New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. Citing rising hospitalization rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in NYC starting Monday, December 14th. After being shut down for several weeks, NYC public schools partially reopened on December 7th for 3K-5th grade students, with students with special needs returning on December 10th. Certain parts of Staten Island remain under a zoned shutdown.
Get answers to questions you may have with our "Ask An Epidemiologist" series, or learn more about NYC COVID-19 testing options with our explainer. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
The newly-identified variant of the coronavirus, which has sparked tighter lockdowns in parts of England and fueled concern across the globe, has likely already arrived in the United States, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Speaking on ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday morning, the nation's top infectious disease doctor said he agreed with the assessment by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who suggested this week that the new, potentially more infectious strain is already in New York.
“When you have this amount of spread within a place like the U.K., you really need to assume that it’s here already," Fauci said. "It certainly is not the dominant strain but I would certainly not be surprised at all if it is already here.”
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, drew the attention of scientists this month after it began appearing more frequently in virus samples taken in southern England. British officials have said the new strain appears to be spreading faster than others, after acquiring advantages through a series of mutations. There is no evidence that it makes people sicker or more likely to die.
Fauci urged Americans against overreacting to the mutant strain, noting that it "doesn't seem" like it would have any impact on the utility of the vaccines currently in use. Pfizer and Moderna are currently testing their vaccines against the new strain.
Fauci added that banning air travel from England — a step that dozens of European countries have already taken — is "not really in the cards right now."
"Travel bans are really rather draconian things to do," Fauci said. "There is certain consideration about the possibility or maybe likelihood of requiring testing of individuals before they board a plane to the United States. That is under discussion."
On Monday, Governor Cuomo called on British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic — which transfer thousands of people to JFK Airport daily — to ensure that travelers had a negative test before boarding a flight to New York. The airlines have agreed to the requirement.
Other experts have proposed that the new variant did not originate in the UK, but was simply identified there first by the country's robust monitoring system. Fauci said the new strain would likely be identified once the United States ramped up its sequencing efforts.
"One of the important things we need to do is actually do surveillance here," he said. "It might already be here."