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.
A five-year-old in New York City has died from an unknown inflammatory condition tied to coronavirus that appears to be affecting a growing number of children, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday.
The child, who died Thursday, is believed to the first known fatality from perplexing new condition that has surfaced in Europe as well as some U.S. cities.
Speaking at a press conference in Poughkeepsie, Cuomo said that the New York Department of Health has now identified 74 cases across hospitals in the state, an increase of 10 from Wednesday. The state is investigating other possible cases, he added.
On Friday, the NYC DOH confirmed that there had been at least 20 cases, of individuals aged 21 and younger, in New York City hospitals since April 17. Earlier this week, the city had reported 15 cases of children ranging in ages from 2 to 15, who had been admitted into intensive care units for the condition.
Early data has indicated that coronavirus does not affect children as severely as adults, although experts are not sure why.
Emphasizing that there were still many unknowns about the disease, Cuomo said that the latest development should serve as "caution to all people who believed their children couldn't be affected by COVID-19."
"This information may suggest that we may want to revisit that assumption," he added.
Symptoms are compatible with toxic shock syndrome, a bacterial infection, as well as Kawasaki disease, a relatively rare disorder which can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels. Children with Kawasaki disease typically have prolonged high fever, very red eyes, and swollen or "strawberry" tongues.
Many of the patients have tested positive for COVID-19 or antibodies developed in response to the virus. The state Department of Health has ordered all hospitals in New York to report any cases. Hospitals must also perform a diagnostic and serological or antibody test on children exhibiting symptoms of the disease.
“The loss of a child is an unfathomable tragedy," said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city's health commissioner, in a statement. "With aching hearts, we will continue working with hospitals to ensure that New Yorkers have the information they need to keep their children safe."
She added that parents of children who exhibit fever, rash, abdominal pain or vomiting, should call their doctor right away.
On Friday, Cuomo said total hospitalizations across the state continue to gradually fall to around 8,000. But new COVID-19 cases have stayed relatively flat for the last three days at about 600. "We would have hoped to have seen a steady short decline in those numbers," he said.
The governor also said that another 216 people had died from coronavirus, a decline from roughly 230 over the previous four days.
De Blasio Announces Aggressive Plan To Build "Test And Trace" Corps
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday announced a plan to build a "test and trace" coronavirus disease investigator corps led by the city's public hospital system, Health + Hospitals.
"This is a call to arms," de Blasio said during his Friday morning press briefing.
He said New York City's testing and contact tracing program would be "the biggest and fastest" endeavor in the nation.
By early June, the city intends to staff the initiative with 2,500 public health workers. The mayor said the number of employees could expand to between 5,000 and 10,000. At a starting salary of $57,000 per tracer, that translates to a total payroll cost of between $285 million to $570 million.
In tandem with the hiring of tracers, the city also plans to significantly expand its level of testing. Currently, roughly 13,000 tests per day are performed citywide. The city has set a target of 20,000 tests per day by May 25th. The ultimate goal would be to reach 50,000 tests per day, utilizing both public health clinics and hospitals as well as private providers.
The mayor's decision to tap Health + Hospitals officials to lead the effort has rankled members of the city's Health Department, according to a New York Times story. The department, which will be involved at a lower level in the test and trace program, has traditionally handled contact tracing for diseases such as tuberculosis, H.I.V. and Ebola. De Blasio has reportedly butted heads with Health Department officials, who were said to have wanted him to treat the crisis with more urgency in the early weeks.
On Friday, the city health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who has normally attended the mayor's press briefings through video conference, was absent. Asked about why she was not there, de Blasio said Friday's briefing topics did not pertain to her.
Pressed on why he was choosing the public hospital system over his closest health experts, the mayor said that testing and tracing represented a vastly larger undertaking that would require more resources and the ability to be execute contracts more quickly than a traditional agency.
"It fits the sheer scope and operational capacity of Health + Hospitals," he said.
Health + Hospitals is comprised of 11 hospitals and 70 clinics. In addition to testing and tracing, the effort also requires health officials to decide who should be put into quarantine. By June, the city plans to have 1,200 hotel rooms set aside for that purpose.
De Blasio said that the city had received nearly 7,000 applications for contact tracers. He added that the city will utilize Johns Hopkins University contact tracing training program, funded by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's philanthropic organization.
In addition, the mayor also announced that the Seattle-based company Salesforce, which assists companies track sales and analyze data, would help the city create a call center, and customer relationship and case management system.
New Jersey Governor Says He Expects Beaches To Open By Memorial Day
In what could set a precedent for the region, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Friday that he expected the state's beaches to open by Memorial Day but with certain restrictions to protect against further spread of the coronavirus.
“I will be shocked if our beaches are not open, but with very specific guidance, just as we opened county and state parks,” Murphy said during a morning interview with NJTV. “You should expect we’ll give guidance on beaches before Memorial Day.”
Murphy said that he envisioned controlling capacity by limiting parking, a measure used when the state recently reopened state and county parks.
"Look for us to be doing things along those lines," he said.
Not all beaches are governed by the state; some come under municipal control, where responses to the pandemic have varied. Some New Jersey town beaches have remained open, while others have closed. The same has been true in Connecticut.
Murphy said he has had "high level of communication" with municipal leaders.
To date, New Jersey has 133,635 confirmed coronavirus cases, the highest caseload in the country after New York. At least 8,800 people in the state have died from the disease.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to announce whether New York beaches would open for the summer. But he has said that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut should coordinate their actions on reopenings. Cuomo has established health and testing guidelines for some regions in the state to reopen certain industries as early as May 15th.
Connecticut, which has relatively few cases compared to New York and New Jersey, is expected to open some businesses, including hair and nail salons, outdoor restaurants and outdoor recreation facilities like camping and hiking areas on May 20th.
With the warm weather approaching and people getting cabin fever, the reopenings will pose a major test for the region. Cuomo has specifically cited beaches as "attractive nuisances" because they typically draw people from across the tri-state region.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio has indicated he would be open to allowing beaches to reopen as long as the virus continues to show signs of declining.
As opposed to workplaces, Murphy argued that the reopening of beaches would not require the state to have contact tracing in place to control infections.
Rather, he said beachgoers simply needed to adhere to basic social distancing guidelines.
"Don’t be a knucklehead, stay away from each other," he said.