Now, New York and cities across the country must be seen as a combination of coronavirus, massive unemployment, and systemic racism – a toxic trifect that harms black communities most deeply.
“This is a triumphant moment for New Yorkers who have been fighting the disease,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “My message is to abide by it.”
Still, hair salons, offices and indoor seats in bars and restaurants remain out of bounds until the next phase of reopening. And Broadway shows, museums and big cultural gatherings are still a long way off.
New York has come a long way since March.
The 78-day jail represents the longest period in the country and comes weeks after other parts of the state have reached the necessary criteria for reopening.
Public health crises of coronavirus and racism
“Look what we’ve done. Straighten the curve? Forget flattening the curve … we’ve bent the curve,” government Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. “We’re curving curves, if something like that exists.”
David Williams, a professor of public health and African-American studies at Harvard University, said Covid-19 is just the latest disease to disproportionately affect minority communities.
“It’s not a new pattern,” he said. “It’s just that the Covid-19 shone a bright light on a pattern that’s been around for a long time, and we didn’t make as much as we could to make a difference.”
“While everyone is concerned about the risk of Covid, there are risks with it being just black in this country that almost outweighs it,” said Dr. Abby Hussein, a contagious disease expert at the University of Washington. “And the sad part is the group protesting their rights. The same are those people who are already disproportionately affected by the disease.”
More than 500 deaths a day at their peak
The attack meant patients were treated in hallways, nurses and doctors ran out of personal protective equipment, funeral homes ran out of space, and hospitals were set up in Central Park, the Javits Convention Center and aboard the USNS Comfort Hospital.
Since then, death and hospitalization rates have dropped, and the space in the hospital bed and the ability to test and seek contacts are high enough that New York City can enter the reopening of the first phase.
As of Sunday, hospitals in NYC have admitted 72 people for Covid-19, 324 people remain in ICUs, and 4% of the city is currently being tested positive for Covid-19, de Blasio said.
Across the state, 35 people died from Covid-19 on Saturday and 45 from Sunday, Cuomo said.
“Compared to where we’ve been, this is a big sigh of relief,” he said.
To celebrate these trends, landmarks across New York State on Sunday were to be lit in blue and gold, Cuomo said.
Projections of the word “New York Tough” will also appear across the state, Cuomo said.
As office workers across the state begin to return to work, Cuomo said he would also sign an executive order that would allow commercial buildings to withstand the temperature of people entering.
“We give office buildings the right to take the temperature of everyone who enters the building. It’s not just your health, but the people you could infect,” Cuomo said.
CNN’s Laura Ly, Mallory Simon and Elizabeth Joseph contributed to this report.