New CDC Mask Guidance Expected Tuesday; New York Eases COVID Rules for Movie Theaters, Zoos, Museums – NBC New York

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What to Know

  • Improvements in core COVID rates, like hospitalizations, for New York City and state have been fueled by the vaccination rollout, officials say — and they, in turn, are fueling more reopenings
  • President Biden is expected to reveal new CDC guidance on outdoor mask-wearing as early as Tuesday; there will likely be separate guidance for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not
  • Starting Monday, movie theaters across the Empire State can expand capacity to 33% and museum and zoo capacities to 50% each; Large indoor arena capacity to 25% on May 19 ahead of the NBA playoffs

New Jersey’s governor says he will make a “major announcement” Monday on the state’s reopening post-pandemic, while New York expands capacity limits for movie theaters, museums, aquariums, botanical gardens and zoos the same day.

Also Monday: More than 50,000 students are set to begin their returns to in-person learning for the first time since public schools shut down in March 2020, joining more than 327,000 others across grade levels who have resumed in-classroom instruction.

The nature of Gov. Phil Murphy’s reopening announcement wasn’t immediately clear. His coronavirus briefing is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Murphy, like Cuomo, has exercised one of the more cautious reopening processes among American governors as his state, like New York, continues to fight new viral spread. Earlier this month, both New Jersey and New York ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in new daily infections per capita and were among five states driving 44% of all new daily U.S. cases.

New Jersey remains second in the nation in terms of new daily cases per capita and third among U.S. states in daily COVID deaths per capita. Less than half the state’s population has received at least one vaccine dose, while 31% are fully vaccinated.

Transmission rates have slowed considerably in the last two weeks, though. The seven-day rolling average for new cases in New Jersey is 2,720, according to New York Times data, down 41% from the rolling average on April 2. In New York, the rolling average for new cases is 4,633, down 33% over the April 2 rolling average.

Not sure how the process works? Or when you might be able to get an appointment? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers

Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Hospitalizations have dropped by double-digit percentage points in both states over the last two weeks as well, according to the Times.

The drops in core viral metrics combined with an accelerated vaccination rollout have the governors confident they can proceed on a safe reopening course, one that continues to rely on core COVID precautions like masks even as other states begin to lift those longstanding mandates.

Starting Monday in New York, movie theaters across the Empire State raise capacity to 33%, while museums, zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens boost capacity to 50%. Next month, Cuomo will allow large arenas to expand capacity to 25%. That takes effect on May 19, just ahead of the NBA playoffs. It’s also the same day Connecticut will lift all remaining business restrictions except for indoor masks.

More aggressive reopening moves could be coming for New York in the next few weeks too. Cuomo said Sunday the state is “getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel” as he reported its lowest seven-day positivity rate (2.19%) since Nov. 8.

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here’s the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here

“The momentum is on our side and to keep our progress moving in the right direction, we have not only continued to expand access to the vaccine, but we are working hard every day to fight hesitancy as well,” Cuomo said.

That has been a top priority for President Joe Biden as well. And so is beginning to restore a sense of more normalcy as the national outlook improves. Biden is expected to reveal new CDC guidance on outdoor mask-wearing as early as Tuesday, a source familiar with the talks tells NBC News. There will likely be separate guidance for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

To date, 36.5% of Americans age 18 and older are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. That number is even higher for those age 65 and up, 67.5% of whom are fully vaccinated.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has hinted at mask rules possible ending as soon as July, and some epidemiologists believe it could happen even sooner. NBC New York’s Lynda Baquero reports.

The vaccine rollout picked up steam again over the weekend. New York, New Jersey and other states resumed administering the Johnson & Johnson regimen after federal regulators ruled the benefits of the shot outweigh the risk of rare blood clots, 15 of which have been reported to date. All of the cases were women.

Overall, more than 8 million Americans have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Most report mild or so side effects.

The rare clot condition is called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. Here’s what means and what signs you should look for if you’re concerned.

The federal decision on J&J came the same day New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio opened all city-run sites for walk-in vaccinations, his latest bid to simplify the process as he pushes to hit his goal of 5 million fully vaccinated New Yorkers by June. De Blasio has said the city will “reassess” its mask and social distancing regulations around that same time.

To date, New York City has fully vaccinated 28% of its population, more than 2.3 million people. Most of them are older than 50, and while 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible for vaccination, the vast majority of the 51,000 new students returning to class this week will not have had their shots yet.

Many of their teachers, though, likely have.

Schools have been a bright spot for the city in terms of infection rates, persistently showing lower rates of in-building transmission than the neighborhoods that surround them. De Blasio and top city health officials have sought for months to assure parents and school staff that classrooms are safe and thus far, the data has backed it up.

COVID-19 at New York City Public Schools

This map shows all known cases of COVID-19 at New York City public schools. It is updated Sunday through Friday at 5:30 PM.

     Building that has been closed
     One or more classrooms has been closed
     A member of the school community has tested positive but the school community was not exposed

Most of the students returning to buildings in person Monday are younger grade levels. The Department of Education says nearly half of those who opted back into in-person learning in this latest and final round are elementary grade students. Roughly 10,000 middle school and 13,000 high school students are also heading back.

An estimated 70% of families served by the nation’s largest school system, though, are still opting for fully remote education. De Blasio says he’s not surprised.

“My view is, a lot of parents were really focused on the scheduling question,” he said recently. “They had gotten into a schedule that worked for them with remote. The kids had gotten used to and like the teachers they had. And they didn’t want to disrupt that.”

While he expects some parents to still choose remote learning for their kids come fall, de Blasio says he believes “the vast majority of parents are going to want their kids in school five days a week.” He has said the city will be ready to accommodate them when the next academic calendar year begins in September. It may mean a big influx.

The federal government recently adjusted its school guidance to say that students can safely sit 3 feet apart in the classroom if they wear masks, a suggestion New York state accepted in its latest round of school COVID guidelines, which were issued mid-April.

School districts will have to allow parents, school staff and local health officials to weigh in about any potential new changes before they take effect, officials have said.

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