Coronavirus Watch

News and Updates: NYC Comic Con going virtual; Unmasked pop-up party on MTA bus; Traveler checkpoints; The show won’t go on; Mayor on quarantine enforcement; Outdoor dining expected next summer; Cuomo urges NYPD to “do a better job” with social distancing outside bars

| 09 Apr 2020 | 02:49

Updated Wednesday, August 12, 12:16 p.m.

Quote of the Day: “We don’t want to penalize people. We want to educate them, make sure they’re following the rules.” - Mayor de Blasio

The Numbers

Confirmed cases as of Wednesday, August 12, 2020:

NYC - 228,729

NY State -422,703

NYC Comic Con Now Going Virtual

The latest event to be canceled in the wake of the coronavirus is now New York City’s annual Comic Con. Sorry cosplay lovers, your costumes might not be able to make it to Javits Center this year. However, there is some respite, as the organizers have announced that Comic Con will be going virtual this year, just like its predecessor San Diego Comic Con in July.

In a statement, ReedPop president Lance Fensterman said, “We are thoroughly disappointed that we can’t gather together, in-person for the New York Comic Con we love to build and our fans love to revel in.” This year’s event will feature Q&As, virtual meet-and-greets, workshops, and a virtual “marketplace” for all the exhibitors’ booths that would’ve been there in its stead. This year’s Comic Con will take place on YouTube from October 8 to 11.

Unmasked Pop-up Party on MTA Bus

In what might be one of the wildest incidents flouting of social distancing rules yet, a group of individuals took over an MTA bus in Queens for a party without social distancing or a mask in sight. At 4 a.m. on Sunday, a crowd of people swarmed bus #7239 as it was pulling out of the Grand Avenue Depot. Double-parked cars blocked the bus as the crowd ignored the bus operator. A viral video of the party shows the group smoking, dancing, and drinking and ignoring the MTA’s health and safety rules.

“That rambunctious crowd put the bus operator and themselves at risk when they violated multiple health and safety laws and rules by taking over a bus for mask-less smoking and lewd activities without regard to social distancing,” the MTA said in a statement. The party lasted for 30 minutes before a supervisor arrived and the crowd dispersed. The bus operator was unharmed and the bus was disinfected immediately afterwards.

Traveler Checkpoints

In an attempt to maintain New York’s progress in reigning in the coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city would begin implementing checkpoints across the five boroughs to help enforce the governor’s quarantine order for travelers from viral hotspots across the United States.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially established the travel restriction in late June, but as cases and deaths have spiked elsewhere and recent weeks, the mayor hopes the checkpoints will send a strong message to those visiting the city.

“The checkpoints are going to send a very powerful message that this quarantine is serious. Even if we can’t reach every single person I think it’ll get the message across,” de Blasio said. “We don’t want to penalize people. We want to educate them, make sure they’re following the rules.”

Starting Wednesday, the city will implement checkpoints that will vary daily, with the first few being located on the Staten Island side of the Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing, as well as the Holland Tunnel and Lincoln Tunnel. On Thursday, the city plans to place checkpoints at Penn Station and at the Port Authority. Currently, travelers who land in the state’s airports as well as those who travel by car, bus or train are required to fill out a form for contact tracing.

The Show Won’t Go On

MSG Entertainment formally announced that their annual Christmas show, “Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes,” will be cancelled this because of the coronavirus pandemic — a sign of what is likely to be a very different holiday season in New York City this year. The annual Rockettes’ Christmas show has long been a popular tradition of the city, with more than 1 million attending each year. As all other Broadway establishments remain closed, Radio City Music Hall loses out on its biggest ticket item of the year. “We are disappointed for everyone involved with the show, as well as for the many fans who make the Christmas Spectacular a cherished part of their holiday tradition,” said MSG Entertainment in a statement.

Outdoor Dining to Return Next Summer

Citing the success of NYC’s outdoor dining program this past summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in a press conference on Monday that the city plans to bring it back next summer. While the program is supposed to run until October 1, the mayor set a tentative date of June 1, 2021 for its return. The outdoor dining program allowed for restaurants to reopen by setting up dining areas on the curbs and sidewalks outside the establishment. The mayor called the program an “extraordinary success,” claiming the program was able to save nearly 80,000 jobs in the city since June. Over 9,000 restaurants have signed up for the initiative.

Cuomo on School Reopening Plan

Governor Cuomo gave an update on New York’s school reopening plan at a press conference Monday afternoon. He said that though each of the state’s 688 school districts are coming up with their own plans to reopen, he hadn’t decided whether those school districts would be allowed to reopen.

“I’ll make a determination later this week on the infection rate, whether or not to reopen schools,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo also emphasized that despite school districts wanting to reopen, the decision to send students back to classrooms would ultimately rest on parents and teachers, and whether they would feel confident in both the health and safety of themselves and their children. He called on school districts to start having conversations with parents and teachers about the best way to move forward while taking into account their concerns.

“You need the parents to be comfortable. You need the teachers to be comfortable,” he said. “You need the children to show up at school.”

Cuomo Urges NYPD to “Do a Better Job” with Social Distancing

As more days of the reopening go by, so do more videos emerge of the people of New York flouting social distancing rules. The most recent one, viewed over seven million times, comes from a charity concert held in the Hamptons headlined by the Chainsmokers. The concert was intended to be a drive-in event, which people could attend while in their cars or outside but in parking spot lines. But the video showed most people crowding around the stage without maintaining any social distancing.

After a week of suspending liquor licenses for bars across the city, Governor Cuomo shot back at the concert organizers as well. His main criticism went to local governments for not “doing their job” and allowing for social distancing violations to continue. Referencing the viral videos of people collecting outside bars in New York City, Cuomo said, “The state government cannot substitute for every local government’s enforcement role - we just don’t have enough resources on the state side. I need the NYPD to do a better job in New York City.”

Now Puerto Rico and Washington DC on the Travel Advisory

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced that along with three additional states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico were added to the tri-state quarantine list, bringing the grand total up to 36 states, one national capital, and one US territory. This indicates a growing part of the country that would now be required to self-isolate for 14 days if they were to arrive in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

None of the states come off the list this week. This is a sign of the COVID cases not letting up in any of the states in the country so far, to the extent that Governor Cuomo had to add Puerto Rico and Washington DC to the list. “The situation across the nation is still very bad and there are more states that have exceeded our thresholds for quarantine,” the Governor added.

The Mayor on Schools Reopening

Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to questions regarding the opening of schools at a press conference Monday morning.

“Right now our intention is to open on schedule and to open with all grade levels, but again with blended learning,” de Blasio said. “For those kids and families who prefer just online, that will always be an option available to all families. If they want to do all remote at any point, they can do that.”

The mayor reiterated that the city’s plan to open schools was still changing and would be subject to the new state directives that are going to be announced in ten days. He also mentioned that different schools would likely have different policies regarding classroom instruction. But de Blasio emphasized that the start of the school year was six weeks away, and that the school opening plan wouldn’t be finalized until closer to that date.

“We’re all going to be watching the data, the science, the healthcare indicators, ‘til we get very close to school beginning,” de Blasio said. “And it would be irresponsible not to.”

Pools Reopen

On Friday, July 24, eight public pools have reopened throughout all five boroughs in the city. Capacity is reduced to 30%, and lifeguards have been trained on how to resuscitate someone without using mouth-to-mouth. The CDC has stated that the chlorine levels in pools act as a disinfectant and prevent transmission of the virus. The CDC website said, “Currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through recreational water. However, it is important to limit close contact with people outside of your home when visiting public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds, as well as natural bodies of water — like beaches and lakes — to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Look, we’re going to be careful with them, there will be rules.” Another seven pools will be announced next week to reopen on August 1.

Liquor Licenses Suspended as the Party Goes On

After several videos of people partying in New York City bars and drinking establishments started going viral on social media, Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to take matters into his own hands and suspend the liquor licenses of the bars involved. “In terms of the bars, restaurants, I’ve seen the stories, and read the stories in the news media,” Cuomo told the media. “I think there’s a basic disconnect. We never authorized bars to reopen. Most states have not allowed bars to operate.”

The state suspended the liquor licenses for three bars in Queens: Brik Bar, MIA, and Maspeth Pizza. This comes in wake of the viral videos showing dozens of people partying without masks and flouting social distancing rules as cases in the city go down. While outdoor dining facilities have reopened during phase four, the same courtesy wasn’t extended to bars. In all, the state has suspended 27 liquor licenses across New York.

10 More States on Quarantine List

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced that 10 more states would be added to the tri-state quarantine list, bringing the grand total up to 31. That means that people belonging to more than half of the states in the entire country would be required to self-isolate for 14 days if they were to arrive in any of the states in the tri-state area, including New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Minnesota comes off the list this week, although it could be added back if cases start to rise again. “One state can only do so much to protect itself from COVID,” the Governor tweeted after the announcement. “The virus can and will cross state lines.”

A Scolding from the Governor

Governor Andrew Cuomo scolded young partygoers at a press conference Monday morning following New York City’s transition to Phase Four of the state’s reopening plan. After reports emerged of large crowds defying the mask mandate and social distancing rules in Astoria and the Lower East Side this past weekend, Cuomo attempted to dispel the myth that young people were not susceptible to the coronavirus.

“You can get sick, you can die in your 20s,” he said. “You will take the virus and you will give it to someone else.”

While New York City saw zero coronavirus-related deaths last Monday, the numbers have since risen to a 3-day average of 11 deaths as of Sunday. Determined to keep New York’s tight grip on the coronavirus, Cuomo had a few words for people violating the mask mandate and social distancing rules:

“Knock it off,” the governor said. “Don’t be stupid!”

Cuomo Tightens Rules for Outdoor Drinking

Previously during the pandemic, bars that had set up shop in windows and front doors to serve “to-go” drinks were legally allowed to sell a bag of potato chips or pretzels with drinks. Now, however, Governor Andrew Cuomo is tightening the rules, saying that the bars would need to serve more “meal-like” foods in order to serve drinks outdoors.

As New York City prepares to enter Phase Four of reopening, Cuomo is doing what he can to prevent the spikes that other states have seen. In addition to the requirement for food with drinks, the New York Times reported, he also requires that there be seating available, and groups standing around drinking together will not be allowed. These rules are following a spike in cases among young people who seem to be the most common group to be out drinking and dining during the first few phases of reopening.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Phase Four Reopening Status

On July 17, Governor Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to announce the status of New York City entering Phase Four of reopening. If the city moves forward with Phase Four, schools, limited arts and entertainment programming, sports games, media productions, zoos and botanical gardens will be allowed to re-open. Indoor cultural institutions, malls and indoor dining, however, will remain closed indefinitely. On Thursday, Cuomo was cautious, saying “let people plan, get ready, and make arrangements, like the school opening and then we’ll see what happens. We have to respond to the data at the time, we have to respond to the facts in the moment.”

COVID Spike Among Young Adults in NYC

According to city health officials, a spike in coronavirus cases among young adults ages 20-29 is due to New Yorkers flooding newly reopened bars and restaurants. “If you go out and look around the city, people who are younger are going to be those most likely to go to, say, bars and restaurants, or have private gatherings, other types of activities or events,” said Dr. Jay Varma, Mayor de Blasio’s senior advisor for public health. New cases have emerged recently in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

However, the city says that they can’t attribute this increase in cases to the thousands flocking to anti-police protests. “There’s nothing that we can see that directly links the protests to the rise that we’re seeing right now among younger people,” Varma said. While the protests mostly took place in the first half of June, the rise in cases is attributed more to the second half of the month.

If You’re Flying into NYC, Fill Out or Pay Up

Governor Cuomo continues to tighten restrictions on travel into the state from other parts of the country that have seen major surges in COVID cases. Along with adding four new states to the advisory list, Cuomo also issued another travel advisory, stating that those flying into any of New York City’s airports would be required to fill out a Department of Health form. “We can’t be in a situation where we have people coming from other states in the country, bringing the virus,” Cuomo said.

As soon as the traveler lands at the airport, they’d be met by an enforcement team that checks the form and paperwork. If everything isn’t in order or the form isn’t filled out, the traveler can face a $2000 fine. The form asks travelers to mention details such as contact information, where they plan to stay in New York, and if they’re coming from a state with a significant spread of the virus, in which case it advises the traveler to quarantine for two weeks.

Cuomo: New Travel Rules for Visitors to NY

Governor Andrew Cuomo expanded on New York’s quarantine on air travelers coming from states seeing a large uptick in coronavirus cases. Starting Monday, all air travelers coming into New York from high-risk states will have to provide contact information to local authorities to enforce quarantines and keep the downward trend in new coronavirus cases statewide.

“Out of state travelers from the states that are quarantined must provide a location form before they leave the airport,” Cuomo said. “If you leave the airport without providing the information, you will receive a summons immediately with a $2,000 fine.”

New York City saw zero coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, for the first time since March - an important milestone on the road to reopening. State officials are hoping that by tracking travelers coming in from high-risk states and enforcing quarantines, New York can continue to resist the rising coronavirus case numbers being seen across the country.

WHO: COVID Could Be Airborne in Closed Spaces

Another development from the World Health Organization related to coronavirus transmission has been released: the virus is possibly airborne. Previously the organization informed the public that the coronavirus was likely transmitted through surfaces and droplets that are emitted from a person who sneezes or coughs. Now, as many states have seen dramatic spikes after reopening restaurants and bars, WHO is saying that in closed spaces, the virus might be transmitted through tiny droplets that linger in the air.

Additionally, they confirmed that someone who is infected and asymptomatic can transmit the virus, but the WHO’s website reports that they need more information to determine how frequently this can occur.

New York Zoos and Aquarium Get Ready to Reopen

While the lions and tigers and bears have seen no visitors except for their regular zookeepers for months, the zoos and the New York Aquarium are planning to open at the end of July (July 20 for the Aquarium and July 24 for the zoos). The capacity will be reduced to a third, and tickets will be timed to allow for people to enter the zoo in a less crowded space. Everyone will be required to wear masks, tickets can only be purchased online, and health care workers will get in free.

$10 Million for Community Organizations to Fight Covid

On the morning of July 9, Chief Equity Officer Annabel Palma of the city’s COVID-19 Test & Trace Corps’ announced that $10 million would be allocated for community-based organizations throughout New York City. The grant, provided by NYC Health + Hospitals and The New York State Health Department, recognizes the key role that community groups serve in the lives of New Yorkers.

With the additional funding, organizations will be educating communities on the coronavirus pandemic. According to Palma, “the education will cover how to get tested, answering to the call for confidential information to a contact tracer once they get a call or a home visit, separate from loved ones to stop the spread of the virus and the guidance of precautions around social distancing , continuing to wear mask coverings and safe re-opening practices.”

The grants will be given out from July through November and will range from $50,000 to $750,000.

Staggered Public School Reopening

Mayor de Blasio finally announced the plan for NYC’s public schools come the fall. The Mayor said public schools would not be completely reopening in the fall, only running for one to three days a week. This partial reopening is in line with the city’s efforts to continue to curb the spread of the coronavirus amidst fear of a second wave hitting the city if New Yorkers are not careful.

While the plan does allow for children to go back to a semblance of what their past school life used to be, it makes it harder for parents to completely return to a pre-pandemic work schedule. Public schools will be following social distancing regulations, not allowing for more than a dozen people in a classroom at a time, including students, teachers, and aides. This is part of a growing push around the country to reopen all schooling systems and has created more alternative solutions and hybridization systems.

Child Care Facilities to Reopen

A resolution was passed by the Department of Health, voting in favor of reopening day care and child care centers next week (starting 07/13). So far, only child care programs meant for essential workers were in operation, but this allows for all the roughly 3000 programs monitored by the Department of Health to reopen their doors.

“To avoid the kinds of situations that may not be as safe and might be unregulated, we want parents to know that the best quality child care will be there for them. So, strict safety requirements will be in place,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio about the resolution. Socially-distanced child care centers will comprise no more than 15 children in a room, continuous sanitization of surfaces, only sharing toys that can be sanitized and mask-donning staff.

“Cool” Streets

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday that certain open streets in the city would be designated as “cool streets.” The purpose for these streets is to enable people passing by or residents to cool off from the intense summer heat. These streets are being instituted in locations particularly vulnerable to heat waves and other health risks. The streets will have fire hydrants with sprinkler spray caps, water fountains, and trees for shade.

Manhattan will have four cool streets:

East 101st Street, from Park to Third Ave.

West 117th Street, from Morningside to Fifth Ave.

West 138th Street, from Lenox Ave. to Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard

Edgecombe Avenue, from St. Nicholas Place to West 145th St.

Cuomo on City Schools

Governor Cuomo backtracked Mayor Bill de Blasio’s statements about opening NYC schools this September at a press conference on Monday morning. Though de Blasio had expressed a desire last week about going “full steam ahead” and coming up with a plan to open schools, Cuomo insisted that for the time being, no decision had been made yet about whether schools would actually be opening. He said that there wasn’t much information available about the effects of students socializing in classrooms.

“We’re not going to say children should go back to school until we know it’s safe,” Cuomo said.

But the governor highlighted the uncertainty of the state’s school reopening, calling it a “fluid situation,” and emphasizing that there was still time for a final decision to be made.

Protests Have Not Lead to Spike in NYC Cases

Since the George Floyd protests began on May 27, New York has braced for a spike in coronavirus cases, but it has yet to come. There were 754 cases confirmed before the protests, and even fewer since then. The numbers have continued to decline. Though symptoms for COVID have been reported to appear between 2-14 days after exposure, it has been five weeks since the start of the protests.

This leads experts to believe that the virus does not transmit as easily in outdoor spaces as it does in indoor spaces. Additionally, many protesters wore masks, which significantly reduces the likelihood of spreading the virus. That cannot be said for police officers, as reported in the New York Times, who have been mask-less frequently enough for Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to call them out.

Mayor Announces Schools Will Open in the Fall

At a regularly scheduled press conference on Thursday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced preemptive plans for the reopening of NYC public schools in the fall. De Blasio cited a survey by the DOE of 450,000 families that expressed a desire for schools to reopen in September.

“We’re full steam ahead for September,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to make it work to the maximum for each school, and we’re going to work with scheduling realities to make it work.”

Schools will be reopening under social distancing guidelines; face coverings will be mandatory, hand washing stations will be installed, and deep cleaning will be required. “The focus will be health and safety first, for all of our kids, for our families, for all the people who work in our schools,” de Blasio said.

Some, however, remain skeptical that the mayor will be able to reopen schools. In a response to the announcement, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s spokeswoman Dani Lever said that the ultimate authority to reopen schools is held by the governor.

Plans for Indoor Dining Scrapped

In a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would be scrapping its plans to return to indoor dining with the onset of Phase Three of the reopening. “We’ve got to honor those facts and not forge ahead on indoor dining,” he said. Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed this, adding that local governments weren’t allowed to make decisions about reopening indoor spaces and he would be making announcements about what reopens in Phase Three and what doesn’t.

This move comes as cases across the nation continue to dangerously surge, despite coronavirus numbers in New York slowly going down. States like Texas, Florida, and California continue to show sharp rises in COVID tallies and have seen several of their cases tied to restaurant and bar crowding. The Governor specified that this is a move that would only affect the city and not New York state as a whole. However, the city does plan to “double down” on outdoor dining plans and help expand those to get restaurants back on their feet.

Hospitals and Group Homes Now Allowing Visitors

Governor Andrew Cuomo gave New Yorkers some good news by announcing that hospitals and group homes in the state would be able to accept visitors. This, of course, would be done at the discretion of the institutions and visitors would have to adhere to rules of social distancing and appropriate steps such as temperature checks and face coverings. The facilities would also be required to inform the state if they were allowing visitors. “This was always a balance of public health versus the personal relationships, and people were in hospitals who desperately want to see loved ones,” Cuomo said. “Obviously, we need to be careful.”

City Expanding COVID-19 Testing to All New Yorkers

New York City is lifting all the criteria previously required to get tested for COVID-19 and is making tests available to all New Yorkers. The effort is a part of the city’s Test & Trace Corps initiative, which will allow the city to safely separate and care for those who test positive for the virus, and then track, assess and quarantine anyone who came in contact with the infected person.

“Widespread testing holds the key to re-opening our city safely,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “After months of fighting, we are finally able to say that every New Yorker who needs a test will get one.”

Any New Yorker can now get tested at one of the over 150 testing sites citywide. To find the site closest to you, visit or call 3-1-1.

Where to check for the latest updates on this story:

NYC Health:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

World Health Organization (WHO):