What to Know
- Movie theaters outside NYC reopen Friday at 25% capacity with a maximum of 50 people per screen; Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn't yet set a date to reopen them in the five boroughs
- The cluster situation in New York continues to improve, though the state is seeing the ramifications; total hospitalizations hit their highest number since June 23 on Friday
- New Jersey continues to have its struggles as well; Gov. Phil Murphy reported his sixth straight day of more than 1,000 new cases and hospitalizations hit their highest total in three-plus months
New York state COVID hospitalizations topped 1,000 Friday for the first time since late June, while New Jersey hospitalizations hit a three-month high on the same day, likely a lagging effect from the case increases both states have been battling.
In New York, the overall infection rate remains low, below 1 percent excluding the hotspot areas, which still have comparatively low virus rates given the latest national numbers. The United States hit a new single-day case record Thursday.
The average positivity rate in the realigned micro-cluster zones was 2.21 percent as of Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, while the rate outside those areas remained just below one percent. Total hospitalizations ticked up to 1,023, the highest number since June 23. The daily death toll was once again in the double digits, albeit the low ones (11), continuing the trend of recent weeks. Increases in hospitalizations tend to lag increases in cases; increases in deaths follow last, as the tri-state area learned all too painfully earlier this year.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
New Jersey, meanwhile, is dealing with some spikes of its own. Gov. Phil Murphy, who remains in isolation as a precaution following contact with a staffer who tested positive for COVID, reported a sixth straight day of more than 1,000 new cases in the Garden State on Friday. Hospitalizations hit 874, the highest total in more than three months.
Murphy has said cases and positivity rates are increasing in virtually every part of the state. Most of the surge is tied to small household gatherings and parties, he has said. Since he can't regulate what happens within people's private homes, he continues to urge New Jerseyans to be smart and take appropriate precautions.
To date, New Jersey has confirmed more than 225,000 COVID cases and reported more than 16,000 deaths, including probable fatalities. New York's numbers are more than double those tolls.
Nationally, coronavirus cases reached a daily record amount for the second day in a row, with nearly 77,993 cases reported — topping Thursday's total by about 350. The new benchmarks were hit as the pandemic has accelerated at a pace not seen since the summer and as many local governments have reimposed restrictions to stop the spread of a virus that has killed more than 225,000 people in the U.S., according to the latest tally.
"The experts told us we would see infection rates increase through the fall, and we've seen that as cases rise again across the nation. In New York, we are attacking micro-clusters where we see them, and that will be our strategy through this season as we see micro-clusters come and go," Gov. Cuomo said. "Our progress is thanks to the New Yorkers who rose to the occasion and came together like no other community. Protecting that progress is going to depend on all of us keeping up that good work."
Despite the recent upticks, the tri-states' reopening process continues. Movie theaters in New York state can reopen beginning Friday with restrictions on audience size and other precautions in place -- except for those in New York City, which also lagged the rest of the state in reopening on indoor dining and malls.
Welcoming audiences for the first time in seven months, the big screens are restricted to 25 percent of capacity with a maximum of 50 people per screen, Cuomo said. Masks are required and seating is assigned to ensure social distancing.
The oldest movie theater on Long Island, The Bellmore Playhouse in Nassau County, survived the 1918 Spanish Flu and is determined to also survive the coronavirus. To make sure moviegoers are safe, the theater installed new air filtration systems, as Cuomo required, as well as hand sanitizer stations.
"We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls asking us about our showtimes, lot of emails… so hopefully, we’ll have success tomorrow," Robin Sullivan, a staff member at Bellmore, said ahead of the reopening. But with limited capacity in the single-screen theater, is it enough to make the comeback a success?
Bellmore owner Anne Stampfel says, "It's a start. "It's cash flow. It's getting people off unemployment, including myself. I had never been unemployed until this happened."
More reopenings in New York are expected next week as more than 100 public schools resume in-person learning on Monday, following Cuomo's lift of restrictions in certain cluster zone areas.
In Brooklyn's highest-risk areas, its red zone spots like Borough Park, strict virus control measures are extended, with Cuomo citing ongoing issues as far as COVID positivity rates and community compliance.
Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged people were frustrated but noted how quickly progress came in Queens -- and said it likely wouldn't be much longer before restrictions could lift in Brooklyn.
The cluster zone saga may be the new way of life for parts of New York -- at least for now. Cuomo said he would reassess the metrics -- including positivity rates, hospitalization and new case trends, local enforcement and community compliance -- on a moving 10-day period. He said he'd make adjustments as progress warrants. And he has the flexibility to do the same if new issues emerge.