People enjoy a spring afternoon at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York on Saturday. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
With warmer weather arriving amid the coronavirus pandemic, some state and local government officials are ordering enhanced safety measures as more people return to the streets.
In New York, with temperatures expected to hit 70 degrees this weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state would distribute 7 million more cloth masks to lower-income families, nursing home residents and other vulnerable people.
He added that in New York City, the transit authority would disinfect subway cars every 24 hours and that stations and commuter train cars would also be cleaned on a daily basis.
“This has never been done before and it’s an extraordinary effort,” Cuomo said during a news conference Saturday. “The riding public deserves this. Essential workers deserve this. Transit workers deserve this.”
Cuomo said he understands that New Yorkers would face difficulty remaining indoors all day as the weather warms.
“You can’t stay indoors all the time. But respect the social distancing and New Yorkers are doing it,” the governor said.
Sandy Williams, of Williams Fruit Farm, sells flowers at New York’s Prospect Park Market on Saturday. Social-distancing guidelines for the city remain in place to limit the coronavirus spread. (Yana Paskova / Getty Images)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that, starting next week, the city would begin to open 40 miles of streets to pedestrians.
“The open streets are going to be another way to help encourage social distancing, because the warmer weather tells us we’re going to have a new challenge,” De Blasio told reporters.
The daily numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in New York, the state hit hardest by the viral outbreak, have remained relatively steady in the last several days.
New York had 299 new deaths in a 24-hour period ending Friday, up from 289 the day before, according to Cuomo. He added that around 900 new cases are being confirmed each day.
Meanwhile, in states that have already begun to reopen their economies, social-distancing issues can only increase.
In New Jersey, starting Saturday, residents are being allowed to venture out to golf courses and state parks. Gov. Phil Murphy emphasized that social distancing will be required for the foreseeable future.
The warmer weather is coming at a time when a growing number of states have loosened coronavirus restrictions, allowing people to venture out to movie theaters, restaurants and gyms.
On Friday, Texas, Utah and Maine joined states including Georgia that have allowed some businesses to reopen, marking a shift in the nation’s response to the pandemic.
The loosening of restrictions, with the encouragement of President Trump, goes against the advice of public health experts and comes as the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow.
In recent days, the number topped the 1-million mark. On Saturday, the death toll from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, passed 65,200, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Over the next several days and weeks, more states are expected to ease stay-at-home orders and reopen portions of their economies.
In Nebraska, where cases haven’t slowed, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Friday that beginning Monday the state would nonetheless begin to ease rules. Nebraskans will be able to dine in restaurants that follow rules of not permitting more than 50% of normal capacity. Residents will also be able to visit salons, and tattoo and massage parlors. Ricketts said people could attend houses of worship if they wear masks and stand six feet apart.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday that across the state gyms and other fitness centers could reopen and that restaurants will soon be allowed to let customers dine inside as long as they aren’t filled more than one-third of their normal capacity.
The debate over whether to ease restrictions or expand stay-at-home orders intensified Saturday as protesters held rallies in several states.
In Frankfort, Ky., a rally scheduled for Saturday to pressure Gov. Andy Beshear to ease the state’s coronavirus-related restrictions was expected to draw hundreds even though the governor had announced Wednesday that businesses would begin reopening this month.
Starting May 11, manufacturing, construction and vehicle dealerships would be able to resume operations at 50% capacity in Kentucky. On May 20, Beshear said, retail stores and houses of worship would be permitted to open, with some restrictions, such as social distancing.
Despite rainy weather, protesters in Salem, Ore., were taking to the streets to demand Gov. Kate Brown end the state’s stay-at-home order.