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Cuomo: New York containing coronavirus despite 'sea of spread' in nation

Pedestrians wearing protective masks pass in front of

Pedestrians wearing protective masks pass in front of a Steve Madden Ltd. store in the Herald Square area of New York City. The state has continued to keep coronavirus infection levels low after being one of the initial centers of the pandemic in the U.S. Credit: Bloomberg/Nina Westervelt

Coronavirus infection levels in New York State remain relatively low, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday, as he announced schools can reopen in the fall because, unlike much of the country, the state has brought the virus under control for now.

Tests confirmed positive for the COVID-19 virus in statewide results from Thursday were recorded at 1%, a level at which New York has hovered for weeks. Cuomo called it "incredible," and said that the low infections paved the way for his schools decision.

"Our performance is extraordinary in this sea of spread," he said. "Our numbers are great because we're doing what we need to do — the quarantine procedures are all in place and we're enforcing compliance."

He warned against complacency and called on local authorities and police to do more to enforce regulations. "They have to be more aggressive," he said.

State Police and State Liquor Authority agents issued summonses to 14 establishments Thursday night, all of them in New York City, he said.

The state said 714 people out of 70,170 tested were confirmed positive for the virus on Thursday. The number of new confirmed positive cases was 46 in Nassau County, 51 in Suffolk County, and 344 in New York City. The infection level was 0.9% on Long Island and 1.1% in New York City.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, after "the green light for schools to reopen, it is absolutely essential that we keep this progress for the rest of August in order to enable a safe and manageable reopening of schools in the fall."

Five people in the state died of coronavirus-related causes on Thursday, and 579 people were hospitalized with the virus.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said about 200 vehicles have been stopped in the first round of bridge and tunnel checkpoints to enforce a travel quarantine order “just as a test run,” by the city sheriff’s office.

There were 47 stops Wednesday at the Goethals Bridge checkpoint, and 166 on the Outerbridge Crossing from New Jersey on Thursday, said de Blasio spokeswoman Laura Feyer, adding no issues were reported. She said the checkpoint was at the Bayonne Bridge on Friday.

The enforcement push is based on a "travel advisory" list issued by the state to limit COVID-19 exposure by asking travelers from states with high levels of infection to isolate themselves for 14 days.

The stops reported so far are the beginning of that enforcement push, de Blasio said.

“That number’s gonna grow greatly this weekend, but unquestionably it will help to reach thousands and thousands of people as individuals," he said, "but I think millions of people will get the message because of these checkpoints that these quarantines must be honored for the good of all.”

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