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Protests will not affect N.Y.C.’s reopening date, mayor says.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday that the thousands of protesters massing on the streets of New York this weekend to express their anger over police brutality had not changed the target date of June 8 to begin reopening the city.
But city health officials urged protesters to take whatever precautions they could while demonstrating and invited them to get tested for the virus.
“In terms of impact on our reopening, I see none,” Mr. de Blasio said at his daily news briefing on Sunday, estimating that about 5,000 to 6,000 people had been involved across the city during the peak of the protests on Saturday night.
A few weeks ago, Mr. de Blasio had branded the idea of protesting in the middle of a pandemic “idiotic,” and he had urged people to find ways to express their frustrations without gathering. Some protesters and civil rights lawyers feared public health restrictions during the pandemic were being used to curtail free speech.
But on Sunday he acknowledged the perfect storm of anger created by the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis, combined with the impact of the pandemic on people of color.
“You have all the frustrations about injustice, combined with the frustrations about the injustice within the pandemic, because the pandemic displayed immense disparity, combined with the fact that people spent two months cooped up indoors and we don’t know what the summer brings,” he said, adding that he supported the right of people to protest peacefully.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo echoed those thoughts at his daily briefing in Albany, saying, “It is not a coincidence that the protests are happening in the middle of a pandemic.”
Dr. Theodore Long, who is leading New York City’s contact tracing efforts with its public hospitals agency, urged anyone who had been involved in the demonstrations to get tested for the virus and to protect themselves while out.
“We strongly encourage anybody who is out in the protests to wear a mask, practice proper hand hygiene and to the extent possible, socially distance, though we know that’s not always going to be feasible,” Dr. Long said.
Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate, also strongly defended people’s right to protest on the streets. But he did express concern about how the protests could increase the spread of the virus.
“We need to pay attention 7 to 10 days from now to any spikes that we can see,” Mr. Williams said.
“We have to be careful, but I don’t think we can tell people, watch someone get killed on camera again, and stay home,” Mr. Williams said.
Death tolls continue to drop in New York and New Jersey.
Dozens of new coronavirus deaths were reported on Sunday in New York and New Jersey, and hundreds more were newly sickened, even as focus shifted away from the pandemic and toward the widespread protests over police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
New Jersey had 868 new confirmed positive cases, Gov. Phil D. Murphy announced on social media pushing the total numbers in the state to 160,445. The state lost 66 more people to the virus, pushing the total deaths in the state to 11,698.
Mercer, Camden, and Passaic counties saw the most new cases, according to the state’s data dashboard. The state is moving steadily toward reopening, saying that day cares will be able to open with restrictions by June 15 and summer camps and some youth sports by July 6.
In New York, the number of new hospitalizations for coronavirus dropped to 191, down from a peak of 3,400 per day at the pandemic’s height. The number of daily deaths continued to drop, to 56 — down from hundreds of daily deaths weeks ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said. Since March, nearly 30,000 New Yorkers have died in the pandemic.
After his daily briefing, Mr. Cuomo also announced that dentists’ offices in the state would be allowed to reopen on Monday, provided they followed social distancing and other safety recommendations.
Officials are looking to control hot spots and prepare hospitals for new cases in N.Y.C.
As New York City moves toward its target of reopening on June 8, Gov. Andrew M Cuomo said on Saturday that state officials were focusing on controlling hot spots in the city and preparing its hospitals to deal with a potential second surge of coronavirus patients.
Over the next week, officials will focus on ensuring the city’s 11 public hospitals and more than 100 private hospitals have what Mr. Cuomo called “surge and flex” capacity, or the ability to shift and share resources as needed, to deal with a potential spike of new virus patients, Mr. Cuomo said on Saturday.
“We want to make sure we have that refined over the next week, because if we have a problem we need all these hospitals to work together,” Mr. Cuomo said during a news conference in the Bronx.
Mr. Cuomo said officials would also concentrate on reducing the spread of the virus in the 10 ZIP codes in the city with the highest infection rates — which include predominately low-income and minority communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and parts of Queens — by adding a new testing center in each area and distributing hand sanitizer.
New York City is the only region in the state that has not begun reopening because it has not yet met two of the seven benchmarks set by the governor for reopening: the city does not have enough hospital beds available or contract tracers in place. Still, both Mr. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have said they expect the city to meet these criteria by June 8.
Also on Saturday, Mr. Cuomo signed a bill to give death benefits to the families of public employees who had died because of the coronavirus.
“You gave your lives for us,” he said. “We will be there to support your families going forward.”
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Reporting was contributed by Luis Ferré Sadurní, Sharon Otterman, Azi Paybarah, Dana Rubinstein and Edgar Sandoval.