Public Health

Reopening guidelines and phases in New York City

Khang T. Vuong11 Sep 2020

NYC Situation Awareness Updates

New York City has officially entered phase 4 of reopening as of July 20th, 2020.

The following industries have been given the green light to resume:

  • Gyms are allowed to reopen at 33% capacity with physical distancing and sanitation protocols - see our article on gyms reopening in NYC 
  • Entertainment at 33% capacity
  • Low-risk outdoor activities such as zoos or botanical gardens
  • Outdoor professional sports (without fans)
  • Media production

These industries were already allowed to open in previous phases 1, 2, and 3. They will remain opened:

  • Commercial Building Management
  • Hair Salons & Barbershops
  • Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services
  • Offices
  • Real Estate Services
  • In-Store Retail
  • Vehicle Sales
  • Retail Rental, Repair & Cleaning

Businesses that are opening soon:

  • Indoor dining will likely be able to reopen by the end of September

Businesses that will remain closed:

  • Indoor bars
  • Malls
  • Movie theaters
  • Museums

Due to large numbers of people gathering outside restaurants and bars over the past weeks, Governor Cuomo amended Executive Order 202.43 (EO) to requires businesses selling or serving alcohol to inform their patrons comply with social distancing and face-covering guidelines, and open-container rules. Additionally, customers who buy alcohol must also buy food in an effort to decrease large gatherings.

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What happen to individuals, employers, restaurants, bars, gyms, and schools during each phase?

Individuals

  • In phase 1, individuals will be permitted to go out in public while staying the maximum distance from others. It‚s highly suggested to not socialize in groups greater than 10. Non-essential travel should be limited.
  • In phase 2, individuals should still remain the maximum distance from others while in public and should avoid social settings greater than 50. Additionally, non-essential travel may resume.
  • In phase 3, individuals should consider minimizing social gatherings.

Employers

  • In phase 1, telework should be encouraged and common areas should be closed. Non-essential travel should be limited. Special accommodations should be strongly considered for the vulnerable population.
  • In phase 2, telework is still encouraged as well as accommodations for the vulnerable population. Common areas should remain close.
  • In phase 3, unrestricted staffing may remain on worksites.

Vulnerable individuals

  • In phase 1, vulnerable individuals should continue following shelter-in-place order.
  • In phase 2, they should continue to shelter in place and their family members must remain cautious in regard to their safety and health.
  • In phase 3, vulnerable populations can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to social settings.

Restaurants

Sitting down venues were allowed to start to operate with strict physical distancing guidelines in phase 2. While NYC has already entered phase 4, Governor Cuomo decided to prohibit indoor dining. Many outbreaks in other cities have been linked to crowded indoor dining and bars. Governor Cuomo recently announced that he believes it will be safe to reopen indoor dining by the end of September.

Gyms

Gyms such as Equinox, NYSC, Blink, Crunch Fitness were given the green light to reopen beginning at the end of August. Gyms must adhere to strict policies upon reopening to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Many people are still not ready to go back to the gym yet. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to exercise at home! See our article on Home Exercise: How to Stay Fit During Quarantine.

Schools

Although schools were planned to reopen in phase 2, recent outbreaks in fully operating school districts may change protocols for the reopening of schools. It is expected that Governor Cuomo will allow schools to plan to reopen this fall. However, many schools will need to implement a mix of in-person and remote learning in order to be successful and mitigate the spread of the virus.

Bars

Bars were allowed to operate outdoors only in phase 2. Indoor bars are still mandated to stay closed, as they have been linked to large outbreaks in other cities and states.

When will the US fully reopen?

As reopening the economy is an inflection point that could have many consequences to both the economy and the health and well-beings of many, important measures cannot be taken lightly. Once the coronavirus vaccine is available on the market, reopening of the United States will be able to occur more quickly. According to the White House's plan for opening up America post Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, states and regions must satisfy three criteria before proceeding to the “Unpause” phase:

Consecutive decline of COVID-like illnesses: there must be a downward trajectory of flu-like AND COVID-like illnesses within a consecutive 14 days period, these are cases that have similar symptoms to COVID-19 but are not tested and confirmed by a lab test.  This means that the ‚Äúcurve‚Äù has to go down consistently before we could decide that the risk for a second peak is unlikely.

Consecutive decline of confirmed COVID-19 cases: there must be a downward trajectory of documented Coronavirus COVID-19 cases OR a downward trend of people tested positive for COVID-19 in a period of 14 days.

Hospital capacity and readiness: hospitals must be able to treat all patients without having to utilize crisis mode AND must have a robust testing program in place to test health workers for COVID-19, including the use of antibody (blood) test.

White House and CDC's gating criteria for reopening

How about testing and social distancing?

Because the coronavirus spreads locally and in communities, reopening plans will also have to be hyper-localized. For example, in New York City, reopening could happen first in Lower Manhattan where the Coronavirus has less of an impact compared to Queens and Brooklyn.

To ensure there will not be another crisis, before reopening, each state and city must have three things in place:

  1. Be able to test and trace contacts for COVID-19 cases: there must be accessible test sites for symptomatic individuals and have the capability to conduct contact tracing for those with positive results. See our article for where you can get coronavirus tested in NYC!
  2. Have enough PPE and hospital beds: state and local government must be able to supply enough PPE for care facilities and hospitals and have enough ICU beds to handle dramatic surges.
  3. Have a plan in place to protect essential workers: cities must have a mitigation plan to protect health and public workers. Citizens are informed to practice physical distancing and face covering.
Core preparedness of responsibilities for each state

What are the phases of reopening?

There are three phases of reopening specific to each state and city depending on the level of readiness:

Phase 1: states and cities that meet three criteria for the first time could proceed to the initial reopening. All high-risk individuals should still be shelter-in-place, visits to senior care are not recommended, telework, and strict social distancing are still enforced. Crowd size is limited to 10 people.

Phase 2: if there is no evidence of a rebound, cities could proceed to phase 2 and relax stay at home orders. In this phase, most businesses could start to operate again with strict physical distancing protocols. Crowd size is limited to 50 people.

Phase 3: if there is no evidence of a rebound for the third time, vulnerable individuals could resume public interactions, and businesses could restore to a normal level of staffing.

How long will each reopening phase last?

New York City is currently in phase 4 of reopening. The lengths of each phase depends on the state and local government. According to the White House's guidelines, each observation period is 14 days. This means each phase could last up to a month or more.

From phase 1 to phase 3, we have seen a gradual transition from strict social and physical distancing to wide spread mask wearing in a period of 3-6 months contigent on whether there will be a second peak.

Reopening phases

Because you read this: Health insurance premiums to increase up to 40% in 2021 - 4 things to know

When will NYC reopen?

Current cases in NYC

In NYC, there have been a total of 232,710 cases and 57,348 deaths. The Bronx and Staten Island have the highest number of cases adjusted to their population size. The most hospitalizations and deaths have been in the age group of individuals 75 and older. It is likely that the actual statistics are higher than these numbers, as there are many unreported cases and individuals who are not getting tested.

Current state of hospital utilization

According to data collected by covid19.healthdata.org, as of June 19th, The United States had its peak resource use on April 14th 2020. New York had its peak resource use on April 15th.

It appears as if the demand on hospitals will be slowly declining over the next few weeks; however, there is some uncertainty. Reopening New York will be a slow process and will require some precautionary measures, such as more extensive testing and avoiding large gatherings.

Current state of testing readiness

The state of New York has 28 testing facilities that are testing thousands of people each day. Additionally, all New York residents are currently being advised to get tested if possible, whether or not they have symptoms. You can call the COVID-19 hotline at 888-364-3065 or see our article on Where and How to Get Tested for Coronavirus COVID-19 in NYC for more information.

There is also a newly developed antibody test that checks for immunity to the virus. This test is currently given to individuals who had symptoms of tested positive for COVID-19. It is important that these tests are given at least 3 weeks after symptoms begin, since it can take a few weeks for the body to produce IgG antibodies.

What should I do in the meantime?

Life could be disruptive during quarantine, not being able to see your family and friends is hard. It is neccessary to pracice social distance, observe shelter-in-place order, and try to maintain your emotional health.

References:

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