The Pandemic Isn’t Over. New Yorkers Are Acting as if It Were.

Three sisters from three different boroughs shared the same bench on the Coney Island boardwalk and toasted with cups of beer — together again at last. Teenagers with baseball gloves and a bat sneaked through a hole in a fence at a closed-off diamond. A manager at a Brooklyn clothing store insisted to a reporter that no, they’re not open, since that’s not allowed, even as customers browsed inside.Officially, New York City is still in Phase 1 of the long reopening process, a land of curbside pickups and closed playgrounds and takeout cocktails that aren’t supposed to be consumed in public. On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the city could enter the second phase as soon as next Monday. But anyone stepping outside or taking a glance at social media lately has noticed scenes of a population already so much further along on the journey to normalcy that they could be living in a different place.New Yorkers who once ducked for cover at the sound of a cough a block away are stretching both their comfort levels and the rules, venturing out to lay claim to the parts of their lives they haven’t known since March. And they are met by bars and businesses starved for income and doing their own feats of stretching — of their necks, as they look the other way as customers gather at uncomfortably close quarters.New York, the early epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States, is being observed as a barometer of recovery around the country, its slow-and-steady approach helping bring the number of daily deaths to just 19 on Tuesday from a high of 799 on April 8. But new surges of the virus in states like Florida, Arizona and Texas that reopened more quickly suggest the perils of letting down the collective guard.In that way, too, New York City has become a barometer, of a nation of pent-up souls eager for a change no matter what their governors or mayors think.It is as if the city is rebuilding itself, not with scaffolding and steel, but with cheeseburgers eaten at outside tables and fathers hoisting toddlers over the locked gates of closed playgrounds. It is a city built on festive, furtive and sometimes troubling pushing of boundaries. A lot more social, a lot less distancing.“We made it! That’s what I say,” said Alba Cuba, 66, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, mask on hand but not on her face, at Coney Island last Friday with two of her sisters, Magnolia Garcia, 74, and Maria Velez, 86. They live spread out in Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn, and so had followed the guidelines and quarantined separately in their own homes, until recently.Down the beach from the sisters, a Parks Department officer with a bullhorn on his truck ordered swimmers out of the water. Elsewhere, friends gathered at what has become the new watering hole, the sidewalks and streets outside bar takeout windows, and sometimes at outdoor tables that are supposed to be off-limits to dining until Phase 2.At the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, tables and chairs have been placed outside on the sidewalk, for the patrons to have a place to sit while they wait for their takeout orders. The fact that many of them eat their meals at those tables is not the tavern’s responsibility, said its owner, Eytan Sugarman, 46.“I’m not a bouncer, I’m not a police officer, I don’t have the right to tell them what to do when they take their stuff and go,” he said. (Perhaps customers are making assumptions based on the bar’s Instagram post: “Our Patio is …. OPEN!!!!!!!”)Mr. Sugarman said he had bigger worries: “Survival,” he said. “I think the industry is facing destruction.” His is among the oldest bars in the city, “and it could close,” he said.A clothing store simply marked ½ Price Outlet displayed racks of apparel on the sidewalk out front — but also within the shop itself, its doors open as if beyond Phase 1. As customers went in and out, a manager insisted to a reporter it wasn’t what it seemed — “Not open, just cleaning” — and shooed away two women looking at shirts.Since the start of the lockdowns in March, the city has handed out 11,000 warnings and close to 2,000 summonses, according to Joseph Fucito, the New York City sheriff, who helps oversee enforcement. Even so, the rule-bending and breaking have become a brazenly open secret.At playgrounds, children are playing on swings behind locked gates as their parents look on. One playground in Williamsburg was unlocked with a bolt cutter, and as of Wednesday, the gate remained wide open. Baseball players sneaking through a hole in the fence at another park in Brooklyn did so a block away from a precinct station house.“There’s been a lot going on the last few weeks and we’ve had to put resources into a lot more things,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday, alluding to the protests, still ongoing, that have followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He said that the city did not relish issuing fines to small businesses, “especially after ever they’ve been through, but if we have to, we will.”He also said he understood why people were setting caution aside. “I get that people, it’s been so long, they’ve been through so much,” he said. “But there’s a reason we’ve structured the rules, there a reason the state has structured the rules the way we have, and that’s to fight back the disease and keep it out of our lives.”Among those gathering with others, there is a new logic at play, one that suggests that friends and family from different households who have been following the rules are no longer off limits. This leap of faith is the passport to places like Williamsburg, where unmasked friends have gathered under the sun at Domino and McCarren Parks and outside the bars on Berry Street, which has been closed to car traffic.“They’re people we know,” explained Chris Burnett, 35, as he and his friends sipped beer and tequila on Berry Street on a recent afternoon. “I believe that my friends wouldn’t show up sick.”His partner, Heather Sumner, 32, repeated a phrase commonly heard these days, the password for entry to these speakeasies in plain sight:“We can’t stay inside forever.”It’s a phrase that Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, hears often from friends who ask if it’s safe to meet up outside, or to invite others for a meal.“A lot of this is about trying to manage risks that we can’t really quantify,” she said. “The odds of you being exposed to someone with coronavirus has certainly gone down in New York. At the same time, coronavirus has not been eradicated from New York. There still is community transmission occurring.”That uncertainty weighs heavily on some. Sally Sargood, 48, who was sitting on the grass in Manhattan’s Bryant Park last weekend, explained the boundaries of her own comfort zone. “I have my bubble of five friends that I see,” she said, while sitting with one. “And anything outside of that bubble, I don’t feel comfortable.”A new part of daily life has played into the decisions of many: the citywide protests over racism and police brutality, which continue to draw crowds from the hundreds to the thousands. From within, many participants have said they were pleasantly surprised by the efforts at social distancing and mask wearing that they saw.

Updated June 16, 2020

I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?
Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?
States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Alejandra Pedraca, a 29-year-old living in Crown Heights, marched with the Brooklyn Liberation protest past Fort Greene Park on Sunday, where, she said, the end justified the risk.“If it’s what the protests are about — police violence and people dying — then of course it’s worth it,” she said. “There’s no comparison between probably getting Covid and keeping systematic racism.”Others, viewing the protests from the outside, saw in them a sort of hall pass for going out, with a large number of people — and police officers, many refusing to wear masks — behaving as though the coronavirus has moved on.“It’s a double standard,” said Sasha Rosado, 40, a pediatric therapist in Greenpoint enjoying calamari outside with friends. “We’ve been told to social distance and stay home and, wow, I see these people gathering. It was confusing and irritating.”Dr. Rasmussen, the virologist at Columbia, who has quarantined in Seattle since March, has heard all the arguments, all the rationalizing from her friends. She said she is not convinced, not yet.“I’m still not really getting together with people,” she said Tuesday. “Just staying with my family.”Jo Corona, Troy Closson, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Jeffery C. Mays and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.

Recent Articles

Related Stories

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay on op - Ge the daily news in your inbox