people were confirmed to have died from coronavirus-related complications in New Jersey.

Connecticut has reported 56,472 cases and 4,499 deaths related to the virus.

September 23, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that "urgent action" is needed to try to contain a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases, which he says is affecting "multiple neighborhoods simultaneously" and could spiral to others.

Six neighborhoods are experiencing COVID case increases, though four have accounted for one in five new ones citywide since the weekend -- and those have been lumped into one group called the Ocean Parkway Cluster.

At this point, it appears any "urgent action," at least initially, will focus on education, outreach and enforcement. The mayor didn't indicate any potential rollbacks of reopenings at this time, but he didn't rule anything out either.

Asked later how far he would go to contain the outbreak, de Blasio said, "Whatever it takes," noting the increase in numbers over the last week has been dramatic. He said the city would undertake an extensive effort to "stop this trend," but that he believes the tide can be turned if community compliance improves.

Separately, de Blasio said he was extending his previously announced City Hall furloughs to managerial and unrepresented employees at city agencies, requiring a total of more than 9,000 people to take five unpaid days off by March. The furloughs will save the city a much needed $21 million amid severe budget woes.

The upcoming New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square will be "a virtually enhanced celebration," the event's organizers announced Wednesday.

With Jan. 1, 2021 now 100 days away, the organizers provided a preliminary teaser of how the event will change in response to the changes and challenges of 2020. Although the scaled-back and socially-distanced live elements are still to be determined, an extremely limited group of in-person honorees, socially distanced, who will reflect the themes, challenges and inspirations of 2020 will take part in the celebration.

To date, 451,892 New Yorkers have tested positive for coronavirus, with 25,437 deaths, the state reports.

Meanwhile, New Jersey is a dozen cases shy from reaching the 201,000 mark of confirmed coronavirus cases. So far, 16,082 confirmed and probable deaths have been attributed to virus.

September 22, 2020

It has been nearly three months since tri-state governors Andrew Cuomo, Phil Murphy and Ned Lamont implemented a travel restriction in an effort to protect their states' hard-earned progress against COVID-19 as cases surged elsewhere across the country. Thirty-five U.S. "hotspots" are on the list as of Tuesday, with Cuomo adding Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Wyoming.

No states were removed.

The rolling quarantine list, which applies to U.S. states and jurisdictions with a seven-day COVID positivity rate of 10 percent or higher, requires travelers from those areas to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in the tri-state area. In New York, thousands of dollars in fines may accompany noncompliance with the order.

September 21, 2020

Monday’s return to New York City schools wasn't the return anyone planned for. For most, it wasn't a return at all.

Only pre-kindergarten and some special education students were scheduled to end a six-month absence from school buildings after a last-minute decision to postpone, for the second time, plans to be among the first big districts to resume in-person instruction after the coronavirus forced students and staff home.

More than a half-million students will ultimately start in-person in school buildings at some point in the next few weeks, but the number of those choosing all-remote has continued to rise. As of Monday, 46 percent of New York City students have chosen all-remote, up from 42 percent a week ago. A month before the start of school, Mayor Bill de Blasio had said about two-thirds planned to go in person.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday he is extending the state's moratorium on COVID-related commercial evictions and foreclosures an additional month.

The extension will be in place until Oct. 20, according to the state.

The moratorium extends protections that are already in place for commercial tenants and mortgagors related to the financial toll seen by business owners as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

To date, New York has reported 450,473 coronavirus cases and 25,428 related deaths.

Meanwhile in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that the Garden State has surpassed 200,000 coronavirus cases.

Murphy announced Monday that another 396 people in new Jersey had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total of cases since the start of the outbreak in March to more than 200,000. At least 14,278 people are confirmed to have died from virus-related complications.

Additionally, New Jersey announced that applications are now open for the new COVID-19 child care tuition assistance program the Murphy Administration has created to help families with child care costs as schools open remotely.

Connecticut has reported 56,024 cases and 4,495 COVID-19-associated deaths.

September 20, 2020

The estimated 90,000 young students scheduled to return to schools on Monday are expected to test the city's readiness to open the remaining buildings to the majority of students one week later.

Once in-person does start for all public school students, most of the more than 1 million in New York City will be in the classroom one to three days a week and learning remotely the rest of the time.

September 19, 2020

In the predawn hours of March 30, Dr. Deborah Birx stepped in front of the camera on the White House lawn and made an alarming prediction about the coronavirus, which had, by then, killed fewer than 3,000 people in the United States.

"If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we can get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities," Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told Savannah Guthrie of NBC News' "Today" show.

"We don't even want to see that," she added, before Guthrie cut her off.

"I know, but you kind of take my breath away with that," Guthrie said. "Because what I hear you saying is that's sort of the best-case scenario."

"The best-case scenario," Birx replied, "would be 100 percent of Americans doing precisely what is required."

On Saturday, Birx's prediction came true, as the number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. topped 200,000.

September 18, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yet another delay of in-person school for most New York City students Thursday, just days before the re-scheduled restart. Reaction was swift - and mixed, with parents and educators expressing some variation of frustration, concern and relief. There was also confusion.

De Blasio said on MSNBC Friday that as a New York City public school parent, he understands the frustration. But, he says, "We need to get it right."

"We are going to have our schools open for our parents and our kids, that's really what I think matters here,” the mayor said. "Next week there’s going to be almost 90,000 kids in New York City classrooms, the following week hundreds of thousands more. We’re going to be over half a million kids in classrooms in the next few weeks."

He also told MSNBC that while he needs "the health care situation to cooperate," he was confident in the new timeline because of how well New York has fought to keep the virus at bay, such as through social distancing and wearing of masks.

COVID-19 represents the "largest mass fatality incident in modern New York City history," prompting a surge in deaths that more than doubled the total reported to the medical examiner's office over last year, according to a new report from the mayor's office.

The findings were part of the COVID-19 section of the Mayor's Management Report for Fiscal Year 2020, which was released Thursday.

It said 65,712 deaths have been reported to the medical examiner's this year to date, compared with 30,964 a year earlier. According to city data, 36 percent of those 2020 deaths were either confirmed to be related to COVID-19 or probably linked to it but never confirmed via diagnosis.

U.S. health officials on Friday dropped a controversial piece of coronavirus guidance and said anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person should get tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention essentially returned to its previous testing guidance, getting rid of language posted last month that said people didn’t need to get tested if they didn't feel sick. That change had set off a rash of criticism from health experts who couldn't fathom why the nation's top public health agency would say such a thing amid the pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday for reversing controversial testing guidance that said asymptomatic people needn't get tested, tweeting, "That is not enough."

In an attempt to ensure bars and restaurants in areas where college students gather are abiding by COVID health measures, Cuomo also said Friday that the state will increase enforcement efforts around popular establishments frequented by college students.

With outbreaks linked to colleges and universities across the nation, and in the state, "these stepped-up efforts will help keep our students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding communities safe," according to the state.

For months, state officials have been cracking down on bars and restaurants violating public health rules concerning the pandemic. On Friday, New York announced it suspended the liquor licenses for 33 more bars and restaurants throughout the state for failure to adhere to coronavirus-related rules. This last round of suspensions brings the total number of liquor licenses suspended in the state during the coronavirus pandemic to 201.

To date, New York has seen 448,052 coronavirus cases and 25,423 deaths. Meanwhile, there have been 198,578 cases and 16,061 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths in New Jersey. Connecticut has reported 55,527 cases and 4,492 deaths.

September 17, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday he will delay the start of in-person school in New York City for grades 8-12 until October, bowing to pressure from unions and parents concerned about staffing shortages and other issues. The start of school for K-5 and K-8 schools will also be delayed, but by about a week.

Rather than have all public school students who opted for in-person learning to begin that Monday as scheduled, the mayor says the city will now adopt a phased approach to bring children back to the physical classroom.

Students in 3-K, pre-K and District 75, which serves special needs students, will start in-person classes on Monday as scheduled. Those in K-5 and K-8 schools will push their in-person start date to Sept. 29, while the start date for students in middle and high schools will now be Oct. 1. Remote instruction will begin citywide Monday for those whose in-person starts have been delayed.

De Blasio said the last-minute changes stemmed from ongoing conversations over the last month that culminated in lengthy talks Wednesday and, ultimately, the decision to stagger the in-person return. Different schools have different levels of readiness and he acknowledged "my colleagues raised real concerns."

As of Thursday, 447,262 New Yorkers across the state have tested positive for coronavirus, with 25,413 deaths related to the virus reported.

New Jersey residents earning more than $1 million a year will face higher income taxes, and about 800,000 lower- and middle-income families will get a tax rebate of up to $500 under a deal Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders announced Thursday.

Murphy cast the tax changes as necessary, given falling revenues because of the coronavirus pandemic's effect on the state's economy.

New Jersey has seen 198,361 coronavirus cases and 16,057 confirmed and probable COVID deaths throughout the state. Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 55,386 cases and 4,488 deaths to date.

September 16, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio is furloughing his City Hall staff, including himself.

The measure, announced Wednesday, is a way to save money due to the budget constraints brought on by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting Oct. 1, through March, every mayoral office employee -- nearly 500 individuals -- will have to take an unpaid, weeklong (five days) furlough at some point, de Blasio said.

"This is a step you never want to see," the mayor said, as he highlighted the hard work of his staff particularly during the pandemic. However, he stressed the decision is necessary and will bring some financial savings to the city -- all the while urging the federal government once again for direct financial assistance.

The news comes as New York City's already delayed school year launched its remote start Wednesday, a soft opening intended to serve as a prologue to next week's in-person return for more than a half-million students.

Yet the number of those requesting all-remote has only gone up recently. As of the last update, 42 percent of New York City students have opted to go all-remote. That's up 15 percentage points in two weeks. Despite promising for weeks that every student would get “live” or “synchronous” instruction from remote teachers, the city admitted Wednesday it doesn't have sufficient personnel to pull that off.

The mayor said they’ll make adjustments as they can. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said “asynchronous” or prerecorded instruction can be strong, too.

There have been 446,366 coronavirus cases in the state of New York as of Wednesday, with 25,410 virus-related deaths.

As New Jersey prepares for a fall amid coronavirus there is a worry that parties and large gathering among young people -- including a party hosted by YouTubers this week -- could be spreading COVID-19.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Phil Murphy and health officials addressed the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Murphy took the opportunity to call the hosts of Monday night's gathering in Seaside Heights as "knuckleheads."

As of Wednesday, New Jersey was nearing 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. At least 14,263 people are confirmed to have died from COVID-19 complications. Nine new deaths were reported Wednesday.

Murphy noted that for the second-straight day, there were more than 400 new COVID-19 cases reported on Wednesday. The rate of transmission remained at 1.06, meaning that each infect person is infecting slightly more than one other.

The Garden State reports 197,792 total coronavirus cases to date and 16,054 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 55,166 cases and 4,487 deaths.

September 15, 2020

A week after health officials warned Labor Day weekend could bring a possible uptick in COVID-19 cases, that holiday doesn't appear to have contributed to a surge in New York -- but out-of-state travel is still considered one of the core threats to the state's low infection rate.

Puerto Rico was added back to the tri-state quarantine list Tuesday, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced, while six states -- California, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio -- were removed, bringing the number of restricted U.S. areas to 30. Travelers to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from those 30 places must quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the tri-state area.

The rolling list, which applies to U.S. states and jurisdictions with a seven-day COVID positivity rate of 10 percent or higher, initially was announced jointly in late June by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Gov. Phil Murphy and Lamont in an effort to protect their states' hard-earned progress against COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, the restricted areas include: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Additionally, on Tuesday, Cuomo said he won't formally ban trick-or-treating this Halloween, but he won't necessarily encourage parents to take kids door-to-door either.

In an interview with News 12 on Long Island Tuesday, Cuomo said he would give parents "my advice and guidance."

"I would not ban trick-or-treaters going door to door. I don't think that's appropriate," the governor said. "You have neighbors - if you want to go knock on your neighbor's door, God bless you and I'm not going to tell you not to."

To date, New York has had 445,714 coronavirus cases and 25,405 deaths.

Meanwhile, the Garden State has reported 197,404 coronavirus cases and 16,043 confirmed and probable COVID-related deaths. Connecticut has had 55,031 cases and 4,485 virus-related deaths.

September 14, 2020

Monday marks exactly one week until the re-scheduled return of in-person classes in the nation's largest public school district. Yet parents should be forewarned it could be re-scheduled yet again, as New York City's biggest teachers' union continues to protest what it says is a raw deal on testing.

A total of 55 school-based Department of Education employees have tested positive for COVID-19, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. That's out of nearly 17,000 tested, marking a positivity rate around 0.3 percent, the mayor said.

While the 55 positive tests mark a minute percentage of DOE employees tested, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew says many tests administered two weeks ago are just now coming back. He also says the city isn't launching contact tracing efforts fast enough.

Mulgrew and educators across the five boroughs are pushing for de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza to move to an all-remote learning method for the upcoming school year, citing problems with the testing component of the deal they made with the city that staved off the first potential teachers' strike in decades. As part of that deal, de Blasio agreed to push in-person back from its initial start date of Sept. 10 to Sept. 21 and ramp up school-related testing.

The reopening of schools is not the solely the latest thing impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Further adjusting to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will march forward without crowds.

"It will not be the same parade we're used to," de Blasio said. "[Macy's is] reinventing the event for this moment in history. And you will be able to feel the spirit and the joy of that day."

The parade will not be live this year, but its reimagined format will still be available to watch on TV, the mayor said. Macy's said in a statement Monday the parade will keep its signature touchstones: giant helium balloons, floats, performers and, of course, Santa Claus.

To date, New York has had 444,948 coronavirus cases and 25,934 COVID-19-related deaths.

Meanwhile, as of Monday, New Jersey has seen 196,968 positive coronavirus cases and 16,034 confirmed and probable deaths related to the virus.

September 13, 2020

It's been exactly six months, to the day, since President Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency. On March 13, there were just under 1,900 cases reported in the U.S. Now, the country has more than 6.5 million cases. Six months ago, 47 people had died from COVID-19. According to an NBC News count, that number is more than 194,000.

Coronavirus cases are rising in several states, most notably in the Dakotas, where infections have been spurred by schools and universities reopening and mass gatherings like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew hundreds of thousands of people from across the country.

COVID-19 cases were growing by 5% or more, based on a weekly average to smooth out daily reporting, in 11 states as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University, an increase from eight states on Friday.

The states were Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Wisconsin hit a record high in its average of daily new cases, reporting 1,353 new infections, a roughly 32% increase from a week ago, the Hopkins data shows. Kansas and Montana both hit record highs for new deaths.

The new data comes two days after Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said current data on the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak is "disturbing," disagreeing with President Donald Trump, who said the U.S. outbreak was "rounding the corner."

September 12, 2020

Another weekend party in Washington Square Park has kept concerns high over a potential coronavirus spread at neighboring New York University as area colleges struggle to curb recent spikes.

Washington Square Park was the site of another crowded gathering Friday night that saw groups of young people singing and dancing into the early morning hours of Saturday.

Images of the nighttime partying show some in attendance wearing masks and practicing social distancing, but many others were not. NYPD officers stepped in around 1:30 a.m. to disperse those still lingering within the park.

It's unclear how many in the crowd were NYU students back for the fall semester but a similar party in last week drew the attention of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYU officials. At least 30 students have already been suspended by NYU for violating COVID protocols.

The school sent a letter to students Friday saying in part, "We know how smart and caring out students are and that none of you want to intentionally put the larger NYU community and our NYC neighbors at risk. So avoid gatherings where people aren't wearing masks or distancing. Stay vigilant."

But hours after that letter was sent, the Friday night party got underway. At least one student at nearby NYU said she doesn't like what she sees.

"I do feel bad for the freshmen that it's hard for them to make friends. But this behind us is not the answer to that," Megan Trout said.

NYU released another statement on Saturday expressing its concern about another weekend night of raucous partying said reports "suggest it was less crowded" than the previous weekend. The university also said its unclear how many in attendance have an affiliation to the school.

"This is what happens when you try and tie people down and hold them down, people find a way to do it," said NYU graduate James Delano.

Public Health Ambassadors from the school will be deployed as park entrances to hand out masks and other PPE. NYU said it hopes "the City will also deploy personnel to address events inside the Park."

"Our Parks Enforcement Patrol officers were patrolling the park last night - they corrected multiple amplified sound, alcohol and smoking conditions while also distributing masks and educating patrons on social distancing," said NYC Parks Press Officer Megan Moriarty in a statement.

September 11, 2020

Exactly six months ago Friday, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Half a year later, nearly 200,000 Americans -- about 15 percent of them New Yorkers -- have died of a virus no one had ever heard of this time last year. Thousands more will die, health officials warn -- and while daily COVID cases have been declining, fall presents new challenges.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls the post-Labor Day period a new phase in New York's war against COVID-19. Today, the state is in the midst of a 35-day streak with daily COVID positive test rates below 1 percent. Back in April, that daily positivity rate was closer to 60 percent in New York City.

The former epicenter of the national crisis has taken major reopening steps just over the last month -- allowing the return of gyms, malls and setting a date to resume indoor dining. In just over a week, New York City schools will open, becoming the nation's largest public school district to welcome most of its students back in person on a part-time basis.

Nearly 40 percent of New York parents have opted to start the year remotely amid ongoing concerns about kids' and teachers' safety in the age of COVID-19. There are ventilation questions. There are social distancing questions. There are face-covering questions. And there are very few clear-cut answers.

What will happen when flu season compounds the COVID threat? When will it truly feel safe to go out to eat indoors? When can we send our children to school with the confidence they won't become infected -- and then return home to infect us?

Amid the unknowns, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, is warning Americans not to let down their collective guard.

“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter, because it’s not going to be easy,” Fauci said Thursday during a panel of doctors from Harvard Medical School.

Parts of society may never recover. Millions have lost their jobs. The mental health and economic tolls are devastating -- and lasting. Officials say there may be no sign of any true return to a new normal until a widely distributable vaccine is available. And that could take half a year or longer.

In the meantime, Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio continue to urge New Yorkers to practice the precautions that bent the curve in the first place: Wash your hands. Socially distance. Wear a mask. And get tested.

September 10, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomed the imminent return of indoor dining in New York City Thursday, a day after the governor set the start date, but reminded New Yorkers in no uncertain terms that the strict regulations must be followed.

If the city's infection rate hits 2 percent over a seven-day rolling period (it hasn't done that since June), indoor dining may have to be paused while the city and state reevaluate, de Blasio said. That could indicate a dangerous trend.

The mayor's comments come on the heels of a new CDC report that found people who tested positive for COVID-19 in a number of states that have loosened restrictions (not New York) were about twice as likely to say they had dined out at a restaurant in the two weeks prior to getting sick. When the analysis was restricted to only those who tested COVID-positive without any other known exposure to a COVID-positive person, patients were also more likely to say they'd been to a bar or coffee shop. Notably, the CDC report did not distinguish between indoor and outdoor options. Dining out also wasn't isolated as a stand alone risk factor.

Also on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he expects substantial upticks in mass transit use as New York City and the rest of the tri-state area take more reopening steps in the coming months -- and he wants people who ride subways and rails to feel safe.

To that end, the governor said Thursday he was ordering the implementation of a $50 fine for MTA passengers who refuse to wear masks on public transportation.

To date, New York has recorded 441,911 coronavirus cases throughout the state with 25,377 deaths.

Meanwhile, as of Thursday, there have been 195,414 New Jerseyans with the virus and 16,014 confirmed and probable deaths related to COVID-19 throughout the Garden State. Connecticut has reported 54,093 cases and 4,478 deaths.

September 9, 2020

New York City restaurants will be allowed to resume indoor dining on Sept. 30 with an extensive set of rules, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

Restaurants will be limited to 25 percent capacity, all customers will have to submit to temperature checks, one member of each party will have to give contact tracing information, there will be no bar service -- and the public will be asked to anonymously report violations by phone or text.

The governor set a Nov. 1 deadline to reassess the infection rate, currently below 1 percent -- and if it is not rising, indoor dining capacity might double. But if the infection rate rises to 2 percent, the city said, dining would be reassessed immediately.

Cuomo's announcement caps days of increasing clamor from restaurant owners, who said the state had little excuse to keep them closed when malls and casinos were open and when indoor dining was already available just miles away.

Cuomo had said the problem was compliance -- or in the city's case, a lack of enforcement of it. But he said Wednesday the city will contribute 400 personnel to an existing task force of the State Liquor Authority and state police to ensure compliance with the new orders -- a deal apparently hammered out not just with Mayor Bill de Blasio, but with other city officials too.

To date, New York has seen 441,154 coronavirus cases and 25,370 COVID-related deaths.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 test cubes will be coming to several New Jersey locations, including a number of malls, according to a report.

App.com reports that Jackson Premium Outlets, in Jackson, Jersey Shore Premium Outlets, in Tinton Falls, and Ocean County Mall, in Toms River, are among the locations to receive these pods.

App.com reports that the cubes will be installed Oct. 15 and will be staffed by three technicians that will administer the FDA- and EAU-approved serology or antibody test via a finger-prick blood sample. The cost for the test is $59.

The sample will be examined digitally by a lab in California for COVID-19 antibodies. Test results will be the same day.

The Garden State has reported 194,990 coronavirus cases and 16,009 confirmed and probable deaths related to the virus. Connecticut has seen 53,871 confirmed cases and 4,474 deaths.

September 8, 2020

Sheriff deputies will begin stopping buses headed to Port Authority from viral U.S. hotspots as part of New York City's continued effort to stem any travel-related upticks in virus cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. They'll give riders contact forms to fill out with their information and quarantine plans.

It's the latest measure the mayor has introduced to help enforce the tri-state quarantine order, which requires travelers from U.S. places with high viral rates to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In recent weeks, de Blasio has authorized random vehicular checkpoints and ordered hotels to deny travelers room access if they refuse to fill out the form.

De Blasio has said up to 20 percent of New York City's COVID-19 cases have stemmed from out-of-state travel. Travelers who land at New York airports from one of the hotspots must also fill out a form or potentially face a $2,000 fine.

Four states -- Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia -- were added to the quarantine list Tuesday, bringing the total number of affected U.S. states and jurisdictions to 35. In addition to those four, the restricted list includes: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

September 7, 2020

End of summer parties have forced one Long Island school district to switch its entire schools to remote instruction just two days before the academic year was set to begin.

letter addressed to families in the Carle Place School District explains that a recent spread of the virus through students in the district appears to be linked to parties celebrating the end of summer.

"As we are learning the hard way, the actions of a few can impact the many," wrote Superintendent Dr. Christine Finn.

The decision to pivot to remote learning just days before the start of the year was made in conjunction with the local health department, Finn says, and is intended to "put the safety of our staff and students first."

Despite the short notice, the district says it is more than ready to meet the needs of remote learning come Wednesday. Students should expect updated instruction information from their teachers by Tuesday.

The Carle Place School District did not layout a timeline for remote learning, but told families it would be "until further notice."

There is concern that case counts could rise as schools, college campuses and more businesses reopen. The State University of New York at Oneonta canceled in-person instruction less than two weeks into the fall semester because more than 500 students tested positive for the virus after some large parties were held.

Throughout New York’s 64-campus state university system, more than 900 students and employees have tested positive on campuses over the last two weeks, and nearly 400 students are currently in precautionary or mandatory quarantine, according to a new online dashboard that the university system debuted Sunday.

New York was the epicenter of the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic in April, with nearly 800 people dying a day from the virus at one point. On Monday, the state recorded 413 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and two deaths.

More than 25,000 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the state since March.

September 6, 2020

New York reached another successful milestone in the months-long coronavirus pandemic when the statewide infection rate stayed below 1 percent for a 30th straight day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed Sunday.

The news comes despite recent concerns that the return of college students to on-campus instruction could trigger virus outbreaks across the state. Proving some truth to those worries, SUNY Oneonta closed its campus for the remainder of the semester once positive tests linked to illegal partying came back in the hundreds.

Cuomo included the results of five days of citywide testing in Oneonta in his daily report Sunday; almost 2,000 tests were conducted in that period. 91 tests came back positive for an infection rate of 4.6 percent. Testing data showed 85 of the 91 positive results were in young people ages 18-24, Cuomo said.

Rapid testing sites will remain available to residents of Oneonta over the coming weeks, the governor emphasized.

The state's overall infection rate was .85 percent for the previous day's testing, Cuomo said Sunday. Although the state's long-term progress and record low hospitalizations prove promising, his message repeated a warning to stay vigilant.

"Our infection rate has been below 1 percent for 30 days, and New Yorkers can help us keep that streak going by wearing masks, socially distancing and washing their hands," he said in his release. "Our actions today determine the rate of infection tomorrow, so as the Labor Day weekend continues, I urge everyone to be smart so we don't see a spike in the weeks ahead."

September 5, 2020

New York enters Labor Day weekend completing 29 straight days of recorded coronavirus infection rates under 1%, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed Saturday.

The governor delivered the state's daily COVID-19 metrics with another stern warning to keep public safety top of mind and prevent the loss of month's of improved hospitalization numbers and statewide infections.

"New York went from one of the worst situations in the country to one of the best: Our state has gone 29 straight days with an infection rate remaining below one percent," Cuomo said in a release.

Included in his update: the deaths of two more New Yorkers. So far, the coronavirus has been attributed to the deaths of at least 25,350 people in the state.

"As we celebrate this Labor Day Weekend, we must all continue to wear masks, socially distance, wash our hands and stay New York Tough," the governor concluded.

Public health officials are urging people not to make the same mistakes they did over Memorial Day and July Fourth. With another weekend holiday synonymous with backyard parties and other crowded gatherings, the fear that a spike in coronavirus infections feels inevitable.

Governors throughout the Northeast have discouraged people from traveling out of state this weekend. Visitors from 33 states and territories must quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut.

September 4, 2020

Indoor dining and movie theaters both reopen in New Jersey Friday, exactly six months to the day the state reported its first confirmed COVID case. Both are still shut down in New York City amid a tense standoff between the mayor and Gov. Andrew Cuomo over enforcement issues.

In New Jersey, movie theater attendance is capped at 25 percent percent capacity or 150 people, whichever is less. Restaurants are limited to 25 percent capacity as well under the new rules, which includes maintaining social distancing between tables. Masks must be worn except when eating or drinking.

Gov. Phil Murphy reminded New Jersey residents Friday that the guidelines aren't voluntary.

"The capacity limits & health protocols we’ve put in place for indoor dining are not kind suggestions. They are mandated. We will not tolerate any violations," he tweeted. "There’s nothing more that I would like to do than to eventually expand restaurant capacities. But I cannot and will not be able to do that if this weekend, and the weeks to follow, we see the rules being violated. Let’s work together for a safe return of indoor dining."

At the same time, the governor said his administration would be taking action to prohibit indoor smoking in New Jersey casinos. Casinos were allowed to reopen last month in the state but many opted to stay closed for a period since they were banned from serving food and drinks indoors. That changed Friday, with the return of indoor dining statewide -- and casinos were expecting a boost.

New Jersey restaurant owners have also been eager to open up indoors.

“It’s about time,” said Costas Kaiafas, the owner of the Princess Maria Diner in Wall. “At some point he’s got to let us work.”

That's what restaurant owners and workers are saying in New York City. Indoor dining was left off the table when the city entered Phase IIII of Cuomo's reopening plan, while it was permitted to continue across the rest of the state.

On Thursday, Cuomo doubled down on his repeat complaint that New York City is not sufficiently enforcing compliance and doesn't have a plan to do so -- and until he's convinced of a change, dine-in may be off the table. He says NYPD officers should be deployed in force to help enforce the rules, not just sheriff deputies.

In lieu of a statewide mandatory mask or face covering order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or the New York State Department of Health, the union representing teachers across the state has turned their cry to local jurisdictions to enact such a policy.

In the "absence of statewide action," the union on Friday requested support from local governments, at the county, level to step in and create mandatory mask orders for school districts. The move comes one day after Orange County's health commissioner ordered the use face coverings at all public and private schools in the district, as well as aboard transportation services to and from school buildings.

"While some school districts are doing the right thing and requiring masks at all times, we still are seeing others who refuse to take this basic step to protect the health of students, staff and families," New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said in a release.

September 3, 2020

Malls in New York City can reopen Sept. 9 at 50 percent capacity with no indoor dining, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday. Casinos can reopen across the state on the same day at 25 percent capacity. Mask mandates and social distancing rules apply and state inspectors will handle casino enforcement.

The latest reopenings announced by Cuomo Thursday leave one critical sector alone left shut down in the five boroughs: Indoor dining.

Shortly after he cleared malls and casinos to reopen next week, Cuomo doubled down on his repeat complaint that New York City is not effectively enforcing compliance -- and until he's convinced of a change, dine-in may be off the table.

State inspectors have noted improved compliance across New York City in recent weeks, but Cuomo said that task force doesn't have the manpower to manage thousands of restaurants in the five boroughs. He says bars have had problems.

SUNY Oneonta will close for in-person instruction for the rest of the semester and send students home following a spike in coronavirus infections, the university said Thursday.

Chancellor Jim Malatras initially put the college on a two-week “pause” period Aug. 30 in order to focus on testing while limiting the spread of COVID-19. At that point, there had been 105 positive COVID-19 tests since the start of the semester a week early. As of Thursday, cases within the campus had grown to 389.

To date, 437,107 individuals in New York have tested positive for COVID. The state has seen at least 25,343.

Also on Thursday, it was announced that the massive mall in New Jersey, American Dream, will reopen to patrons once again in October, albeit with a number of safety protocols in place due to the ongoing pandemic.

The Garden State has reported 192,973 cases and 15,971 confirmed and probable deaths. Nearby Connecticut has had 53,209 coronavirus cases and 4,468 COVID-19-related deaths.

September 2, 2020

Six months after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in New York City, little remains left to technically reopen -- though those who live in the five boroughs have had to adjust to dramatically different ways of daily life.

Low-risk indoor activities like museums are back. School will be back, partially in person for hundreds of thousands of families, in the coming weeks -- though with a slight delay after an 11th-hour deal between City Hall and the unions to thwart the first teachers' strike in nearly five decades. Gyms return Wednesday.

What's next for the city of over 8 million residents?

It doesn't appear indoor dining will be the next course on the table. That does return in nearby New Jersey in less than 48 hours, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo, while acknowledging the competitive disadvantage for NYC restaurants, said this week that the five boroughs just aren't ready yet. School may have to come first.

Asked about indoor dining yet again at his briefing Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was continuing to work closely with the state and hoped to have some announcement, whether good or bad news, in the coming weeks.

"Indoor restaurants are still sensitive. They may not be as much of a challenge as bars and nightclubs, but they're still really sensitive and they have been linked to problems around the country, around the world," de Blasio said. "I think it's our responsibility to give them as clear an answer, in the month of September, as possible of where we're going. If there can be a timeline, if there can be a set of standards for reopening, we need to decide that in the next few weeks."

To date, New York has reported 436,218 coronavirus cases and 25,336 deaths related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, 192,595 individuals in New Jersey tested positive, with 15,964 confirmed and probable COVID deaths have been reported.

Connecticut has reported 53,108 coronavirus cases and 4,467 deaths to date.

September 1, 2020

New York City's largest teachers' union and City Hall have reached an agreement over a plan to safely reopen schools for part-time in-person learning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday. The deal averts a potential strike authorization vote, which could have brought about the city's first teachers' strike since 1975.

Under the new plan, the start of hybrid learning will be delayed by a few days to allow preparation time for teachers and staff. School will not start Sept. 10 as planned. Teachers will be in the building and use that Thursday, along with the following Friday, Monday and Tuesday, for additional prep. A three-day transitional period of remote instruction for students will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

On Monday, Sept. 21, the school buildings open "full strength" for blended learning as described previously, de Blasio said.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, sat near de Blasio for the briefing Tuesday and expressed his full support for the new plan, calling it the most aggressive and safest of any school system in the country.

Also on Tuesday, Alaska and Montana found themselves back on the tri-state quarantine list while no states were removed, bringing the total number of restricted states and U.S. territories to 33, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

To date, New York has seen 435,510 positive coronavirus cases and 25,331 deaths related to the virus.

Meanwhile, gyms and health clubs in New Jersey reopened Tuesday with 25% capacity from their coronavirus pause.

While announcing the reopening plan last week, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said the change had been “a long time coming,” but was on hold because indoor facilities presented risks for the spread of COVID-19.

Gym staff and members must wear masks, the governor said. Gyms must have intense equipment sanitizing protocol and machines should only be used by one person at a time in many cases.

New Jersey has reported 192,290 positive COVID-19 cases and 15, 950 confirmed and probable deaths due to the virus as of Tuesday.

August 31, 2020

New Jersey restaurants can resume indoor dining statewide starting this Friday and movie theathers can reopen, just in time for Labor Day weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that will translate to a "competitive disadvantage" for the five boroughs, where dine-in and movie theaters are still closed.

But he's not ready to bring either back in NYC quite yet. The rest of the state has been doing indoor dining for some time, and Cuomo said Monday he knows New York City residents will travel across the river to get their first taste of dine-in in months. (Murphy's announcement on movies followed Cuomo's tele-briefing.)

"I understand that means people can go through the tunnel and go over the George Washington Bridge," the governor told reporters on a conference call Monday. "I am aware of that competitive disadvantage for New York City restaurants."

The pressure is mounting. In New Jersey, precautions include a 25 percent capacity cap and a mandatory 6 feet of space -- at minimum -- to start. Staff must wear facial coverings at all times; patrons must as well when unseated. And people are only allowed to consume food and beverages at their tables.

Restaurants that provide food service at the bar can do so provided they ensure social distancing. Any group seated at the bar is limited to four people. Strict ventilation requirements also apply. Windows must be open, for example, to ensure proper flow of fresh air. It wasn't clear how winter could impact that.

The governor dropped the movie theater reopening at his briefing, hours after announcing the return of indoor dining: Those and indoor performance venues can reopen Friday at 25 percent capacity or limited to 150 people, whichever number is lower. The definition of "indoor performance venues" wasn't immediately clear - whether it included nightclubs or other such businesses.

New York City postponed indoor dining indefinitely around the same time as New Jersey did. No timeline has been set for its return but Cuomo said last week that decision -- along with reopening decisions on movie theaters and casinos in the state -- was under "daily" evaluation.

New York and New Jersey, with the exception of a few weeks for the latter, have maintained low virus rates amid their phased reopenings. New York state hit 24 straight days of a daily COVID test positivity rate below 1 percent on Monday and reported its lowest number of total hospitalizations since the pandemic hit. One New Yorker died of COVID, the lowest single-day death toll in months, as well. Even the city has consistently seen daily positivity rates of 1 percent or below.

"No experts believed we would be that successful," Cuomo said Monday. "And I talked to all of them. New Yorkers have saved tens of thousands of lives."

August 30, 2020

SUNY Oneonta will close for in-person instruction for the next two weeks following a spike in coronavirus infections, incoming Chancellor Jim Malatras said Sunday.

The primary source of the infection spread has been traced to a number of student parties in and around campus, state officials said. So far, five students and three campus organizations have been suspended for their involvement.

Reports of illegal partying prompted widespread campus testing. Initially, 20 positive cases were detected. A SUNY Upstate medical team was dispatched to test all students, approximately 3,000 in total.

After testing students on campus, the total number of positive cases rose to 105, about 3 percent, Malatras said.

100 cases is the minimum necessary to force a campus closure according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent announcement made last week. On Thursday, he lowered the threshold for re-closing campuses from 9 percent to 5 percent or 100 cases, whichever is triggered first. Athletic activities and other extracurriculars must also be suspended, and dining hall options must move to take-out only.

A COVID "SWAT" team will deploy to Oneonta in the coming days to establish 15-minute rapid testing sites. Malatras said more information would be released Monday, but the testing scheduled to start Wednesday and will be made available to all residents of Oneonta. 70 contact tracers from the New York State Department of Health will also be dispatched to the campus.

The chancellor said at the end of two weeks, state and school officials will reassess with the local health department on the return to in-person learning.

August 29, 2020

Residents of Western New York were reminded again to get tested for the coronavirus at one of eight rapid testing sites deployed to the region following a recent spike in cases.

Statewide, numbers remain low. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office says 458 New Yorkers are hospitalized for the virus and just 48 people are intubated -- both new lows since mid-March.

New York State's infection rate has been less than 1 percent for 22 straight days. 635 more New Yorkers tested positive for the virus and seven died from the virus, according to the state's records.

"Our ability to keep this deadly virus in check will be determined by what each of us does each day and by the capacity of local governments to enforce state guidance," Cuomo said in a statement.

The State Liquor Authority and State Police Task Force continued their crackdown on dining establishments out of compliance. According to Cuomo, 18 more businesses in New York City and Long Island were cited for violating dining laws.

August 28, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo could lend more insight as early as next week into the fate of indoor dining in New York City, as well as casino and movie theaters across the rest of the state, which have been closed for five-plus months amid the pandemic.

The governor hinted in a conference call with reporters Thursday that those reopening decisions were under "daily" evaluation -- and that decisions would be made "at the approriate time." Shortly before that, he noted that business compliance in New York City had significantly improved in recent weeks, which could indicate an announcement on indoor dining sooner rather than later.

Cuomo didn't give any timeline for making or announcing his decision -- he described it all as a "fluid" situation -- but Thursday marked the first time in more than a month that he commended New York City for improved compliance rather than condemned it for poor compliance.

With less than two weeks to go before the start of a new school year in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio is pledging additional classroom support by certifying thousands of new teachers to support schools meeting the demands of blended learning.

Indoor, outdoor, and remote learning will start Sept. 10 with the support of newly certified teachers made of up current Department of Education personnel, coaches, administrators and substitute teachers, de Blasio said Friday on WNYC.

The announcement of additional teaching support for New York City's 1,700 schools comes after warnings from educators worried about delivering quality education to students divided into different learning environments. A union representing principals says the current approach stretches teaching staffs too thing and fails to provide a "quality education" when "they're not even sure they have enough teachers."

To date, New York has reported 432,767 positive coronavirus cases and 25,312 deaths.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey the impact of the coronavirus will soon be felt in the pockets of drivers.

New Jersey's Department of the Treasury announced a gas tax increase of 9.3 cents per gallon due to "lower fuel consumption trends, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic." The increase will go into effect this fall.

As of Friday, the Garden State has reported a total of 190,971 positive COVID cases and 15,930 confirmed and probable deaths related to the virus. Nearby Connecticut has had 52,495 coronavirus cases and 4,465 deaths to date.

August 27, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweaked the standards for college re-closings across New York, announcing Thursday he lowered the threshold for re-closing facilities to 5 percent COVID test positivity rates or 100 cases. Previously, that threshold had been at 9 percent. National outbreaks at universities prompted the change.

That percent positivity threshold applies only to students and faculty on campus, not to the overall population in the New York region within which the college operates. Cuomo said he'd also re-close a college if there are 100 cases, if that number is lower than the 5 percent threshold for the school community.

If the positivity rate inches above those marks, the school must go to remote learning immediately for two weeks. The same goes if clusters emerge on certain campus even if the positivity rate stays below the new thresholds. After those two virtual-only weeks, the college will reassess in consultation with the local health department, Cuomo said. During that time, athletic activities and other extracurriculars must be suspended, and dining hall options must move to take-out only. If two weeks remote don't address the problem, remote learning may continue or other mitigation measures may be required.

"We should anticipate clusters," the governor told reporters on a conference call Thursday. "When you have large congregations of people, anticipate a cluster. Be prepared for it. Get ahead of it."

That's what he's trying to do in Western New York, which has seen heightened positivity rates as of late. It reported more than 100 positive cases in a day for the first time since May, Cuomo said Thursday. He said he'd deploy a "SWAT" team to the region to open up eight additional testing sites featuring rapid testing -- with same-day results available and some in just 15 minutes -- in an effort to try to clamp down on the spread before it turns into a more widespread outbreak.

Meanwhile, the state as a whole continues to see low infection rates. New York reached 20 straight days with a daily COVID test positivity rate below 1 percent Thursday, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

Cuomo also noted that restaurant compliance had been improving in New York City, which may indicate it's not far out.

The same applies to casinos and movie theaters, Cuomo said.

To date, New York has reported 432,131 coronavirus cases and 25,309 COVID-19-related deaths.

Meanwhile, 190,613 individuals in New Jersey have tested positive for COVID, with 15,921 confirmed and probable deaths due to the virus. Connecticut has seen 52,350 and 4,465 deaths.

August 26, 2020

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says gyms in his state can reopen Sept. 1 at 25 percent capacity. Masks will be required, among other COVID precautions. Health clubs and indoor amusement facilities can also open then. Will indoor dining be next?

The governor made the long-awaited gym announcement early Wednesday, two days after gyms in neighboring New York were permitted to reopen under strict guidelines.

New Jersey battled a brief uptick in virus transmission rates over the last month or so, but it stood at 0.8 as of Wednesday, below the 1-plus threshold. To date the Garden state has registered 190,306 coronavirus cases and 15,915 confirmed and probable COVID-related deaths.

New York, meanwhile, is in the midst of a 19-day streak of daily positive COVID test rates below 1 percent. A total of 431,340 coronavirus cases have been reported in the state to date, with 25,305 deaths reported.

In yet another case of college students not adhering to health and safety norms during the era of coronavirus, SUNY Plattsburgh officials announced the suspension of over 40 students who attended an unsanctioned party.

“Yesterday I saw first-hand SUNY Plattsburgh’s quick action in fighting the potential spread of COVID and today President [Alexander] Enyedi acted swiftly in suspending the 43 students who couldn’t follow simple safety rules designed to keep all of us safe," Chancellor Jim Malatras said in a statement.

SUNY Plattsburgh's action is just the latest taken by a universities across the tri-state against students who do not comply with health and safety guidelines implemented by the institution amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile, neighboring Connecticut has reported 52,220 coronavirus cases and 4,463 COVID-related deaths.

August 25, 2020

Five states -- Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland and Montana -- were removed from the tri-state quarantine list Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Guam was added, bringing the total number of restricted states and U.S. jurisdictions to 31.

The restricted-states list, a joint effort initially announced in late June by Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, requiring travelers to the tri-state area from viral hotspots to quarantine for 14 days. Hotspots are defined as areas that have experienced a seven-day rolling COVID test positivity average of 10 percent or higher. By comparison, New York state is in the middle of an 18-day streak with a positivity rate of 1 percent or lower.

As of Tuesday, the current restricted-states list includes the following: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, the Virgin Islands and Wisconsin.

To date, New York has reported 430,774 coronavirus cases and 25,297 COVID-19-related deaths.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy proposed a nearly $40.1 billion budget, which slashes about $1 billion in spending but also calls for higher taxes on millionaires and $4 billion in new debt to close gaps stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The earlier, nearly $41 billion plan was scrapped because of the pandemic, which has killed more than 14,000 people in the state and resulted in more than 190,000 positive cases.

Meanwhile, 52,040 people in Connecticut have tested positive for COVID. The state has reported 4,462 coronavirus-related deaths.

August 24, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new school learning plan Monday for New York City students and educators, one that he says will open up a "whole new world" of learning when classes resume next month. The development comes after the mayor had faced mounting pressure from parents and local elected officials to leverage outdoor spaces to provide additional room for in-person schooling.

Principals can set up classrooms in their schoolyards and request additional space -- like nearby streets and parks -- starting Monday, de Blasio said. Any school that applies by Friday will have a response next week, and additional requests can be submitted on a rolling basis.

All submissions will be reviewed by an interagency working group comprised of the city parks, transportation and sanitation departments along with the FDNY and NYPD. Schools must provide barriers and staffing to close any street.

At this point, the city is prioritizing 27 hardest-hit neighborhoods and schools with no useable outdoor space. While weather unpredictability remains a concern, de Blasio said schools can use outdoors while it works.

"We know the disease doesn't spread the same outdoors," de Blasio said Monday. "Starting today we empower our principals to make the maximum use of outdoors. It's up to them, if that's what they think works for their community."

Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have repeatedly said they would not allow students to physically return to the classroom if it were not safe -- and they won't hesitate to re-close school buildings if it becomes unsafe at some point. For the city, that means sustaining a seven-day rolling average positive COVID test rate below 3 percent, a threshold de Blasio described Monday as the "toughest standard in the world." WHO suggests 5 percent.

But the teachers' union and some local officials have questioned whether the health and safety standards are high enough. Last week, the city's biggest teachers' union threatened to strike if schools reopen under the mayor's current plan, which the union president says lacks specifics and transparency.

Another union, the Council of School Supervisors & Administration, blasted the city for doing the same Monday as it relates to outdoor learning.

“Countless health experts have suggested that outdoor learning may be helpful in limiting exposure to COVID-19, and school leaders will take advantage of all opportunities that help keep their community safe," CSA President Mark Cannizzaro said in a statement. "However, once again, the city and DOE have made decisions, rolled out guidance and announced a deadline far too late and haphazardly for school leaders to develop and implement a thoughtful and well-constructed plan. The shortsighted guidance on outdoor learning also lacks detail, raising serious concerns around safety and security."

New Jersey schools have also been permitted to reopen statewide, though Gov. Phil Murphy has given each district the option to start fully remote. If a hybrid district changes its plans at some point, it must resubmit its virtual plans and outline specific reasons for the change, along with a plan to get to in-person.

As of Monday, Murphy said 21 percent of the 736 plans submitted to date called for an all-remote start. Nearly 10 percent call for an all in-person start, while most envision some sort of hybrid approach similar to the one in New York City. Overall, nearly 55 percent of submitted plans have been returned to districts for revision.

"We recognize the tremendous differences between and within our school districts that make a one-size-fits-all solution impractical," Murphy said. "We have provided the communities the flexibility they need to make the right decision that works best for them.

Cuomo added another layer to New York's tangled schools web Monday, announcing that lower-risk youth sports like tennis, soccer, cross country, field hockey and swimming in all New York regions may practice and play beginning Sept. 21. No travel practice or play is permitted outside of a school's region until Oct. 19. Full-contact youth sports like football and wrestling will wait longer to resume games.

The governor cited the state's ongoing progress against COVID-19 in his decision. Right now, New York is in the midst of a 17-day streak with daily COVID test positivity rates of 1 percent or lower, Cuomo said. And the reopening continues.

August 23, 2020

New York's positivity rate has held steady -- below 1% -- for more than two weeks. State officials confirmed another 572 cases of coronavirus and five related deaths. Hospitalizations dropped to 472 patients, which is the lowest number New York has seen since March 16.

This week is another pivotal week on the road to recovery. Gyms and museums reopen Monday across New York state. Gyms will be capped at 33% capacity and museums must keep visitor numbers below 20%.

Many museums will remain closed for the next few days as staff continue preparations for the changes they'll have to make to accommodate crowds in the COVID-era.

August 22, 2020

A city in Connecticut is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. The state has declared a health alert for Danbury. Since Thursday, there have been 44 cases of the virus. That brings the total number to 178 between Aug. 2 and Aug. 20. Governor Ned Lamont blames domestic and international travel for the virus increase.

In New York, the rate of positive coronavirus tests has stayed below 1%. That's 15 straight days. Only 653 of the 95,000 tests from Friday came back positive, according to state health officials. Hospitalizations also dropped to 438. The lowest number since mid-March. Four more New Yorkers died from the virus, the state said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reported the lowest number of virus hospitalizations since March 24. The state recorded 427 new positive cases of the coronavirus, he said. Meanwhile, New Jersey is building a three-month supply of PPE in preparation for a possible second wave of the virus or another pandemic in the future.

August 21, 2020

New York City gyms will open up for indoor workouts on Sept. 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio's office told WNYC Friday -- but indoor group classes and pools will stay closed. There also is still no timeline for the return of indoor dining, City Hall said.

The announcement comes a few days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo cleared the way for gyms to open across New York state as early as Monday -- a boon for fitness aficionados who have had their workout routines disrupted for the last five months. Local governments must inspect each gym before or within two weeks of reopening to ensure compliance with various COVID-19 protocol, Cuomo said.

New York City had said shortly after Cuomo's announcement that it likely wouldn't be able to reopen its gyms by Monday. Officials are prioritizing school inspections right now, working to make them ready to safely accommodate students and staff for in-person learning -- at least part of the week -- by Sept. 10. Gym inspections must be done by Cuomo's deadline, which would be Sept. 16 for a Sept. 2 start.

The governor also made his feelings known Friday when it comes to New York City's hybrid model for the upcoming school year.

Less than three weeks before New York City is scheduled to reopen its schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is adding fuel to the already heated debate over whether students should start the year in person -- even if only on a partial basis.

Asked on "TODAY" Friday whether, if his children were still school-aged, he would send them to class in person in the five boroughs next month, Cuomo refused to commit, saying city officials are "still working out what the plan would be."

"I would have a lot of questions, parents do have a lot of questions. This is a risky proposition no matter how you do it ... let's be honest," Cuomo said. "You're bringing a lot of people into a congregate setting. Do you have the testing? Do you have the tracing? Do you have the social distance requirements? We've seen schools open, we've seen colleges open and get into trouble in one week, so there's a lot of questions to answer before, but that's the dialogue we're having now, and again, if it's not a smart plan, then it shouldn't happen."

To date, the state of New York has reported a total of 428,512 coronavirus cases and 25,278 deaths.

Meanwhile, New Jersey is in the process of building a three-month supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ranging from N95 masks to surgical gowns in preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19 or another future pandemic.

"Building this stockpile is how we’ve been working to protect against the next wave…or the next pandemic," Gov. Phil Murphy said. "We will not be caught unprepared."

As of Friday, there have been 188,817 coronavirus cases in New Jersey, with 14,103 confirmed deaths and 1,829 probable deaths due to the virus. Connecticut has reported 51,519 positive cases and 4,460 COVID-19-related deaths.

August 20, 2020

New York's fourth-largest public school district, Yonkers, announced Thursday it would start the 2020-21 academic year all-remote, putting more pressure on New York City officials already facing controversy over a planned hybrid start.

Yonkers, which has nearly 30,000 students in 39 school buildings, voted Thursday to open school virtually on Sept. 8 and move to a blended approach on Oct. 5., with kids in class two days a week. It joins a growing number of school districts, from Newark to Chicago to Houston and Los Angeles, opting for that approach.

New York City, meanwhile, continues to push the mayor's and school chancellor's plan to have students in physical classrooms at least twice a week by mid-September. Facing mounting backlash from teachers and principals over safety standards for schools' in-person reopening to students, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a "back-to-school pledge" Thursday that he says should ease concerns.

The pledge, the city's latest effort to assuage safety concerns from educators and parents alike, includes a detailed list of what's being done in each school across the five boroughs so "every parent, every New Yorker, can see the comprehensive effort to ensure we have the safest school year ever," de Blasio said.

The fallout due to the pandemic is not only felt in the uncertainty of the upcoming school year, but it could also impact the heroes who have been on the frontlines throughout the entire health crisis.

A day after the head of New York City’s EMS union warned the city was preparing to eliminate hundreds of emergency medical responder positions amid its COVID-induced budget crisis, de Blasio did not deny the layoffs were possible.

Speaking at his daily briefing Thursday, de Blasio emphasized he didn't want to lay off a single city worker. There's been too much job loss already, he said.

"But we're getting to the point where we're running out of options," the mayor said.

There has been 427,803 coronavirus cases in the state of New York to date, with 25,275 related deaths.

Meanwhile, the agency that oversees high school sports in New Jersey has decided that indoor fall sports will be delayed until early next year, but outdoor sports will start their seasons in about a month.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's Sports Advisory Task Force released its “Return to Sports Plan” on Thursday. It features condensed schedules and will keep most contests local. The plan also prohibits out-of-state competition except for “exceptional circumstances” and states post-season play will be limited and local, with no statewide championships.

The indoor fall sports — gymnastics and girls volleyball — will be moved to a new, special season that will begin with practices on Feb. 16. They will start their seasons on March 3.

Winter sports teams will be allowed to start practicing on Dec. 3, with competition commencing on Dec. 21.

The NJSIAA says dates for the spring sports season will be announced at a later date.

To date, New Jersey has seen 188,527 positive coronavirus cases and 14,103 confirmed deaths (with an additional 1,829 probable deaths) related to the virus. In Connecticut, 51,432 people have tested positive for the virus and there have been 4,458 COVID-19-related deaths.

August 19, 2020

No New York City public school should open for in-person learning unless it meets a bevy of safety criteria, including requiring "every single person, adult and child" who enters one of the nearly 1,800 facilities to be tested for COVID or the antibodies, the president of the city's teachers' union said Wednesday.

Mike Mulgrew, head of the United Federation of Teachers, released a school safety checklist Wednesday outlining clear standards the union says are needed to safely reopen schools (and keep them open going forward). He says no school should open unless it meets all the criteria in that report, which covers a range of topics from PPE to ventilation, cleaning and cafeteria protocol -- and he went so far as to threaten court action or a teachers' strike if that doesn't happen.

"It is our judgment at this point that if you open schools September 10, it will be one of the biggest debacles in history," Mulgrew tweeted. "The minute we feel the mayor is trying to force people into a situation that is unsafe, we go to court; we go to job actions."

The last New York City teachers' strike was in 1975, according to the union. If teachers were to take that action they'd be breaking a law known as “Taylor Law,” which would fine and even jail teachers for the action. To that concern, Mulgrew tweeted, "If a court determines we are breaking the Taylor Law, so be it."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose daily briefing preceded the UFT announcement Wednesday, later accused the union of playing games and moving the goalposts on the fly. He claimed the union had never asked for mandatory testing before now and reiterated that a strike would be illegal. For the last month, the mayor has consistently said the city will prioritize student and staff safety above all else, rolling out new requirements like certified nurses in each school along with strict COVID protocol mandates and comparatively low thresholds for re-closure.

The city's teachers' union was not the only group to demand action. The New York City Hospitality Alliance is pushing to restart indoor dining in an effort to help restaurants hit hard by the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

On Wednesday, the group held a press conference demanding a timeline from the city and state for the reopening of indoor dining.

Many local restaurants and bars thought they’d be able to reopen back in July but that has not been the case, even though, the alliance says, they have met the guidelines that have allowed other restaurants in other areas of the state to reopen.

As of Wednesday, 427,202 individuals have tested positive for coronavirus in the state. New York has also seen 25,270 deaths due to the virus statewide.

With coronavirus and influenza expected to converge this fall, New Jersey health officials are urging everyone get the flu vaccine to lessen the chance of straining the health care system.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said at Wednesday's coronavirus news briefing that New Jersey is getting a large supply of flu vaccines this season in an attempt to lessen the chance of people needing hospitalization with flu-like symptoms as coronavirus continues to sicken people.

The state normally gets just under 50% of people vaccinated for flu, Persichilli said. She is hoping that number goes up this flu season to lessen the blow to health care systems in the state.

New Jersey has seen 188,427 coronavirus cases to date, with 15,926 confirmed and probable deaths.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, multiple students have been removed from housing at UConn while the school investigates what it called an unapproved gathering in a residence hall room.

School officials said several students had an unapproved gathering in a residence hall room.

According to the school, students were reportedly not wearing masks, were closely assembled and were endangering their health and wellbeing, along with others at the school.

This comes as at least seven UConn students, including five on the Storrs campus and two off-campus commuter students, have tested positive for coronavirus.

There are currently 25 students in medical quarantine on campus after potentially coming in contact with the students who are positive for coronavirus. Those students are being kept in five "isolation spaces" being used for quarantine purposes, the university said.

Connecticut has reported 51,314 coronavirus cases and 4,457 COVID-19-related deaths.

August 18, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down on his commitment to protect the five boroughs from travel-linked virus surges Tuesday, ordering hotels and short-term rentals to require travelers complete quarantine forms before they get access to rooms. Fines will be issued starting this week for failure to comply.

De Blasio also urged New Yorkers to avoid hotspot state travel if they can. If not, they must quarantine for 14 days upon return to the Big Apple or "face consequences." The mayor's hotel order applies to travelers from the rolling list of quarantine-restricted states, which currently stands at 33 states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. States land on the list if they have COVID test positivity rates that hit or exceed 10 percent over a seven-day rolling period; Alaska and Delaware were added to the restricted list Tuesday. No areas were removed.

The goal is to prevent the record-COVID surges that swept much of the nation last month from triggering a viral resurgence in New York and New Jersey, which long were the two hardest-hit states by the pandemic and remain the most impacted in terms of confirmed COVID fatalities. Health officials say 15 to 20 percent of New York City's 230,000-plus diagnosed COVID cases to date have stemmed from recent travel outside of the five boroughs. They want to limit that kind of spread.

There have been 426,571 coronavirus cases in New York to date, with 25,264 deaths.

With a better grasp in controlling the spread of coronavirus in the area, the MTA will, once again, begin charging passengers to ride buses at the end of the month. This comes after the transportation agency stopped charging bus riders throughout the height of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has reported 188,098 cases and 15,925 deaths. Connecticut has seen 51,255 coronavirus cases and 4,456 COVID-19-related deaths.

August 17, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that gyms can reopen in New York as early as next week -- a boon for fitness aficionados who have had their workout routines disrupted for the last five months. Those in the city, though, may have to wait.

Capacity will be capped at 33 percent to start, though if that proves problematic, the state says it will dial that number back. Health requirements include mandatory masks at all times, proper air ventilation, sign-in forms, screening at the door (like temperature checks) and social distancing. It will be up to individual localities to determine whether gyms can hold indoor classes, Cuomo said.

Local health departments also must inspect each gym before or within two weeks of reopening; they can reopen as early as Monday, Aug. 24 but must be inspected by Sept. 2. Cuomo extended that timeline to give municipalities more time. Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't address gyms at his daily briefing, which preceded Cuomo's. Inspecting the thousands of gyms in the five boroughs in a week may be a tall order, though. Later, a spokesman cast doubt on NYC gyms reopening next week.

Overall, New York state has seen 10 straight days with daily COVID test rates below 1 percent. Cuomo says maintaining that low infection rate and protecting progress remains his key focus going forward.

To date, 425,916 New Yorkers have tested positive throughout the state for coronavirus. The state has reported 25,256 deaths.

Although New York City may not be reopening its gyms soon, the city did announce a new safety measure in preparation for the upcoming school year.

New York City principals will have a direct line to request from the city immediate PPE supplies before and during the school year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, adding that it is one of the latest measures, along with unannounced spot checks of schools before and throughout the year, to ensure the safety when students and staff partially return to school this upcoming fall.

The hotline for principals will be up and running at some point this week, although principals will receive information at some point Monday.

The news of the New York City hotline and the unannounced spot checks comes on the same day that the Department of Education of Newark, New Jersey's largest city, announced that schools will remain remote for instruction for staff and students until the end of the first marking period, around mid-November, when the NBOE Reopening Task Force will once again reassess.

In other news coming out of the Garden State, on Monday, high school sports were given the green light by Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday, with some rules in place on who will be allowed to participate.

He said that the final approval will be given by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports in the state.

"I am encouraged that most of our major fall sports are played outdoors," Murphy said.

Student-athletes will not be turned away from sports participation just because they have chosen an all-virtual learning option, Murphy said.

As of Monday, 187,767 people in New Jersey have tested positive for coronavirus since March. There have been 15,916 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths in the Garden State. Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 51,267 cases and 4,456 deaths.

August 16, 2020

The number of New York coronavirus tests coming back positive remained below 1% for a ninth consecutive day as the total number of tests conducted statewide during the pandemic hit 7 million, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

Six people died Saturday, he said, and 527 were in the hospital.

“Our numbers reflect the hard work of New Yorkers, and as other states across the nation see surging cases, our numbers remain steadily low,” Cuomo said in a news release, calling the testing milestones “remarkable accomplishments.”

New COVID-19 cases were confirmed in more than half of the state's 62 counties. The 607 new cases represented .78% of those tested and brought the statewide total to 425,508. In all, New York has seen 25,250 virus-related deaths.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

August 15, 2020

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in New York dropped for a third straight day, state officials reported Saturday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there were 523 reported hospitalizations Friday, a decrease of 31 from the previous day and the lowest total since March 17. There were 573 patients hospitalized statewide a week earlier.

New York, an early pandemic hotspot, has largely managed to keep the virus in check recently. There were 734 newly reported cases, reflecting 0.83% of 88,668 tests.

There were five additional deaths reported in New York. The state’s pandemic death toll is above 25,200.

August 14, 2020

About 1 in 7 New York school districts faced a deadline Friday to submit their plan to the state for the opening of the new school year, now just weeks away.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this week said 107 of the state's roughly 700 school districts failed to submit reopening plans to both the state's health and education agencies. New York originally set a July 31 deadline but dozens of school districts, including county's largest school district New York City, requested one-week extensions to submit plans.

The governor said districts that don't submit their plans by Friday cannot provide in-person learning this year. He previously said schools could reopen this fall if they had approved plans, and assuming they choose to do so.

In New York City, some 1,200 of the 1,800 schools have settled on one of the available blended learning models decided by the Department of Education. Parents are to be notified starting next week of which days each week their students will be in school for instruction if they are part of a blended model.

New York City officials have been focusing nearly exclusively on Staten Island for the city’s COVID-19 checkpoints, with authorities stopping more than 1,350 vehicles to register travelers returning from more than 30 states who are required to quarantine for 14 days.

City data reviewed by the Staten Island Advance also showed that officials stopped only 36 vehicles at tunnels going into Manhattan since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the checkpoints last week.

The New York City Sheriff’s Office has only gone to the Lincoln and Holland tunnels on two occasions, while keeping checkpoints on Staten Island every day since they first opened on Aug. 5. De Blasio said new checkpoints are planned for the Bronx and other locations in the coming weeks.

New Jersey will move to a nearly all-mail election this November, following the model the state used in its July primary, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.

Murphy, a Democrat, said during an interview with CNN that all voters would get a ballot, but it's not clear if people who aren't registered will get an application to register. New Jersey previously had no-excuse mail-in voting.

There have been 187,164 coronavirus cases in New Jersey, with 15,903 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths. Connecticut has reported 50,897 cases to date and 4,453 deaths.

August 13, 2020

A federal judge in upstate New York rejected a constitutional challenge to New York's quarantine rules for travelers from high-risk states, finding a 115-year-old legal precedent required deference to the state's decision.

The suit, filed in early July, alleged New York's quarantine order violated the plaintiff's right to travel. But Judge David Hurd, in a 25-page ruling on the matter, said the 1905 Supreme Court decision in Jacobson vs. Massachusetts gave governments wide latitude in the middle of a pandemic.

That ruling, which stemmed from a lawsuit over mandatory smallpox vaccinations, effectively created a separate standard for "evaluating constitutional challenges to state action designed to combat an epidemic."

As of Thursday, 423,440 New Yorkers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. In total, 25,228 deaths have been reported in the state.

Meanwhile, on a hyperlocal level, every New York City public school building will have a certified nurse in the building this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

De Blasio said the availability of nurses had been a top concern of both teachers and parents.

"Every single New York City public school building will have a certified nurse. This is very important for people to hear and understand," the mayor said in his daily news conference. "We're taking every precaution but there's a tremendous value to having a health professional present."

De Blasio said NYC Health and Hospitals was working to ensure there was adequate staffing for the plan - noting that, despite concerns about availability, there was still a month to find everyone needed.

The United Federation of Teachers, the union that represents most NYC teachers, made nurses in schools one of its key demands for reopening this fall.

New York's neighbors -- New Jersey and Connecticut -- also continue to see COVID-19 cases and deaths.

There have been 186,594 coronavirus cases in New Jersey, with 15,893 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths. Connecticut has reported 50,782 cases to date and 4,450 deaths.

August 12, 2020

New Jersey teachers are asking Gov. Phil Murphy to keep remote learning for the upcoming fall semester until it is completely safe for students to return to in-person learning. However, on Wednesday the governor cleared the way for schools to open for in-person instruction if they desire and if they meet health and safety guidelines.

Murphy announced an executive order for pre-K through grade 12 schools and universities to officially reopen for the upcoming academic year if they desire and if they meet social distancing and other health and safety standards, including social distancing. However, students who choose remote learning "must be accomodated."

Noting local control of schools districts, Murphy is allowing schools to open in-person, virtually or a combination of both this school year as the spread of COVID-19 continues.

Murphy also announced a slight uptick of nearly 500 new COVID-19 cases, but a daily spot positivity rate just over 2%. That means that the vast majority of the people tested didn't have the virus.

Data continues to play a role in the reopening of the economy and schools.

Schools covering Pre-K to 12th grade, universities and colleges will be permitted to open this fall with health standards aimed at slowing the virus in place. Garden State school districts will be permitted to operate virtually if they can't meet health standards for in-person instruction, Murphy said.

As of Wednesday, there have been 185,938 positive coronavirus cases in New Jersey with a total of 14,046 lives lost and an additional 1,839 probable COVID-19 deaths.

The Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park is at the center of a hyper-local COVID-19 outreach campaign following an uptick in positive cases, city officials said Wednesday.

The 228 positive cases out of 3,300 neighborhood residents tested in the last two weeks is a 6.9% positivity rate, compared to the citywide average of around 1%.

To date, the entire state of New York has seen 422,703 positive coronavirus cases, wit 25,218 deaths. Meanwhile, 50,706 people in Connecticut have tested positive for the virus to date and at least 4,450 have died.

August 11, 2020

Some states on the tri-state's quarantine list have hit a plateau in coronavirus infections, and few of them have seen decreases in new cases -- but the list remains almost as long as ever.

As New York reports its lowest virus hospitalization and ICU numbers since the middle of March, the state added Hawaii, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands to the quarantine list on Tuesday. It removed Alaska, New Mexico, Ohio and Rhode Island.

Connecticut said Monday it issued the state's first fines to two violators who failed to fill out their travel form, but it's unclear how many people have been fined across the tri-state in total.

The two travelers, one from Florida and another from Louisiana, were issued a $1,000 fine each. One of them was hit with an additional $1,000 fine for refusing to self-quarantine for 14 days as required.

As the impact of the pandemic continues, New York City has launched a tenant protection portal to assist residents who may be facing a housing crisis due to the fallout of coronavirus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement of the free one-stop resource portal that includes tools and legal assistance during his daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday.

Those interested in obtaining help can visit nyc.gov/TenantResourcePortal or nyc.gov/PortalParaInquilinos for information in Spanish. New Yorkers can also call 311 at any time and simply say “tenant helpline.”

As of Tuesday, 422,003 individuales have tested positive for coronavirus in New York, with the state seeing 25,211 COVID-19-related deaths.

The ongoing health crisis has seemingly impacted all aspects of life, including collegiate sports. On Tuesday, the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they won't play football this fall because of concerns about COVID-19, taking two of college football's five power conferences out of a crumbling season amid the pandemic.

The Big Ten's announcement comes six days after the conference that includes historic programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State and New Jersey's Rutgers University, had released a revised conference-only football schedule that it hoped would help it navigate a fall season with potential COVID-19 disruptions.

To date, New Jersey has reported 185,475 coronavirus cases and 15,890 confirmed and probable coronavirus-related deaths. Meanwhile, 50,684 individuals in Connecticut have tested positive for the virus and at least 4,444 have passed away from it.

August 10, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio struck a confident note about the reopening of schools on Monday, saying the city was better prepared for the challenge than most -- even as more than a quarter of students opt for all-remote learning.

"If you look at what's happening in other places, it probably causes you a certain amount of concern, a certain amount of doubt," the mayor said at his Monday news conference. "But we're not those other places.

"We're the only major school district in America, the only major urban district, planning for in person classes this fall."

De Blasio said 74 percent of students were planning to attend school in person, per the results of a city survey, and 85 percent of teachers intend to physically teach in schools.

The remaining 26 percent of students and 15 percent of teachers opted for an all-remote model, De Blasio and schools chancellor Richard Carranza said.

Scheduling announcements will start next week, the mayor said. But all of that remains contingent on the state approving the city's plan -- and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the plan was still under review.

He also said 107 school districts statewide have still not submitted their plans for reopening, and if they don't submit plans this week they won't be able to reopen.

As of Monday, 421,336 have been reported in New York. At least 25,204 deaths have taken place to date due to the virus.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities were among some of the hardest hit places early in the coronavirus outbreak in New Jersey and throughout the United States.

On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy revealed new health department benchmarks aimed at returning long-term care facilities to more normality.

"We’re preparing to commit $155 million to the reopening of our long-term care facilities to ensure we get this right," Murphy said. The money will be a mix of federal of state money.

Around $25 million will be for testing. Of the remaining $130 million, the first-term Democrat said 60% of the funding must "flow directly to our nursing home workforce."

The rest of the millions will go to the long-term care facilities that can attest to meeting benchmark requirements to help them with infection control procedures, cleaning and other measures.

As of Monday, more than 185,000 positive COVID-19 cases were reported in New Jersey. At least 14,025 deaths -- four more announced Monday -- were being attributed to the virus with another nearly 1,900 deaths suspected to be related to coronavirus complications.

Meanwhile, to date, 50,567 coronavirus cases and 4,444 COVID-related deaths have been reported in Connecticut.

August 9, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called President Trump's executive orders, intended to continue unemployment benefits and increase other coronavirus-related aid, laughable and legally questionable.

The comments came on Cuomo's conference call with reporters on Sunday, where he also announced a record low coronavirus infection rate for the Empire State -- .78%. It's the lowest rate in New York since the early days of the pandemic, the governor said.

While celebrating the progress made by New Yorkers to curb the spread of the virus and keep that number low throughout the state's staged reopening process, Cuomo took on President Trump's freshly signed executive orders.

“The executive orders will not be a substitute for legislation,” he said. “Just by law, you’re not going to be able to do what you have to do by executive order.”

Part of Trump's orders include a return of federal unemployment benefits to the millions out of work, but the weekly payment would be $200 less than the $600 previously distributed. 25 percent of that payment, $100, would come from state funding, Trump said Saturday, and the federal contribution would come from FEMA disaster relief funds.

On the call, Cuomo said that percentage pulled from the state could account for $4 billion. The move comes after the governor, one of many, has publicly called on the president for federal financial aid for months to help already burdened state budgets.

"You can’t now say to states, ‘Oh, have no funding and you have to pay 25% of the unemployment insurance cost,'" he said.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also fired criticisms of President Trump's orders on CBS' “Face the Nation.”

“Look, that would cost us about $500 million dollars between now and the end of the year,” Lamont said. “I could take that money from testing. I don’t think that’s a great idea. I could take that money from, you know, mass disinfecting for our schools. I don’t think that’s a great idea. In fact, I think the president’s plan is not a great idea.”

Gov. Cuomo also delivered the latest death toll for the state, which climbed to 25,202 after seven more New Yorkers died from the coronavirus.

August 8, 2020

President Donald Trump on Saturday bypassed the nation's lawmakers as he claimed the authority to defer payroll taxes and replace an expired unemployment benefit with a lower amount after negotiations with Congress on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump's orders encroached on Congress' control of federal spending and seemed likely to be met with legal challenges. The president cast his actions as necessary given that lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement to plunge more money into the stumbling economy, which has imperiled his November reelection.

Trump moved to continue paying a supplemental federal unemployment benefit for millions of Americans out of work during the outbreak. However, his order called for up to $400 payments each week, one-third less than the $600 people had been receiving. How many people would receive the benefit and how long it might take to arrive were open questions.

The previous unemployment benefit, which expired on Aug. 1, was fully funded by Washington, but Trump is asking states to now cover 25%. He is seeking to set aside $44 billion in previously approved disaster aid to help states, but said it would be up to states to determine how much, if any of it, to fund, so the benefits could be smaller still.

Many states already faced budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic and would have difficulty assuming the new obligation.

Trump hopes the four executive orders he signed will signal to Americans that he is acting where Congress will not to address economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended nearly all aspects of American life. It's unclear what the economic impact of his actions will be, and his orders do not address several areas that have been part of the congressional negotiations, including funding for schools and state and local governments.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed Trump's actions as “meager” in the face of economic and health crises facing Americans. Democrats initially sought a $3.4 trillion package, but said they lowered their ask in talks to $2 trillion. Republicans had proposed a $1 trillion plan.

Trump's Democratic opponent in the presidential race, Joe Biden, called the orders “a series of half-baked measures" and accused him of putting at risk Social Security, which is funded by the payroll tax.

Trump’s embrace of executive actions to sidestep Congress ran in sharp contrast to his criticism of former President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders on a more limited basis. Though Trump cast it as a necessary step given the deterioration of congressional negotiations, the president himself was not an active participant in those talks.

The orders “will take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it," Trump said, despite the fact that they are far smaller in scope than congressional legislation, and even aides acknowledged they didn’t meet all needs.

August 7, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the green light to reopen New York's 750 school districts in person this fall -- a data-driven decision that mirrors the threshold-based calls he made on the phased economic reopenings for the state's 10 regions. But this decision is different. Cuomo says it's ultimately not up to him.

"Parents have to be included and believe the plan makes sense. Teachers have to be included and believe the plan makes sense. They are the ultimate determination," Cuomo said this week. "If a teacher doesn't show up, you can't open the class. If a parent doesn't send their child there's no child to educate."

The state still has to sign off on each of New York's 749 school districts' individual plans' if it doesn't, those districts don't reopen in September. Of those 749 districts, 127 have yet to submit plans for the 2020-21 school year, Cuomo said. Of the ones that have, about 50 have been deemed insufficient. The state Department of Health will review the individual plans over the weekend and notify districts where it finds them incomplete, he said.

The governor's decision on reopening school districts relies solely on the seven-day rolling average positive test rate for the region where each is located. The threshold for the initial clearance he gave Friday was 5 percent. If positivity rates tick above 9 percent in a given region going forward, the district -- and all the schools within it -- will have to close. New York's statewide seven-day average has consistently been at 1 percent for a month. So too has New York City's.

That said, Cuomo says there's more to the schools equation than the viral transmission rate. All he does is set the floor. Parents and teachers make the call -- and many have serious concerns about whether school plans work for them.

Certain protocols are required statewide. Every person in school must wear a mask when social distancing isn't possible, for example. Daily temperature checks are another component.

The governor also wants each of the five major school districts, including New York City, home to the largest public school district in the nation with more than 1.1 million students, to hold at least five online parent information sessions by Aug. 21. He wants at least one set up to focus on teachers as well -- because without the buy-in of these stakeholders, he says reopening is irrelevant.

In New Jersey, hundreds of teachers have said they won't return to work over coronavirus concerns. Gov. Phil Murphy has laid out his framework for reopening schools in his state; he has also put forth a fully remote option for parents.

Parents in New York City also have the option to choose full remote learning; they'll be able to opt back in to in-person instruction at certain times over the year. The deadline for full remote opt-in was Friday. De Blasio said he expected the city would provide an update on the number of those enrollees early next week.

August 6, 2020

Five months after gyms were shut down in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has no timeline for when he might allow them to reopen in the state's 10 regions, citing glaring evidence from other states about heightened risk.

Asked on a conference call with reporters Thursday when he might lift the restrictions on health clubs, Cuomo pointed to the record COVID surges sweeping more than half of America and said simply "now is not the time."

"We know gyms are highly problematic from the other states. They opened them and they had to close them," Cuomo said. "We're here, poised delicately on this isand of New York state with this sea of spread all around us so we know we have this storm and we have to be very very careful."

"It almost defies common sense that we could be maintaining our low numbers in the midst of what's going on," he added. "We're precariously perched."

State officials say they've been looking at various plans from gyms around the state and are reviewing them to see if there's an opportunity to reduce risk with limited activity. In the meantime, they remain closed, both in New York and in neighboring New Jersey, which also has yet to resume indoor dining.

New York City also shelved indoor dining indefinitely shortly before it was set to resume last month. Asked this week when he thought that, along with gyms, might return to the five boroughs, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he didn't anticipate it happening until after Labor Day. He also cited the alarming national climate, which compounds the issue of slipping compliance at home.

That national climate spurred de Blasio this week to implement COVID-19 checkpoints at key entries across the city to help enforce Cuomo's travel order. Under that travel order, travelers from viral hotspots -- currently 34 states and Puerto Rico -- must self-isolate for 14 days before entering the tri-state area.

Authorities said this week a fifth of all new coronavirus cases in New York City have come from travelers entering the city from other states.

To date, New York has reported 418,928 coronavirus cases and 25,185 deaths, with the majority of cases (226,914) coming from New York City.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, jobless applications fell to their lowest weekly level since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

Applications last week dropped 41% compared with the week before, going down to 16,573, the department said.

Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said in a statement that the drop was encouraging, but “we’re not out of the woods.”

As of Thursday, 183,701 individuals have tested positive in New Jersey. The state has reported 15,849 confirmed and probable coronavirus-related deaths. Connecticut has seen 50,245 coronavirus cases and 4,437 deaths.

August 5, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City would start implementing checkpoints across the five boroughs to help enforce Gov. Andrew Cuomo's quarantine order for travelers from viral hotspots, citing the ongoing national COVID threat.

The measure announced Wednesday is the first significant effort by New York City specifically to help enforce the 14-day quarantine for travelers from 34 states and Puerto Rico. In revealing it, de Blasio said the state was "absolutely right" to impose the travel restriction in the first place. Cuomo announced it in late June.

Starting Wednesday, the city will implement COVID-19 checkpoints at key entry points into the city, de Blasio said. They will vary daily, though the mayor said one will appear at Penn Station on Thursday. Another is planned for Port Authority.

Sheriff Joseph Fucito said there will be “a random element” and every sixth or eighth car on a bridge might be checked.

Travelers will be given the state contact forms to fill out. Refusal to submit the form can result in mandatory quarantine and a $2,000 fine, while failure to comply with the overall order can incur up to a $10,000 civil penalty.

The governor has said the quarantine itself is imperfect and Mayor de Blasio admitted New York City's new enforcement plan has some caveats as well. But the idea, the mayor said, is to send a strong message to people coming in.

"The checkpoints are going to send a very powerful message that this quarantine is serious. Even if we can't reach every single person I think it'll get the message across," de Blasio said. "We don't want to penalize people. We want to educate them, make sure they're following the rules."

The teachers' unions in New York are also sending a strong message after dropping a new list of demands for school reopenings.

New York's teachers' unions said a single COVID-19 case in a school should trigger its immediate closure for 14 days as they listed demands Wednesday for reopening this fall. The final decision rests with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has pledged to make an overarching determination on reopenings this week.

The New York State United Teachers and the city's United Federation of Teachers said in a release that districts moving ahead with re-openings “must err on the side of caution at all times.”

To date, New York has seen 418, 225 positive coronavirus cases and 25,179 COVID-19-related deaths.

Meanwhile, New Jersey announced the death of a 7-month-old who tested positive for COVID-19 after death.

The 7-month-old child who tested positive for COVID-19 after death was among the eight new deaths reported in New Jersey Wednesday. The child is the youngest COVID-19 death reported in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that child tested positive for coronavirus after death. Health officials don't know the child's primary cause of death and didn't reveal any further details.

As of Wednesday, more than 183,000 people in New Jersey had tested positive for COVID -19. The state has reported at least 13,989 confirmed deaths with another nearly 1,900 suspected coronavirus-related deaths.

Connecticut has reported 50,225 coronavirus cases and 4,437 deaths to date.

August 4, 2020

Some states on the tri-state's quarantine list have hit a plateau in coronavirus infections, and few of them have seen decreases in new cases -- but the list remains almost as long as ever.

California, Florida and Texas have all surpassed New York in most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and they're among the 34 states (plus Puerto Rico) currently on the travel-restricted list.

New Jersey added Rhode Island to the restriction list Tuesday, and removed Delaware and Washington DC. It's the first time since the tri-state governors set up the quarantine system that a New England state has been on the list.

New York and New Jersey have lost more people to the virus than any other state in the nation by a long shot, but the national death toll is rising rapidly amid the worsening crisis. Florida continues to break its single-day death records. California has also reported new daily fatality highs in recent weeks.

The state of New York has seen 417,589 coronavirus cases and 25,175 COVID-19-related cases. Meanwhile, at least 182,970 New Jerseyans have had coronavirus. The Garden State also saw 15,857 confirmed and probable COVID deaths.

As of Tuesday, 50,110 cases have been reported in Connecticut with 4,437 deaths.

August 3, 2020

It's crucial that parents and teachers feel comfortable for schools in New York to open successfully this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday -- and they're not just going to send their children back when schools reopen because they're open.

The governor said Monday he would issue a decision on school reopenings this week. Local districts were required to submit their reopening plans to the state Friday, and initial decisions on the plans were expected from New York officials this week. Cuomo said schools should plan to get the green light to reopen, but stressed there needs to be a “full conversation” that answers parents' questions about reopening safely.

"Just because a district puts out a plan doesn't mean if we reopen the school, parents are going to come or teachers are going to come," Cuomo said Monday. "I'm talking to parents. It's not going to happen that way. They are not going to trust the school district. This is an issue of public health. Parents are going to want to understand the information for themselves."

Cuomo has established certain thresholds for reopening schools. First and foremost, a region must have a daily test positivity rate below 5 percent over a seven-day rolling period before he gives the OK. If that positivity rate hits 9 percent after he gives the OK, school districts in that region must shut down.

New York City has an even stricter threshold for reopening schools: That seven-day rolling positivity rate must be below 3 percent. It has stayed at 1 percent since June despite the phased regional reopenings, but COVID-19 is uncharted territory. It's not clear if it will stay there, nor which factors could potentially drive it dramatically up. Widespread protests over George Floyd's death, for example, didn't appear to have a statistically significant impact on the positivity rate at all.

New York has contained the virus recently even as it surges in other parts of the country. The state recorded three new deaths on Sunday, bringing the number of total confirmed COVID fatalities to 25,172. The actual toll is likely much higher. The number of hospitalizations dropped to 536, a new low since the pandemic hit, Cuomo said Monday. In total, the state has seen 416,843 coronavirus cases to date.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he's reducing the limit on indoor gatherings to 25% percent capacity, with a cap of 25 people down from 100.

Too many indoor house parties have led to trends creeping in the wrong direction, Murphy said during a news conference.

“The actions of a few knuckleheads leave us no choice,” he said.

The rate of transmission, which indicates the number of people an infected person spreads the virus to, has climbed from 0.87 a month ago to 1.48 on Monday.

Murphy also reported there were 266 new positive cases added overnight, putting the total at about 183,000. There were 10 new deaths, for a death toll of 13,971.

The governor also said that face coverings will be required at all times for all students in the coming school year. That's a change from before, when the state Education Department was strongly recommending face coverings for students.

The development comes as records obtained by The Associated Press show the state's expenses to respond the coronavirus crisis have nearly tripled since May, climbing from $197 million to $573 million.

Meanwhile, to date, Connecticut has reported 50,062 coronavirus cases and 4,437 COVID-19-related deaths.

August 2, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will make the decision this week on whether to open schools for in-person instruction in the fall

Officials in New York have recently stepped up enforcement on bars and restaurants flouting pandemic rules. On Sunday, the New York City Sheriff’s department said in a tweet it intercepted a party boat at a Manhattan pier for an “illegal party” with social distancing violations and arrested the owners and captain.

Calls were made to the sheriff's department seeking more information and to the boat's owner for comment. Another 29 violations were issued to New York City bars Sunday night, Cuomo said. Over the weekend, 106 were issued.

"Follow the rules, because if you don't follow the rules, chances are someone is going to be there to watch and to check," Cuomo warned. "That's the way it should be. If you're not following the rules, if I were you, I would be worried."

August 1, 2020

It has been five months since the state's first recorded case of the coronavirus, and New York continues the churn further into reopening practices while keeping some measures in place to protect the progress made since the pandemic's peak in the tri-state just a couple months ago.

"Schools should plan on reopening," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said via conference call Saturday morning, one day after his July 31 deadline for the districts.

Whether or not New York schools resume in-person instruction in the fall, a number of parents are expected to keep their children home to continue instruction through the remote learning started at the beginning of the pandemic. Anecdotally, Cuomo says his office has received a flood of phone calls from parents concerned about plans to reopen schools.

82,737 New Yorkers were tested for the coronavirus on Friday, a milestone for the state and daily record, Cuomo said. The positive rate of testing held at just below one percent.

Four additional people died from the virus, bringing the state total to 25,164.

Bar and restaurant compliance continues to be an issue for downstate officials. On Friday, 41 establishments across New York City and Long Island were issued violations related to the governor's coronavirus safety executive orders. Of the 41 bars and restaurants to receive violations, Cuomo said 27 were in Manhattan.

Seven more suspensions were ordered Friday, all within New York City.

July 31, 2020

New York City has revealed its most detailed framework yet for returning students to class, at least part-time, safely in the fall. It's a particular challenge for the nation's largest public school district, which struggles with overcrowding as it is.

Social distancing and other requirements complicate matters for the five boroughs, but Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged Friday that no expense would be spared in ensuring the safety of public school students and their teachers.

Above all, no measures will be taken that don't prioritize that -- and classes, along with entire school buildings, can be shut down immediately over positive tests.

Meanwhile, over in New Jersey, one school district is going with the opposite approach. The Bayonne School District is hoping to get approved to start the school year completely online. It’s unclear if the state, which said schools have to submit a plan for some in-person learning, will approve the plan.

The Bayonne Board of Education is waiting to hear back after sending their proposal to the state, but the district says they do have back-up options.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that districts will be able to choose between a full return to in-person learning, or a hybrid learning plan. Either option would not require the approval by the state.

July 30, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy and Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeated a now familiar refrain to their citizens this week: Being young isn't an excuse to let your guard down. You're not immune. Don't be complacent. We can't slide backward after all this.

New Jersey has regressed to the number of daily new COVID cases it was seeing a month ago, reversing some of the progress that has vaulted it to the top of the nation's low-transmission list after months leading the other side of the curve. It reported fewer than 300 new daily COVID cases Thursday though, a sharp improvement from the 500-a-day average over the last few days.

Asked on a conference call with reporters Thursday whether he would consider adding New Jersey to the growing list of states on New York's quarantine-restricted list, Cuomo said he didn't see how that would work.

"I don't know how you could quarantine New Jersey," Cuomo said. "We're not blockading roads. They don't use airports to get to New York."

Murphy wants people to cooperate -- but he'd rather them not go to any packed house parties at all.

Cuomo has issued similar stark reminders in New York, where COVID hospitalizations have ticked up among people in their 20s in recent weeks. He recently launched a national mask campaign targeting that age group. In it, young people act invincible from the virus. The narrator reminds them they're not.

New York has not seen its seven-day rolling average of positive tests increase in a statistically significant way since its phased reopening launched in mid-May. Total hospitalizations fell to 586 Thursday, the lowest number since March 17. But the state has seen new clusters, some stemming from parties or crowded bar areas.

Cuomo has threatened to reverse New York City's reopening as it relates to bars and restaurants, despite no COVID increase, saying "outdoor dining," which the city was allowed to resume when it entered Phase II, is not "outdoor drinking."

At the same time, flu season is approaching, which Cuomo warns could complicate the COVID fight. It's one thing to combat a never-heard-of-before virus that has already killed hundreds of thousands worldwide. Try battling that at the same time as a known virus that does the same every year.

Cuomo said Thursday he's preparing state labs for that challenge now. He announced more than $30 million to enhance COVID-19 contact tracing and flu prevention in advance of the fall flu season.

Most of the funds, available to counties in the form of grants, will be used to increase local health department staffing capacity for enhanced detection, surveillance and prevention of COVID-19. The governor also announced $2 million in additional immunization funds to expand flu vaccination rates statewide to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system in the event of a severe flu season.

July 29, 2020

New York City and Long Island are being closely watched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid dozens of recent COVID violations for non-social distancing and other issues. He touted his oft-repeated mantra again: Local governments, do your job.

Cuomo's latest criticism Wednesday came amid his ongoing argument that local governments largely in downstate New York have failed to enforce 6-feet-apart and mask rules. 

On Wednesday, New York City announced it will turn in a basic framework for its return-to-school plans to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office by Friday's deadline, but it doesn't plan to submit specific plans for each of its nearly 2,000 buildings until mid-August, City Hall confirmed.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that New York City has put substantial work into its all-encompassing plan and would submit that Friday as the state has required. Individual plans for the 1,800 school buildings in the five boroughs will be submitted two weeks later, by Aug. 14, he said.

Efforts to continue fighting the coronavirus are underway in the city. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched a pilot program to mount dispensers of free masks inside buses for its riders in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus. The dispensers are off-the-shelf plastic containers with modifications made by New York City Transit. Each container is properly secured and will be refilled daily. Each plastic dispenser holds about 50 masks.

Additionally, JetBlue has become the first airline in the country to use new cutting-edge UV light technology in its cleaning efforts as a means to fight the coronavirus.

JFK Airport in New York, along with Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, have been selected to pilot the new UV system to treat surfaces in JetBlue aircraft interiors.

The entire state of New York is in Cuomo's fourth and final reopening phase, though New York City has taken a modified approach to the last two amid evidence that suggests heightened risk from enclosed spaces.

To date, there has been 413,593 coronavirus cases in New York and 25,132 deaths.

New Jersey, which has lost 15,798 people to date and reported 180,766 coronavirus cases, has also slowed its reopening process and shelved indoor dining indefinitely amid the national climate. The state, which is still in Stage 2 of Gov. Phil Murphy's three-phase reopening, has seen an uptick in COVID cases among young people tied to house parties. Murphy blasted the lacking compliance in his briefing Wednesday.

"We cannot continue to have crowded house parties. They are not safe. They put the hard work we’ve all undertaken since March at risk of being undone," Murphy said. "I get that we’ve all had our routines turned upside down for the past four months, and we want to blow off some steam with friends. I understand the desire to escape the heat and head into the air conditioning. But, indoor house parties spread coronavirus more efficiently."

Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 49,540 cases and 4,425 COVID-19-related deaths.

July 28, 2020

Three more states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico were added to the tri-state quarantine list Tuesday, bringing the current list of viral hotspots near 40 as the nation struggles to contain COVID-19 outbreaks the CDC has warned may already be beyond the nation's ability to control, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo said the national outlook has only darkened in recent weeks and continues to spiral. The U.S. death toll topped 150,000 on Tuesday, by NBC News estimates, and the number of hotspots on the restricted list has risen every single week since Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont jointly announced the travel restriction late last month in a bid to protect tri-state progress. At that point, New York led the nation in confirmed COVID cases. In the last week, both California and Florida have topped it.

There have been 412,878 coronavirus cases so far in New York, with 25,126 deaths.

More than 150 bars and restaurants in New York City and Long Island were cited for COVID violations over a four-day period starting Friday, with Cuomo adding another 26 violations Monday night in the city. Twelve establishments in the five boroughs had their liquor licenses temporarily revoked over infractions ranging from maskless employees and customers to allowing people to congregate.

In total, more than 40 New York bars and restaurants have had their licenses pulled since March. Cuomo warned Monday for the second time in a week that he may have to shut down bars and restaurants in New York City all over again if compliance on the part of businesses and individuals doesn't improve.

It's not just bars and restaurants, though. Late Monday, Cuomo tweeted that he was "appalled" by a concert held in Southampton over the weekend. Video showed people piled on top of one another with no regard for social distancing. The governor said the state Department of Health would investigate, adding Tuesday that criminal liability may be involved.

Tri-state leaders slammed the long-awaited stimulus package proposed by Republicans in the Senate with Mayor Bill de Blasio saying it "just doesn't work," calling it a "non-starter" during his Tuesday coronavirus press briefing, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the proposal, if passed, will have a "dramatic" impact on New Yorkers.

Cuomo said the ramifications if the bill is passed will be felt by New Yorkers. Cuomo described that New Yorkers could see an increase in property taxes, school and hospital aid slashed by 20 percent, an increase in LIRR, MTA and toll fares, and that the Port Authority could be forced to slow or stop construction at LaGuardia and JFK airports if the federal government does not provide state and local funding.

MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye also commented on the proposed HEALS Act, calling it "shameful."

For his part, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also touched upon the need for the federal government to provide state and local aid while announcing an additional $15 million in the initial Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding that has been made available to New Jersey small businesses struggling with the pandemic.

"This is another reason why we need more federal cash and federal assistance," Murphy said. "Not only will we keep front line workers employed like firefighters, police, EMS, educators, health care workers, but we’ll be able to have more latitude and drive more money to the small business community which we desperately need to continue to do."

As of Tuesday, New Jersey has reported 180,295 COVID-19-related cases and 14,825 confirmed and probable deaths. Meanwhile, Connecticut has had 49,077 coronavirus cases and 4,423 deaths.

July 27, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned for the second time in one week Monday that he may have to shut down bars and restaurants in New York City all over again if compliance on the part of businesses and individuals doesn't improve.

New York City has yet to see any statistically significant infection uptick from its reopening, boasting a 1 percent daily test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling period. That mirrors the statewide rolling average and is one of the lowest transmission rates in the country. Cuomo doesn't want anyone to get complacent.

"Where we are is a function of what we do. The numbers are the numbers that we make happen. We have to be diligent about our actions," Cuomo said.

Given the national climate, where more than three dozen states are experiencing some level of increase in cases, the governor said it may be inevitable that New York gets hit with COVID-19 again. His goal is to try to minimize the impact.

New York's daily deaths have fallen to the single or low double digits. Just three more names were added to the toll Sunday while total COVID hospitalizations fell to 637, the lowest number since mid-March. At the same time, young people are accounting for a higher share of hospitalizations than they have in the past. Cuomo says slipping compliance individually and by businesses is to blame.

“Don’t get cocky don’t get arrogant,” Cuomo warned New Yorkers. 

New Jersey remains in Stage 2 of Gov. Phil Murphy's three-stage reopening roadmap. Last month, he had hoped he'd soon be able to set a date for the state's entry into the final phase, but he put it off as the national outlook darkened.

"The evidence is overwhelming that the virus is a lot more lethal indoors, particularly when you're sedentary, lack of ventilation, you're taking your mask off by definition to eat or drink," Murphy told CNN Monday. "We also saw what was happening in other states where the virus was raging, most of that from indoor activity. We said you know what, we want to get to indoor activity, our restaurants are getting crushed but we just did not think and continue to not think we're there yet in terms of doing it responsibly. I hope it will be sooner than later, but not yet." 

To date, New Jersey has reported 179,812 coronavirus cases and 15,804 confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, 48,983 coronavirus cases have been reported as of Monday, with 4,418 COVID-19-related deaths.

July 26, 2020

More than 100 bars and restaurants in the New York City area were flagged for coronavirus social distancing violations this weekend, and some now face the possible suspension of their liquor licenses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

Frustrated by what he has described as lacking enforcement on the part of local governments, Cuomo dispatched his new state police and liquor authority enforcement task force to inspect restaurants and bars in the five boroughs and Long Island over the weekend. A total of 132 violations were issued between Friday and Sunday night for infractions ranging from crowding to masklessness.

The state’s liquor authority board plans to review the violations Monday and decide whether to suspend some licenses. Forty establishments have had their licenses yanked since March, 10 of them since Friday, Cuomo said. Typically, repeat violators get "three strikes" before theirs are suspended, but single egregious violations can result in immediate shutdown.

Cuomo says the vast majority of the bars and restaurants in New York have been compliant but warned a "handful of bad actors could ruin it for everyone."

July 25, 2020

Football is on pause at Rutgers after six additional members of the team tested positive for the coronavirus, the school's athletic department announced.

The latest round of positive results came from the team's weekly testing cycle, the school's spokesperson said in a statement Saturday. Four members of the team had previously tested positive, bringing the total to at least 10.

The news comes as New Jersey adds an additional 547 positive cases of the virus, bringing the state total 178,858. At least 13,856 New Jerseyeans have died from the virus, state officials report.

A week after revoking sweeping new restrictions on international students, federal immigration officials on Friday announced that new foreign students will be barred from entering the United States if they plan to take their classes entirely online this fall.

In a memo to college officials, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said new students who were not already enrolled as of March 9 will “likely not be able to obtain” visas if they intend to take courses entirely online. The announcement primarily affects new students hoping to enroll at universities that will provide classes entirely online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

International students who are already in the U.S. or are returning from abroad and already have visas will still be allowed to take classes entirely online, according to the update, even if they begin instruction in-person but their schools move online in the face of a worsening outbreak.

July 24, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday more than three dozen restaurants and bars across the state, mostly in New York City and on Long Island, were cited for COVID violations overnight, part of an ongoing problem he blames for an alarming new surge in virus cases among people in the 21 to 30 age bracket.

New York's COVID hospitalizations have plunged to lows not seen since mid-March and hit another new low, falling below 700, Friday, but the uptick in cases among people in that age group is growing cause for concern, Cuomo says.

In light of the spikes among 20-somethings and ongoing violations, Cuomo warned he would be forced to shut down bars and restaurants all over again if behavior and compliance don't improve. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he believes most of the city's bars and restaurants are complying, though admits some egregious violators have and will continue to warrant shutdowns.

Getting businesses to comply with COVID regulations is one thing. The mayor said he thought many owners were noticing what happens to those who don't. But ensuring continued compliance by individuals is another enforcement matter.

Additionally, Play Streets, a long-standing and beloved staple for New York City children, is returning to the Big Apple this summer, although adapted for the age of coronavirus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made the Open Play Streets announcement during his Friday morning COVID-19 press briefing.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a state judge ruled authorities can shut down a gym that has repeatedly defied Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order to remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ruling held Atilis Gym of Bellmawr, in the Philadelphia suburbs, in contempt of court. It authorized the state health department to put locks on the doors or put up barriers to ensure compliance.

Ian Smith, one of the gym’s owners, said in a video posted on Facebook Friday that he would remain at the gym and that “we will not back down under any circumstances.”

July 23, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo re-upped his oft-repeated call for a country-wide face-covering order Thursday, tweeting bluntly, "There should be a national mask mandate," amid mounting evidence that shows it effectively fights the virus.

At the same time, he's issuing a renewed plea to New Yorkers, especially young ones, to stick with that precaution and others, citing a "significant' uptick in infections among people ages 21 to 30.

New York has gone from the worst COVID situation in the country to one of the most stable. While its progress has continued amid the phased regional reopenings, Cuomo wants to ensure the lessons learned stay top of mind.

"We're still having the same inane political discussions," Cuomo said Thursday. "We don't want to climb any more mountains. New Yorkers did it, but we don't want to do it again. And we're wary of new threats that are on the horizon."

The governor announced a new advertising campaign that will urge young people to protect themselves from lingering COVID-19 symptoms and vulnerable New Yorkers from infection by staying 6 feet away from others and wearing masks. He said one upstate July Fourth party alone resulted in 30 positive cases.

Cuomo played an ad that includes audio of young people saying: “I’m partying outside. ... COVID won’t kill me. I’m 23. COVID won’t kill me.”

“Famous last words. Don’t let them be yours,” the ad’s narrator warns.

Cuomo said an increasing share of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are between the ages of 21 to 30, representing about 13% of patients over the last week. That’s up from 10% over the previous week.

New data shows up to 40,000 U.S. lives could have been saved if everyone wore masks, Cuomo says.

The record-breaking surges nationally have only compounded the threat of an infection resurgence in New York, where Cuomo has said he is concerned about slipping compliance on the mask and social distancing fronts. Restaurants and bars have allowed that behavior, letting people congregate on packed sidewalks without facial coverings and repeatedly failing to abide by state guidelines to such a degree that Cuomo has threatened to shut them down again.

Since March, the state has suspended 27 liquor licenses and brought 410 charges against various establishments for not following the guidelines. Last week, he issued an executive order barring any establishment from serving alcohol to a customer who has not also ordered food. For those wondering, chips do not count as "food," nor do bowls of nuts or candy that bars may serve patrons.

New York City, for example, said Thursday city hospital labs have reduced the median testing turnaround time to two days by using a technique called pooling, which the FDA granted emergency approval for earlier this week. It has also launched the rapid, 15-minute test in hard-hit neighborhoods and plans to expand that option to Sunset Park and the Rockaways in the coming days.

The city also reached its goal of performing 50,000 coronavirus tests a day, the mayor said Thursday. De Blasio said four new clinics operated by the urgent care company MedRite will bring the total citywide daily testing capacity to 50,000.

July 22, 2020

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called out federal leaders for potentially leaving states out of the latest coronavirus stimulus package proposal.

The first-term New Jersey Democrat called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should aid to states not be included.

The proposal "is a slap in the face to every Governor across the country – Republican and Democrat – who have shouldered the responsibility of responding to this pandemic," Murphy said.

Murphy has paused reopening plans and held off moving New Jersey into the third phase of restarting from coronavirus shutdowns due to some upticks in key metrics – including rate of transmission – in recent weeks. Many outdoor activities are allowed, while indoor events are more restricted.

Murphy on Wednesday clarified that his earlier order on high-risk contact sports like football only allows for contact outdoors. He said that Martial arts, yoga and Pilates studios can hold classes indoors, but are capped at 25% capacity and everyone must be masked and socially distanced.

Any martial arts contact drills and sparring must be done outdoors.

"We know everyone wants to get back to their old workout routines, but outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities," Murphy said.

Cases and COVID-19-related deaths peaked in New Jersey earlier in the outbreak. With the virus surging in other states, Murphy and the governors of New York and Connecticut have joined together to urge that people entering New Jersey from 31 other states seeing cases surges to self quarantine for 14 days.

As of Wednesday, nearly 178,000 people in New Jersey had tested positive for the new coronavirus, with nearly 400 new cases announced. At least 13,787 confirmed COVID-19 patients had died. Another nearly 2,000 deaths are suspected to be coronavirus-related.

Murphy noted that delays in testing results around the country could be causing some data lag.

Meanwhile, New York has reported a total of 408,886 cases and 25,068 deaths to date.

Neighboring Connecticut once again reported another day without any deaths as the death toll remains at 4,406. Overall, there has been 48,223 coronavirus cases in the state.

July 21, 2020

More than half of America is now on the tri-state quarantine list, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, as COVID continues to surge virtually unabated across the country. A total of 31 states are now on the list, with 10 added and one removed.

The newcomers are Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington. Minnesota came off the list this week, no longer meeting the hotspot threshold. It could return just as easily though; Delaware only spent a week off the list before its numbers rose again.

Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont jointly implemented the restricted travel list last month in an effort to ward off local COVID resurgence. It applies to states that exceed 10 percent daily test positivity rates or 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling period.

Apart from the new additions, the other states on the quarantine list currently include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

Cuomo acknowledged Tuesday that the quarantine is itself imperfect; he called for improved community action to better control the spread. He traveled to one of the states on that quarantine list -- Georgia -- on Monday, part of his effort to return the favor to states in need, as New York was so desperately in April.

He said he wouldn't quarantine upon his return, since he is an "essential worker," but will be re-tested. In Georgia, the number of people hospitalized because of the respiratory illness has tripled in the past month. Cuomo portrayed his mission to deliver PPE, test kits, and set up contact tracing as an effort to help overcome political divisions on how to fight COVID-19.

Cuomo also said four more bars and restaurants in New York -- three in Queens and one on Long Island -- have had their licenses suspended over infractions in the last few days. Those include Brik Bar in Astoria, M.I.A. Made in Astoria, Maspeth Pizza in Maspeth and Secrets Gentleman's Club in Deer Park.

Additionally, New York City announced a new program Tuesday to provide housing security to tenants across the city who may be facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective immediately, the Landlord-Tenant Mediation Project will serve New Yorkers each month by addressing rent-related issues in a mediation setting, outside of the housing court system. The program will focus on hardest hit communities.

The governor also announced that only two deaths have been reported since the previous day, calling this feat a "milestone," bringing the death total to 25,058. To date, the state has seen 408,181 coronavirus cases.

Connecticut also reported a low death toll since the previous day. The state reported no deaths since Monday, but the total number of cases in the state increased by 41 people, bringing the total to 48,096.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has reported 177,256 COVID-19 cases to death and 15,737 confirmed and probable COVID deaths.

July 20, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to roll back New York City's reopening Monday, the same day it enters Phase IV, if compliance and enforcement don't improve. He cited ongoing crowding among maskless young people that he says "has to stop."

Social media from the weekend paints an alarming picture. In Astoria, Queens, several hundred people filled Steinway Street Friday night and again on Sunday, overwhelming police and leaving a mess in their wake. Bars and restaurants are allowing people to congregate on sidewalks without social distancing and masks. Young people are accounting for an increasing share of new cases; they're more likely to be asymptomatic as well, making the virus that much easier to spread.

Cuomo said Monday he understands people -- especially younger people --want to get out after all these months. But, he says, what he's seen "is just stupid."

If violating New Yorkers don't amend their behavior and local governments don't step up enforcement, Cuomo said he'd have to roll back the reopening, possibly shutting down bars and restaurants in the city all over again.

For now, New York City gets to move to a modified Phase IV Monday, joining the rest of the state in the final reopening phase. A few key indoor activities remain held back as the nation's former COVID-19 epicenter attempts to avoid a surge in new cases like the one swallowing many states in the South and West.

Low-risk outdoor venues like zoos and botanical gardens reopen for the first time in four months Monday with strict capacity limits (33 percent in any given area) and mandatory COVID precautions in place. Production of media and TV shows can also return, as well as fanless pro sports — which included weekend play between the Yankees and Mets at an otherwise empty Citi Field.

Those looking forward to the returns of malls and museums have to keep waiting. Given the heightened enclosed-space exposure risk seen in other states, Cuomo opted to delay those reopenings in New York City indefinitely.

To date, New York has reported 407,326 coronavirus cases and 25,056 COVID-19-related deaths.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, contact sports like football and rugby that are considered high risk amid the coronavirus pandemic can begin again.

Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday afternoon at New Jersey’s coronavirus news conference that he is signing an executive order that clears the way for high-contact sports to practice and play games.

Additionally, coronavirus has also impacted professional sports. On Monday, the Giants and Jets announced, via a joint statement, they will play football at MetLife Stadium without fans until further notice.

New Jersey students will be allowed to learn entirely online as the 2020-2021 school year gets underway.

Murphy promised that detailed guidance would be coming later in the week, but that parents and guardians will be able to opt for all remote learning in the upcoming school year.

New Jersey was hard hit by COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic with nearly 177,000 cases to date, but for the past couple months cases and hospitalizations have slowed, leading Murphy to reopen parts of the economy.

Murphy, however, has yet to bring the Garden State into the third phase of reopening as rate of transmission has ticked up the past few weeks. Rt, however on Monday, was down below 1.0 (0.90) again, Murphy noted.

As of Monday, at least 13,741 people had died from COVID-19-related complications in New Jersey. Nine new deaths were announced Monday. Another nearly 2,000 deaths are suspected to be due to the coronavirus.

Ninety people who received positive COVID-19 results in Connecticut did not have the virus, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

The department said the state public health laboratory uncovered a flaw in one of the testing systems it uses to test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and 90 of 144 people tested between June 15 and July 17 received a false positive COVID test report. Many are nursing home residents.

To date, the state of Connecticut has seen 48,055 coronavirus cases and has registered 4,406 deaths.

July 19, 2020

New York City enters Phase IV on Monday, but indoor activities typically an escape from extreme heat won’t be open.

On Monday, New York City will start Phase IV, allowing movie and TV crews to film, zoos to welcome reduced crowds, professional sports teams to play to empty seats.

July 18, 2020

Unmasked and in clear defiance of the New York's social distancing rules, a crowd of several hundred people filled streets in Queens Friday night, overwhelming police and leaving a mess in their wake.

Video of the nighttime party shows people lining Steinway Street in Astoria, packed from sidewalk to sidewalk. New York City police officers responding to the scene were vastly outnumbered and unable to enforce safety measures.

The crowds caught the attention of Mayor Bill de Blasio Saturday, who promised increased enforcement in Astoria following Friday night's crowds.

Large crowds have also prompted several popular New Jersey shore towns to takes steps to limit the numbers of people on their beaches amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Belmar has capped the number of daily beach badges that can be sold to 7,500 per day, while Manasquan set a limit of 1,000 per day on Saturdays and Sundays for any type of beach badge, NJ.com reported.

New Jersey officials are announcing another 16 deaths associated with COVID-19, raising the state's total to 13,725 lives lost.

Gov. Phil Murphy said Saturday the state is reporting more than 300 new positive cases, pushing New Jersey's cumulative total to more than 176,800.

New Jersey also plans to offer survey to travelers coming in from states with high numbers of coronavirus cases, starting next week.

July 17, 2020

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.

Phase IV also reopens low-risk outdoor venues like zoos and botanical gardens with strict capacity limits and mandatory COVID precautions in place. Those will be allowed to return in New York City, should it move to the next phase Monday. Production of media and TV shows can also return, as well as fanless pro sports.

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.

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.

July 16, 2020

New York City is on track to move to Phase IV of the state's reopening plan on Monday, but it will do so without the reopening of any new indoor venues like malls, museums and more, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

He offered no new timeline for those reopenings. The announcement echoes the strategy Cuomo took for the city in Phase III two weeks ago, when he allowed the five boroughs to make the transition absent indoor dining amid heightened national concerns about increased infection risk from enclosed spaces.

“You see the inside, interior spaces, air conditioned spaces, where the virus is tending to spread,” Cuomo said. “So we’re going to take that precaution in New York City.”

Cuomo said the state would issue a final decision at 4 p.m. Friday on the city's Phase IV, which also reopens low-risk outdoor venues like zoos and botanical gardens with strict capacity limits and mandatory COVID precautions in place.

Earlier Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city and state were still finalizing the Phase IV approach for the five boroughs and indicated both were "feeling cautious." Given the still spiraling and record-breaking COVID surge, de Blasio said he wouldn't be surprised if the city tweaked or delayed its Phase IV rollout -- particularly as it relates to the venues Cuomo listed.

"The outdoor elements I feel good about and confident about so long as we're clear about the standards and enforcement. The indoor is causing me pause," de Blasio said. "There can't be a slippy slope there. Indoor is the challenge and we have to be very tight about it. I think there are substantial parts of Phase IV that can move ahead. There are other parts we have to be very cautious about."

That split situation was the case for the city in Phase III. It opened personal care services and more outdoor recreation but postponed the return of indoor dining indefinitely, even as the rest of the state was permitted to continue doing it. It did still transition to Phase III two weeks after entering Phase II, as scheduled, and appears on track to do the same as it relates to a modified Phase IV next week.

"The compliance enforcement of these rules and regulations is essential," Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. "If we do not enforce compliance, the virus will spread. It is that simple."

Bars and restaurants have been primary violators of COVID rules in the city, the governor said. Going forward, Cuomo said bars can only serve alcohol to people who order food. He also enacted a "three strikes and you're closed" policy, effective immediately. Any bar or restaurant that receives three violations will be closed; single egregious violations can also result in immediate shutdown.

“The state itself has looked at over 5,000 establishments in downstate New York and found many cases of a failure to comply,” he said. ”It’s wrong, it’s dangerous, it’s selfish, it’s unacceptable, it’s also illegal.”

Restaurants and bars across New York can no longer allow walk-up bar service, or serve alcohol to people who aren’t buying food, he added. While the governor acknowledged it might not be a popular move, he said it's far better than the alternative and called on local governments to better enforce safety guidelines.

"I’ll tell you what’s less politically popular — if we have to close down a region because compliance wasn’t done,” Cuomo said.

At least 21 U.S. states have paused or reversed their reopenings amid the national surge. Florida, one of the 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 before 9 p.m., according to NBC News.

Cities and states are scrambling to contain rapidly-spreading outbreaks the CDC has warned may already be beyond the nation's ability to control. More school districts across the country -- from Richmond, Virginia, to Los Angeles, California, are opting to start the fall with virtual learning only

In New York City, the plan remains to have as many kids in school buildings as is safely possible when classes resume Sept. 10. At this point, most students will likely only be in physical class two or three days a week, learning remotely the other days.

Recognizing parents' concern over lacking childcare options on the virtual days, Mayor de Blasio said Thursday that the city has a new plan to provide safe, quality childcare to 100,000 kids by early September and plans to expand capacity. It's now working with partners to identify locations and staffing, and those child care slots will be available to children who will only be in their physical schoolrooms two or three days a week under the city’s hybrid back-to-school plan.

July 15, 2020

New York state's confirmed virus deaths topped 25,000 Wednesday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo added nine more names to the toll.

Daily death tolls have dropped to the single digits in recent weeks, down from an 11-day stretch of "hell" in April, according to the governor, where nearly 800 New Yorkers were dying a day. New York City accounts for the lion's share of the state's confirmed deaths (65 percent) and adds another 4,616 fatalities that were probably attributable to the virus but were never connected via diagnosis.

Cuomo acknowledges the state's actual death toll is likely much higher -- and warns it could grow more if New Yorkers don't continue the mitigation measures like masks and social distancing that he says bent the curve in the first place.

"New Yorkers brought the curve down by making big changes, and we see that work reflected in the numbers every day," Cuomo said Wednesday. "But we must continue to be smart - by wearing a mask, social distancing and washing our hands. We cannot go back to the hell we experienced three months ago, so please stay vigilant and New York Tough."

Lacking compliance in parts of the state is already fueling new outbreaks. Parties over the Fourth of July weekend on Long Island have contributed to a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases, some of which may be due to disregard for social distancing or mask-wearing measures, officials said.

Cuomo echoed those sentiments Tuesday. He said he was concerned that infection rates were "alarmingly" rising among 20-somethings in New York and reminded young people who don't feel they need to wear masks that, in no uncertain terms, "YOU ARE WRONG."

"It only takes one person at one party to spread COVID," he added later. "Wear a mask and be smart. It's the only way to continue to keep one another safe." 

In total, it has confirmed nearly 42,500 COVID cases as of Wednesday. Neighboring Nassau County has a slightly higher case total as well as a higher confirmed death toll (2,190).

Long Island is now in Phase IV of Cuomo's reopening plan, which allows low-risk indoor and outdoor venues to reopen like museums, aquariums and zoos. The governor said last week malls could also reopen in Phase IV regions if they have certain air filtration systems in place to ensure the virus doesn't recirculate.

Like New York, New Jersey has experienced an uptick in young people testing positive over the last few weeks. Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday there have been documented reports of indoor house parties, adding, "We cannot allow this to happen."

As for masks, Murphy's message remains crystal clear: "Folks are trying to politicize wearing a mask when the science proves to us to wear a mask. If there's a sense of the politicization of wearing a mask, all you get are people who are dead."

July 14, 2020

Four more states were added to the tri-state's quarantine-restricted list Tuesday -- New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Delaware came off, no longer meeting the criteria to be considered a viral hotspot under New York standards.

That brings the total number on the list to 22. In addition to the newcomers, the restricted states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

Citing noncompliance with the existing quarantine advisory, Gov. Andrew Cuomo upped the ante with a new emergency health order in New York starting Tuesday. Travelers from those 22 hotspots landing at New York airports now must fill out a form that state officials will use to ensure they isolate for 14 days.

Failure to fill out the form, which asks for contact information, before leaving the airport could result in a $2,000 fine and mandatory quarantine. Airlines will provide the forms to passengers prior to or upon disembarking flights to New York. Enforcement teams will be stationed at airports statewide to meet arriving aircraft at gates and request proof of the form's completion, Cuomo said.

Out-of-state travelers coming to New York by train, bus or car are required to fill the form out online, though it wasn't immediately clear how compliance would be enforced.

To date, New York has seen 403,175 coronavirus cases and 24,994 deaths.

Meanwhile, officials and police officers in New Jersey's largest city will continue to educate the public on wearing masks through the "Mask Up Newark" campaign, but that will soon change when summonses start to be distributed to those that do not comply.

New Jersey has reported 175,915 cases and 15,582 COVID-19-related deaths as of Tuesday. Coronavirus cases among Connecticut residents is 47,530. The state has seen 4,372 deaths linked to the virus.

June 13, 2020

On the heels of a 24-hour period without coronavirus deaths in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and city health officials are issuing new guidance for wearing face coverings indoors.

New Yorkers should wear a mask or face covering indoors at all times, even at work and in large spaces regardless if social distancing can be met, de Blasio said Monday morning.

Although the city's key coronavirus indicators have looked favorable in recent weeks, Mayor de Blasio said infection rates in young adults is cause for concern. Infections are up in adults ages 20 to 29 even as other ages groups are experiencing mostly flat or declining rates of coronavirus infections.

Ten new coronavirus testing sites will open in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, the mayor announced. Eight sites are already open and the last two will be open shortly, he said. 

As of Monday, 402,263 New York residents have tested positive for the virus. According to the state, 24,989 deaths have been reported.

The New York governor offered clarity on the formula used by the state to determine a region's ability to open schools in the fall. In order to reopen, he said, the school's region must be in Phase IV and maintain a daily infection rate 5% or lower over a 14-day average. Schools will immediately close if the regional rate shoots past 9% over a seven-day average after August 1.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, with ridership on the rise as people return to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, more riders are being allowed on NJ Transit and private-carrier lines.

The capacity restriction of 50% will be lifted at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement at his Monday afternoon COVID-19 news conference.

To date, New Jersey has reported 175,522 coronavirus cases and 15,560 deaths (this figure also includes probable deaths).

June 12, 2020

New York City health officials reported zero deaths related to the novel coronavirus four months after the state's first official death was recorded on March 11.

According to initial data reported by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, no one died from the virus in New York City on July 11. Officials recorded no confirmed deaths the day before as well, but did have two probable deaths.

The department's data shows there hasn't been a day without a coronavirus-related death since March 13, two days after the first reported death.

Each sign of progress in New York has come in the shadow of an ever-growing national spike that continues to plague the U.S. crisis. On Sunday, Florida reported more than 15,000 positive cases of the virus. It's the highest single-day number for any state and cleared the record previously set in New York back in April.

A widely cited University of Washington model doesn’t project spikes — at least through its Nov. 1 time frame — in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, whose Democratic governors have coordinated on traveler quarantines and, earlier, some shutdown policies. But that doesn’t mean the densely populated tri-state area is in the clear.

“We expect the virus to return in all of those states,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “The question is one of timing.”

As cases spiked in March and April, New York became the nation’s coronavirus nightmare, with New York City at the crux of it. Statewide, over 18,000 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals at one point in April. Daily deaths peaked at 799 in April, and have totaled over 24,000.

June 11, 2020

The number of people staying in New York hospitals due to the coronavirus dropped below 800 for the first time since March, another sign of progress in the state's effort to combat the virus and prevent outbreaks amid a national rise in cases.

Late Friday, NBC News reported the U.S. reached a record number of positive coronavirus cases in a single day: more than 70,000. Nationwide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has passed 3.1 million — meaning nearly one in every 100 people has been confirmed as infected — and the number of deaths is more than 134,000, according to a tally from NBC News.

Almost 70,000 coronavirus tests were conducted in New York on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office reported. 730 tests returned positive results - just over 1 percent.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo is predicting a new increase in cases amid outbreaks in other states. The governor acknowledged the limitations in enforcing quarantine rules for travelers returning from states with rising rates of transmission.

“The only question is how far up our rate goes,” Cuomo said in an interview with WAMC radio on Friday. “You can’t have it all across the country and not come back.”

Hospitalizations dropped to 799 Friday - the first time that total has dipped below 800 since March 16, Cuomo said. Six more people died from the virus, bringing the state's death toll to 24,974.

"Throughout this pandemic, we've made progress by recognizing that state and local governments can't fight the virus on their own - the efforts of everyday New Yorkers to socially distance, wear masks and wash their hands are central to our ability to slow the spread and save lives," Cuomo said in a press release.

June 10, 2020

Nursing homes and long term care facilities in New York can once again allow visitations but under a strict set of safety measures announced by the State Department of Health on Friday, just as the state's number of confirmed coronavirus cases passed 400,000.

Visits can resume only at facilities that have been without COVID-19 for at least 28 days, State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced. Additionally, residents will only be allowed two visitors at a time, who must be temperature checked and follow face covering and social distancing practices.

"With the knowledge we now have about how COVID-19 came into nursing homes – mainly through asymptomatic staff and visitors through no fault of their own – it is critical that as we resume visitations to these facilities we do it in a smart and cautious way to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff," Dr. Zucker said in a press release.

While the number of hospitalizations in New York has declined overall since spiking in mid-April, 826 individuals with COVID-19 were hospitalized Thursday. The state's confirmed case toll has now passed 400,000, with a total of 400,299 confirmed infections as of Friday morning, Cuomo's office said.

Malls in New York's Phase IV reopening regions open their doors to shoppers for the first time in four months on Friday.

As cases spike in other parts of the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated that only malls with HVAC systems with filtration that meets a certain minimum standard are allowed to reopen. They will also be required to increase outdoor air flowing into the facilities, reduce air circulation and regularly check and replace filters.

Cuomo had been under pressure to reopen malls after neighboring states moved ahead days or weeks ago to reopen indoor shopping, but he wanted to make sure the state's number stays low.

In New Jersey, the state's athletic association deployed new dates for fall sports. The NJSIAA pushed back fall seasons nearly one month; official practices can start September 14 with competition getting underway two weeks later.

Girl's tennis is scheduled to take the court Sept. 28 while all other sports kick off Oc. 1, expect football which starts one day later. Regular season play will be much shorter this fall and is scheduled to end after nearly one month, give or take a week depending on the sport, and the deadline for postseason play is Thanksgiving. The full list of dates was published to the athletic association's website.

Connecticut is reporting no new COVID-19 related deaths in the state since yesterday, Governor Ned Lamont announced Friday. According to the latest data from the Department of Public Health, hospitalizations declined and the positive test percentage fell back under one percent.

July 9, 2020

The Putnam County Department of Health, part of New York's Mid-Hudson region, is warning people about potential COVID exposure in a local supermarket this month, officials confirmed Thursday.

It's the county's first health alert related to a COVID positive person in a public space to date. Anyone who was in TOPS Friendly Markets in Carmel on July 2 between 5:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. or July 5 between 5:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. may have been exposed, officials said.

Anyone with questions can call the Putnam County Department of Health at 845-808-1390; those who fear they may have been exposed should call their healthcare providers.

Putnam County only reported four new COVID cases overnight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday, bringing its total diagnosed cases to 1,348. That's a fraction of the nearly 400,000 confirmed COVID cases statewide to date. The county has confirmed 63 virus deaths to date, just two-tenths of a percent of New York's total.

It's one of seven counties in the Mid-Hudson region, which entered Phase IV of Cuomo's reopening plan this week. Phase IV allows for low-risk outdoor and indoor venues to open like museums, aquariums and zoos. It also raises the cap on social gatherings to 50.

As of Friday, malls will also be allowed to open in Phase IV regions, Cuomo said, though they must meet certain air filtration standards

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, state officials announced 354 new positive coronavirus test results Thursday, pushing the statewide total to 174,270. An additional confirmed 28 COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total to 15,448 confirmed and probable coronavirus deaths.

To date, Connecticut has reported 47,209 cases and 4,348 COVID-19-related deaths.

July 8, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he won't decide the fate of New York's schools until early August, despite mounting pressure to do so. He made the announcement Wednesday roughly an hour after Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed a preliminary fall reopening plan for New York City schools that involves a hybrid approach of both in-person and remote learning and intense COVID safety precautions.

While de Blasio has repeatedly said in no uncertain terms that New York City schools will reopen in some fashion in September, he acknowledges it's ultimately Cuomo's call. The governor has steadfastly refused to commit to them reopening at all for in-person learning in the fall, citing still prolific unknowns around the virus. Much could change -- for better or worse -- by September.

Cuomo also announced Wednesday, malls in New York's Phase IV reopening regions will be able to open starting Friday, provided they take special air filtration precautions.

Malls will be required to upgrade their HVAC systems with filtration that meets a certain minimum standard, the governor said. They will also be required to increase outdoor air flowing into the facilities, reduce air circulation and regularly check and replace filters.

These latest developments come as New York state reported 398,929 coronavirus cases and 24,944 deaths to date.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order Wednesday requiring people to wear face masks outdoors when they can't socially distance, in addition to the existing rules for indoor masks.

Certain exceptions apply: Kids under 2 don't have to wear them. Face coverings aren't required for people eating or drinking at an outdoor dining establishment. They're also excused in cases where mask-wearing would inhibit health or safety.

Wednesday also marked the second day that NJ MVC agencies were open after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. And, just like the day before, residents were met with massive lines and delays.

The long lines facing customers hoping to set foot inside one of New Jersey's Motor Vehicle Commission has prompted the state to open the agencies six days a week, a reversal from its original plan.

Additionally, Murphy said that in order for agencies to not go understaffed, he is exempting MVC personnel from any work furloughs.

New Jersey has reported 174,039 coronavirus cases and 15,423 deaths to date.

As of today, all campgrounds at Connecticut State Parks have opened for the 2020 season with social distancing norms in place, all campers are required to make reservations in advance of their stay. Walk-in campers will not be permitted this season. Campers are also reminded to wear a face covering when coming into their office to check in for their reserved campsite.

Connecticut has seen 47,108 coronavirus cases and 4,343 deaths to date.

July 7, 2020

Three more states -- Delaware, Kansas and Oklahoma -- have been added to the growing list of states under the tri-state quarantine order as New York and New Jersey investigate new travel-related outbreaks amid the U.S. virus surge.

As of Tuesday, travelers to the tri-state area from 19 hotspot states are told to isolate for 14 days. In addition to the three newcomers, the restricted states included: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, Idaho, Georgia, California, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Nevada.

As the fate of schools hangs in the balance, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's Board of Health would vote Tuesday on a plan to reopen more than 3,000 childcare centers across the five boroughs as early as next week to give parents some relief. Requirements would include a 15-child per room cap and mandatory face coverings as well as daily health screenings and intense sanitizing.

To date, the state of New York has seen 398,237 coronavirus cases and 24,924 deaths.

Meanwhile in New Jersey, drivers hoping to visit one of New Jersey's Motor Vehicle Commission agencies Tuesday – the day they reopened – are in for a waiting game.

By early morning there were already hundreds of eager customers lining up outside the Springfield Township MVC, and other MVC locations, hoping to get titles for their cars as well as other services after agencies were closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday, New Jersey has reported 173,878 cases and 15,281 COVID-19-related deaths.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced Tuesday that no coronavirus-related deaths were reported in the state for the first time since March.

As of Tuesday, Connecticut has had 47,033 COVID-19 cases and 4,338 deaths.

July 6, 2020

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.

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.

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."

July 5, 2020

As has been tradition the past few weeks, New York City is the last region ready to enter a new phase of the state's reopening strategy but this time does so without a key component already offered to the rest of New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo OK'd New York City to enter Phase III on Monday, but as he and Mayor Bill de Blasio previously announced, without the option of indoor dining.

"Out of an abundance of caution and after seeing other states' experience with indoor dining, we will wait to reopen it as the city moves to Phase Three tomorrow," the governor said Sunday in a press release. "As we end this holiday weekend, I urge everyone to be New York Tough: wear a mask, socially distance, use hand sanitizer and continue the smart practices that have made out state a national leader in combatting this virus."

The third phase of reopening resumes personal care services from nail and tanning salons to spas and massage parlors with COVID safeguards in place.

The state recorded a slight uptick in coronavirus infection rates last week, growing steadily each day until it topped out on Friday. A look at the 7-day average however shows the rate of positive cases holds steady around 1%.

On Sunday, Cuomo's office said 533 tests came back positive from Saturday's testing of 63,415 people in the state. An additional eight people died from the virus, he said, bringing the state total over 24,900.

The spike in coronavirus infections across the country has prompted renewed caution from tri-state leaders, who have already issued a 14-day quarantine advisory for travel from a known hot-spot state. On Saturday, Florida reported 11,458 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily tally yet, nearly tying New York's high of 11,571 in April.

Monday brings its own set of reopening procedures to New Jersey, whose governor OK'd youth summer camp operations as long as social distancing and safety guidelines are followed.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order last week permitting the expansion of outdoor crowds to 500 people. This allows for outdoor graduation ceremonies this week.

Monday also marks a significant shift in New Jersey's public transportation operations. NJ Transit trains return to regular weekday service.

On Sunday, New Jersey health officials recorded 173,402 total coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. The state's death toll rose to 15,211 after 23 more people died Saturday from the virus.

July 4, 2020

After weeks of positive health reports from a state that's declared defeat over the curve, New York saw a slight uptick in coronavirus rates and a return to positive case totals reached three weeks ago.

For several weeks, New York officials reported positivity rates that hovered around 1% - some days were slightly higher, others dropped below. Those reports continued to be a sign of hope when compared to the height of the pandemic's grip on the state when some counties recorded positivity rates above 20%.

The lowest rate, Monday, started the week at .84% with each day following increasing by a small percentage. By Friday, New York State health officials reported 1.38% of people tested were positive for the virus and by Saturday, that number dropped slightly to 1.16%.

Of the numbers reported Friday, 66,392 tests had been performed the day before, 918 of which came back positive. The number of positive cases reported back on June 12 was 916.

The state's daily death rate over the same period, however, has held to an average. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced nine additional deaths on Friday related to the virus. Between Monday and Friday, New York averaged 10 deaths related to the virus.

Over in New Jersey, as of Friday, nearly 173,000 people in New Jersey tested positive for COVID-19. With 58 new deaths announced, the confirmed deaths from coronavirus-related complications rose to at least 13,308, Murphy said Friday. The daily death total - Friday's was the highest at least a week - dropped to 25 on Saturday.

Officials in Hoboken are monitoring a two-day spike in cases attributed to 13 people who all recently traveled to states that have seen spikes. Several people from that group traveled to states on the tri-state's travel advisory.

Hoboken shutdown early in response to the pandemic and for the last ten days of June counted only three news cases per day. Most cases have been in people under the age of 45, as is the case for the 13 new cases under investigation.

Mayor Ravinder Bhalla said he would support a statewide outdoor mask requirement if ordered by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, or issue a citywide order if the state gives him the authority.

"All 13 cases traveled to states with alarming rates of rising COVID-19, states which opened up far too early and are now suffering the consequences," Mayor Bhalla said Saturday.

July 3, 2020

As coronavirus-related restrictions are eased and temperatures climb, people are flocking back to the Jersey Shore.

And with the July Fourth holiday weekend upon us, that’s making some people nervous, particularly given the large crowds that have surfaced at some popular shore spots recently and poor compliance with mandated measures to help slow the spread of the virus.

As of Friday, nearly 173,000 people in New Jersey has tested positive for COVID-19. With 58 new deaths announced, the confirmed deaths from coronavirus-related complications rose to at least 13,308, Murphy said Friday. The daily death total was the highest in at least a week.

New York and Connecticut health officials reported nine new deaths from each state on Friday.

“The more than 900 new cases in New York yesterday, while representing just 1.38% of tests, is a reminder that the virus is still here,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release.

Large crowds are expected at the shore for the holiday weekend: New Jersey's casinos have reopenedalong with amusement rides and water parks. Beaches are open, though at reduced occupancy levels, and on Thursday indoor pools reopened with 25% capacity. Restaurants can offer limited outdoor dining, and stores and shopping malls have reopened.

America shattered its daily new COVID case records again Friday, topping 52,000 new reported infections. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned the Senate this week cases could soar to 100,000 a day at the current rate.

July 2, 2020

New York and New Jersey, America's hardest-hit states, are no longer among the few currently on track to contain COVID-19, losing ground they had just a week ago, according to Covid Act Now, which uses real-time modeling and metrics to assess the nation's standing in the war against the novel coronavirus.

Right now, the two states are controlling disease growth, which is still a better standing than half of the rest of the nation. As of Wednesday, the latest update, just Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont were on track to contain COVID, according to Covid Act Now, which assesses risk based on contact tracing, hospital capacity, testing and daily case and death numbers.

At the same time, some reports have indicated trouble with contact tracing. Rockland County officials investigating a new party-linked cluster are resorting to subpoenas to compel people to comply, while New York City says it hasn't been able to reach a third of the contacts it receives.

Additionally, it was revealed that an overwhelming majority of New York City parents want to send their children back to the five boroughs' public schools in September, but a surprising number of families aren't so eager to get back to in-person learning, according to a survey Mayor Bill de Blasio discussed at his daily COVID briefing Thursday.

The city's Department of Education surveyed more than 400,000 parents on back-to-school plans and needs; it found roughly 75 percent wanted to send their kids back to school in September, which leaves a full 25 percent still unsure.

De Blasio also revealed Thursday a new summer program that combines the city's Open Streets and Open Restaurants initiatives. Nearly two dozen of New York City's Open Streets will now feature Open Restaurants summer weekends.

As of Thursday, there have been 394,954 coronavirus cases in New York with 24,977 deaths.

In New York City and New Jersey, indoor dining was the first domino to fall. Will it be the last?

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's decision, which came just 72 hours before it was set to resume in the Garden State, forced casinos to abruptly reevaluate their reopening plans with little time to spare. Five of the state's nine casinos will reopen Thursday as scheduled, albeit it at 25 percent capacity, while three more open Friday.

On Thursday, Murphy announced state flags will return to full-staff after months at half-mast in honor of all the lives lost due to COVID-19, although Murphy was quick to say that the action does not mean the state is out of the clear and must continue fighting the virus. Additionally, Murphy extended the public health emergency for an additional 30 days, meaning the state will remain vigilant and prepare to act should there be another severe outbreak of COVID-19.

Murphy noted that on Thursday the state has more daily positives, the spot positivity is up slightly and the rate of transmission is up slightly. Although officials said these areas are not of concern given that it does not show a trend at the moment, they will be monitored closely.

Meanwhile, the total number of hospitalizations, individuals in intensive care and those on ventilators are down.

To date, New Jersey has seen 172,356 coronavirus cases and 15,107 deaths (a number that includes probable deaths.) Meanwhile, Connecticut has reported 46,646 cases and 4,326 COVID-19-related deaths.

July 1, 2020

New York City will postpone indoor dining indefinitely, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, citing soaring infection rates tied to bars and restaurants in a growing number of U.S. states. New Jersey made the same decision earlier this week.

De Blasio said "now is not the time to forge ahead" with indoor dining in the five boroughs. That had been slated to return Monday when the city enters Phase III of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening strategy. The city will still transition to the third phase Monday absent indoor dining, resuming personal care services and more outdoor recreation, from tennis and basketball to Bocce.

The mayor said he would work with Cuomo's office to determine the best way to move forward with indoor dining when the time is appropriate.

The governor didn't indicate when that might be, saying only, "Indoor dining in NYC will be postponed until the facts change and it is safe and prudent."

The rest of New York state has already resumed indoor dining. Cuomo said Wednesday indoor dining would continue in the state's other nine regions, adding the issues that led to the delay in New York City are primarily city-specific issues. Seven regions have already moved into the fourth and final phase of Cuomo's reopening plan, with the Capital Region the latest to do so Wednesday.

"Everything else is going to continue, everything else is continuing all across the state," Cuomo said Wednesday. "This is a New York City-only modification because frankly, it is a problem that is most pronounced in New York City.”

The city hasn't seen any significant infection spikes tied to its reopening thus far - it tests tens of thousands of people daily and has a seven-day rolling positivity average of just 1 percent. But Cuomo warned Wednesday, "I see storm clouds on the horizon."

"Citizen compliance is slipping. Government is supposed to be enforcing compliance. That is not happening to a sufficient basis," he said. "This is not over. This can still rear its ugly head anywhere in this nation and in this state."

Cuomo said the state would create its own enforcement department to supplement local efforts, but noted that assistance could stretch only so far.

In other positive news: New York City confirmed late Tuesday it would reopen as many as 15 public pools by Aug. 1, also for the first time this year. Find the initial list of pools the city plans to open here.

While New Jersey won't reopen indoor dining as scheduled Thursday, it will still allow amusement parks, boardwalk rides and playgrounds to return that day. Casinos are also permitted to reopen Thursday at 25 percent capacity, though given the indefinite postponement of indoor dining and a new smoking ban, more than a handful may opt to delay their returns. Several have done so already.

New Jersey is one of only four states -- alongside New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts -- that Covid Act Now, a volunteer-led web-based initiative to model COVID-19 data of the United States under different scenarios, says are on track to containing COVID-19, Murphy said.

However, New Jersey officials are quick to point out that the effort to contain the virus continues and New Jerseyans must remain cautious and avoid any sense of false security particularly since there is a spike in the transmission of the virus across various states nationwide.

The state of New York has reported 394,079 coronavirus cases to date and 24,866 deaths.

Meanwhile, 171,928 New Jerseyans have tested positive for the virus, with 15,098 deaths reported. Connecticut has seen 46,572 coronavirus cases and 4,324 deaths.

June 30, 2020

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut doubled the number of quarantine-restricted states to 16 Tuesday as the rate of new U.S. COVID infections surged to a level the CDC warned may be beyond the nation's ability to control.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert, further amplified the alarm Tuesday, telling the Senate he could see new daily U.S. cases soar to 100,000 new cases a day, a striking increase from the already record-breaking daily totals in the 40,000s, if current trends hold.

The tri-state travel restriction now applies to the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

A growing number of states, from Texas to Arizona to Florida, are now halting or slowing their reopenings. Cuomo and Murphy are now reevaluating New York and New Jersey's reopening processes, especially where indoor dining is concerned.

Murphy shelved indoor dining indefinitely in New Jersey Monday, just three days before it was set to resume in his state, albeit it at 25 percent capacity. Crowding, flagrant disregard for social distancing and limited mask-wearing fueled his decision, he said.

In New York, Cuomo cited noncompliance and lacking enforcement as reasons to reevaluate indoor dining in the city, particularly given evidence of heightened risk in other states.

Meanwhile, the five boroughs' 14 miles of public beaches are still scheduled to reopen for swimming on Wednesday, while New Jersey's amusement parks, boardwalk rides and playgrounds will return the following day. Casinos are also permitted to reopen Thursday at 25 percent capacity, though a late-night executive order from Murphy's office has wreaked havoc on some of their plans.

That executive order banned smoking on casino floors, which has long been a draw. It also prohibited the serving of beverages of any kind as well as food consumption within New Jersey casinos in line with the indoor dining delay.

Atlantic City's top-performing Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was the first to say Monday it would stay closed in light of Murphy's indoor dining decision. The smoking ban could be a deal-breaker for additional casinos.

The state of New York has reported 393,454 coronavirus cases to date and 24,855 deaths.

Meanwhile, 171,667 New Jerseyans have tested positive for the virus, with 15,035 deaths reported. Connecticut has seen 46,514 coronavirus cases and 4,322 deaths.

June 29, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he may tweak the Phase III reopening process for New York City as it relates to indoor dining, while New Jersey's governor said he would postpone that step indefinitely as virus cases surge across the U.S.

Both governors, who lead the two hardest-hit COVID states in America, cited evidence of heightened risk in other states from enclosed spaces. Both Cuomo and Gov. Phil Murphy also pointed to overcrowding and social distancing violations in some restaurants and bars in their states as reasons to reevaluate.

"Confidence in our restart is higher across the Northeast than it is in any other part of the country. That’s because we’re taking responsible and measured steps while following the science and data," Murphy said. "We still have nearly 1,000 people with COVID-19 in our hospitals. Our sister states are now battling for their lives. Do not think for one moment that this is behind us."

New Jersey had been set to reopen indoor dining on Thursday; that will no longer happen and no new timeline has been set. New York City had been scheduled to start limited indoor dining next Monday when it enters Phase III. That may not happen either, though the five boroughs will still move to that stage next week.

Phase III reopens personal care services, from spas to nail salons to massage and tattoo parlors and more, in addition to indoor dining -- at least for nine of New York's 10 other regions. More outdoor recreation will also open at that time.

Cuomo said he was talking with business owners and reviewing data from other states, but described indoor dining as a "real problem." He pledged a final decision on indoor dining in New York City by Wednesday. Every other New York region has already resumed dine-in; it wasn't clear if Cuomo would adjust other regional reopenings to accommodate any potential changes to state guidelines.

A new report on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children published Monday ruled out one of three deaths previously associated with MIS-C in New York by health officials.

Additionally, on Monday, it was announced that the shutdown on Broadway has been extended again — until at least early January.

The state of New York has reported 392,930 coronavirus cases to date and 24,842 deaths.

Malls aren't slated to reopen in New York any time soon, but when they do, Cuomo said they'll be required to install certain air systems that filter the virus out rather than recirculate it. There's no timeline for those reopenings yet in the Empire State, but they did reopen with restrictions in New Jersey on Monday.

To date, New Jersey has seen 171,272 cases and 14,992 deaths. The number of New Jerseyans who have passed away includes both confirmed and probable COVID-19-related deaths.

Meanwhile, Connecticut has had a total of 46,362 cases and 4,320 deaths.

June 28, 2020

New York State reached a major milestone in the fight against the coronavirus Sunday when health officials reported a single-day death toll below double digits for the first time since the pandemic's beginning.

Infections rates and daily indicators have been trending positively for the state in recent weeks, with daily death tolls hovering in the teens. According to the state, only five people died Saturday from COVID-19.

At the height of the pandemic's grip on the tri-state, New York alone recorded almost 800 deaths for a single day. Although the state has shown considerable progress in lowering infection rates and hospitalizations, officials consider the first wave of the coronavirus far from defeated.

"This is a continuation of the first wave and it was a failed effort to stop the first wave in this country," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, adding that the state's COVID hospitalizations have dropped below 800.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have forged on into further phases of each state's reopening schedule, while other states have paused or rolled back portions of their own reopening. By Friday, the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the U.S. hit an all-time high.

The U.S. has the most cases in the world, with over 2.5 million confirmed infections and some 125,000 deaths, by Johns Hopkins’ count. But health officials believe the true number of infections is about 10 times higher.

“I’m now afraid of the spread coming from other states because we are one country and people travel,” Cuomo said. “I’m afraid the infection rate in the other states will come back to New York and raise that rate again.”

June 27, 2020

At least three clusters of positive coronavirus cases in New York have health officials watching the state's infection rate carefully as states like Florida, Arizona and Texas struggle to get recent spikes under control.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the State Department of Health is investigating a possible outbreak tied to a high school graduation ceremony in Westchester County. So far, the state believes a student attending the outdoor ceremony on June 20 had recently traveled to Florida. Since then, the student and four others have all tested positive for COVID-19. All five students are self-isolating, Cuomo's office says.

Students who attended the Horace Greeley High School drive-in graduation ceremony or the "Field Night" event have been encouraged by the health department to quarantine through July 5.

Chappaqua Superintendent Dr. Christine Ackerman said in a statement that the high school's graduation was carefully planned according to the state's health guidelines, but acknowledged "numerous individuals failed to follow our protocols."

New York's Contract Tracing System is working to identify all students who attended the events on June 20. They're also tasked with tracking down potential virus spreaders from an apple packing plant and aluminum manufacturer.

According to Cuomo, 82 of 179 employees at an Oswego County apple packaging plant tested positive for COVID-19 in June. The governor says many of the employees live in Onondaga and Oneida counties, which could explain the uptick in positive cases reported in the Central New York and Mohawk Valley regions; both entered Cuomo's fourth and final phase Friday.

The investigation led state and Oswego County health officials to a local onion farm where 4 employees, less than 25% of its staff, tested positive.

In Montgomery County, an aluminum manufacturing plant also sits closed after officials discovered employees tested positive.At least 37 positives cases have been connected to the Montgomery County cluster by health officials. They planned to test the remaining employees Friday.

In addition to restrictions on people entering New York from coronavirus hotspots, the governor signed an executive order making New Yorkers ineligible for paid sick leave if they voluntarily travel to hotspot states.

The states at the focus of the governor's order have a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.

New York's phased reopenings haven't caused any significant infection spikes to date. The state's COVID hospitalizations fell below 1,000 Thursday for the first time since mid-March and plunged even lower Friday and Saturday, Cuomo said, while the daily death toll hovers in the low double digits.

June 26, 2020

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled preliminary guidance Friday for reopening the state's schools in the fall, one that involves a hybrid approach of in-person and remote learning but must include the first, as well as COVID screenings.

"We have every expectation that our kids will return to their schools come September," Murphy said Friday. "Today's guidance comes with one overarching requirement: that our public schools will open in some capacity with the health of students, their families, and educators being the top priority."

Given the uncertainty surrounding the virus, which is spiking to record numbers in many states across the country, Murphy said schools must be prepared for the possibility that they may have to transition to full remote learning at any point.

Under the state's plan, all faculty, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face coverings. Students will be encouraged to wear masks if social distancing is maintained and required to do so if it's not possible, including on buses. Murphy acknowledged that might not always be doable, especially in elementary school.

Class sizes should be limited where possible to better promote social distancing, Murphy says, and configured to that end as well, whether by moving desks or shifting late. Large school districts are allowed to rearrange student schedules. Murphy said the state expects each district to share its scheduling plans at least one month before the first day of school so families can plan ahead.

Districts must also adopt a policy for screening students and employees for COVID symptoms. Playgrounds are allowed, but the equipment must be sanitized after each period of student use. No determination has been made yet on organized athletics. Cafeterias can be open but the state suggests districts stagger meal time. Self-serve and buffet lines should be prohibited.

Meanwhile, parents in New York await clarity on what at least one elementary school principal described as a "grim reality" they'll face when students return.

Educators have indicated students may be subject to split schedules and return to the classroom in waves. They'll likely alternate days of remote and in-person learning. A Brooklyn elementary school principal's letter hinting kids may only be in-person one of every three days riled parents, a number of whom wondered rhetorically what would be the point of that kind of schooling. Masks would also be required for all except for while students are eating.

Asked about schools Friday, the last official day of class in the city for the 2019-20 year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is currently in the process of retrofitting its schools so as many of its more than 1.1 million public school students will be able to return to in-person classes safely when school starts on Sept. 10. Some schools were overcrowded as it was before the pandemic, the mayor said -- and warned Friday that parents should "be ready for staggering as it's needed."

"We have a Plan A -- that's what every school has been instructed -- figure out the maximum number of students you can get in the school safely," de Blasio said, adding that all the necessary precautions, from PPE to social distancing requirements, were being incorporated into each district's planning process.

As the city looks ahead to September, it's also looking to the more immediate future -- and it's entry into Phase III of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening plan, which de Blasio said the city is on track to start on Monday, July 6. He said Friday he expects another 50,000 to return to work when that happens.

New York's phased reopenings haven't caused any significant infection spikes to date. The state's COVID hospitalizations fell below 1,000 Thursday for the first time since mid-March and plunged even lower Friday, Cuomo said, while the daily death toll hovers in the low double digits. Overall, the state has lost 24,814 people since March, with 214,070 total infections.

New Jersey has had 14,914 deaths from COVID-19, and 170,584 have been sickened. Connecticut has had 46,059 cases, and 4,307 deaths.

On Friday, the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the U.S. hit an all-time high. The surges in infections have prompted at least one state -- Texas -- to pause its reopening process completely.

June 25, 2020

New York's COVID hospitalizations fell below 1,000 for the first time since mid-March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday, a day after he and the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut implemented a 14-day quarantine order for people traveling to the tri-state area from viral U.S. hotspots. That announcement came on the same day the U.S. recorded its highest single-day new COVID caseload with 45,557 infections. That blew past its previous record April 26 by 25 percent.

"If you fly into New York,  we'll have your name, we'll know where you're supposed to be staying, there will be random checks," Cuomo said on CNN Thursday. "You get pulled over by a police officer and he looks at where your residence, and says, 'How long have you been here?' You get sick, you go to a hospital from out of state and you test positive and you've been within the 14 days, you're violating the law and you're going to have a problem."

The list of affected states could change daily as COVID numbers do too, the governor said. It applies to states where 10 of every 100,000 people test positive on a rolling seven-day basis or where the positivity rate in the total population is 10 percent (also on a seven-day rolling basis).

Eight states met that initial threshold: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas, which was forced to pause its reopening on Thursday amid the ongoing surge in new cases.

At the same time, the former epicenter of the national crisis, New York City, is on track to enter Phase III of Cuomo's four-step reopening plan on Monday, July 6, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. He said a slate of long-awaited activities will return to the five boroughs when that happens, including basketball, tennis and handball courts, dog runs, soccer, volleyball and Bocce ball.

New York City's seven-day rolling positivity rate for daily positive tests is just 1 percent, and the mayor said it didn't appear any of the protests triggered a new resurgence or wave of hospitalizations, with all indicators still remaining low. Even America's deadliest COVID counties, Queens and Brooklyn, are seeing daily positivity rates well below 1.5 percent on a consistent basis. The state had seen 390,415 cases overall (213,699 in the city), along with 24,800 deaths.

Phase III allows many low-risk indoor and outdoor activities to resume, and boosts the limit on social gatherings to 50 from 25, but doesn't allow for malls, gyms or movie theaters. Cuomo says he's concerned that AC systems may just recirculate the virus rather than cleanse the air; he's working with health officials to understand any potential hidden exposure risk posed by those larger venues.

The CDC said Thursday the actual total of U.S. COVID infections may top 20 million, 10 times higher than reported, based on national antibody samples.

To date, the United States has lost nearly 123,000 people to the virus, more than a third of those coming from the tri-state area.

New Jersey's death toll soared by nearly 2,000 Thursday as the state moved to include probable COVID deaths in the overall toll, which New York City did months ago in accordance with CDC guidance. The probable fatalities now account for more than 12 percent of the state's 14,872 deaths as of Thursday. The state has had 14,872 confirmed cases overall.

"In one day, we are significantly adding to the already weighty toll this pandemic has had on our state, and on so many families. We report this out of nothing else than a solemn sense of duty," Murphy said. "Given our current testing protocols and decreasing number of deaths overall, we do not anticipate this number growing significantly in the future," though the state will update it weekly.

In the meantime, he is plowing forward on his state's reopening, hoping to soon designate a date for its entry into Stage 3, the last step in Murphy's roadmap, even amid concern over growing COVID cases among young adults in his state.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and the state's education department outlined their plans that would require all schools to bring students back into the classroom in the fall.

The plan consists of schools using a "cohorting" system, which would keep the same students in small groups based on classrooms. Those students would function separately from other groups in the school, according to Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, who admitted that the system might be difficult for high schools.

Schools would need to maximize social distancing and all students and staff would have to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth, Cardona said. School hallways would be rerouted to be one direction, students would be recommended to eat lunch in their classrooms or outside whenever possible, and districts would be encouraged to use gymnasiums or auditoriums to potentially alleviate classroom size and promote social distancing. School buses would be used at full or nearly full capacity.

The state also will have districts come up with alternative plans in case COVID numbers go up, with a hybrid plan (similar to the one NYC is looking into) as an option.

Connecticut has have 45,994 cases of COVID-19, and 4,298 deaths.

June 24, 2020

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said Wednesday they will implement a mandatory quarantine on visitors to their states from viral hotspots, part of a coordinated effort to sustain low local infection rates as coronavirus cases surge to two-month highs across nearly half of the country.

The order, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday, does not block people from traveling. But it does make clear that if you've been in a state that meets the guidelines -- like taking a vacation to Florida and then coming home, or visiting New York from Texas on business -- you will have to quarantine for 14 days on arriving. Airports and highways will have reminder signs, and hotels will be asked to inform guests as well.

The goals, the governors say, is to prevent what would amount to a second wave. New York City, the former epicenter of the national epidemic, now boasts one of the lowest COVID transmission rates in the nation. New study data from COVID Act Now shows New York and New Jersey are two of just four states on track to contain COVID. Meanwhile, new U.S. coronavirus cases have soared to levels last seen in April as the pandemic first worsened across America.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

To date, 389,666 New Yorkers have had the virus and 24,782 have died.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced his plan for indoor and boardwalk arcades, museums, aquariums, bowling alleys, shooting ranges, libraries and more to reopen from COVID-19 closures on July 2.

In an attempt to keep people socially distant, capacity will be limited to 25%, Murphy said.

New Jersey has seen a total of 169,892 cases and 12,995 deaths to date. Meanwhile, 45,913 in Connecticut have been infected by the virus and 4,287 have passed away.

June 23, 2020

New York's Mid-Hudson region moved to Phase III Tuesday, reopening indoor dining and personal care services like nail salons, spas and massage parlors (with restrictions) in Westchester, Rockland and five other counties.

Long Island is expected to make the transition Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says, leaving New York City once again alone -- but this time in Phase II.

Phase III opens up everything from tanning salons and spas to tattoo and piercing shops, all of which must ensure strict social distancing and mask-wearing and are encouraged to conduct business by appointment only.

This next step, the third in Cuomo's four-phase reopening plan, also allows indoor dining to return, though capacity is limited to 50 percent (excluding employees), and increases the size limit on indoor gatherings from 10 to 25.

While data shows New York and New Jersey are two of three U.S. states on track to contain COVID, more than 20 other states are seeing infection rates surge.

Parking, of course, is an ongoing issue in New York City, especially as the new Open Restaurants plan gobbles up tens of thousands of spots. The mayor said Tuesday he was testing an overhaul of the city's alternate side parking system for the first time in two decades, one that would involve street cleanings once a week instead of two. That means New Yorkers would have to move their cars no more than once a week through summer. Alternate side parking is currently suspended through Sunday; it'll resume with the pilot in place Monday for a week. If it works, it could become the new normal for alternate side parking.

As of Tuesday, New York has reported 389,085 coronavirus cases and 24,766 deaths.

New Jersey also wants to get it right. Gov. Phil Murphy warned New Jerseyans Monday that he may have to hit pause on the current reopening plan if current health trends decline over the next week or so. If they hold, he said he'll be able to set a date soon for the start of Stage 3.

The very next day, spot positivity rates inched up, Murphy said Tuesday. Nearly a quarter of the state's June COVID cases have been people ages 18 to 29; that demographic accounted for just 12 percent of New Jersey's cases in April.

New Jersey is now in Stage 2. It took another big step this week, reopening pools, personal care services and non-contact organized sports. Murphy also raised the cap on outdoor gatherings to 250 and expects that limit to climb to 500 by the time socially distant graduations can resume in the state July 6. Indoor groups are now up to 25 percent capacity but can't exceed 100 people.

Right now, the plan is to reopen indoor shopping malls with limitations on June 29. Indoor dining can resume at 25 percent capacity (to start) on July 2. Casinos can also reopen that day with the same capacity limitations. Murphy added a few more reopenings to that July 2 date Tuesday: outdoor amusement and water parks, including boardwalk rides, along with playgrounds.

New Jersey has reported 169,734 people with the virus and 12,949 COVID-19 associated deaths. Meanwhile, to date, Connecticut has 45,899 coronavirus case and 4,277 deaths.

June 22, 2020

New York City got more "back to normal" Monday than it has in three months as it entered Phase II, reopening long-restricted restaurants to outdoor dining, stores to in-person retail, playgrounds and more services with strict limitations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio described Phase II as the five boroughs' "biggest step forward" yet as the city looks to recover from the nation's deadliest coronavirus outbreak. He'll be one of those enjoying outdoor dining for the first time with his wife Chirlane McCray later Monday, he said. They just have to pick a spot.

Up to 300,000 more people were expected to return to work starting Monday on top of the hundreds of thousands who did when the city entered Phase I, though all the long-awaited returns come with a bevy of restrictions. Businesses must stick to half capacity with mandatory COVID safeguards in place like social distancing and facial coverings. Many also have limited hours. City inspectors will be out to note violators and first try to educate rather than fine them.

While the governor is no longer holding daily COVID briefings after delivering an emotional address in his 111th and final one Friday, he issued a reminder to New Yorkers to continue to "be smart" Monday as the city officially entered Phase II.

MTA Chairman Pat Foye said Monday roughly 95 percent of mass transit riders were wearing masks in accordance with state law. Asked about the ongoing overnight subway shutdown, Foye said 24/7 service would resume when the pandemic ends. Apart from those four overnight hours daily, subways are running at 100 percent pre-pandemic service while serving about 20 percent of the ridership, Foye said. On Friday, weekday combined ridership on subways and buses surpassed 2 million for the first time since the pandemic started.

New York City was the state's last region to enter Phase II and will be the only one in that step later this week, once the Mid-Hudson and Long Island regions make their foray into Phase III, opening indoor dining and personal care services.

New York has reported 388,488 coronavirus cases and 14,739 cases.

Meanwhile New Jersey takes its next steps Monday in reopening personal care services like salons, tattoo shops and massage parlors as well as outdoor pools and non-contact organized sports.

One week from now, indoor shopping malls can reopen in the Garden State with limitations. Indoor dining can resume at 25 percent capacity (to start) on July 2, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. Casinos can also reopen that day with the same capacity limitations. The governor also raised the cap on outdoor gatherings to 250 from 100, effective immediately. He expects that limit to climb to 500 by the time socially distant outdoor graduations can resume in the state July 6. Indoor gatherings are now limited to 25 percent capacity but can't exceed 100 people

Murphy said Monday if current health trends stay on track, he'll be able to set a date soon for New Jersey's entry into the third and final stage of his reopening roadmap. If they decline between now and next Thursday, he said, he'll have to pause the process.

"That’s the last thing I want to do – so let’s keep using common sense for the common good," Murphy said.

New Jersey joins New York in celebrating one of the lowest COVID transmission rates in the nation, but it continues to rank among the top five or 10 U.S. states in terms of new daily deaths and total hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.

To date, New Jersey has seen 169,415 coronvirus cases and 12,895 deaths. Connecticut has reported 45,782 cases and 4,263 COVID-19 associated deaths.

June 21, 2020

New York City had the weekend to prepare to join other regions of the state in Phase II of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening strategy.

Phase II allows for the reopening of outdoor dining at bars and restaurants, in-person retail, hair salons and barbershops (but not personal care services like nails or massages) and more office-based jobs, all at half capacity and with mandatory COVID safeguards in place like social distancing and facial coverings.

Starting next week, Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey would add probable COVID deaths to its overall toll, as New York City has done. He says that change will increase the state's overall toll, which stands at 12,835, "significantly."

All these are reasons to remain vigilant, Murphy says, as the state prepares to take its next step Monday, reopening beauty salons, tattoo and massage parlors and more personal care services, along with non-contact team sports.

New York City has made huge strides in containing the outbreak since the coronavirus shutdown started in March, with more than 320 new cases reported on Thursday, down from several thousand a day during the peak. But officials say the contact tracing effort is crucial to preventing a resurgence as the city enters the second phase of easing coronavirus restrictions on Monday, including outdoor dining at restaurants and in-store retail shopping.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he expects as many as 300,000 more people to return to their jobs during Phase 2.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed that the city is on track to start Phase II of reopening on Monday and said in a news release that 15 deaths were attributed to COVID-19 across the state on Saturday. That is the state’s lowest death toll since the early days of the outbreak in March.

June 20, 2020

Professional baseball teams will return to the Empire State for spring training, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. The return of the Yankees and Mets comes after players of Philadelphia tested positive for coronavirus.

It's another sign of New York returning to normal as more options reopen. Elsewhere in the sports world, New York favorite Tiz The Law won the 2020 Belmont Stakes in front of a few hundred onlookers.

The tri-state region continues to set itself apart from other states that have seen spikes in infection rates in recent weeks. New York reported another 716 positive cases of the virus Saturday.

New York added 24 names to the statewide death toll, bringing the combined tri-state toll to 24,710.

New Jersey families with loved ones in nursing homes can begin seeing one another again amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the state health commissioner said Friday.

Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the reunions could begin to take place on Father's Day, but facilities must adhere to several requirements. Those include that reunions must take place at designated outdoor areas, masked staff members must also be in attendance and residents and family must sign a consent form acknowledging that possible exposure to coronavirus can occur.

June 19, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the final go ahead for New York City's entry into Phase II Monday d