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NYC schools could close as soon as Monday

De Blasio may close schools, Cuomo won't stop him

"People should get ready," de Blasio told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer as he counseled parents to have a plan for the rest of November if the schools need to close.

The city's latest infection rate, calculated as a seven-day average, is 2.83%, de Blasio said.

"That is a high number," he said. "That number has gotten quite close to 3%, and we are making preparations as a result, in case that number does exceed 3%, and in the event that we do have to temporarily close our schools."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday he would not block the mayor from closing the schools because the city falls within COVID-19 parameters the state established. The state had said in the summer that schools could open in the fall if the infection level in their region was 5% or lower, and could remain open if the level was 9% or lower.

Cuomo told reporters in a telephone briefing, however, that he would be open to implementing a more precise indicator calculating the level of virus spread within schools that could be used to determine their opening and closing. He said that could be valuable because schools were not considered to be major spreaders of the virus. Instead, the main spreaders are bars, restaurants, gyms, mass gatherings and parties or gatherings at people’s homes, he said.

The statewide infection level in test results from Thursday was 2.6% including "micro-clusters" or "hot spots," which are oversampled, Cuomo said. Excluding the hot spots the level was 2.2%.

The chart below shows the recent daily totals of new cases in Nassau and Suffolk.

Search a map of cases, and view more charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Mixed reactions to new rules for businesses, private gatherings

Long Island restaurant, bar and gym owners lamented new state regulations that force businesses with liquor licenses to close at 10 p.m., with some calling them an overreaction to a spike in coronavirus cases, which grow exponentially. And Long Islanders were divided about another state regulation that limits gatherings in private residences to 10 people.

Daniel Pedisich, owner of Konoba restaurant in Huntington, purchased heaters, lamps and ventilated tents over the summer to prepare for the cold weather. He said his and other eateries that carefully follow state-issued guidelines offer patrons a safer dining environment than private residences "because we enforce rules, distance and sanitize."

Pedisich said he understands the intention behind Cuomo's rule, but shutting down outdoor dining at 10 p.m. is problematic because it prevents him from seating customers after 8 p.m. — essentially eliminating the last dining cycle of the night. Many of Konoba's 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. reservations Saturday have already canceled, he said.

"Give us the outdoors until 11 p.m. to allow that 8:30 seating of the 70-year-olds who come out as a group of four to have a meal in a bubble because they are happy to be able to finally go out. They are not partying irresponsibly," he said. See what others had to say.

Will LI weddings ever be the same?

Long Island's catering venues are struggling to survive as they face the prospect of rising infection rates keeping full-scale weddings on hold well into next year.

While many are marketing new "micro-wedding" packages to conform to the state's 50-person limit on social gatherings, all are facing sharply reduced revenue and calendars scrambled by rescheduling and uncertainty. Then there are the unhappy customers demanding their deposits back and the threat — for venues that fail to comply with capacity limits and social distancing rules — of being fined or having their liquor licenses revoked.

And this week Cuomo announced yet another regulation: Any facility with a liquor license must close at 10 p.m.

The new rule is "onerous … and a cause of a lot of anxiety," said Michael Bohlsen, co-owner of the Bohlsen Restaurant Group, which includes wedding venue The Harbor Club at Prime. Other regulations aimed at stopping the virus' spread, like mask-wearing and social distancing, make sense, he said, "but not this. … So, diners are safe [from COVID] at 9:50 but not 10:01?"

Of the 150 wedding receptions Giorgio’s Catering in Baiting Hollow had on the books for 2020 at the beginning of the year, only 10 have taken place, said co-owner George Regini.

Most couples decided to move their weddings to 2021, he said. But now, less than two months shy of the new year, he worries that all of the venue's rescheduled wedding receptions are again in jeopardy.

Rent a movie … theater

At the Malverne Cinema and Art Center, owners Anne and Henry Stampfel make a habit of asking customers whether they feel safe sitting in the theater. All have said yes, according to Anne, but business has yet to pick up. Some movies have played to crowds of just two people.

"We used to talk about being slow and busy," Stampfel says. "Now we’ve gone to slow and not as slow."

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing (Regal Cinemas temporarily closed its theaters) and a dearth of new movies to play, theaters are facing an uphill battle to attract customers. One idea the industry is pushing: private auditorium rentals.

Ordinarily a source of supplemental income from children’s birthday parties and anniversary celebrations, private rentals are now being touted as an ideal way to watch a current movie — or even an old favorite — with a group of trusted friends or family members.

More to know

The selection of new jurors for jury duty is being suspended as of next week in New York due to an uptick in coronavirus cases, officials said.

President Donald Trump will make remarks Friday on Operation Warp Speed, the multiagency effort to get a vaccine to the public quickly and safely, the White House said.

Nearly four times as many New Yorkers cast ballots by mail this fall than in the 2016 election, including 318,455 from Long Island, according to records, as a new law expanded the legal reasons for a voter to be allowed to cast an absentee ballot to include concern over the coronavirus. (Nassau began counting its absentee ballots on Thursday in a tally that could change the leads of several races, while Suffolk plans to begin on Monday.)

COVID-19 survivors who are still experiencing aftereffects of the disease can turn to a free, virtual support group.

Married "Good Doctor" stars Richard Schiff and Sheila Kelly are suffering from the coronavirus and described their experiences on social media.

News for you

Need a little Christmas? Manhasset-raised Broadway star Melissa Errico will be serving up a double dose of holiday cheer next month when she releases her new Christmas single and headlines "Season of Joy," a Yuletide concert that will be livestreamed from Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

A new cafe opens in stages. For the owners of Standard Pour, which opened in Valley Stream last month, the pandemic was an opportunity to do "a slow rollout," a tiered unveiling of their beverages, food and airy interior. They started with a takeout-only menu but will soon add sit-down service, including weekend brunch.

'A podcast for the pandemic.' That's the subtitle for "Living at the Mercy of the Moment," a recently launched podcast featuring Long Islander Jeannette Perutz-Elsner. In sharing her stories of coping with everything that life has thrown at her, including multiple sclerosis, each episode offers listeners "tips for surviving this impossibly difficult moment in our history."

Plus: As temperatures dip and COVID cases rise, we might be hunkering down at home more, but at least there's some new entertainment offerings, including a new season of "The Crown," a David E. Kelley miniseries and a holiday singalong from Disney.

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A COVID vaccine could make social divisions worse. Tyler Cowen, an economics professor and Bloomberg Opinion columnist, writes: The Pfizer vaccine, along with its likely successors, is a very good thing for the U.S. and the world. Yet it's also likely to reshape America in some unsettling ways, segregating society more tightly into rational and irrational responders, especially in the short run.

The first issue will be how Americans respond over the course of the next few months. Simple logic suggests that when a good vaccine is pending, you should play it much safer. Instead of putting off that vacation indefinitely, just wait until you're vaccinated, possibly as soon as next summer. In theory that should be an easier adjustment to make, as indicated by what economists call "intertemporal substitution": waiting for a short time is easier and less costly than waiting for a long time.

Many people will behave in such a rational fashion. But many will instead take more risk. As the prospect of a post-COVID America becomes more vivid, the temptations of going out and socializing now will become more powerful. Once people start thinking about the imminent prospect of partying and fine dining, they might find it harder to resist the idea of just going ahead with it now, despite the higher risk. The giddiness occasioned by a vaccine might have some counterintuitive and negative effects.

Of course, some truly rational and forward-looking people will realize that some of their friends and contacts will behave in this less responsible manner. The more rational among us thus will take greater care to avoid those whom they do not trust, as well as those who have front-line service jobs and thus cannot avoid contact with these less responsible individuals. The rationalists will cocoon themselves more, most of all from strangers and known irrationalists.

Another possibility is that norms of social scorn will weaken, and confusion will reign for a while. Continue reading.