Warm Weekend Tests Early Stages of Tri-State's Reopening Strategy

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What to Know

  • More than 28,000 tri-state lives have been lost to date. New York state reported Friday its lowest single-day death toll in weeks (289), continuing a trend it has seen all week
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that all New York schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year; New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says he'll provide an update on schools early next week
  • Murphy's statewide shutdown order remains in effect, though he modified it to allow state parks and golf courses to reopen Saturday; an update on Cuomo's "PAUSE" directive is expected next week

Efforts to open up outdoor public spaces this weekend coincide with back-to-back days of above 70 degree temperatures for the first time since October. While the much improved weather provides an ideal time for enjoying open parks and newly opening golf courses, tri-state governors warn that a failure to follow social distancing rules could slow steps toward reopening states.

New Jersey's golf courses and state parks reopen to visitors this weekend. Face coverings are recommended, but not mandated. Capacity is still limited at state parks, and the state Department of Environmental Protection had one piece of advice for those who were thinking of heading out to one this weekend: "Go before you go" — meaning use the bathroom before leaving home, as park restrooms will still be closed. Playgrounds will also be off-limits, and no groups, gatherings or contact sports will be allowed.

Gov. Phil Murphy reiterated Saturday he wouldn't hesitate to rescind the reopening if "knuckleheads" fail to follow social distancing and other public safety measures, and called this weekend "a huge test" for the state. Here's a complete list of the parks reopening.

"If we hear reports of people not taking their health – or the health of other park-goers – seriously, I will not hesitate to close them yet again," Murphy said.

Officers in Morris County started turning people away from Hacklebarney State Park by mid-afternoon after the park reportedly reached capacity just hours after opening.

New Jersey State Parks are officially open, however things are operating differently now. Adam Harding reports.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio says 1,000 non-NYPD social distancing staffers would be out to reinforce guidance. The city plans to dole out 100,000 free masks in parks, with more handouts coming.

New York City is opening up 40 miles of streets to pedestrians in May; the first 7 miles open Saturday and are strategically selected near parks to expand already open spaces. The city plans to open up to 100 miles of streets in the coming months.

"This is the nicest weather we've seen this year; we encourage people to come out and enjoy this weather," Terence Monahan, Chief of Department for the New York Police Department, told NBC News.

But, he reminded residents out enjoying the city's parks, "You cannot gather; you cannot barbecue. We're going to give you a summons. There's been enough warnings."

Gov. Cuomo said the coronavirus killed another 299 people in Friday, bringing New York's death toll to 18,900. That number does not include the more than 5,200 presumed victims reported in New York City.

Two months into the region's coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo said expanded antibody testing supports initial data released last week suggesting millions of New Yorkers could be infected by the virus. The state has now tested nearly 15,000 people for antibodies and a little more than 12 percent tested positive, Cuomo said Saturday, down slightly from the 15 percent reported after the first batch of completed antibody tests.

The numbers are even higher in New York City — antibody testing found a positivity rate of 19.9 percent, down from almost 25 percent, in city samples. Among the city's five boroughs, the Bronx had the highest percentage of positive tests at more than 27 percent, while Manhattan was the lowest at 17 percent.

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We don't even know how many are really infected. The tri-state area has reported more than 465,000 confirmed cases to date: 312,977 in New York, 123,717 in New Jersey and 29,287 in Connecticut. Early antibody testing in New York indicates the actual case total could be 10 times higher. New York City alone has reported more than 172,000 cases; data shows it may have had up to 2.1 million.

Cuomo has said the crisis won't really be "over" until there's a vaccine. More than 70 of those are in development worldwide, but approval could be at least 12 to 18 months out. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, says the nation could be in for a "bad fall" if no effective treatment emerges.

Fortunately, Fauci, along with other health experts, seemed to be impressed by the findings from Gilead Sciences' latest clinical trial on Remdesivir, one of the most prominent experimental drugs for COVID-19. Preliminary results found it shortened the recovery time by an average of four days for hospitalized patients.

"You do now have a drug that you have proven can actually work on the virus," Fauci told The Associated Press. "Will it be an overwhelming cure? No, of course not." But it can certainly help free up hospital beds, he said.

No treatment currently is approved for treating the virus, which has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide since it emerged late last year. On Friday, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to Remdesivir saying that its performance warranted the decision, though regulators acknowledged “there is limited information known about the safety and effectiveness of using remdesivir.”

In normal times the FDA requires “substantial evidence” of a drug’s safety and effectiveness, usually through one or more large, rigorously controlled patient studies. But during public health emergencies the agency can waive those standards, simply requiring that an experimental drug’s potential benefits outweigh its risks.

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