COVID-19 pandemic in New York City
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents in the greater New York City area
|Location||New York City|
(first case found March 1)
|20,316 (15,233 confirmed, |
The first case relating to the COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed in New York City in March 2020 in a woman who had recently traveled to New York City from Iran, a country seriously affected already by the COVID-19 pandemic at the time. Nearly a month later, the metropolitan area was the worst-affected area in the country, with its medical infrastructure overtaxed. By April, the city had more confirmed coronavirus cases than China, the U.K., or Iran.
On March 20, the governor's office issued an executive order closing down non-essential businesses. The city's public transportation system remained open but experienced crowding due to reduced transit service and an increase of homeless persons seeking shelter on the subway.
By April, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were out of work with lost tax revenues estimated to run into the billions. Low income jobs in the retail, transportation and restaurant sectors are especially affected. The drop in income, sales tax and tourism revenues including hotel tax revenue may cost the city up to $10 billion. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city's unemployment system collapased following a surge in claims and it will require federal assistance to maintain basic services.
Timeline[edit source | edit]
March[edit source | edit]
Although the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in New York State on March 1, 2020, it is likely the virus was present in New York during mid-February, weeks prior to the first confirmed cases, and that the proximate origin of the virus was Europe rather than Asia. The 39-year-old health care worker, a resident of Manhattan, had returned from Iran on February 25.
On March 9, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that there were 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City. By March 25, over 17,800 cases had been confirmed in New York City, and 199 deaths. NYC's infection rate was 5 times higher than the rest of the country, and its cases and were one-third of total confirmed US cases. The reasons for this continue to be discussed.
On March 27, infection in New York City surpassed 23,000, with 365 deaths including a nurse in Manhattan and a civilian staff member in the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Queens was the worst-affected borough by number of deaths, accounting for 34% of deaths, followed by Brooklyn and the Bronx at 22%, Manhattan at 15%, and Staten Island at 7%. The majority of those who died had underlying health issues. Between March 28 and 29, the number of deaths in New York City tripled from the previous 24-hour period; 222 people died of the virus bringing the city's fatalities to 672, with 30,765 confirmed cases. On March 29, CBS News reporter Maria Mercader, a New York City resident, died from a COVID-19-related illness.
The Army Corps of Engineers was dispatched to NYC to convert the 1,800,000-square-foot (170,000 m2) Javits Center into a 2,910-bed civilian medical hospital. More medical hospitals would be set up by these Army officers in New York City. The USNS Comfort hospital ship arrived in New York Harbor on March 30. It was also announced that field hospitals would be set up in Central Park in Manhattan and at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens. Refrigerator trucks were set up on city streets outside hospitals to accommodate the overflow of bodies of the deceased.
On March 31, it was revealed that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's brother Chris Cuomo, who serves as a CNN journalist and is a New York City resident, was diagnosed with COVID-19. The first death of a child from COVID-19 in New York City was recorded.
April[edit source | edit]
On April 4, Governor Cuomo announced that the Chinese government had arranged for a donation of 1,000 ventilators to be sent to New York through foundations run by Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai. The state of Oregon was reported to be sending 140 ventilators. Trump announced that 1,000 additional federal medical soldiers would be deployed to NYC. It was reported that "Urban Area Medical Task Forces" made up of army reservists would be working in arenas and convention centers that are serving as temporary field hospitals in NYC and other parts of the country. As of April 4[update], there were 1,200 medical military personnel serving on the USNS Comfort. 2,700 New York State National Guard forces had also been deployed.
On April 5, it was reported that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo had contracted COVID-19, the first known case of a tiger anywhere being infected with the disease. Several other "big cats" were found to have COVID-19, the first of which had started showing symptoms on March 27; they were believed to have contracted COVID-19 from an infected zookeeper who was not yet showing symptoms. This was also the first known case of an animal contracting the disease from human contact in the US. On April 22 it was reported that four additional tigers plus three lions had tested positive.
On April 6 there were 72,181 confirmed cases, with at least 2,475 deaths. NYC accounted for 25% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
On April 7 Gothamist reported that the death toll in New York City was undercounted. It was estimated that 1,125 people died at home or on the street in NYC in the first five days of April, an eight-fold increase compared with FDNY figures for 2019. Due to the large increase, many of the deaths were presumed to be caused by COVID-19, but only residents with confirmed infections had been recorded in the official count. Due to the crisis circumstances of the pandemic, the real death toll was unknown. Bodies of those who had died at home, around 280 per day, were being picked up by the US Army, National Guard, and Air National Guard.
As of April 8, at least 80% of New York City virus patients put on ventilators had died. Some of the communities most affected by the pandemic included densely-populated neighborhoods in north-central Queens with high immigrant populations, including Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. As of April 8[update], these communities, with a cumulative 600,000 residents, had recorded 7,260 COVID-19 cases.
On April 23, state officials said that based on preliminary antibody testing results they estimated around 21.2% of city residents had contracted COVID-19.
May[edit source | edit]
On May 10 De Blasio said 38 children were known to be effected by an inflammatory syndrome believed to be linked to an immune response to COVID-19. Known as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, the condition resembles Kawasaki disease. Symptoms include high fevers that last for days, rash, racing heart beat, changes in skin color, redness of the tongue and severe abdominal pain. At least one child has died in the city, and two additional deaths have been reported statewide. The link with COVID-19 has not yet been proven, but at least 85 cases are being investigated statewide.
Government response[edit source | edit]
On March 2, de Blasio tweeted that people should ignore the virus and "go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus".
At a press conference on March 3, New York City Commissioner of Health Oxiris Barbot said: "We are encouraging New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives". On March 4, she said: "There’s no indication that being in a car, being in the subways with someone who’s potentially sick is a risk factor." New York City Councilmen Robert Holden and Eric Ulrich wrote to Mayor de Blasio asking him to relieve Barbot of her position.
PAUSE order[edit source | edit]
On March 14, before the PAUSE order was put in place, all New York Public Library branches in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island were temporarily closed. The Queens Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library were also closed. Theaters, concert venues, and nightclubs in NYC have been shut down since March 17, and restaurants were restricted to take-out and delivery only. Schools were closed until at least April 20. Gyms were closed as well.
On March 17, despite de Blasio's message to New Yorkers that they should be "prepared right now" for the possibility of "shelter in place" orders, Cuomo expressed doubts about whether the policy would be effective. The governor's office issued a statement that the shelter in place order could only be put in place by the governor's office; the Mayor's office agreed.
On March 20, with 5,683 confirmed cases in NYC, the governor's office issued an executive order that shelter in place restrictions would go into effect on March 22 at 8 PM. The order put in place the following restrictions:
- Anyone with underlying conditions, a compromised immune system, or who is over the age of 70 should wear a mask.
- Healthy persons should limit their outdoor activities to getting groceries and medicine.
- Exercising and walking outdoors is permitted as long as social distancing is observed and participants stay at least six feet away from each other.
- No non-essential gatherings of any size.
- Mass transit should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Roads remain open.
- Non-essential workers must stay home.
The governor said the provisions would be enforced. Businesses that violate the order face fines and closure. "This is not life as usual" the governor said, "accept it and realize it and deal with it."
Businesses that qualify as "essential businesses" under the shelter in place order include:
- utility companies
- gas stations
- grocers, restaurants, and convenience stores
- liquor stores
- hardware stores
- auto repair shops
- delivery services
- skilled contractors like plumbers
- health care providers
- construction companies
- animal-care providers
On April 6, the statewide PAUSE order was extended through April 29. The rate of increase had slowed from 10,000 new confirmed cases daily to 8,700. Intubation and ICU admission rates were slowing. Fines for violating social distancing protocols were increased from $500 to $1000.
On April 16, the statewide PAUSE order was extended through May 15, in coordination with "a multi-state council".
Public health[edit source | edit]
In response to the increasing number of coronavirus cases at the end of March 2020, several temporary field hospitals were built or proposed, including the Javits Center in Manhattan, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens (350 beds), and in Central Park in Manhattan (68-bed COVID respiratory care unit). Field hospitals were also proposed at the New York Expo Center in the Bronx, Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, and the College of Staten Island.
On April 5 a state Health Department official confirmed that seriously ill patients were being treated with hydroxychloroquine. The effects are being observed by the University of Albany's School of Public Health. On April 23rd, Cuomo said that one based on one study the drug "didn't really have much on an effect on the recovery rate." Although studies are still ongoing, hospitals have stopped using the drug as treatment.
Due to the demand from the pandemic on New York City hospitals, Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel were ordered not to transport adult cardiac arrest cases to the hospital, if the EMS personnel were unable to restart the patient's heart at the scene. On April 21 this order was modified to "do not resuscitate", meaning EMS should no longer try to revive persons on scene.
According to new projections, taking into account the effects of the PAUSE order, NYC is expected to need around 20,000 hospital beds instead of 111,000.
The New York City healthcare system continues to experience major shortages with its COVID-19 testing capacity. An alert sent out on April 11, 2020, by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene stated that the city's hospitals are close to running out of cotton swabs used for COVID-19 testing. The same alert reminded the providers that only those patients admitted for hospitalization should be given COVID-19 tests.
On May 1, 2020, the New York State Department of Health issued fresh COVID-19 guidelines for the Medicaid providers who are serving low-income families, nursing homes (including adult care facilities), and physically disabled individuals. These guidelines were directed towards the providers of the following home and community-based services — social daycare (SDC) services which also included the elderly (PACE) organizations and providers of Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP). However, just a month ago, New York State signed a 2021 fiscal budget to cap Medicaid long-term care (LTC) enrollment at 3% under the managed long-term care (MLTC) plans. In the long run, the 3% capping will gradually reduce the number of individuals served by current Medicaid LTC plans, and also reduce the number of provider organizations able to contract with MLTC plans. But, the LTC recipients are a substantial population at risk for COVID-19 and there are cost involved to make sure the LTC facilities are adequately staffed and that infection control protocols are closely followed. Overall, this will increase expenditures, which is going to put federal and state budgets under increasing financial strain in the coming years.
Public transport[edit source | edit]
New York City issued new commuter guidelines amid the current outbreak, asking sick individuals to stay off public transit, encouraging citizens to avoid densely packed buses, subways, and trains. Beginning March 25, service on buses, subways, and commuter rail was reduced due to decreased ridership. Ridership had decreased by 92% on April 8, when 41 Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers had died. By April 22, 2020, COVID-19 had killed 83 agency employees; the agency announced that their families would be eligible for $500,000 in death benefits. By May 1, 98 transit workers had died.
On April 20 four City Council members requested that subway service be temporarily suspended due to the spread of COVID-19 in the subway system. 68 MTA workers had already died of the disease at the time. The councilmen also complained that reduced service had resulted in crowding on the subway, and entire cars had been taken over by homeless people. The request was to shut down the subway was rejected by the governor's office. The interim New York City Transit President, Sarah Feinberg, said: "It's not going to be on the table ... to be talking about (a shutdown) now feels misguided to me." Feinberg said the MTA has urged the city to "take more aggressive steps" to address homeless persons who are sleeping on the subway in increasing numbers, endangering themselves and essential workers who rely on public transportation.
Starting in May 2020, stations were closed overnight for cleaning; the overnight closures would be a temporary measure that would be suspended once the pandemic was over. Of the approximately 800 homeless people on the subway system, about half have been willing to accept offers of assistance from the city government.
Jeffrey E. Harris, a member of the economics faculty at MIT, has said the service cuts "most likely accelerated the spread of coronavirus." In his study published on April 15 he argues that public transportation was a "major disseminator" of novel coronavirus in New York City. The MTA has said the study was "flawed – period."
Education[edit source | edit]
On March 8, all NYC school trips were canceled. On March 13, de Blasio stated that he would keep the schools open, citing the need for school meal programs and child care to continue. On March 15, all schools in the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) system closed until at least mid-April.
On April 11, de Blasio ordered all schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year, while Cuomo insisted that the authority to close and reopen schools throughout the state belonged to himself as the governor, not to de Blasio or any other mayor.
Temporary burials[edit source | edit]
On April 6, the New York Times reported that the city's overall death rate had tripled and that morgues were overwhelmed. After councilman Mark D. Levine tweeted that temporary internment "likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials", NYC officials said they were not considering temporary burials in city parks.
The mayor's press secretary said that a next resort could be to store or bury bodies on Hart Island off the coast of the Bronx in the Long Island Sound. Following reports that mass burials had begun there, the mayor clarified that Hart Island was only being used for unclaimed bodies or for those who chose it as a burial place. Bodies are ordinarily held at the city's morgues anywhere from 30 to 60 days, but to make room for the influx of deceased individuals during the pandemic, the city's medical examiner's office announced a new policy of holding unclaimed bodies for only up to 15 days before they are transferred to the island.
On April 29, authorities discovered dozens of decomposing bodies in two trucks parked outside a funeral home in Brooklyn.
Economic impact[edit source | edit]
By April 20, The New York Times reported that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were unemployed, with at least $7.4 billion lost tax revenue projected over the year. Broadway theaters, restaurants, hotels and the subway are among the most affected; construction and real estate development activities have halted, and millions of renters are uncertain as to how their rents will be paid. Law firms, financial services companies and other white collar businesses expect declining profits, and in some cases losses as a result of the pandemic. Between 475,000 and 1.2 million mostly low wage jobs in the retail, transportation and restaurant sectors are expected to be cut by the end of April.
Before the pandemic, a demographic study by the Brookings Institute had found that the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., including New York City, had been losing population for several years. High rents and cost of living in the city contributed to slowing growth by the mid-2010s as low-wage jobs in the city were no longer competitive after adjusting for the cost of living. Some residents have questioned whether the high rents can be justified while public spaces, theaters and other event venues remain closed. Employees who have been furloughed from corporate jobs at institutions like Macy's may not renew their lease agreements. Realtors have reported an increase in inquiries about suburban home purchases and rentals from residents of Manhattan and other densely populated urban centers.
The drop in income, sales tax and tourism revenues including hotel tax revenue may cost the city up to $10 billion according to the Mayor's office. De Blasio said "We're not going to be able to provide basic services and actually have a normal society if we don't get help from the federal government."
Michelin star restaurant Gotham Bar and Grill announced closure due to COVID-19 on March 13. The Gem Spa, located on the corner of St. Mark's Place and Second Avenue, recognized for serving New York style egg creams, announced that it would be closing permanently. Gimme! Coffee also announced the permanent closure of its two NYC stores.
Social impact[edit source | edit]
Social distancing[edit source | edit]
On March 28, a Brooklyn bar owner, 56-year-old Vasil Pando, was arrested for defying Cuomo's ban on bars and restaurants until April 15. Pando was charged with "illegal sale of alcohol, promoting gambling, and violating the mayor's [sic] order".
On March 30, the mayor announced that most religious buildings had shut down in accordance with quarantine regulations. However, he warned that some churches and synagogues were not in compliance and would be shut down by authorities if they remained open.
On April 3, the NYPD broke up a party in the Bronx where several dozen people had gathered in violation of social distancing rules. Two men were arrested and charged with multiple violations, while dozens more were given a summons for violation of social distancing rules.
On April 7 NBC News reported violations of the statewide PAUSE order throughout the city. Workers in Pelham Bay, the Bronx, put netting around outdoor gym areas to prevent groups from gathering. De Blasio said violations of the order could be reported to 311.
One epidemiologist at Columbia University noted "Social distancing is a privilege that not everybody has equal opportunity to practice." Of the five boroughs, Manhattan had reported the lowest number of confirmed cases. Epidemiologists have observed that low income communities were being disproportionately affected. Many residents of these neighborhoods work in essential jobs where it may not be possible to work from home.
Police and crime[edit source | edit]
At the beginning of March, prior to the confirmation of the first case of COVID-19, and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City, a 20 percent spike in crime for the first two months of 2020 was reported. After movement in the city became restricted, New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea stated that the pandemic had curtailed crime. At the end of March, Shea said that crime had decreased sharply during the epidemic (other than car theft, which increased markedly), though there is concern that domestic violence was not being reported.
By the end of the month, 911 calls were at a record high, and 1,048 officers and 145 civilian employees had tested positive for COVID-19. 5,657 uniformed officers, or more than 15% of the force, called out sick on March 31. The percentage of officers out sick rose to nearly 20 percent, as reported on April 6. As of April 8, 2,103 uniformed members and 373 civilian members had tested positive for the virus while 13 had died. As of April 30, 4,959 members of the NYPD had tested positive for the virus, and 37 had died.
Xenophobia and racism against Asians in the city increased due to the pandemic. Police investigated 11 anti-Asian hate crimes between January 1 and March 29, 2020, up from three during the same time period in the previous year.
Deaths[edit source | edit]
Several prominent restaurant owners and chefs have died of COVID-19 including Indian chef Floyd Cardoz and Andreas Koutsoudakis (who opened the Gee Whiz diner in Tribeca in 1989). Maria Mercader, a news producer at CBS, died on March 29. Musician Alan Merrill died on March 29 at Mount Sinai Hospital.
As of April 17, the death toll included 63 employees of the NYCDOE, including 25 teachers.
Nursing homes have had high fatality rates, accounting for at least 2,056 deaths in the city as of April 20. New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker stated that the policy was for nursing home residents who test positive back to be readmitted to nursing homes.
Hospitals[edit source | edit]
New York City usually has about 20,000 hospital beds and 5,000 ventilators, many of which are routinely in use to keep ICU patients alive. Social distancing measures were implemented to slow the spread of the virus and prevent the hospital system from collapsing.
In the early days of the crisis, on March 14, the Health and Hospitals Corporation and New York-Presbyterian cancelled non-emergency surgeries. Northwell Health put out a call for retired nurses to return. The Tisch Hospital of NYU Langone converted a pediatric emergency ward into a respiratory ward. Personal protective equipment (PPE) was rationed due to shortages. By March 25 the situation at Elmhurst Hospital, one of the worst-affected hospitals in the city, had deteriorated to the point that staff described it as "apocalyptic." Dr. David Reich, President and COO of Mount Sinai Hospital, announced in March that the hospital was converting its lobbies into extra patient rooms to "meet the growing volume of patients" suffering from coronavirus.
Some doctors have been trying to crowdsource tablets so patients can say goodbye to loved ones. The last contact patients have with their families was when they were dropped off at the hospital or taken by ambulance.
Although the number of new patients admitted to the hospitals began increasing at a decreasing rate in early April, Cuomo stated that social distancing protocols would continue to be enforced to prevent a rise in these figures that could overwhelm the strained healthcare system.
As of April 9, 2020[update], the USNS Comfort had only 20 patients despite a 1,000 bed capacity. The Comfort was originally intended to take non-coronavirus patients to ease the burden on city hospitals, but most New Yorkers remained isolated in their homes and non-COVID admissions decreased dramatically. The admission process for the few non-COVID patients who did present at the emergency room was cumbersome. Ambulances were not permitted to take patients to the ship; they had to be evaluated at city hospitals and tested for the virus because no one with coronavirus was allowed on board the ship. There were 49 additional medical conditions that also met the exclusion criteria for non-admission to the Comfort. Though the Javits Center was similarly intended to treat non-COVID cases, Cuomo reached an agreement with President Trump to allow admission of COVID patients at the field hospital. On April 21, Governor Cuomo told President Trump that the ship was no longer needed in New York. While docked in the city, it treated 179 patients.
Demographics[edit source | edit]
On April 5, it was reported that 51% of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in NYC were at least 50 years old. In previous weeks, the dominant cohort of cases had been men between 18 and 49 years of age.
Data[edit source | edit]
|Borough||Cases||Cases per 100,000||Hospitalizations||Confirmed
|Age group||Cases||Hospitalizations||Confirmed deaths||Probable deaths|
Graphs[edit source | edit]
Adapted from nyc.gov. Note that the cases are by date of diagnosis, and deaths are by date of death. Due to delays in reporting, historical counts may be subject to change and recent data may be incomplete.
Cases over time[edit source | edit]
Cases by demographic[edit source | edit]
See also[edit source | edit]
References[edit source | edit]
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- "It's Not 'Shelter in Place': What the New Coronavirus Restrictions Mean". New York Times. March 24, 2020.
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