This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Monday, April 27th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
Read our guide to understanding New York on PAUSE, NY's stay-at-home order; a look at preparing 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.
12:30 p.m. The latest results from a rolling survey of 7,500 people statewide showed nearly 15 percent of people in the state as having tested positive for antibodies.
Of the 3,225 New York City residents tested, 25 percent—or one in four—tested positive.
Extrapolated to the broader population, the preliminary data suggests that 2.1 million people in New York City, and nearly 3 million statewide, may have been infected with COVID-19.
During his press briefing on Monday, Cuomo said that each round of data provides the state with a "snapshot" on infection rates across the state.
The rates for the state and New York City were higher than the first round of data, which sampled 3,000 people in supermarkets and big box stores across the state. In that study, nearly 14 percent of the tests came back positive statewide. Meanwhile, more than 21 percent of around 1,300 New York City residents tested positive.
There have been questions about the reliability of antibody tests, in particular whether they can reliably tell people whether they have immunity to the disease. On Friday, the World Health Organization said there was not enough scientific evidence to rule out a second infection among those who show the presence of antibodies in their bodies.
The New York State Department of Health has developed its own antibody testing with the approval of the Federal Drug Administration. Some health experts have called on the state to disclose more details on its testing protocol, including how the sample of those tested was selected.
Cuomo said the state was using the study to learn about infection rates as well as who can donate convalescent plasma, the part of the blood with antibodies that has shown to be an effective treatment for critically ill coronavirus patients.
The state is also examining the breakdown by race in the antibody testing data.
Asians and Latino New Yorkers are now testing positive for antibodies at significantly higher rates within the enlarged sample, at 14.6 percent and 32 percent respectively. Blacks, meanwhile, saw their positive testing rate fall from 22.1 percent to 16.9 percent.
New York Board Of Elections Cancels Presidential Primary
Out of social distancing and coronavirus concerns, the state Board of Elections on Monday canceled the state’s Democratic presidential primary scheduled for June 23rd, denying Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders a chance to notch a symbolic victory in New York.
Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders, who had been vying to be the Democratic nominee, immediately criticized the BOE's decision in a lengthy statement, calling it "an outrage, a blow to American democracy."
Weaver further called on the Democratic National Committee to overturn the cancelation.
Senator Sanders earlier this month suspended his presidential campaign, and later endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. But Sanders, nevertheless, wanted to remain on the ballot so that New Yorkers could still cast their vote for him.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the board's decision during his press conference, but offered no opinion.
"I'm not going to second guess the Board of Elections," he said. "I know there are a lot of Board of Elections employees who are nervous about conducting an election, but Il'l leave it up to the Board of Elections."
New York State Will Provide $25 Million In Funding For Food Banks
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced that the state would provide $25 million in emergency funding for food banks and providers most impacted by COVID-19. In New York City, city officials have said that roughly 35 percent of the city’s roughly one thousand food pantries, soup kitchens, and mobile pantries have closed due to the coronavirus crisis.
Last week, a food line in Corona, Queens that stretched 20 blocks gained attention on Twitter.
Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $170 million program to distribute food to vulnerable New Yorkers. The mayor later said that as many as two million city residents could become food insecure amid the loss of jobs and steady income. During normal times, an estimated 1.2 million New Yorkers are considered food insecure.
The state is also asking philanthropies to help donate money for food banks.
"This is the number one thing they can do to help," Cuomo said during his press conference.
To date, there have been at least two large donations for feeding healthcare workers in New York City. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged $6 million to allow a nonprofit called World Central Kitchen to serve meals at NYC Health + Hospitals facilities. Leon Black, a billionaire who heads the private equity company Apollo Global Management, announced $10 million to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, for food and supplies for health-care workers.
Those interested in helping New York food banks can email COVIDPhilanthropies@exec.ny.gov.
NYC To Introduce Less Invasive COVID-19 Testing Process
11:30 a.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City will begin using a less invasive coronavirus testing procedure this week at community clinics run by the city's public hospitals.
The current testing method used by the city had involved putting a nasal swab far up into a person's nose. In addition to being uncomfortable, the process typically forced the patient to cough and sneeze, potentially exposing the healthcare worker administering the test to the virus and requiring frequent changes of personal protective equipment.
Now, patients will instead be asked to do a self-swab of the front of their nose and provide a saliva sample by spitting into a cup. In the beginning, the test will be done under the supervision of a healthcare worker who will stand behind the patient. Patients will be asked to perform the test in front of mirror.
"It helps on so many levels and allows healthcare workers to be on the frontline where they are still so needed," de Blasio said, during his morning press briefing.
In addition to being easier to administer, the new test will be faster, allowing community clinics to perform 20 tests per hour as opposed to 15 tests per hour.
On Saturday, the mayor visited one of the recently opened community clinics in the parking lot of Gotham Health in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, which has been hard hit by the virus.
As of Monday, the city has opened eight community testing sites at public hospitals targeting vulnerable and minority communities, with a priority for seniors as well as people with pre-existing health conditions.
Another five community testing sites, opened with the help of the private healthcare organization One Medical Community is focusing on testing frontline 1199SEIU healthcare workers, essential workers, and those over 65.
Taken together, the mayor said all of the testing sites will be able to conduct 10,000 tests per week.
De Blasio also announced that the city was seeking to hire 1,000 contact tracers, who would help identify and track down people who have been exposed to the virus. The need to build an army of contact tracers is considered an essential tool as the state and city looks to control the spread of the virus and safely reopen society. Massachusetts has been the first state to launch a widespread contact-tracing program, budgeting $44 million to hire 1,000 people.
Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would work with former mayor Michael Bloomberg whose philanthropy has pledged $10.5 million to create an online curriculum and training program for contact tracers with Johns Hopkins University.
It was not immediately clear how the the training program would interact with the city's hiring initiative.
Hiring would begin right away through the Fund for Public Health website. De Blasio said applicants would be required to have some background in healthcare.
The mayor did not say how much he expected the program to cost but he did say that the pay would range between $55,000 to $65,000 a year, which would represent an annual payroll cost of at least $55 million.
On the heels of continued pressure by the City Council for New York City to open streets to allow residents more space to walk and bicycle outdoors, de Blasio announced that he had agreed to create 100 miles of open streets, with a minimum of 40 miles opened over the next month.
The mayor said the first focus would be on streets along city parks.
The City Council had been considering a bill that would open 75 miles of open streets. De Blasio had been resistant to the plan, citing the difficulty of enforcement. On Sunday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, threatened to go above the mayor and work on gaining approval through Governor Cuomo.
Following the mayor's announcement on Monday, Johnson tweeted a message thanking New Yorkers who supported the proposal, including Cuomo. He did not mention de Blasio.
White House Task Force Member Says Social Distancing Could Last Through Summer
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that Americans should expect social distancing to last for months.
“Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another,” she said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Birx's comments came after she was asked about Vice President Mike Pence remarks that the coronavirus crisis would be largely "behind us" by the end of May.
Several states are now considering restarting their economies. Taking the most aggressive action, Georgia allowed gyms, barbershops, tattoo parlors and spas to reopen last Friday. Houses of worship, restaurants and theaters will be able to reopen their doors on Monday in that state.
On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would consider lifting some of the shutdown measures in less affected parts of the state as early as May 15th. Construction and manufacturing would be the first two industries that could reopen for business.
Cuomo said downstate regions would have to keep businesses closed for a longer period, depending on when those areas would meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended criteria of a 14-day continuous decline in hospitalization rates.
New York now has more than 288,000 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide. Nearly 17,000 deaths have been officially recorded. The number does not include at-home deaths.
During his press conference on Sunday, Cuomo said that New York City needed to come up with a plan for summer activities.
“You can’t tell people in a dense urban environment all through the summer months, ‘We don’t have anything for you to do,’” he said, adding, “There’s a sanity equation here.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the city's public pools will be closed and that there is no plan to reopen beaches for the summer.
How New York City and other cities will survive a summer of shelter-in-place and social distancing orders remains an open question. Over the weekend, thousands of people swarmed beaches in Southern California during a heat wave, alarming public officials and health experts.
Meanwhile, the City Council is considering a bill to require the city to open up as much as 75 miles of streets throughout the five boroughs as a way to provide New Yorkers with more space to safely be outdoors while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
The mayor has been resistant to the idea, saying that enforcement would strain the NYPD's limited resources during a perilous time.
On Sunday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, one of the bill's co-sponsors, threatened to go above de Blasio and seek approval from Cuomo and the state instead.