This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Monday May 4th 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; 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.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said regions of the state may begin to reopen certain sectors of the economy on May 15th if they meet criteria designed to ensure that virus infections are not growing.

During a press briefing in Rochester on Monday, Cuomo laid out seven benchmarks—including having sufficient testing and contact tracing and 30 percent of hospital and intensive care unit beds available—that each region must reach before reopening.

Currently, no region meets all seven requirements, although a handful of less populous counties are close.

Under the state's chart, New York City has yet to check off four requirements. The share of open hospital and ICU beds is still below 30 percent and the number of new hospitalizations has yet to fall under 2 per 100,000 residents. That number is currently over five among city hospitals, according to the state. The city has also yet to hire enough contact tracers, which the state has said must be at least 30 tracers per 100,000 residents. That would amount to 2,520 total tracers for the city.

After arguing that the shutdown orders needed to be statewide, Cuomo has recently acknowledged that not all areas of the state have to reopen at the same time since outbreaks have been relatively small in upstate and rural counties. Governors in several states, including New York, have been facing growing protests to lift the pandemic restrictions.

"If upstate has to wait for downstate to be ready, they are going to be waiting a long time," Cuomo said on Monday.

Governor's Office

He outlined four phases of reopenings, the first being the construction and manufacturing sector, as well as "select retail" which would incorporate curbside pickup of their goods.

Next in line to reopen would be professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support and real estate. It would followed by restaurants and hotels. Arts and education institutions would fall into the final stage.

With the first reopenings set to occur as early as next Friday, Cuomo said public officials needed to monitor the situation carefully, using a data-based approach.

"This is a situation where their competence and their ability can be the difference between life an death," he said.

Specifically, should the rate of infection tick above 1.1, a sign that the spread is increasing, the state would halt reopenings and possibly reinstate restrictions to avoid a resurgence.

Currently, all signs point to the virus waning in New York. The state recorded another 225 confirmed coronavirus deaths, the lowest single-day death toll since since March 28th and a drop of one third over the last week. The official statewide single-day death toll had soared to nearly 800 in April.

The number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations also continued to decline, down to roughly 700 after plateauing at 900 last week.

Cuomo cautioned that the public should take the data with a grain of salt, since weekend reporting from hospitals tends to have a lag.

Hate Crimes Against Asians Rise Fivefold During Pandemic

People stand apart from each other as they wait for the bus along Main St.in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens borough of New York.

People stand apart from each other as they wait for the bus along Main St.in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens borough of New York.Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

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People stand apart from each other as they wait for the bus along Main St.in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens borough of New York.Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock
Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

Hate crimes against Asians have increased by more than fivefold so far in 2020 compared to last year, according to new statistics released by the NYPD on Monday. 

There were 17 anti-Asian incidents from January 1st to May 3rd, up from three in 2019. Fifteen of those 17 were racist incidents against Asians related to coronavirus. A total of 11 arrests have been made. 

While the number of hate crimes against people of Asian descent rose, overall hate crimes in New York City dropped by about one-third, from 149 to 102 over the four-month time period.

“The NYPD recognizes there may be hate crimes that are not reported and urges victims to come forward by calling 911 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS,” the department said in a press release. “At no time is hate and discrimination of any kind ever tolerated.” 

After a spate of anti-Semitic violence in 2019, when those hate crimes rose 26 percent, anti-Semitic hate crimes dropped 40 percent from 84 to 50 incidents. 

People of Asian descent and in Asian communities have faced increased discrimination due to COVID-19's origins in Wuhan, China, where the first outbreak occurred. But early research on virus strains in New York patients has indicated the virus spread to the NYC area mainly from Europe, not Asia. 

The updated statistics come a day after a man made racist comments towards a 30-year-old subway rider, attempting to drag him off the train at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. Per the Post, the man was a nurse. Police are still searching for the suspect. 

The Human Rights Commission launched a COVID-19 team after the commission gathered 248 reports of harassment and discrimination related to the virus through mid-April. 42 percent of those targeted Asians.

FDA Increases Oversight Of Antibody Tests

Kate Hinds / WNYC

The Federal Drug Administration on Monday announced that commercial manufacturers must submit their antibody tests for performance review or be forced to remove their product from the market.

Antibody testing, which is intended to detect whether a person has developed antibodies to COVID-19 and thus confirm a prior infection, has been prone to inaccuracy. Last month, a report found that only three out of 14 antibody tests on the market delivered consistently reliable results. It is also not yet proven whether the presence of antibodies grants immunity to a second infection.

Under the new FDA policy, test makers have 10 days to submit their data to the agency.

As part of an effort to spur production of antibody tests, the agency in mid-March fast-tracked the approval of certain manufacturers who were allowed to authenticate their own results. To date, 12 antibody tests have been authorized under the FDA's formal review process. But over 200 antibody tests have not.

"In mid-March, it was critical for the FDA to provide regulatory flexibility for serology test developers, given the nature of this public health emergency and an understanding that the tests were not to be used as the sole basis for COVID-19 diagnosis, a fact that remains true today," FDA officials explained on the agency's website. "However, flexibility never meant we would allow fraud. We unfortunately see unscrupulous actors marketing fraudulent test kits and using the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of Americans’ anxiety."

The agency noted that some test developers have wrongly claimed their antibody tests are FDA approved or authorized, while others have "falsely claimed that their tests can diagnose COVID-19 or that they are for at-home testing."

In New York City, the walk-in urgent care clinic CityMD recently began offering antibody testing. According to its website, the company uses a test developed by Abbott Laboratories, which has received FDA approval.

"Remember, COVID-19 is a new infection, and it is unclear if a positive antibody definitively offers immunity," the company adds.

New Jersey Will Keep Schools Closed For Rest Of Academic Year

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on Twitter that all public and private schools in the state would remain closed until the end of the academic year.

"Guided by safety and science, this is the best course of action," he tweeted.

Last week, Murphy had seemingly held out hope for students to return to the classroom before the end of June, saying there was “a chance” that schools would reopen.

New York and Pennsylvania have already announced continued school closures. Connecticut is expected to issue a decision soon.

Outside of New York, New Jersey has the second most known infections. As of Monday, there were 128,269 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 8,000 reported deaths.

NYC Will Distribute 7.5 Million Face Coverings

People wait in line to receive free face masks at the Prospect Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, May 3, 2020.

People wait in line to receive free face masks at the Prospect Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, May 3, 2020.

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People wait in line to receive free face masks at the Prospect Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, May 3, 2020.
CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Shutterstock

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said that New York City plans to distribute 7.5 million free face coverings to residents, representing a significant expansion of an ongoing effort to ensure New Yorkers follow a state-mandated public health policy designed to slow coronavirus outbreaks.

"Wherever you turn, you’re going to be offered a face covering," de Blasio said during his morning press briefing.

Last Thursday, the mayor announced a plan to hand out 275,000 face coverings, 100,000 of which was targeted for busy parks and communities hard hit by coronavirus. On April 15th, Governor Andrew Cuomo had ordered all people in the state to wear a mask or face covering when they are in public and cannot maintain social distancing of at least six feet, and whenever they are using public transit.

The city is facing a critical test as more quarantine-weary residents flock to parks and public spaces amid the increasingly warmer weather. On Saturday, photos of unmasked New Yorkers at city parks raised questions of whether enough people were following social distancing measures as well as unequal police enforcement.

People lounging on the lawn at Christopher Street Pier, Sunday May 3rd, 2020.

Christopher Street Pier, Sunday May 3rd, 2020.

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Christopher Street Pier, Sunday May 3rd, 2020.
Gretchen Robinette / Gothamist

Five million of the coverings the city plans to give out will be blue non-medical masks, which are reusable as long as they stay dry. Another 2.5 million will be re-wearable cloth face coverings. The face coverings will be made available at public housing developments, the Department of Education's grab-and-go meal locations, city parks, Mitchell Lama buildings, and grocery stores. They will also be provided by city staff and police officers enforcing social distancing rules, de Blasio said.

In New York City, the number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 on Saturday fell to 88, the second time it has fallen below 100 since April 23rd, when the city started tracking the data. The city has recorded 168,845 confirmed cases of the virus, with 13,319 confirmed deaths and more than 5,300 probable deaths.

In another new development, de Blasio also announced that the city would begin accumulating a 90-day stockpile of personal protective equipment and other supplies to prepare for possible future virus outbreaks. The city plans to both purchase the equipment as well as develop a homegrown industry.

"We are not waiting on factories in other parts of the world," de Blasio said.

Pushing For Reopenings, Trump Expects As Many as 100,000 Virus Deaths Nationwide

President Donald Trump is now projecting that coronavirus deaths in the country could grow to as many as 100,000, after weeks ago telling the American public that 60,000 would die from the disease.

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” Trump said at a Fox News town hall Sunday night that was entitled "America Together: Returning to Work."

The U.S. now has more than 1.15 million known cases of COVID-19, and nearly 68,000 confirmed deaths.

Trump credited his own actions, namely travel restrictions on China at the end of January, for keeping deaths from soaring to a far higher number. But a recent study from Northeastern University concluded that due to lack of testing there were already likely hidden outbreaks in several major U.S. cities. New York City is thought to have had the disease circulating in the population by mid-February and that travelers who brought the virus came mainly from Europe, not China.

“If we didn’t do it, the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, that’s the minimum," he said. "We would have lost probably higher, it’s possible higher than 2.2 million."

"It's going to pass," he later added, an assertion he has repeatedly made since the early outbreaks of the disease.

States like New York have said that a massive expansion of testing and contact tracing is necessary for any reopening and have said they would need federal intervention to help manage the supply chain. They have also called on the federal government to provide another round of stimulus funding to help local governments that have seen their revenues dramatically cut by the pandemic.

The White House task force had made its predictions based on models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which last month predicted 60,415 deaths by the first week of August. But last week, the institute revised its estimate to 72,433 by early August.

At the same time, Trump has been pushing for states to reopen businesses in the face of growing protests over the lockdowns.

"You see demonstrations all over the country, and those are meaningful demonstrations," he said. "Now we have to get it open. We have to get it open safely, but we have to get it open as quickly as possible."

But without national coordination, testing has been uneven among states. In Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves had been planning to announce a reopening of retail stores on Friday but instead revealed a startling 392 cases in the state over the previous 24 hours. As of Sunday, the state recorded 7,441 confirmed coronavirus cases, with at least 291 deaths.

Govenor Andrew Cuomo has insisted that a massive expansion of testing and contact tracing is necessary for any reopening and have said they would need federal intervention to help manage the supply chain. Cuomo and other governors have also called on the federal government to provide another round of stimulus funding to help fund local governments that have seen their revenues dramatically cut by the pandemic.

But taking a cue from Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who has objected to a coronavirus relief bill for states, the White House administration has in recent days suggested that state funding may not be necessary.

Appearing on Fox News Saturday morning, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said that he expected that by the end of May, "almost every state will be mostly open economically."

"I think right now, because there's been good news really, that the opening up is starting to happen faster than we expected, appears to be doing so safely, then there is a chance that we won't really need a phase four," Hassett added.

Hassett's remarks drew a sharp rebuke from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who on Sunday urged President Trump to denounce those statements.

He said that in both Democratic and Republican states hard hit by the virus, "mayors and governors unfortunately are having to cut back more and more and it’s soon going to affect the basic services we depend on."