This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Thursday, March 12th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here. Our guide topreparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

"It Feels Like The World Turned Upside Down"

5:25 p.m.: Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared a state of emergency, acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic could affect New Yorkers for as long as six months and require a long recovery period.

The declaration gives the mayor an extensive list of powers, including the ability to impose a curfew, stop public transportation, cancel elective procedures at hospitals, create or designate medical shelters, limit maximum building occupancy, and ration supplies.

"We have to fully understand that this is the shape of things to come," he said in his most sobering press conference to date on the spread of coronavirus. "It feels like the world turned upside down in just the course of a few hours."

There are now 95 confirmed cases in the city, an alarming spike of 42 since yesterday.

The mayor said he expected the city could have 1,000 cases by next week. He said 20 percent could require hospitalization.

"We're getting into a situation where the only analogy is war," he said.

In the first breakdown by borough, the mayor said that as of 12 p.m., there were 25 cases in Manhattan, 24 in Brooklyn, 17 in Queens, 10 in Bronx and 5 in Staten Island. Due to a lag in updated information, the numbers do not reflect the latest total.

The federal government is yet to approve automated testing, which has prevented New York from doing wide-scale testing.

In the absence of that approval, localities may "begin to take the matter into their own hands," the mayor said.

Despite what will likely be a severe outbreak, the mayor said the public schools and public transit system will remain open.

But he said some non-essential school activities may be moved online or canceled. Those include athletic games, school assemblies, school plays, recitals, and PTA meetings.

On Tuesday, Department of Education officials announced that parent-teacher conferences scheduled this week would be conducted over the phone or via video chat instead of in-person.

Businesses and other organizations have altered their practices by staggering work schedules and asking employees to work from home.

Of the roughly 305,000 city workers, 35,000 are working remotely, 70,000 are working on a staggered schedule.

Already, significant parts of the city's cultural and entertainment sector are shutting down. The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on Thursday that it would temporarily close all three of its locations, including its main branch on Fifth Avenue, starting on Friday. Lincoln Center has canceled all public performances and screenings as of 5 p.m. Thursday night for the month of March. Other cultural institutions are considering their options. Major sports leagues, including Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), and the National Hockey League (NHL), have decided to suspend their seasons.

Restaurants, hurting from a lack of customers and in some cases, xenophobia, have also been forced to close their doors.

Referring to Broadway and sporting arenas like Madison Square Garden, which only a day ago he resisted closing, the mayor said, "It’s really going to kind of be a hole in our lives."

As an indication of growing public alarm, on Thursday a series of false messages began spreading rapidly in chain text messages and on social media that suggested the city would implement containment measures such as shutting down public transit, blocking roads, and implementing quarantine zones across the five boroughs by this weekends. They were attributed to sources in the NYPD and FDNY.

"Some of the stuff we've seen out there today is really, really wrong. Really off base," the mayor said. "My impression is some of it came from either leaked information or extrapolated information from scenario planning, not actual decision making."

But asked if such drastic measures were a possibility in the future, the mayor said nothing would be ruled out. "We will scenario everything," he said. "Absolutely everything."

Reporting contributed by Jake Offenhartz

Cuomo Bans Gatherings Over 500, Establishes A Plan For Hospitalizations

3: 15 p.m. As the COVID-19 caseload continues to climb dramatically, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced a slate of new measures ranging from shutting down Broadway shows and banning gatherings over 500 to ensuring that hospitals have the safety protocols and capacity to receive what may be an onslaught of infected patients.

To date, there are 328 confirmed cases across the state, an increase of 112 overnight. New York City has 95 infections.

"We're still ascending," Cuomo said at a press conference. "We're on a upward trajectory of this disease."

He added: "This is going to get much worse before it gets better."

The latest plan includes containment measures similar to those adopted by other states like California and Washington, the other two states, which along with New York, that have the highest number of coronavirus cases.

Beginning on Friday at 5 p.m., gatherings with more than 500 people with be prohibited. All Broadway shows will be suspended effective Thursday evening. Events with less than 500 people will be forced to reduce occupancy by 50 percent.

Exceptions to the new occupancy rules includes schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and mass transit.

Asked how long the restrictions would be in effect, the governor said he did not know.

With respect to public schools, they must follow the rule of closing for a 24-hour-period should there be a coronavirus case. Cuomo said that it was up to localities if suspending classes for a longer period of time was merited.

As part of an effort aimed at protecting older residents, who are the most vulnerable to developing fatal complications from the disease, all staff at nursing homes will now be required to wear masks and be monitored for symptoms. No outside visitors will be allowed.

The governor said the state was also preparing a contingency plan in the event that there is a large strain on hospitals. Health officials are determining the exact capacity of hospital beds across the state, exploring the option of setting up temporary hospitals, identifying a pool of medical staff such as retired doctors and nurses, national guard medics as well as medical students, and possibly calling for the cancellation of some elective surgeries.

Citing Italy, where the healthcare system has been pushed to the brink, Cuomo said he was keeping a vigilant eye on the hospitalization rate of coronavirus cases in the state. Currently, 14 percent of the individuals who have tested positive are hospitalized.

Should that shoot up, the state may need to ramp up the level of its emergency preparation. One possibility could be preparing upstate hospitals, which have more empty beds, to take in patients from downstate.

Cuomo said that the every evolving data on the cases would determine the state's day-to-day response.

"Science dictates these decisions," he said.

But because of a lack of testing capacity, state health officials are yet to get an accurate handle on how widespread the disease has become. As of 12:40 p.m. on Thursday, 2,314 people in New York had been tested, according to Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner.

Testing in New York state is mainly being performed at the state health lab in Albany. The federal government has authorized 28 private labs to expand testing capacity in the state. New York City is running tests out of its own health lab in downtown Manhattan.

The state is also seeking to contract with several national labs, which are currently awaiting FDA approval to run automated testing, a process that would significantly speed up testing and results. Once those labs come online, the state could perform as many as 5,000 tests a day.

First Mobile Testing Center In New York Set To Open Friday In Westchester Suburb

Glen Island Park

Glen Island Park, the site of a new mobile testing center in New Rochelle.

arrow
Glen Island Park, the site of a new mobile testing center in New Rochelle.
Jake Offenhartz / Gothamist

12:25 p.m. The state's first mobile testing center is set to open Friday in New Rochelle as health officials try to stem New York's biggest outbreak of COVID-19.

The small Westchester County city has a population of less than 100,000 people, but it has more cases than New York City, which now has 62.

At least 108 of New York state's more than 200 coronavirus cases have been in Westchester. On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a "containment zone" to be set up around a one-mile radius of a synagogue attended by Lawrence Garbuz, a 50-year-old attorney who was the second person in the state to test positive for the coronavirus.

Under the plan, schools, religious institutions and any large gathering spaces must close for a two-week period. Residents are allowed to come and go as they please and businesses remain open, although customers have become sparse.

Northwell Labs, which is based in Nassau County, will run the satellite testing facility at Glen Island Park, an 105-acre property connected to New Rochelle by a drawbridge.

UPDATE: An earlier version said testing would start Thursday based on information provided by a police officer. Gothamist was later notified that it will start Friday.

Jersey City Imposes Curfew On Bars And Nightclubs To Combat Spread Of Virus

The mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, has announced that bars and nightclubs must close by 10 p.m. in an effort to limit large gatherings.

The curfew policy is one of the latest measures by state and local leaders to combat the spread of coronavirus.

The move in Jersey City is preemptive: No one to date has tested positive for the virus. But the city is only seven miles from Manhattan, with a large portion of residents who work in New York City.

Jersey City is also asking private venues that can hold more than 25 people to take attendance "for future tracking of the virus, if necessary," the mayor said in a tweet on Thursday.

In addition to the curfew, all non-essential city-involved events have been canceled for the next seven days, and city offices will conducting business with the public on an appointment basis only.

Two Bronx Schools Will Close After "Self-Confirmed" Positive Case

Jessica Gould / WNYC

9:22 a.m. In what will become the first test case for how the city handles coronavirus in public schools, two Bronx schools, the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology and South Bronx Preparatory: A College Board School, are being closed for a 24-hour period after a student reported a "self-confirmed" positive case of COVID-19.

The child's parent informed the school. The student's age and current condition were not immediately clear.

The schools share a building at 360 East 145th Street in the South Bronx, serving grades six thru 12 and roughly 1,300 students.

According to the mayor's spokesperson, Freddi Goldstein, a "self-confirmed" positive case means that it is based on an individual's report but the case has not yet been formally logged in the state database.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we are taking action based on this parent’s credible report," Goldstein said.

Under the protocol established by the state, all public schools in New York which have a COVID-19 case must immediately shut down for a period of 24 hours so that the building can be disinfected and the affected individuals quarantined.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that he wants to keep public schools running, arguing that it would pose a disruption to working parents as well as the social service and meals that some students rely on.

“We don’t make this decision lightly, and we know the disruption and anxiety this means for students, faculty and parents," de Blasio said in a statement. "We are taking every precaution to keep people safe, and we will keep everyone informed as we learn more through the day.”

Confirmed NYC Cases Tick Up To 62, Washington And California Ban Large Gatherings

Appearing on CNN Thursday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would need to "put more restrictions" to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re going to have to make a lot of changes in our lives but we cannot overdo,” he said. "That’s the balance we have to strike."

To date, there are 62 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city, an increase of nine overnight.

The mayor offered few specific details in his interview, saying that a plan was forthcoming, but he continued to stress the importance of keeping the schools and subway open.

Throughout the crisis, the mayor has sought to weigh the interests of the economy against the need to stem outbreaks that feed on densely populated spaces, a defining characteristic of big cities.

In a hint of what may come, the mayor, did however, cite Broadway entertainment as an example, saying he wanted to keep the shows going but that some theatergoers may need to make some adjustments.

States and cities affected by outbreaks are now moving to ban large gatherings. On Wednesday night, California state officials advised the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state through the end of March. Washington State instituted the same ban in three counties in the Seattle area.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo finally postponed Manhattan's St. Patrick's Parade after speaking with organizers.

More than 1,200 people in 42 states have been confirmed as being infected with the virus, with 37 deaths reported nationwide. Washington, New York and California make up 60 percent of the cases.

Health experts have said that U.S. officials lost valuable time in detecting the disease because of a delay and lack of widespread testing. The number of infected people is likely much higher than the official number due to the limited testing conducted so far.

On Wednesday night, actor couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced that they had contracted the disease in Australia, becoming the highest profile celebrities to become affected by the pandemic.

It is not clear where Hanks and Wilson became infected. But unlike in the U.S., the virus has been treated as an urgent crisis in Australia and testing is widely available.