What you should know
More than 28,000 lives in the tri-state area have been lost to date. New York State reported its lowest number of deaths in a single day in weeks (289), continuing a positive trend. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that all New York schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year; meanwhile, Phil Murphy says he will provide an update on New Jersey schools early next week. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s state-wide shutdown order remains in effect, though he amended it to allow state parks and golf courses to reopen on Saturday. An update to Cuomo’s “PAUSE” directive is expected next week.
Efforts to open public spaces outdoors coincide with a weekend of temperatures above 70 degrees for the first time since October. While temperatures like these could equate to better enjoyment of the parks and golf courses reopened this weekend, the governors of the tri-state area warn that failure to comply with the rules of social distancing could delay steps towards the total reopening of the states.
New Jersey’s golf courses and state parks will reopen for visitors this weekend. Covering your face is recommended, but not required. However, capacity is still limited in state parks. In addition, the state Department of Environmental Protection reminded people that if they planned to go for a weekend outing to the parks, the public toilets inside these will be closed as well as the area of attractions for children. Also, group meetings or group sports will not be allowed.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy reiterated on Saturday that he would not hesitate to cancel the reopening if people do not follow the rules of social distancing and other public safety measures, calling this weekend “a great test” for the state. Here is a complete list of parks reopening this weekend.
“If we hear reports of people not taking their health seriously, or the health of other park visitors, I will not hesitate to close them once again,” Murphy said.
Officers in Morris County closed access to people at Hacklebarney State Park in the afternoon after the park reached capacity a few hours after it opened. Other parks also had to close early for the same reason.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said 1,000 employees, who do not belong to the New York Police, would be helping to reinforce social distancing. The city plans to distribute 100,000 free masks in parks, and more of these are on the way.
New York City is opening 40 miles of pedestrian streets in May. The first 7 miles open on Saturday and are strategically selected near parks to expand already open spaces. The city plans to open up to 100 miles of streets in the coming months.
“This is the most pleasant weather we’ve seen this year; we encourage people to go out and enjoy this weekend,” Terence Monahan, head of the New York Police Department, told our sister network, NBC 4.
But, he reminded residents that: “They cannot meet for activities such as barbecue. If they do, they will be fined as there have been many warnings.”
Governor Cuomo said the coronavirus claimed the lives of 299 other people on Friday, bringing the death toll in New York to 18,900. That number does not include the more than 5,200 alleged victims reported in New York City.
Two months after the region’s coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo said expanded antibody tests support initial data released last week, suggesting that millions of New Yorkers may be infected with the virus. The state has now screened nearly 15,000 people for antibodies, and just over 12 percent tested positive, Cuomo said Saturday, slightly below the 15 percent reported after the first batch of completed antibody tests.
The numbers are even higher in New York City: Antibody tests found a positivity rate of 19.9 percent, compared to nearly 25 percent, in samples from the city. Among the five boroughs in the city, The Bronx had the highest percentage of positive tests with more than 27 percent, while Manhattan was the lowest with 17 percent.
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We don’t even know how many are actually infected. The tri-state area has reported more than 465,000 confirmed cases to date: 312,977 in New York, 123,717 in New Jersey, and 28,764 in Connecticut. The first antibody tests in New York indicate that the total of real cases could be 10 times greater. New York City alone has reported more than 172,000 cases; the data shows that it may have had up to 2.1 million people infected.
Cuomo has said that the crisis will not really “end” until there is a vaccine. More than 70 of them are under development worldwide, but approval could take at least 12 to 18 months. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, says the nation could suffer a “bad fall” if effective treatment does not emerge.
Fortunately, Fauci, along with other health experts, seemed impressed by the findings of the latest Gilead Sciences clinical trial on Remdesivir, one of the most prominent experimental drugs for COVID-19. Preliminary results found that it shortened recovery time by an average of four days for hospitalized patients.
“You now have a drug that has been shown to work against the virus,” Fauci told The Associated Press. “Will it be an overwhelming cure? No, of course not.” But it can certainly help free hospital beds, he said.
No treatment has currently been approved to treat the virus, which has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide since its appearance late last year. The FDA is weighing whether to grant emergency use authorization to Remdesivir; That doesn’t mean the drug has been approved, but it does make it available for use.
In normal times, the FDA requires “substantial evidence” of the safety and effectiveness of a drug, usually through one or more rigorously controlled, large patient studies. But during public health emergencies, the agency can waive those standards, simply by demanding that the potential benefits of an experimental drug outweigh its risks.