New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. Citing rising hospitalization rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in NYC starting Monday, December 14th. After being shut down for several weeks, NYC public schools began to partially reopen on December 7th for 3K-5th grade students, with students with special needs returning on December 10th. Certain parts of Staten Island remain under a zoned shutdown.
Get answers to questions you may have with our “Ask An Epidemiologist” series, or learn more about NYC COVID-19 testing options with our explainer. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here’s the latest:
12 p.m. For the second day in a row, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New Yorkers that the city may need to undergo a full shutdown of non-essential businesses given the severity of the coronavirus crisis.
“We’re going to need to do some kind of shutdown in the weeks ahead, something that resembles the pause that we were in in the spring,” de Blasio said, during his morning press conference.
But although that decision rests with Governor Andrew Cuomo, the mayor on Tuesday did offer an opinion on the timing.
“My nomination would be right after Christmas,” he said.
The statement immediately drew scrutiny from members of the press, who wondered why the steady onslaught of cases and hospitalizations would not merit a shutdown sooner. Public health experts have expressed grave concerns about holiday get-togethers contributing to another surge, similar to what happened after Thanksgiving.
Quite a statement by the mayor, by the way, to say that just after Christmas the city should go on near-shutdown like in the spring. If the covid surge is looking so bad, why not move sooner than 10+ days from now?
— Ben Max (@TweetBenMax) December 15, 2020
Since November 30th, the city’s seven-day average positivity rate has been above 5%, a warning marker that officials established in the summer. Daily new cases have climbed to around 3,000, the highest since May.
Over the last seven days, a total of more than 1,200 people have been hospitalized for coronavirus. The rate of new hospitalizations has inched up over the last two weeks.
And according to federal hospital data, at least eight hospitals across the five boroughs have already reached more than 90 percent capacity of their intensive care units. However, Cuomo last week ordered all hospitals in the state to expand capacity by 25%.
Unlike the spring, de Blasio said the city was planning to keep schools open amid increased testing.
But a shutdown prior to Christmas would deal yet another devastating blow to businesses, many of whom depend on the holidays for a revenue boost.
“This is prime time for them and even more so in light of COVID-19 and the previous shutdown,” Randy Peers, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, told Gothamist last month.
European countries are also grappling with the decision of shutdowns in the coming weeks, but several, including the United Kingdom and France, have decided to lift or ease restrictions during Christmas.
Moderna Vaccine Headed For Approval As FDA Releases Favorable Analysis
A second coronavirus vaccine made by the drugmaker Moderna is poised for approval this week as federal regulators on Tuesday released a promising analysis that confirmed a 94% efficacy rate in a trial of 30,000 people.
The finding is similar to that of Pfizer’s vaccine, which had a 95% efficacy rate and on Monday became the first vaccine distributed in the United States.
The New York Times reported unnamed sources at the Food and Drug Administration as saying that the agency intends to grant emergency authorization for use of the vaccine on Friday.
Assuming Moderna’s vaccine receives approval, New York City is expecting 465,000 doses over the next three weeks. On Monday, the first dosages of a vaccine developed by Pfizer began to be administered to hospital workers. Nursing home residents and staff are also in line to receive the first of the two-dose shots.
The federal government has altogether purchased 300 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine.
The process for Moderna’s regulatory review will be the same as that of Pfizer’s last week. On Thursday, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, an advisory group, will convene in a daylong meeting to discuss the vaccine trial results.
Side effects in the Moderna trial included a swelling of the vaccinated arm, but there were no severe allergic reactions, a response that occurred in two individuals in the United Kingdom who were vaccinated with Pfizer’s vaccine last week.
There were also three cases of Bell’s palsy, a temporary facial paralysis, in the group that received the Moderna vaccine, compared with one case in the placebo group. Although those who developed Bell’s palsy had other risk factors, the FDA concluded that the potential contribution of the vaccine to condition “cannot be ruled out.”
Following a favorable vote Thursday, the FDA is expected to issue an approval, meaning the vaccine could start shipping over the weekend.
“It will be a very similar cadence that was executed this week with Pfizer, where we’re hitting initial sites on Monday, follow on Tuesday and Wednesday,” General Gustave Perna, who is overseeing the federal effort to develop and distribute vaccines, told the Washington Post.
He said the U.S. was preparing to ship 6 million doses of the Moderna vaccine in the first week.
Like Pfizer’s vaccine, the Moderna vaccine will require cold storage, although not under ultra-cold temperatures.
For shipping, Moderna’s vaccine needs to be kept frozen at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, similar to a regular freezer. Once thawed, the vaccine can be kept at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a typical home fridge, for up to 30 days. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be frozen at negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.