This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Friday, March 20th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here. Our guide to 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.
6:30 p.m. In a staggering statistic, one third of all coronavirus cases in the United States are in New York City.
"We are now the epicenter of this crisis," said Mayor de Blasio at his press conference late Friday.
The numbers were released by the city's health department earlier in the afternoon: 5,151 confirmed infections, an increase of nearly 1,200 overnight. The number represents two thirds of all cases in the state.
The mayor thanked Governor Cuomo for ordering all New Yorkers to stay at home, with the exception of those in essential services and businesses. The new state policy known as PAUSE (Policies that assure uniform safety for everyone) is set to take effect 8 p.m. on Sunday.
De Blasio acknowledged that New York City's 8.6 million residents would have to adjust to what could be months of restrictions. "It’s going to be a new reality in the city," he said.
The NYPD will be charged with enforcing the new rules. Police will be able to issue summons and arrests for those that fail to comply, but Police Commissioner Dermott Shea said those would "be the last resort."
Shea said grocery stores, which are considered among the essential businesses, will be among the top priorities for policing. He added that the NYPD has not encountered any problems at 500 large grocery establishments in the city.
By in large, New Yorkers have cooperated with the new rules, he said. Crime has dropped in the last week as have 911 calls with the exception of those requesting service for sick people.
To date, 52 members of the NYPD have contracted the virus. One is hospitalized with pneumonia.
The mayor announced several additional changes in store for New York City residents.
At city parks, all field permits and events, including team sports, will be canceled to discourage close contact.
Transit options will also diminish. While city subways and buses will continue running, given a sharp drop in ridership, all ferry service in New York City will be reduced.
But in a win for cyclists, the city will be adding bike lanes, beginning with Second Avenue between 34th to 42nd Streets, and Smith Street in Brooklyn.
"New Yorkers have dealt with every single thing ever thrown at them," de Blasio said. "We are a tough people by nature and that's something to be proud of."
"Let's help each other," he added.
Confirmed Coronavirus Cases in NYC Surpass 5,000
2:50 p.m. New York City now has 5,151 confirmed coronavirus cases, an increase of nearly 1,200 overnight.
By borough, the most confirmed cases are in Brooklyn, which has 1,518. It is followed 1,406 cases in Queens, 1,314 in Manhattan, 667 in the Bronx, and 242 in Staten Island.
At least 29 people have now died, three more than was reported Thursday evening.
Among those known to have died was a retired New York City fire marshal, John Knox, a Rockaway resident who worked for 36 years at the FDNY. He died Monday at Mount Sinai South Nassau Medical Center, according to Newsday. He was 83.
The coronavirus death of Richard Weber Jr., a prominent attorney who was an LGBT activist, was also reported. Weber, 57, had worked at Gallo Vitucci Klar and served as board member of the LGBT Bar Association of New York. His death was announced Thursday by the LGBT Bar Association.
And on Friday, NBC announced that Larry Edgeworth, a longtime news division employee had died from coronavirus at the age of 61.
The city has expanded testing sites, making the tests free and available by appointment only across 10 city hospitals, seven community clinics and four drive-through sites.
Eight of the ten testing centers at city hospitals are now open. They include sites at Bellevue, Elmhurst, Harlem, Metropolitan, Kings County, Lincoln, Woodhull, and Queens hospitals.
On Friday morning, a New York Times reporter tweeted a photo of line for testing at Elmhurst hospital stretching down the block.
National Roundup: U.S. Closes Canada and Mexican Border To Non-Essential Travelers, Trump Invokes Law To Produce Medical Supplies, And IRS Tax Deadline Extended To July
2:20 p.m. The U.S. is closing its borders to non-essential travelers from Canada and Mexico effective midnight on Saturday.
The news about Canada had been announced two days ago. During a press briefing on Friday, Secretary of state Mike Pompeo confirmed that the southern border had been added as well. He advised Americans abroad to return as soon as possible unless they intend to be away for an extended period of time.
On Thursday, the state Department issued a Level 4 travel advisory warning that advised Americans to avoid all international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During the press conference, Trump also announced that he planned to use the Defense Production Act to facilitate the production of needed medical supplies for coronavirus patients. The president invoked the law earlier this week, but seemed to express reluctance in exercising it. Across the country, hospitals have warned of a shortage for items like face and surgical masks, gowns, and ventilators.
Earlier in the day, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin announced on Twitter that Americans would have until July 15th, or three more months, to file their income tax returns.
The Treasury Department had previously allowed individuals and businesses permission to defer tax payments until July 15th.
At his press conference, Cuomo confirmed that New York would follow the federal government's lead and grant the same extension for state filings.
Cuomo Orders All Statewide Residents To Stay Home
12:30 p.m. After days of opposing a shelter-in-place measure, Governor Cuomo on Friday said he would order all 20 million residents in New York state to stay home as much possible except to perform essential business and activities.
The dramatic action comes as the rate of confirmed cases grows to an alarming rate. As of Friday morning, there are 7,102 people in the state who have tested positive. At least 35 people have died.
"We're closing the valve," Cuomo said during a press conference, referring to an attempt to slow what has become a geyser of positive tests. The sharp rise follows from New York's significant expanded testing capacity. At this point, the state is performing more tests per capita than China or South Korea did, according to Cuomo.
Health officials project that at the current rate of growth, which was an increase of 3,000 confirmed cases overnight, the number of coronavirus patients would be double the capacity of the hospital system, and triple the capacity of intensive care units across New York.
Like California's order, which was announced on Thursday, the rule allows New Yorkers to go out to buy food, medicine and other basic needs. They can also go outside and exercise as long as they practice social distancing.
In his remarks, the governor said that there were "places in New York City where it looks like life as usual."
"No, this is not life as usual," he added.
The strictest measures will be for those over 70, who are being advised to pre-screen visitors, wear a mask in the presence of others and avoid public transportation except in urgent cases.
New York's order notably avoids any mention of shelter-in-place. It instead goes by an acronym of PAUSE: "Policies that assure uniform safety for everyone." It will take effect Sunday evening.
The decision represented a turnaround for the governor, who had only the day before resisted the concept of putting New Yorkers under quarantine and robbing them of their civil liberties. Prior to Friday, he had mandated businesses to require 75 percent of their workforce to work from home. He defended Friday's action by saying that using the right terminology was important. "Shelter-in-place," he argued was used for situations involving an active shooter or nuclear bomb scenario.
"Words matter," he said.
Still, he conceded that the end result—following a series of extraordinary state measures that included business shutdowns, school closures and restrictions on gatherings—was essentially the same. "We're all in quarantine now," he said.
Similar to Mayor de Blasio on Thursday, Cuomo made a call out for medical equipment, from surgical and face masks, hospital gowns, gloves and ventilators. The state will pay a premium for those items, the most urgently needed being ventilators. The governor has compared the breathing equipment to "missiles" used during World War II.
Next week, the state health department will order hospitals to cancel non-critical elective surgeries. It will also waive regulations so that the hospital system can maximize the number of beds beyond its current 50,000 capacity.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently in the state identifying potential facilities that can be retrofitted into hospitals. The Javits Center, the convention on the West Side of Manhattan, CUNY and SUNY schools, and St. John's University, are among the locations under consideration.
Cuomo acknowledged that the order would cause many people, in particular businesses, to be unhappy. Those who fail to comply will face civil fines. Businesses will be subject to mandatory closures.
In the end, the governor said the data left him no choice.
"When we look back on this 10 years from now, I want to be able to say I did everything we could do," Cuomo said. "And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy."
Air Traffic Control Tower Technician At JFK Airport Tests Positive For COVID-19
10:50 a.m. An air traffic control tower at John F. Kennedy airport was closed for cleaning after a Federal Aviation Administration technician assigned to the facility tested positive for COVID-19.
In a statement published on Twitter, the FAA said technician did not enter the part of the tower where air traffic controllers work, however the tower was closed as a precaution and to allow for a professional cleaning.
The airport remains open, but air traffic controllers are operating from an alternate location at the airport as part of the FAA's contingency plan.
The technician was last at the tower on Monday for a "brief visit," according to the agency.
Simulation Last Year Showed U.S. Was Poorly Prepared For Pandemic
10 a.m. The federal government partnered with state and local agencies to run a pandemic simulation last year and came to the conclusion that the U.S. is woefully underprepared, according to a draft report obtained by the New York Times.
Many of the issues that are being discussed with the COVID-19 pandemic were noted in last year's report. The report addressed the fact that the U.S. does not have enough manufacturing ability to stock critical supplies, such as N95 masks and ventilators, and that there isn't enough money for the government's response to a severe flu pandemic and constant communication challenges between all levels of government.
According to the report, influenza pandemics are "a less familiar threat to the U.S. government than more frequently occurring disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or wildfires. As a result, federal interagency partners lack practice implementing the intra- and interagency coordination mechanisms necessary to manage an influenza pandemic response."
Under the simulation, titled "Crimson Contagion," an influenza-like illness originated in China and was spread across the world by tourists returning home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that the Crimson Contagion would be as severe in its spread and severity as the 1918 flu pandemic. Twelves states participated in the simulation including New York.
Reporting by Annie Todd
As California Orders 40 Million Residents To Stay Home, De Blasio Calls For Shelter-In-Place In New York
9:00 a.m. Appearing on MSNBC Friday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated his call for emergency federal assistance and urged the state to adopt more drastic measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.
"We have to take really intense radical action right away," he said. "We don't have masks, we don't have ventilators."
"We have to go to a shelter in place," he added.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has for days stood adamantly against the policy, saying it would incite fear. But pressure is mounting as New York is now by far the state with the most confirmed cases in the country. As of Wednesday afternoon, the state had roughly 5,300 individuals testing positive, representing more than 40 percent of the U.S. total.
On Thursday, California became the first state to issue a stay at home order, applying to 40 million people for the next few weeks. The state has only 675 cases to date, but Governor Gavin Newsome cited a projection that roughly 56 percent of the state’s population, or 25.5 million people, would be infected with the virus over the next eight weeks.
Under the order, essential businesses, including municipal workers and those in the healthcare industry, can continue to work. Residents can still go outside and take walks as well as buy groceries and other necessities. Prior to Newsome's announcemnt, Los Angeles County officials announced their own stay at home order, which they have called “safer at home.”
Cuomo has complained of the term "shelter-in-place" being reminiscent of the Cold War era and bomb shelters.
The New York governor has also said he prefers to coordinate actions with neighboring states to discourage people from fleeing restrictions. On Friday morning, he and the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania ordered all barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or piercing parlors, nail salons, hair removal services, and related personal care services to be closed as of 8 p.m. on Saturday. These are businesses in which social distancing cannot be maintained. Earlier in the week, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut agreed to close gyms, movie theaters and casinos and ban gatherings of more than 50 people.
In New York, non-essential businesses can have no more than 25 percent of their workers reporting to work in person.
New York City now has nearly 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases—70 percent of total in the state. At least 26 people in the five boroughs have died from the disease.
De Blasio said his requests to federal officials have gone unanswered. He acknowledged that an initial request did result in some supplies, but he described the amount as "paltry" and said many of the items were expired.
"At this point, things are moving so fast," de Blasio said. "What the state of California did was a recognition of a necessity."