This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Saturday, May 16th, 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, as well as what the upstate reopening means; 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.
Update 2:15 p.m.: The state's horse racing tracks can reopen June 1st–that includes the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and Belmont Park on Long Island–Governor Andrew Cuomo said at his press briefing Saturday.
"We're looking for economic opportunities you can start without crowds and without gatherings," he said. Guidelines will be developed for the jockeys and the support staff, he added.
Cuomo also raised the spectre of horses racing amidst empty bleachers and seats: "No crowds, no fans," he said. "For the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work."
A noted car aficionado, Cuomo said the Watkins Glen International racetrack near Seneca Lake would also reopen for sports car races, and he looked forward to making his return visit for Drive the Glen Day.
"There's a big viewership for Watkins Glen," he said. "Let me take my car to Watkins Glen. I've done it before, I can do it again. Wear a mask in the car–I don't even have to wear a mask in the car, I’ll be alone."
Cuomo also threw in that he's met with owners from the Yankees and Mets to discuss their plans for a modified reopening of their stadium without fans in attendance.
New York State’s PAUSE order halting all non-essential businesses ended in five upstate regions Friday. It remains in effect for the downstate regions including New York City.
Cuomo also announced that elective surgeries and ambulatory care would be permitted in Westchester and Suffolk county hospitals now. "We want to make sure people who need medical services are getting medical services. There was a period where hospitals were dealing basically with the COVID patients. We are past that period," he said. "If you need medical attention, if you need a medical procedure, you should get it. And hospitals are safe places to go to the extent that people are worried about going to a hospital; there's no reason."
A day after he announced the state's beaches would be permitted to open for Memorial Day weekend, Cuomo reminded New Yorkers that as the weather warms up and people resume activity outside their homes, he expects numbers of COVID-19 cases to go up again but won't seek a spike.
"You increase economic activity, we expect to see an increase in numbers," Cuomo said. "It depends on how people react and it depends on their personal behavior. Are they wearing masks? Are they using hand sanitizer? It’s getting warmer. There's going to be a natural increase in activity anyway. People are going to come out of their homes."
Cuomo added, "The caveat is as always, as we reopen this is a new phase. This is an unknown phase. Nobody can tell you exactly what happens. Nobody has been here before."
"It’s stone to stone across the morass," he mused. "Take a step that you know is a firm step, and then you watch and see what happens."
The full list of tracks reopening June 1st are:
Finger Lakes Racetrack
Saratoga Race Course
CDC Projects 100,000 COVID-19 Deaths By June 1
With 87,568 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States so far, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that the country will hit 100,000 total fatalities by next month.
CDC Director Robert Redfield shared the information in a tweet: "CDC tracks 12 different forecasting models of possible #COVID19 deaths in the US. As of May 11, all forecast an increase in deaths in the coming weeks and a cumulative total exceeding 100,000 by June 1."
The agency explained, "Forecasts based on statistical or mathematical models aim to predict changes in national- and state-level cumulative reported COVID-19 deaths for the next four weeks. Forecasting teams predict numbers of deaths using different types of data (e.g. COVID-19 data, demographic data, mobility data), methods (see below), and estimates of the impacts of interventions (e.g. social distancing, use of face coverings)."
For instance, the Columbia University model "is based on assumptions about how levels of social distancing will change in the future. It assumes a 20% reduction in contact rates for each week that stay-at-home orders remain in place or are expected to remain in place. Once a state has re-opened, contact rates are assumed to increase by 5% each week."
On March 31st, President Donald Trump said that 100,000-240,000 deaths were projected, even with social distancing measures.
This comes as different states tackle reopening, with an eye towards whether new cases emerge. Five upstate New York regions tiptoed into reopening on Friday, with limited industries, like construction, agriculture, and retail with curbside pickup, allowed to come back. New York City, Long Island, and other downstate areas remain under the PAUSE order that has closed all businesses except for essential ones, like supermarkets, pharmacies, and restaurants, until they satisfy the state's seven health-related indictors; New York City must meet three others.
In Plattsburgh, a jewelry store owner who shifted to offer items and services from the storefront told WPTZ, "This was brutal. It had to come. I mean if it doesn't come we're not gonna be here and nobody's gonna survive this. We have to open. Everybody has to open. Whatever form it is, we have to open."
And a local gift store owner was hopeful, "To pick up gifts for friends and family instead of going to big box stores and ordering from Amazon, it's the shopping local and seeing the people that are wanting to support local is really, really nice and it means a lot to us personally."
"Reopening must be smart," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday. "Remember, learn from the lessons that are around us. We've seen other countries open. We've seen cities open. We've seen them then close because the activity level went up too high too fast. We see countries like Germany that are reopening, but they're seeing that infection rate going up and they're monitoring it very closely. We expect the rate to go up, but it has to go up at a rate that we can control, right? The risk is the activity level increases quickly and then the virus spreads quickly, you overwhelm the health system, et cetera. This has to be monitored very closely."