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Cuomo Focuses on Quelling Virus Hot Spots in N.Y.C. Before Reopening

As New York City looks toward reopening on June 8, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Saturday that state officials were focusing on controlling hot spots in the city and preparing its hospitals to deal with a potential second spike.

Since late March, the city has been all but paralyzed under the devastating weight of the outbreak, which has forced thousands of businesses to shutter and almost 900,000 people to lose their jobs.

Under Phase 1 of reopening, retail stores will be allowed to open for curbside or in-store pickup and nonessential construction and manufacturing can resume, sending as many as 400,000 people back to work.

In the coming week, officials will focus on ensuring the city’s 11 public hospitals and more than 100 private hospitals have “surge and flex” capacity to deal with a potential uptick in new virus patients, Mr. Cuomo said on Saturday.

“We want to make sure we have that refined over the next week, because if we have a problem we need all these hospitals to work together,” Mr. Cuomo said during a news conference in the Bronx.

Mr. Cuomo said officials will also target the 10 ZIP codes in the city with the highest infection rates, distributing masks and hand sanitizers and opening an additional testing site in each ZIP code.

Those 10 hardest-hit neighborhoods are mostly in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and are predominantly low-income and minority communities. The infection rate in the 10457 ZIP code in the Bronx, for example, was 50 percent, compared to 19.9 percent for the city as a whole.

In mid-May, other parts of the state began to reopen after meeting seven public-health benchmarks set by the governor. New York City is the only region that has not met those criteria. The city does not have enough hospital beds available or contact tracers in place to begin Phase 1, but Mr. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have said they expect the city to meet the benchmarks by June 8.

Still, they have cautioned that New Yorkers needed to continue taking precautions to keep the virus in check. More than 5,000 people in New York City tested positive for the virus last week — a steep drop from early April, when 40,000 people a week were testing positive, but still a significant number.

On Saturday, Mr. Cuomo also signed a bill to give death benefits to the family members of public employees who died because of the coronavirus. “It is the least that we can do,” he said.

On Saturday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced 113 new virus-related deaths, bringing the state’s toll to 11,634. It was 18 fewer deaths than the state reported the previous day.

He also reported 910 new confirmed positive cases in posts on social media, pushing the total to 159,608 cases in the state.

The new figures came as the state is preparing to fully reopen child care services and some summer programs for children to begin operating over the next several weeks.

On Friday, the governor signed an executive order allowing child care services to open to anyone on June 15 — they have been open for children of essential workers and health care workers.

“In order to continue our momentum in restarting New Jersey’s economy, we must prepare our workforce to return to their jobs by ensuring a continuum of care for their children,” Governor Murphy said in a statement. “Our child care centers, youth day camps, and organized sports will adhere to strict public health and safety protocols so that New Jerseyans can confidently participate in the restart and recovery process.”

Outdoor, non-contact sports practices can begin on June 22, and youth day camps, including city summer programs, can open July 6.

The executive order excludes residential and overnight camps.

Credit…Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura/The New York Times

Where do you live? Brooklyn.

How has it been working during the pandemic?

It has been scary, and it’s getting scarier because people are starting to come out. My bus is getting more and more crowded. This is not good. Before it was essentially essential workers riding the bus, but now it’s people going out to meet friends. Some aren’t wearing masks or gloves anymore.

How crowded?

It gets crowded after 30 people, so I drive by and won’t pick up passengers if the bus is too crowded. I have high blood pressure, so it’s risky for me. We need to keep doing the social distancing.

And advice or suggestions to make your job safer?

Maybe they should adjust the schedule so that buses don’t get crowded. [The M.T.A.] just two weeks ago started putting up this plastic partition.

What do you do on your day off?

I have a wife and two kids. I live in Brooklyn. I stay at home, I don’t go out except for groceries because I’m too scared. I’m 58 and have high blood pressure, so this is scary for me. I watch TV, TNC, to keep things going.

Did you ever get tested?

I got tested in April and was negative. But who knows how things may turn out.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week that when New York City begins reopening at least 200,000 idled workers would return to their jobs.

This raised a big question: How will they get to work?

During the pandemic, New Yorkers have come to regard their city’s mass transit system as a gigantic rolling petri dish.

Ridership is down more than 90 percent, largely because only essential workers are supposed to be taking it now. But it is also because many people fear contracting the coronavirus on the transit system, even though subways and buses are being disinfected every day.

A sudden surge of riders would make it hard, if not impossible, to maintain social distancing, a fact underscored on Thursday when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged commuters nationwide who return to their jobs not to take mass transit.

Mr. de Blasio this week said that he understood that many would feel uncomfortable returning to mass transit and that some would walk or bike, while others would drive or take cabs. But he offered little further guidance.

Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut announced that the state would begin to allow gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, easing restrictions that had previously prohibited gatherings larger than five people.

At a briefing on Friday, Mr. Lamont also said that houses of worship would be allowed to hold indoor gatherings at 25 percent capacity or up to 100 people, whichever is fewer; outdoor services could include up to 150 people as long as social distancing was observed, he said.

And Mr. Lamont conceded defeat in his discussions with casinos on land held by sovereign nations, saying that they would move forward with their plans to restart on June 1, with some operations resuming as early as Saturday.

Mr. Lamont has vocally opposed reopening casinos at this time and has been in talks with tribal leadership about the issue for weeks. He said Friday that casino operators had agreed to not allow out-of-state residents to stay at their hotels initially, to require face coverings for visitors, and to only allow outdoor dining.

Still, Mr. Lamont issued a warning for would-be gamblers: “This is a risk you’re taking,” he said.

As The New York Times follows the spread of the coronavirus across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, we need your help. We want to talk to doctors, nurses, lab technicians, respiratory therapists, emergency services workers, nursing home managers — anyone who can share what’s happening in the region’s hospitals and other health care centers.

A reporter or editor may contact you. Your information will not be published without your consent.

Reporting was contributed by Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Christina Goldbaum, Jesse McKinley, Andy Newman, Azi Paybarah, Luis Ferré Sadurní, Andrea Salcedo, Matt Stevens and Katie Van Syckle.

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