This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Sunday, July 26th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
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:
11:40 a.m.: New York issued another 105 violations to bars in NYC and Long Island this weekend in an effort to keep people from congregating during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday morning.
The 105 violations issued Friday and Saturday night were spread across Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties after investigations by a task force between state police and the State Liquor Authority, the governor said.
“[The violations] are people outside of bars gathering and drinking, which is illegal,” Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters. “The takeout alcohol was you take out the alcohol and you go home and you drink it. It was not you take out the alcohol and then you stand in front of a bar and drink it. That violates the open container law. It also violates the bar’s rules in terms of selling to-go alcohol. That’s a major violation with many of these.”
A second common violation was employees without masks on inside of the establishments, he said.
“We have a compliance challenge, especially for young people, especially around bars,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the state enforcement efforts have been ramped up in recent days, with violations mostly occurring downstate. Last week, the state suspended ten liquor licenses at bars and restaurants days after viral videos showed revelers partying along Steinway Street in Astoria.
The SLA board will weigh liquor license suspension regarding the new violations at a meeting on Monday, Cuomo added.
Despite coronavirus social distancing compliance issues and a rising number of cases in states across the country, Cuomo announced New York reached a new low since mid-March with 637 hospitalizations, down by nine from Saturday. Three people died of COVID-19 on Saturday. The percentage of New Yorkers who tested positive for the virus was 1 percent, out of approximately 53,568 tests reported on Saturday.
Florida Tops 436,000 COVID-19 Cases
Florida has now documented the second-highest total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit the United States, with 436,162 total cases counted as of Saturday. California has the most, with 445,400 total cases to date, but Florida's population of almost 21.5 million residents, compared to California's 39.5 million, shows that that Florida is facing a dire situation.
New York, with a population similar to Florida at nearly 19.5 million residents, has counted 411,200 positive COVID-19 cases to date.
One model suggests that deaths could double in Florida by Labor Day. According to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, a study from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation "forecasts that deaths will double by September 4th without more social distancing and use of masks. Worse, deaths could reach 18,154 by November 1st — more than three times as many as the state has seen so far. The 173 deaths reported Thursday eclipsed the 156 reported exactly one week ago. Thursday’s total also was an increase over the 140 deaths reported a day earlier."
Public health experts note that coronavirus death counts lag the number of cases by about three weeks.
On Saturday, Washington Post published a feature on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that notes, "As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees, according to the governor's schedule. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating."
Further, the Republican consultant familiar with the DeSantis team said, "It’s a universe of three — Shane and Casey," referring to how, as the Post put it, "DeSantis relies primarily on the advice of his wife, Casey, a former television reporter and host, and his chief of staff, Shane Strum, a former hospital executive, according to Republican political operatives, including a former member of his administration."
Florida's economy reopened quickly in early May. The Post reports that President Donald Trump "asked DeSantis in a phone call in May whether he would require masks for the convention and whether the virus would be a problem, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. DeSantis said he would not require masks and the virus would not be a major problem in August in Florida."
The president "abruptly" cancelled the convention, which was planned for Jacksonville, last week.
While New Yorkers experienced some whiplash from conflicting recommendations about masks in the early weeks of the pandemic, officials ultimately embraced them wholeheartedly. In spite of the data, DeSantis has repeatedly denied the efficacy of masks and refused to issue a statewide mask order—upsetting healthcare workers who are dealing with the surge in cases—and putting the onus on local governments to enforce mask requirements. This has led to surreal, life-imitates-Parks & Recreation public hearings like this one from Palm Beach after it implemented a mask order:
A recent Quinnipiac poll says that 79% of Floridians actually do want a statewide mask order.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams visited COVID testing sites in Florida last week, and asked that residents wears masks, "We’ve got a simple tool that will help us reopen. It even says on the package: ‘Do your part, stop the spread.' We all need to take small measures that we can now to avoid big inconveniences down the road."
Florida is among the dozens of states in New York's—and New Jersey's and Connecticut's—travel advisory, which requires anyone traveling from COVID hotspot states to quarantine for 14 days. A late June cluster of cases was linked to a person who had been in Florida and then had graduation celebrations back in Westchester County. While enforcement of the quarantine appears to be lacking teeth, the Cuomo administration has threatened $2,000/day fines.