The first real snowfall of winter blanketed New York City and North Jersey Friday morning, dropping about half a foot on the region and snarling commutes in the early morning hours.

By dawn, about five inches had fallen on the city, with the National Weather Service predicting another inch or so before noon. But COVID-19 is complicating the city’s response. Sanitation Commissioner Ed Grayson said his department was dealing with a 20 percent staff outage due to the latest surge.

Mayor Eric Adams appeared at an early morning press conference with Grayson at a sanitation garage on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His remarks seemed intended to buoy the spirits of city workers.

“COVID is the storm that's not going to stop us, a snowstorm is not going to stop us, an economic storm is not going to stop us,” Adams said. “We’re going to forge ahead.”

But even as officials urged people to stay off the road, Adams said kids were expected to be in school this morning.

“We’ve missed too many days,” he said during a weather briefing from a South Street sanitation garage.

“Children need to get in school,” he added. “We don’t have any more days to waste.”

He said those who have been urging the city to move schools to remote-learning may be the “loudest” voices but they did not represent the majority of families and teachers.

Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of New York did close, however, "for a TRADITIONAL SNOW DAY with no remote learning. The school day will be made up."

Grayson said despite the staff shortages, his department had worked through the night to prep and plow roads.

"We were out there liquid pre-treating these roads, over 700 miles had to liquid pre-treat before the first flakes,” Grayson said. “We were attacking with salt on the first flakes and now we have an entire army full of plow operators that are out there to try to give everybody a safe and passable New York City."

The MTA said crews were working to clear snow from outdoor rails and service areas.

“If you must travel, use extra caution, plan extra time & check the website or MYmta app before you need to head out,” the agency warned.

Several subway lines were also partially or fully suspended on Friday because of the ongoing worker shortage caused by the virus.

PATH trains from New Jersey were suspended this morning, but trains to 33rd Street resumed service with delays. Trains to World Trade Center remained at a halt as of 9 a.m. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency Thursday night.

The city's public libraries announced they would not open until noon due to the snow.

But New Yorkers seemed undeterred, even joyful, in the face of the storm.

"I decided to not take a bus today and just walk through the park. It's beautiful," Jessica Galang, a 32-year-old nurse who was strolling through Tompkins Square Park to the Veterans Affairs Hospital on 23rd Street from her East Village Apartment. "I'm kind of excited. The first snow in New York is kind of magical."

Debbie Williams commuted from Canarsie to the East Village where she works as a nanny. She said the bus was running late so she took a dollar van to get to the train. In all she lost just about ten minutes.

“It was ok, it was fine, I got to work on time,” she said

"I'm going to take my cross country skis and my dogs to Prospect Park and we're going to go skijoring," said Nancy Cam, 64-year-old physician from the East Village. "That's where the dogs drag you around like skis like you're a dog sled. Yeah it's fun."

This story will be updated with the latest developments. David Cruz contributed reporting.