This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Friday, July 17th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.

New York City is in Phase 3 of reopening now, which includes nail salons, tattoo parlors, and massage facilities as well as recreation like tennis and basketball courts; dog runs are also reopening. 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:


5:15 p.m. The city’s Department of Education is joining a lawsuit against U.S.Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the federal government over changes to distribution of federal CARES Act funding for schools, which could cost New York City public schools at least $53 million.

"President Trump has already botched his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now he is threatening to take millions of dollars in aid away from vulnerable students in our public schools," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a release Friday. "His cruelty knows no bounds. A safe and successful school reopening requires support from all levels of government, not playing politics with our kids. President Trump: we'll see you in court."

The city is joining a suit originally filed by California's and Michigan’s Attorneys General. Hawaii, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Chicago, the Cleveland Municipal School District Board of Education, and the San Francisco Unified School District also announced Friday they are joining the lawsuit, which charges that the federal Department of Education is violating a federal education law called Title I that allocates funding to private and public schools based on the number of low-income students residing in a school district.

The CARES Act allocated $13.2 billion in emergency aid for K-12 schools as the COVID-19 pandemic spread through the country and derailed educational systems. As the country’s largest public school system with 1.1 million students, New York City was slated to receive $717 million under a formula set by Title 1.

DeVos has proposed changing the formula to two different options, both which would result in New York City losing out on millions of dollars of funding: “Under the first option, CARES Act funds would be allocated based on the number of low-income students, but the funds must only be used for schools qualifying for Title I ​funding. This results in a loss of an estimated $100 million for more than 250 non-Title I New York City public schools​ and the disadvantaged students in those schools, and otherwise restricts funding for central services for all public schools” including transportation, facilities maintenance and improvements, school safety, food services and others, according to the mayor’s office.

Under Devos’s second option, states and local school districts would have to distribute CARES Act funds “without regard to​ low-income status or residency of students, as is required under Title I. This would divert approximately $53 million from public to private schools, as more private school students would be counted to determine the private school share,” the mayor’s office said.

Some of New York City’s wealthiest private schools received federal payroll loans despite having millions of dollars in endowments.

“At a time when we should be addressing the needs of our most vulnerable students, the Trump Administration is trying to take millions of dollars in emergency pandemic aid intended to support them and turn it over to private educational institutions already flush with other federal pandemic aid,” said Corporation Counsel James E. Johnson in the release. “This is Robin Hood in reverse.”

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza blasted the federal government and DeVos’s “utter lack of leadership throughout this crisis” in the release.

“As the largest school district in the nation, we need more—not less—funding from our country’s leaders whose job it is to support public institutions rather than privatization that benefits the privileged few,” he added. “Safe reopening requires all the resources we can get, and we call on the Trump Administration to stop playing politics with our children.”

"We See The Second Wave Building In The Distance," Cuomo Says

4:30 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo updated New Yorkers about the latest, encouraging statistics, but lamented about the rest of the country. "We are on a beach and we can see the second wave building in the distance," he said.

New York's positivity rate for Thursday is 0.99 percent. He bragged about New Yorkers' patience and willingness to "reopen smartly" and in phases, by following the science and data. "Look at the states that reopened quickly," referring to Texas, Florida, and other states now experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases.

Cuomo criticized the president, saying that President Donald Trump is in a "state of denial" and mocked the White House for saying they don't want "science to get into the way" of reopening schools. "No, the science governs," Cuomo insisted. "That’s what we learned about the economic reopening. The science wins."

New York City will continue to Phase 4 on Monday, Cuomo confirmed, which will put all 10 regions of the state in Phase 4.

NYC Will Go Into Phase 4 On Monday, With Only Outdoor Activities

11:00 a.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City is headed for Phase 4 of the reopening on Monday, July 20th. However, the only industries that will be able to reopen are those that operate outdoors. "It's all about safety. We want people to get back to work, we people to get their livelihoods back, we want to get our city back. But safety and health first," he said during his Friday press conference.

Low-risk outdoor arts and entertainment activities, like botanical gardens and zoo, will be able to reopen; "Outdoors has proven to be the area where we're seeing a lot of things work successfully," he said. Also, professional sports will resume, but without fans in the stands—the Yankees and Mets actually have two exhibition games this weekend.

Further, media production of movies, music videos, and television, can restart. What is not resuming is any sort of indoor cultural activity and any kind of indoor dining.

The mayor said the governor's office will have a formal announcement about the move to Phase 4 with further details; New York State's lockdown—or PAUSE, as Governor Andrew Cuomo dubbed it—began on March 22nd.

NY State Releases Guidance On School Reopening Plans—With Few Concrete Details

New York state’s Education Department released more guidance for school districts on reopening plans Thursday, but the guidance left key details up to individual districts, including how to handle COVID-19 outbreaks in school communities.

The 145-page “Recovering, Rebuilding, and Renewing: The Spirit of New York’s Schools” provided broad outlines of how the state’s schools will reopen this fall, including guidance on preparing school buildings for in-person learning:

“Schools and school districts should promote social distancing while maintaining existing safety requirements designed to protect students. To accomplish this, schools may expand their physical footprint or change the way they utilize space. Schools should also continue to meet or exceed ventilation requirements and may wish to consult with design professionals to increase ventilation and filtration.”

New York City public school officials are proposing a blended learning model where most students would attend in-person schooling 2 or 3 days a week, and be enrolled in remote learning the rest of the time. Students can also opt for total remote learning. The state has to approve each district’s plan by August 7th.

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced some criteria for school reopening—if a region in Phase 4 of the reopening remains at a 5 percent (or lower) infection rate for 14 days, schools can reopen, he explained; however, schools will close if the regional infection rate is 9 percent or higher, using a seven-day average.

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has not announced what the city plans to do when COVID-19 outbreaks arise in school communities. After technical glitches in an online town hall that nearly 23,000 parents attended Thursday night, Carranza reiterated the department's plan for blended learning. He said one thing is clear: "This year won't look like any other school year," and the only thing school officials know for absolute sure is that there will be remote learning.

The state guidance also reminded districts of mandates that must still be observed, including school safety and fire drills, while maintaining the recommended social distancing:

“Schools must continue to conduct mandatory fire and lockdown drills according to the existing statutory schedule. School leaders will need to plan for these drills to be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.”

Previously, lockdown drills have included gathering students to hide together in a closet.

Another crucial point is transportation: “Districts will continue to provide transportation to homeless students, students in foster care, those who attend religious, independent or charter schools – and those with disabilities – just as they always have,” the state guidance said.

New York City officials are working on transportation details with the MTA and the Taxi & Limousine Commission.