Of the 381,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state of New York through June 10, 209,000 occurred in New York City. The Big Apple also endured the majority of New York’s deaths: 17,193 out of a total of 24,442.
After three months of devastating losses and strict shutdown measures, New York City is finally beginning to join the rest of the country in its reopening efforts.
The Rest of New York Begins Phase 2, NYC Initiates Phase 1
As part of his state’s efforts to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo implemented a four-phase reopening process for all ten regions in New York. As of June 10, New York City moved into Phase 1 while the other nine regions advanced to Phase 2.
Phase 1 allows the reopening of construction, agriculture, curbside retail sales, manufacturing, and wholesale trade. Local officials expect as many as 400,000 people to join essential workers in performing their jobs outside of the home.
“Getting people back their livelihood, that’s what Phase 1 is about,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on June 5 during a news conference. However, with more than 8 million people calling New York City home, the reopening of the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter will test the limits of social distancing and present unique challenges in a densely populated urban environment.
Amid Reopening, All New Yorkers Can Get Tested for COVID-19 For Free
In order to gain approval for Phase 1 reopening, New York City was required under Governor Cuomo’s executive order to improve its local contact tracing program and coronavirus testing accessibility. In response, the city recently announced that all New Yorkers can, and should, get tested for free.
The NYC Health and Hospitals system released a statement encouraging all New Yorkers to get a COVID-19 test, “whether or not they have symptoms or are at increased risk. Tests are fast, simple, and free.” The statement also urges people to get retested if they develop symptoms of the coronavirus, are concerned about possible exposure, or plan to visit someone at high risk for severe illness.
Concerns Rise Over Public Transportation
As more New Yorkers leave their homes and begin to travel for the first time in months, experts and residents alike voice concerns over the subway and other public transportation systems.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has installed hand sanitizer dispensers at subway stations, increased the frequency of subway car cleanings, and now requires all passengers to wear face coverings. But despite these efforts, social distancing in cramped train cars may prove to be impossible.
More New Yorkers are opting to walk instead, which worries public transportation advocates like Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “Transit can’t survive without the money that comes in at the farebox,” Sifuentes says. “The real risk we’re running here is if this drags on longer than it needs to, public transit may not look like it does in New York anymore in the future,” he explained.
When Will Phase 2 Occur in NYC?
Since Phase 1 only started in early June, New Yorkers will have to wait for the additional freedoms allowed by Phase 2 of the reopening process. Some predict Phase 2 could occur as early as June 22, which marks the minimum two-week interval waiting period between phase transitions, but most believe it won’t be allowed until July.
“If we’re ready on June 22, that’s beautiful, but I don’t want people to have undue expectations,” Mayor de Blasio said during a briefing. “We are trying to do something so difficult in these next few weeks.”