What you should know
- Paterson this week became the second major New Jersey city to impose new virus control measures as its COVID numbers continue to rise; are across the board in New Jersey, officials say
- New York State surpassed 500,000 confirmed COVID cases on Wednesday, the fourth-highest total in the United States; has still reported far more deaths than any other state in the US and many other countries
- The concerns of the three states reflect a deeply troubling national situation; The country set a new daily record for cases for the third time in a week on Wednesday, prompting new calls for a US mask mandate.
NEW YORK – The United States may not return to “normalcy” until well into 2021, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert warned on Wednesday, as the United States broke its record for daily cases for the third time in a week and New York exceeded half a million cases. Yet another New Jersey city imposed a curfew as their numbers continued to rise.
If trends don’t change soon, warned Dr. Anthony Fauci, “there will be a lot of pain in this country regarding additional cases, hospitalizations and deaths” as the colder weather rolls in and the holidays roll in.
No state has been immune to the most recent surge, according to NBC News data, although some, like New York, are experiencing it more modestly. New Jersey is experiencing the fastest spread rate it has seen in months, and while it has a positivity rate that ranks among the 12 lowest in the country, Gov. Phil Murphy has said that the Garden State`s numbers are getting more sobering.
It has reported more than 1,200 new cases, sometimes nearly 2,000, for more than a week in a row. Unlike New York, Murphy says he is not prepared to implement sweeping new restrictions. There is no evidence that gyms or indoor dining, for example, have contributed to the latest spikes; that, he could regulate it.
Murphy says the data shows more and more new cases arising from smaller family gatherings, where people let their guard down; you cannot control what happens inside private homes and you are urging people to avoid vacation travel.
However, some major New Jersey cities have taken action regarding the new restrictions. Paterson became the latest to do so on Wednesday, imposing a curfew due to a recent spike in COVID cases.
The city’s number of new cases has nearly tripled in the past three days in Paterson, prompting its mayor to issue an executive order restricting indoor restaurants and nightlife as of midnight Thursday. Compliance has also become a problem; Paterson officials shared photos and video of crowds partying and gathering up close inside bars, nightclubs and hookah lounges without masks.
The move in Paterson comes on the heels of the Newark mayor’s decision earlier this week to impose new restrictions as the growth of his case threatened to skyrocket. Newark had more new coronavirus cases than all other Essex County cities combined on Monday; some neighborhoods have posted positivity rates above 25 percent, more than five times the state average.
The city overall has a positivity rate of nearly 12 percent, even more than double the state average. Mayor Ras Baraka said non-essential businesses, including indoor lunches, would have to close at 8pm night; it also imposed new cleaning requirements on health clubs and gyms and said salons and hair salons could remain open only if they conduct business by appointment.
It was not immediately clear if any subpoenas had been issued since the executive order went into effect at 8 p.m. Tuesday. When asked about Baraka’s decision earlier in the week, Murphy said he supported the mayor and would provide assistance on testing, enforcement, and other fronts as needed.
Fauci said America in general would do much better right now if it doubled down on masks, distancing itself and avoiding crowds and congregations. Murphy has voiced those messages as urgently as any governor in the nation, even as he continues to say that a broader statewide crackdown is not necessary at this time.
New York state, which boasted the second-lowest positivity rate in the nation on Wednesday despite surpassing the 500,000-case milestone, has also maintained those precautionary measures for months. And Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to take specific restrictive actions to ensure enforcement in non-compliant areas.
Cuomo recently imposed tougher restrictions, some of them total closures, in narrow geographic hotspot areas in Brooklyn, Queens, Orange and Rockland counties, among other tightly packed areas. Queens’ red zone saw its restrictions lifted last week amid significant improvement; Orange County is set to move to less intense rules next week if it stays on course.
Even New York’s so-called “hot spots,” which have sparked significant public anxiety amid fears of a broader resurgence, are averaging a 3.07 percent weekly positivity rate. That’s more than 10 times less than what some major US cities and states see every day. Cuomo urges people to remain calm.
The governor of New York has touted his micro-clustering strategy as an effective virus control measure and hopes it will become the norm in the coming months. He says he anticipates outbreaks like the ones some parts of New York have seen recently, and says they are not of major concern if they are eliminated immediately.
Yet he is growing concerned about the latest wave from the United States to hit New York. Cuomo has urged New Yorkers to avoid nonessential travel, whenever possible. That extends to the neighboring states of New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, all of which meet the criteria for being included on its quarantine list, but aren’t because it says proximity makes it impractical.
New York has lost more people to COVID than any other US state, and many countries around the world, although Texas, California and Florida have risen to the top of the list in terms of confirmed cases in recent months. .
To date, the United States has confirmed nearly 9 million coronavirus cases and reported more than 227,000 deaths, about 69,000 more than the next closest country (Brazil), according to data from Johns Hopkins. Investigators have warned that the death toll could reach 500,000 or even exceed in February without a national mask mandate and near-universal compliance by Americans.
Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have been asking for it for some time. Fauci recently voiced support for a national mask mandate for the first time amid the latest surge, while Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has also called for one. President Donald Trump continues by stating that “we are turning the corner of the pandemic,” in stark contrast to the numbers seen across the country.