As the city continues to fight a hard battle against the forces of lawlessness in the streets, New Yorkers should not forget our great success in another struggle that remains ongoing — the war against the coronavirus.
That conflict is nowhere near over, but we have made tremendous progress. The numbers tell the story. Forty-nine people in New York State died of COVID-19 on June 2. On April 12, the day before Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared, “I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart. I believe we can start on the path to normalcy,” 671 died. There were 2,978 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide on June 2; on April 12 there were 18,825. There were 865 people in intensive care on June 12; on April 12 there were 5,516.
Hospitalizations and the number of coronavirus patients in the ICU are down 84 percent in just 51 days. And on June 2, 61,642 people statewide were tested for the virus, with only 1,045, or 1.7 percent, being positive for it. Overall, 2,229,473 people have now been tested statewide, with 374,085, or 16.8 percent, being positive.
New York had been the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, with far more cases than any other state in the country. But now Texas and California both have more daily cases than we do. And Queens is no longer the hardest-hit county.
We’ve stayed home. We’ve learned to wear masks when outside the home. We’ve made countless sacrifices. Cuomo’s New York on PAUSE — Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone — orders feel like they were issued a year ago. And it’s now time to swiftly reverse them.
New York City, the last of the state’s regions to begin the reopening process, will do so Monday. Phase one will allow for work previously deemed nonessential in construction and manufacturing, along with wholesale trade and curbside retail service for those stores not already allowed to do it.
As Queens Chamber of Commerce President Tom Grech told us last Friday, “We cannot wait any longer ... The damage may be lasting and permanent unless we reopen the shops and the stores and the restaurants of New York City and Queens in particular.”
We know it’s already too late for many. Grech said half of Queens’ 6,000 restaurants could be gone for good.
The city needs to get to phases two and three as fast as possible. Phase two would allow real estate sales, haircuts and car sales to commence, along with other activities including the operation of businesses that do most of their work in offices. Phase three would allow restaurants — however many are left — to reopen for sit-down dining.
The contradictions in the state’s rules are now too glaring to ignore — in particular the idea that large stores like The Home Depot and small ones like 7-Eleven can be open while large ones like Home Goods and small ones like a gift shop cannot. This picking of winners and losers, justified back when infection rates and deaths were skyrocketing, has to end. Any store can demand masks and social distancing.
Cuomo is being too cautious at this point, and that’s even more true after the events of the last several days. Protests involve shouting and people being tightly packed together by definition. Thousands of New Yorkers have shown that their concerns over racial injustice take precedence over their concerns over the virus. They, in a sense, have reopened the city. Note that Mayor de Blasio previously had banned protests, in violation of the Constitution, even when they involved just a handful of people, but now he supports them.
The protesters have not, however, reopened the economy. And that must be done right away, or the better world the people out on the streets envision will have no chance to ever be. We must move forward now in more ways than one.