N.Y. Reports Fewer Than 100 Virus Deaths for First Time Since March


In an unexpected executive order issued Friday night, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York slightly loosened coronavirus restrictions, saying that gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed “for any lawful purpose or reason” anywhere in the state — including New York City — provided that social-distance protocols were followed.

Cuomo issued the order after the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a suit that objected to Mr. Cuomo’s order on Thursday allowing groups of 10 people or less to gather for religious services or for Memorial Day celebrations. Mr. Cuomo’s order on Friday night modified the previous order.

The revision was swiftly condemned by Councilman Mark D. Levine, who represents Upper Manhattan and is chairman of the City Council’s health committee. He stressed that the order had not been made by health professionals.

“This shocking order, forced by a lawsuit, changes nothing about the risks associated with group gatherings — especially those held indoors,” he said in tweets posted about 8:45 p.m.

“No one should interpret this as advice to change their behavior,” he added.

In filing its lawsuit, the civil liberties union argued that Mr. Cuomo’s order allowing religious and Memorial Day events was unlawful because state rules still banned protests and other activities protected by the First Amendment.

“We’re glad to see the governor reverse course,” Christopher Dunn, the civil liberty group’s legal director, said in a statement late Friday.

At his daily briefing on Saturday, Mr. Cuomo said he had not been aware of the civil liberties union’s lawsuit. He told residents to continue to practice social distancing and other safety measures at any get-together. “You can have a safe gathering of 10 people,” he said.

Under the new orders, groups of up to 10 people may gather in any region of the state, even those that have not been cleared to enter the first phase of reopening.

The number of statewide casualties of the coronavirus dipped below 100 for the first time since late March, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Saturday. The governor reported 84 new deaths of the virus, the lowest daily death toll since March 24.

While Mr. Cuomo called the number of new casualties on Saturday “a tragedy, no doubt,” he said he could not ignore that the downward trend was a positive sign as New York slowly returns to normalcy.

“The fact that it is down as low as it is, is really overall good news,” Mr. Cuomo said. “In my head, I was always looking to get under 100. For me, it’s just a sign that we are making real progress.”

During the peak of the outbreak, when 800 people a day were dying from the disease, a death toll below 100 felt like a faraway milestone, Mr. Cuomo said. “If you can get under 100, you can breathe a sigh of relief,” he said, recalling a conversation he had with a physician at the time. “Getting below 100 was almost impossible.”

The number of hospitalizations, intubations and overall new cases also continued to see a steady decline, Mr. Cuomo said during his daily briefing from the governor’s mansion in Albany.

“What we are doing is working,” Mr. Cuomo said.

As the number of cases and deaths decline, Mr. Cuomo looked ahead to opening new parts of the state. The Mid-Hudson region will enter Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan on Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo said, and the Long Island region could do the same on Wednesday.

Seven of the state’s 10 regions have already entered Phase 1, allowing some nonessential businesses to reopen after meeting health and safety standards outlined by the state.

But New York City and nearby suburbs have yet to meet many of the criteria mandated by the state and will remain largely on “pause,” preventing people from going back to work and gathering in large crowds.

Other coronavirus statistics from the governor on Saturday:

Surprise Lake Camp, one of the country’s oldest Jewish summer camps, told families on Monday that it would not be opening this year because of worries over the coronavirus.

Surprise Lake joins many camps across the region and the country that have already decided to close this summer, even before some governors, including those in New York and New Jersey, have announced if they would be allowed to operate.

But with summer camp a ritual for many children and a lifeline for working parents, other camps are still hoping that they will be able to welcome children.

Directors believe they can keep campers and staff safe by taking steps like limiting the number of children, restricting interaction with outsiders, frequent disinfection and screening for the virus on arrival.

“People want camp,” said Howard Salzberg, the director of Camp Modin in Maine, where the governor is allowing sleepaway camps to open.

The American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey estimated on Tuesday that at least 45 of its 400 member camps had canceled, with more doing so daily.

For some families, the risk is worth it.

“I’m going to send my kids to any and all camps that open,” said Kim Marcus, who lives in Woodbury, N.Y., and hopes her two daughters, ages 12 and 10, can still go to overnight camp, and her 7-year-old to day camp.

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said that the state would allow outdoor crowds of up to 25 people and let campgrounds reopen.

“I’m proud we are able to take this step today and add a little more hope and optimism to the start of summer,” Mr. Murphy said.

Social distancing would still be required at outdoor get-togethers, which had been limited to 10 people, and at campgrounds. Face coverings are not required outside, but state officials recommend them.

“If you were looking forward to gathering with your neighbors for a Memorial Day cookout, you may do so,” Mr. Murphy said.

Outdoor dining at restaurants remains forbidden in New Jersey, though Connecticut began allowing it on Wednesday; indoor events are still limited to 10 people, Mr. Murphy said.

On Saturday, Mr. Murphy announced on Twitter that the state had 96 new deaths connected to the coronavirus, bringing the number of total fatalities to 11,081.

The state had 443 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the governor said. And more than 153,104 people in New Jersey had contracted the virus as of Saturday.

Other numbers reported by the governor:

When a 14-year-old shooting baskets was killed accidentally in October by a bullet fired in a gang dispute, the death galvanized the neighborhood to take action. Community leaders negotiated a cease-fire and shootings had dropped significantly by earlier this year.

Now, the area faces an even greater crisis as the coronavirus spreads through the Baisley Park development’s brick high-rises and down the nearby blocks of blue-collar homes. This time, those being taken to hospitals and graves are mostly older residents with little or no connection to gun violence, residents and officials said.

“We had just managed to bring shootings down,” said Erica Ford, who founded a nonprofit group that tries to stem street violence. “Then the virus made its way here.”

It is a predominantly black area, and during the peak of the crisis, in early April, nearly 70 percent of the residents of the ZIP code that covers it who were tested for the virus tested positive, according to city Health Department data. At least 144 people from the ZIP code have died.

Sept Jones, a funeral director in the area, said he would typically retrieve two or three bodies a day from local homes before the pandemic. By mid-April, he said, the number was in the double digits.

“I actually had to shut down my phone,” Mr. Jones said. “There were too many bodies to pick up.”

The coronavirus outbreak has brought much of life in New York to a halt and there is no clear end in sight. But there are also moments that offer a sliver of strength, hope, humor or some other type of relief: a joke from a stranger on line at the supermarket; a favor from a friend down the block; a great meal ordered from a restaurant we want to survive; trivia night via Zoom with the bar down the street.

We’d like to hear about your moments, the ones that are helping you through these dark times. A reporter or editor may contact you. Your information will not be published without your consent.

Reporting was contributed by Maria Cramer, Michael Gold, Sharon Otterman, Luis Ferré Sadurní, Edgar Sandoval and Matt Stevens.





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