[This briefing has ended. For the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in the New York area, read Saturday’s live coverage.]
Here’s what you need to know:
- N.Y.C. expects to begin reopening June 8. Five upstate areas were cleared for broader reopening.
- Questions loom about safety of mass transit as N.Y.C. gears up.
- Child care and summer activities for children will begin opening in New Jersey.
- Connecticut eases restrictions on social and religious gatherings as some casinos prepare to reopen.
- The virus is forcing N.Y.C. to consider borrowing billions.
N.Y.C. expects to begin reopening June 8. Five upstate areas were cleared for broader reopening.
Since late March, the city has been all but paralyzed under the devastating weight of the outbreak.
Nonessential businesses were shuttered and restaurants were open only for takeout and delivery. Nearly 900,000 jobs vanished almost overnight, over 20,000 people died and more than 200,000 were infected as ambulances howled through empty streets.
In mid-May, other parts of the state began to reopen after meeting seven public-health benchmarks set by the governor.
New York City is the only region that has not met those criteria. As of Thursday, the last time the state updated its public dashboard, the city did not have enough hospital beds available or contact tracers in place.
But Mr. Cuomo said on Friday that he expected the city to meet the benchmarks by June 8. In Phase 1 of reopening, retail stores can open for curbside or in-store pickup and nonessential construction and manufacturing can resume.
“I am proud of the way New York is figuring it out,” Mr. Cuomo said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, appearing by video at Mr. Cuomo’s daily briefing, said, “We are on now the gateway to the next big step.”
The mayor and the governor cautioned that New Yorkers needed to continue taking precautions to keep the virus in check. More than 5,000 people in New York City tested positive for the virus last week — a steep drop from early April, when 40,000 people a week were testing positive, but still a significant number.
“Remember, reopening does not mean we’re going back to the way things were,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It is reopening to a new normal. It’s a safer normal. People will be wearing masks. People will be socially distant.”
Mr. Cuomo also said on Friday that five upstate areas had been cleared to enter Phase 2 of reopening, in which offices, stores and personal-service businesses like barber shops can reopen, with restrictions.
The five regions — Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and the Mohawk Valley — cover most of the state outside of New York City and its suburbs, the Albany area, the Buffalo area and Long Island.
Questions loom about safety of mass transit as N.Y.C. gears up.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week that when New York City begins reopening at least 200,000 idled workers would return to their jobs.
This raised a big question: How will they get to work?
During the pandemic, New Yorkers have come to regard their city’s mass transit system as a gigantic rolling petri dish.
Ridership is down more than 90 percent, largely because only essential workers are supposed to be taking it now. But it is also because many people fear contracting the coronavirus on the transit system, even though subways and buses are being disinfected every day.
A sudden surge of riders would make it hard, if not impossible, to maintain social distancing, a fact underscored on Thursday when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged commuters nationwide who return to their jobs not to take mass transit.
Mr. de Blasio this week said that he understood that many would feel uncomfortable returning to mass transit and that some would walk or bike, while others would drive or take cabs. But he offered little further guidance.
“I really want to push back on the notion that we can solve everything all the time,” Mr. de Blasio said on Friday. “There’s not always the chance to help everyone all the time in terms of their transportation needs. People are going to have to improvise, and I believe they will.”
He said that he was awaiting answers from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs the buses and subways, on how to maintain public health on the system.
Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of M.T.A. Transit, responded quickly to the mayor on Twitter.
“We have no idea what the mayor is talking about,” she wrote. “The M.T.A. has briefed City Hall multiple times on reopening, including another productive meeting held just yesterday. If the Mayor has questions, he can pick up the phone and call us at any time.”
Governor Cuomo said on Friday that the system would be able to safely accommodate riders. “We wouldn’t operate it unless it is safe,” he said. But he added that riders needed to take it upon themselves avoid crowded trains or buses.
“I won’t open the city if I’m not comfortable, and when I open the city, I will ride the subway,” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview on NY1 Friday afternoon.
The M.T.A.’s chairman, Patrick J. Foye, forcefully objected to the C.D.C.’s recommendation on Friday afternoon.
“Our transit and bus system is cleaner and safer than it has been in history,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to take every possible action to protect public health and safety, and the federal government telling people not to ride mass transit sets us back decades.”
Also on Friday, Mr. Foye sent a letter to business leaders requesting they stagger work hours, allow flexible start times and extend telecommuting plans as part of the agency’s effort to reduce crowding as the city reopens.
Child care and summer activities for children will begin opening in New Jersey.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced that over the next several weeks the state would permit child care services to fully open and some summer programs for children to begin operating.
During his daily briefing on Friday, the governor said he would sign an executive order allowing child care services to open to anyone on June 15 — they have been open for children of essential workers.
“As more and more workers prepare to get back out to their jobs, we must ensure a continuum of care for their children,” Mr. Murphy said.
Outdoor, non-contact sports practices can begin on June 22, and youth day camps, including city summer programs, can open July 6.
The governor said he believed the state would be able to reduce restrictions on gatherings by June 12 “in a way that will allow for greater indoor religious services.” He did not give specifics but said his administration would work with religious leaders to determine “proper safeguards” for services.
Other updates from Mr. Murphy’s briefing:
The state is creating a $100 million relief program to help low and moderate-income families to pay rent. Very low-income families and those at risk of homelessness could receive up to 12 months of rental assistance.
The governor announced 131 new deaths of the virus, bringing the state’s death toll to 11,531. He reported 183 new virus-related hospitalizations, which he called a “meaningful decrease” from the previous day’s report of 365.
Connecticut eases restrictions on social and religious gatherings as some casinos prepare to reopen.
Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut announced Friday that the state would begin to allow gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, easing restrictions that had previously prohibited gatherings larger than five people.
Flanked by religious leaders at his daily briefing on Friday, Mr. Lamont also said that houses of worship would be allowed to hold indoor gatherings at 25 percent capacity or up to 100 people, whichever is fewer; outdoor services could include up to 150 people as long as social distancing was observed, he said.
And Mr. Lamont conceded defeat in his discussions with casinos on land held by sovereign nations, saying that they would move forward with their plans to restart on June 1, with some operations resuming as early as Saturday.
Mr. Lamont has vocally opposed reopening casinos at this time and has been in talks with tribal leadership about the issue for weeks. He said Friday that casino operators had agreed to not allow out-of-state residents to stay at their hotels initially, to require face coverings for visitors, and to only allow outdoor dining.
Still, Mr. Lamont issued a warning for would-be gamblers: “This is a risk you’re taking,” he said.
Separately, the president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system published a public letter on Friday announcing that officials were planning for students to return to campuses in the fall “with significant measures in place to make our institutions as safe as possible.”
And The Hartford Courant reported that the state education commissioner had informed school superintendents that in-person high school graduation ceremonies could take place over the summer with restrictions, including a hard cap of 150 attendees — graduates included.
The virus is forcing N.Y.C. to consider borrowing billions.
The coronavirus pandemic has plunged New York City into a dire fiscal crisis and forced top officials to contemplate a maneuver that once brought New York to disrepair: letting the city borrow billions of dollars to cover basic operating expenses.
Numerous fiscal experts and public officials, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, are leery of giving the city permission to take on significant debt, sensitive to the history of reckless borrowing that led the city to the brink of bankruptcy in 1975.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked legislative leaders to grant him permission to issue bonds to cover operating costs, saying he would do so only as a “last resort.”
Doing so, however, has become a real possibility: Legislative leaders are discussing the issue with the governor’s office and city officials.
Mr. Cuomo said on Thursday that issuing bonds to pay for operating expenses was fiscally questionable.
“We don’t want to create a situation where the state or any local government borrows so much money that they can’t repay it, and then you have to start to cut service and now you’re in that vicious downward spiral,” he said. “New York City has been there before.”
Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, said that if the city borrowed $7 billion to cover expenses, it could be on the hook for more than $500 million a year in debt payments for the next 20 years.
But the mayor said Wednesday that he could not make further budget reductions without leading the city to a “horrible place where we would be cutting back basic services, cutting back personnel, furloughs, layoffs, things we do not want to see.”
City positive testing rate falls to 5 percent.
Only 5 percent of people in New York City tested for the coronavirus were positive, the lowest daily figure the city has yet recorded, Mayor de Blasio said on Friday.
A low positive rate is an indicator that the virus is spreading more slowly. At the height of the outbreak in early April, more than 70 percent of those tested in the city were positive, Mr. de Blasio said.
“What a good sign this is,” the mayor said.
Other news from Mr. de Blasio’s morning briefing:
The city will provide two million free face coverings to businesses and workers as part of the plan to help over 200,000 people get back to work once the city meets state criteria to begin reopening.
The city will provide 10,000 tablets with built-in internet to senior citizens in public housing. The computers will let isolated New Yorkers see their doctors via telemedicine appointments.
On the front lines: Erick Arbenz, M.D., anesthesiologist.
The Times is regularly profiling essential workers in the New York region during the pandemic.
Where do you live? Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan
Where do you work? N.Y.U. Langone Hospital.
Anesthesiologists are critical at hospitals treating Covid-19 patients. Why so? We have the unique skill set of knowing how to intubate patients suffering from difficult or compromised airways.
What has been the most difficult part of your job since the pandemic began? The amount of deaths we saw each day, we weren’t prepared for that. Those numbers, that’s something you see on the battlefield. We aren’t prepared for them in a hospital setting. Also, knowing that we were potentially exposing ourselves. It gets hard, but we have to keep pushing on.
What keeps you going? Knowing this is the nature of medicine and remembering we took an oath. We want to help patients and use our skills and knowledge the best way possible in order to save lives.
There’s also my grandparents’ stories. My grandfather was the president of Guatemala when his government was overthrown by a coup. Times were tough then, but he and my grandmother, they were resilient. That resilience they had, it helps me get through these tough times.
What gives you hope? Knowing this is a time when the whole world is united toward finding a common cure. That inspires me to keep doing what I can.
Any advice for readers? Keep following the social distancing guidelines. It’s the only way that we can minimize the use of our health care system. And, please, be patient with front-line workers. Don’t be rude.
State lawmakers pass $100 million rent relief bill.
After weeks of outcry from distressed New Yorkers demanding that housing payments be halted during the pandemic, the State Legislature passed a bill on Thursday to provide emergency rent relief for tenants.
The bill, which enacted the Emergency Rent Relief Act of 2020, would provide up to $100 million in rental assistance vouchers to landlords on behalf of tenants struggling to pay rent after losing a job during the crisis.
The legislation would cover rent due from April 1 to July 31; as of Friday afternoon, it had yet to be formally delivered to Governor Cuomo, but would take effect immediately if he signed it.
The program would be funded with New York’s share of the $2 trillion federal relief package passed several weeks ago.
The City Council pushed to expand outdoor dining.
With the weather getting warmer and New Yorkers getting antsier, the New York City Council wants to force Mayor Bill de Blasio’s hand on outdoor dining.
The Council introduced legislation Thursday afternoon, backed by the restaurant industry, requiring the mayor to find a way to open streets, sidewalks and public plazas to outdoor dining.
Corey Johnson, the Council speaker, and Councilman Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn are spearheading the effort. “The restaurant and the food industry has been struggling just as much as any other businesses in our city,” Mr. Reynoso said at the Council’s hearing on Thursday, adding that the process would be “something that can be done very quickly and in a timely fashion.”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, a business group, said the idea was to require the mayor to establish a framework to identify appropriate places for restaurants to sell food and beverages outside, and create a mechanism by which businesses and community boards could submit suggestions.
The bill would also require the city to set health and safety requirements for such operations.
“Our hope is there may be areas where entire streets could be shut down for restaurant service,” Mr. Rigie said. “Other places you may be able to extend the sidewalk, while keeping a lane of cars and bike lanes. Other places, you may be able to use pedestrian plazas. We really need to be creative.”
Tell us about the moments that have brought you hope, strength, humor and relief.
The coronavirus outbreak has brought much of life in New York to a halt and there is no clear end in sight. But there are also moments that offer a sliver of strength, hope, humor or some other type of relief: a joke from a stranger on line at the supermarket; a favor from a friend down the block; a great meal ordered from a restaurant we want to survive; trivia night via Zoom with the bar down the street.
We’d like to hear about your moments, the ones that are helping you through these dark times. A reporter or editor may contact you. Your information will not be published without your consent.
Reporting was contributed by Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Christina Goldbaum, Jeffery C. Mays, Jesse McKinley, Andy Newman, Azi Paybarah, Joel Petterson, Aaron Randle, Dana Rubinstein, Matt Stevens and Katie Van Syckle.