New York City has been in the midst of a shutdown for months, since way back in March. This quarantine was primarily targeted toward the healthy, rather than a strict quarantine of the sick.
This was due to the fact that the transmission risk was very high, and it was a disease that primarily caused complications and death in the elderly and those with multiple additional co-morbidities. It was also a disease that is believed to be spread by those who are asymptomatic and don’t know they have it, who some studies have shown have passed it to those who are vulnerable. However, there have been no confirmed cases of the virus spreading from the very young to the elderly, as had been assumed in the beginning.
Other phases of restarting in New York have passed without a spike in cases locally, as the reopening has been quite cautious. There are many requirements for lowered capacity and mask wearing, which appears to be having an effect on the spread of the virus. In addition, one of the requirements for the reopening to occur in the first place was that the testing had to be ramped up to a much higher capacity.
This means that more cases are going to appear, but there haven’t been more hospitalizations or deaths thus far as a result. For the most part, people who have had the virus are just learning that they had it, while they were asymptomatic and thus unaware that they were even infected.
One thing that upset some New Yorkers, but appeared to be a logical requirement, was that indoor bars and restaurants could not open as planned during Phase III. Where restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen in several other states, these establishments were blamed for the spikes in cases and hospitalizations that those states suffered from.
However it appears that in New York City, the open container law is being violated (as bars are allowed to reopen and serve drinks, but cannot do so inside, making for a very strange contradiction of laws). One bar in Queen has been shut down over the weekend, since the patrons were not required to wear masks while outside of the establishment (where the bar would not actually have jurisdiction to order them to do so).
Today marks the official beginning of Phase IV in the reopening of New York City. The rest of the state is now at the end stage of their reopening, as there are no further phases after Phase IV. However, in New York City, there is no reopening of schools.
Institutions of higher education are also not yet allowed to open in the city, though they are allowed to open across the rest of the state. Most of these institutions do not have a full summer schedule anyway, with the exception of trade schools, which are open year round.
So for now, in New York City, low risk outdoor entertainment is allowed to open, whereas in New York State, indoor recreation is allowed to also open. Anything indoors has been paused in New York City indefinitely, and there are no plans to open any of these other businesses as of yet.
These include movie theaters, Broadway, indoor museums, and anything else indoors. Bars and restaurants are open, but for outdoor dining and drinking only, as mentioned previously.
Sports events and recreation are allowed to open in New York City, however, there are no spectators allowed. So prepare to watch baseball and football on television or streaming at home only, with a completely empty stadium. That is going to be quite strange. No one to clap or cheer when a great play is made, or when a home run is made. Maybe they will have recorded audiences, but it will still be odd.
Outdoor museums, botanical gardens, outdoor aquariums, zoos, and outdoor historical sites are now allowed to open. Since Snug Harbor has been open this whole time, this would allow other outdoor venues, such as the Staten Island Zoo outdoor areas to be reopened (scheduled for July 25th), the New York Botanical Garden (set for July 28th), as well as other outdoor historical sites around the city. Sandy Ground Historical Society appears to be open for outdoor tours, and other historical sites will also be open.
Libraries have begun their own phased reopening, and as of now eight branches are open for grab and go service. This means that if you want to borrow a book, you can call the library and request it, and they will bring it outside to you when you arrive. You can also place holds for physical materials finally, and the same grab and go rules will apply.
Movie and television production is allowed to resume, so we may see some new movie sets around the city once more, as they film new movies and television shows using scenic sites in New York City as the backdrop. This is good news for the movie industry, as New York is one of the most popular filming sites for movies and television.
The malls in New York City remain closed until further notice. This includes the Staten Island Mall, and other malls in the city and parts of Long Island. All indoor entertainment venues are closed until further notice, so it is unknown when life in the city will actually return to anything remotely resembling normal.
However, the comments on Twitter and other social media sites would indicate that people in New York City are in no rush to reopen, due to the danger of spreading the virus once more, and rising Covid rates around the country are testament to the fact that reopening too quickly just leads to re-closing, just as quickly, and with less chance of actually opening back up again anytime soon.
Phase 4 begins TODAY.
That means we can welcome back botanical gardens, zoos, media production and sports! pic.twitter.com/Altr0x2HRX
— City of New York (@nycgov) July 20, 2020
But, as has been pointed out in previous articles, a quarantine of the sick is a sensible way to prevent the spread of disease, and has been tried and shown effective in many places around the world when there were terrible infections, such as smallpox, diphtheria, cholera, yellow fever, and others.
Quarantine of everyone, including the healthy, has never been done before. This novel virus is the first time it has literally ever been done, where the entire economic engine of a country was shut down. It will, unfortunately, be hard to know if it was effective, or if it would have been sufficient to simply protect the elderly from infection and allow the rest of life to go on as usual.
Perhaps the only way to test the quarantine of everyone will be to compare the numbers and statistics from Sweden in a few months time, which is the only country that did not enact a complete shutdown of their economy, but allowed the people to be vigilant and smart for themselves. Until that time, and even then, there may not be an answer to the question of effectiveness of a quarantine for everyone.