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 December 14th, but it's slated to return with limited capacity on Valentine's Day.
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.
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.
Here's the latest:
6:30 p.m. The White House might send masks to every household in the U.S.—a proposal the Trump administration ended up sidelining, according to three sources who spoke with NBC News.
A decision isn’t final, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on Thursday, but NBC News reports that Biden’s COVID-19 advisors are looking into the logistics of the undertaking, given that the nation harbors about 130 million households. Shortly after taking office, Biden mandated masks on public transit and federal property. Psaki didn’t provide a cost assessment, which she said would depend on how many masks would be sent.
“There are a range of options on the table to help protect more Americans from the coronavirus and encourage people to mask up,” Psaki told reporters Thursday. “No decision has been made to do that.”
Under the Trump administration, the United States Postal Service had at one point considered sending masks to everyone in the country. But the idea was later scrapped, the Washington Post revealed in September. An administration official told the newspaper at the time there was a fear that mailing face coverings could “create concern or panic.”
Mask wearing has been found to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Now, some health officials—including the city’s top health expert, Dr. Jay Varma—recommend double-masking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not issued official recommendations on double-masking.
State Health Commissioner Denies De Blasio Request To Use Second Dose Vaccine Supply For First Doses
12:58 p.m. New York State’s health commissioner has issued a lengthy response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s persistent requests to use all of the city’s reserves of COVID-19 vaccines as first doses. Echoing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Howard A. Zucker said state health officials are not ready to move forward with the idea, given shortfalls in the vaccine supply.
“Most importantly, and definitively, the CDC, which is now headed by President Biden's team, does not recommend using second doses for first doses,” Zucker wrote. “I am in regular contact with the CDC, including as recently as this morning, on this topic when they affirmed their opposition to using second doses as first doses now.”
After weeks of public comments, de Blasio penned a formal request to the governor on Wednesday. The mayor confirmed the existence of the letter during Thursday’s press briefing at city hall. Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly rejected the idea.
“We need more supply,” de Blasio told reporters Thursday. “We need every conceivable action by the federal government and the state government to increase our supply.”
De Blasio said he’s spoken to federal leaders on manufacturing slowdowns surrounding the authorized vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. He is advocating for the Biden administration to compel other pharmaceutical companies to make these vital products, citing the president’s recent invocation of the Defense Production Act. De Blasio also argues that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate will help cover future shortages, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet scheduled a review for the pharmaceutical company. The company pledged to file an application with the FDA in early February when it released an interim analysis of its phase 3 trial on January 29th.
“We know more supply is coming...it’s just not right to withhold second doses that we could be using right now,” de Blasio said. “We’re in a war-time dynamic.”
But Zucker’s letter counters that the vaccine rollout’s consistent problems with deliveries do not justify a policy change. Even though the CDC recently loosened rules and said recipients can wait up to six weeks before taking a second dose, its primary recommendation is three to four weeks, depending on the vaccine.
“While the science on whether a 'brief delay' would impact full immunity is open and disputed,” Zucker wrote, “I do believe it would create undue anxiety to tell people who have scheduled appointments that those appointments are being shifted even for a 'brief delay.'"
Zucker, who has recently faced immense public scrutiny around COVID deaths in nursing homes, added that if the CDC changes its guidance, the state would work aggressively to secure enough supply and that “I can assure you New York will set the national model.”