As the sun comes up Monday morning, New York City has officially caught up with the rest of the state, joining the other nine regions in the fourth phase of the coronavirus pandemic reopening.
And with that, now we just wait.
"Every region has made it through the four phases without having to close, and the numbers are consistent through all phases of reopening," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, in a release. "And this is what we said from Day One: Reopen smart, and if you reopen smart and you reopen in phases — and you follow the data — it's actually a better way for the economy to reopen, because if you rush the reopening, then you risk the probability of a viral increase."
New York City enters the fourth phase nearly two weeks after Long Island did, and nearly a month after the first group of regions in the central part of the state, entered this final stage. It now allows for low-risk outdoor activities and entertainment, granted they are kept at 33 percent capacity. Outdoor professional sports can resume without fans — some of which started happening already with the start of Major League Baseball last week.
It also will allow media production, and the potential reopening of schools. What it won't allow, however, is indoor activity in malls or cultural institutions.
"What we're really looking at now is the potential of a second wave — not the second wave that we originally discussed," Cuomo said. "The second wave that we originally feared was from the theory of the 1918 pandemic where there was Phase I and then the virus mutated and came back in Phase IV. That's not what we're looking at here. This second wave would be man-made, not made by Mother Nature."
The biggest concerns surrounding a resurgence of the virus in New York comes not from within the state, but outside of it. Through most of the rest of the country, in fact. Data from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine has 39 states showing some sort of increase in coronavirus cases through July 18, with the biggest upticks in Nevada, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Florida is experiencing nearly 12,000 new cases per day on a three-day rolling average, while Texas is a little above 12,000 itself. New York, which was considered the early epicenter of the virus, peaked at just under 11,000 cases on April 9. Its three-day average going into this weekend was 766 cases.
The United States has 3.7 million total cases, resulting in more than 140,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. Brazil has 2.1 million and 79,500 deaths.
New York still has the most cases total in the United States with 406,800, but California could easily overtake that number this week with 387,000, while Florida has 350,000 — both with little to no indication those numbers are slowing down any time soon.
The concern, Cuomo says, is that those with the virus there will find their way into New York, bringing the virus back.
"It would not be a mutation of the virus," the governor said, referring to what caused the second wave of the 1918 pandemic. "It would be a wave that comes from the west and the south, a southwesterly wave that comes back to New York from the increase in other states. We are painfully aware now that an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere."
New York's outbreak was fully realized in mid-March, according to Johns Hopkins' rolling three-day average, climbing from 182 cases per day on March 15 to 7,250 per day less than two weeks later. It took New York just three weeks to hit 10,000 cases per day, but nearly two months after that to bring it back down to below 1,000 per day.
New York City entered the first phase of an economic reopening June 8, and it was expected that while other regions seem to be moving smoothly through the different phases, New York City — where a vast majority of the infections and deaths had occurred in the state — would have to delay many of its phases.
In fact, Mayor Bill de Blasio initially predicted that the city wouldn't start the second phase until early July.
Instead, the city stayed right on schedule, entering the second phase June 22 and the third phase July 6.
On Sunday, Cuomo announced there were just 500 new cases in the state, 722 hospitalizations and fewer than 100 on ventilators. There were 13 deaths in the state, bringing its overall total to 25,048. New York City had 300 new cases Saturday, but had only 1.3 percent of tests performed come back positive.
While this is good news, Cuomo warned people shouldn't let their guard down anytime soon.
"During these confining and frustrating times, I know it's tempting to be tired of the many rules and guidelines the state has issued, but I reiterate that this pandemic is far from over," the governor said. That means people should maintain social distance, wear a mask, and wash their hands.