New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, and professional sports (without fans). 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.
Here's the latest:
- Fearing A "Twindemic," U.S. Expands Access To Flu Shots And Other Vaccinations
- Ask A Native New Yorker: Are NYC Schools Ready To Reopen?
- De Blasio Pledges To Reopen Schools Safely As Pressure Builds To Postpone Start Date
- Getting Tested For COVID And Want Results Fast? It’s Still A Crapshoot
NJ Governor Phil Murphy expressed frustration with NJ residents who are not cooperating with contact tracers. After revealing that more than half the people contacted have declined to cooperate, he implored, "Please, folks, take the damn call. Work with them. Consider it another piece of personal responsibility that we must take to defeat this virus."
On Friday, Murphy revealed that NJ's positivity rate, from August 17th, was 1.42%. While the state has flattened the curve, Murphy has been worried about clusters of cases stemming from parties amongst teenagers at the Jersey Shore.
Contact tracers previously hit a "brick wall" when investigating July cluster in Monmouth County, involving at least 20 teens who had been at the shore. Apparently some people were not cooperating because underage drinking occurred.
Calling the lack of cooperation "highly disturbing," Murphy emphasized on Friday, "This is not about a witch hunt. We do not condone illegal behavior, especially we do not condone underage drinking. But this is not what this is. Our contact tracers only care about protecting public health...they care about protecting you, and your family, and your friends," he said.
Fearing A "Twindemic," U.S. Expands Access To Flu Shots And Other Vaccinations
Health officials in the United States are seeking to boost children's vaccination rates and expand access to flu shots as the country braces for a possible "twindemic," a convergence of severe flu season and the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a directive that allows pharmacists nationwide to administer vaccinations, including flu shots, to children as young as 3-years-old. In New York, pharmacists can only give vaccinations to adults 18 and older as long as they are certified by the state. The HHS order now supersedes that restriction. All pharmacists must first complete a training program.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed concerns about falling vaccinations rates amid the pandemic as families quarantined themselves and many doctors' offices closed. In New York City, health officials announced in May that vaccination rates had dropped by 63 percent. Those rates have since climbed back up amid a campaign urging parents to get their children vaccinated and as virus cases in the city have declined.
Getting adults and children vaccinated for the flu is now considered the most important public health challenge ahead for the country. Both the flu and coronavirus are highly contagious and potentially deadly respiratory illnesses. They also share symptoms, including fever, chills and headaches. In the most aggressive action to date, Massachusetts on Wednesday announced that it will require all students, from 6-month-olds in day care centers to those under 30, to get flu shots by December 31st.
Top health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, have implored Americans to get a flu shot this year.
Fauci recently said that a flu vaccine "could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections."
Less than half of US adults receive an influenza vaccine each year. The CDC has acquired 9.3 million doses for uninsured individuals in addition to the 500,000 doses it normally purchases. "And the real reason is we're going to have COVID in the fall, and we're going to have flu in the fall. And either one of those by themselves can stress certain hospital systems," Redfield said this month in an interview with WebMD.
Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to local health authorities across the state requesting that they submit plans showing that they will have adequate testing in the fall for both coronavirus and the flu.
Cuomo warned that the flu season would effectively bring on "a second wave" that could not only strain hospitals but the laboratories that process tests.
"How do you do the flu tests and the COVID tests at the same time?" he said during a telephone conference call with reporters. "We now have everybody deployed doing COVID tests. They're going to now need to reduce their COVID tests to do flu tests."
"This is going to be difficult and challenging," he added.