Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday proposed temporarily closing all schools and nonessential businesses in nine ZIP codes with high test positivity rates in Brooklyn and Queens beginning Wednesday, pending state approval. Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved part of that plan, agreeing to close schools in those nine hot spot areas and moving their closures up to Tuesday.
“My number one concern has always been schools,” Cuomo said Monday.
The decision to roll back reopenings in those areas highlights the challenge facing cities, states, universities and businesses as they try to balance the need to reopen the economy with ensuring public health and safety during the pandemic.
By any measure, the U.S. has failed this challenge: temporary layoffs have become permanent, the President is in the hospital after a White House outbreak and more than 40,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with COVID-19 every day.
“I am certainly not pleased (or) satisfied, but I’m actually disturbed and concerned about the fact that our baseline of infections is still stuck at around 40,000 per day,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Monday. “That’s no place to be when you’re trying to get your arms around an epidemic.”
In all, more than 7.4 million have been infected with the virus in the U.S. and more than 209,810 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The US hit its highest daily rate of new cases in almost two months on Friday.
Only five states — Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — are reporting a decline in new coronavirus cases compared with the week before. Meanwhile, 22 states are heading in the opposite direction, including every state in the Northeast, which for months has avoided a serious resurgence.
After a devastating outbreak in the spring, New York had avoided a recurrence of cases throughout the summer. But rising cases led de Blasio to take what he called a “necessary” action to “rewind” reopening in nine neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens where the test positivity rate has been above 3% for at least seven consecutive days.
OTHER STATES PUSH TO REOPEN
Elsewhere, however, communities are taking tentative steps forward toward reopening.
Students who opted for in-person learning will return to school buildings in Florida’s hard-hit Miami-Dade County beginning Monday.
The county reported 329 new cases and four deaths on Sunday and continues to lead the state with 172,205 total cases, 24% of all cases in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The return for students who opted for in-person learning will be staggered with Pre-K, kindergarten, first grade and special needs students being the first to go back to school, according to Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS).
“Air filters have been replaced, front offices are properly equipped, our buses have hand sanitizer and appropriate signage, and our empty classrooms are ready to welcome students back,” MDCPS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho tweeted Sunday.
Kentucky reported a record number of new cases on Saturday, and then announced the next day that the week was unprecedented.
“I normally don’t provide an update on Sunday, but with 616 new cases today of COVID-19, we have shattered the previous weekly record, which we set just last week,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a press release. “This week we now have 6,126 new cases of COVID-19. We have to do better.”
The state reported 1,275 new cases Saturday, the highest number of new cases ever reported in a day. A total of 72,617 cases and 1,209 have been reported since the pandemic began, according to the release.
Of the 616 new cases reported Sunday, 76 of them are children ages 18 and younger. Sixteen of the children are ages 5 and under, including a 5-month-old, the release said.
“Please, everyone, wear your mask, engage in social distancing and follow those top 10 rules that we have on kycovid.ky.gov,” Beshear added.
HUNDREDS MONITORED FOR THE VIRUS
Local officials in Washington and New Jersey are working to get on top of outbreaks in their areas.
At the University of Washington, at least 144 students at fraternity houses have tested positive for the virus as of Saturday afternoon, the university said.
While the school’s testing efforts “have found few positive cases among residence hall students and students, faculty … a new outbreak has been identified in the UW Greek community,” the school told students on Thursday.
Over the summer, the school dealt with a separate outbreak and identified a total of 154 positive cases, the school said.
In New Jersey, health officials have reached out to 206 individuals who attended events with President Donald Trump in Bedminster the same week he was diagnosed with coronavirus, according to a news release.
The officials are recommending those exposed self-monitor for symptoms and quarantine if they were in close contact with the president and his staff. Contact tracing is ongoing, officials said.