New York coronavirus: NYC comes out of closure but enters a new crisis

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.

After the epicenter of the pandemic is the largest and densest city in the United States, New York City enters first phase its reopening plan on Monday, which allows unimportant construction and manufacturing workers to return to work and to retail stores to set up sidewalks for the fence or in the store.

“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.

Over 377,000 people in the state had Covid-19 contracts, and over 30,000 died from it, the highest among all states in both total and per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 21,000 of those deaths, or about two-thirds, were in New York City.

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

The reopening comes after the coronavirus wreaked havoc all over the city, especially in the neighborhood of blacks and brown people. Now, after months of orders at home, almost universal wearing of masks and wide availability for testing, New York will take its first step towards something normal.

“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.”

In New York, black / African Americans and Latinos died from the coronavirus twice as many as whites, according to city data.

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.

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“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.”

Health experts have expressed concern that overcrowded anti-racism protests – a public health issue – could lead to a new rise in coronavirus numbers.

“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

Protesters wear masks as they condemn the systematic racism and police killings of black Americans in Washington Square Park in Manhattan, on June 6, 2020 in New York City.
Cuomo has ordered unimportant workers to stay at home since March 22, as coronavirus cases were in the midst of rapid, exponential growth that has flooded hospitals. But the late actions of his and de Blasio too late prevented a sharp jump in cases in the densest and most populous city in America.

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.

Why New York is the epicenter of the American coronavirus epidemic
At its peak, in early April, more than 500 people died of the virus in New York every day. “Home stay” orders and the mass closure of public life have reduced that number, but at a frustratingly high rate.

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.

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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.

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