The Coronavirus Thread: Mayor Sketches Plan for Moving Out of Crisis Mode

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Thursday, April 9, 12:11 p.m.

A cautious Mayor de Blasio on Thursday outlined a two-stage process for life in New York City to return to normal after weeks of death and disruption caused by COVID-19.

The mayor said the city could at some point in May or June move to relax some social-distancing measures, and at some point after that end all the restrictions that were put in place to arrest the spread of the coronavirus.

De Blasio repeatedly qualified the plan, however, indicating that disease-control measures might need to be reimposed if infections accelerate again. “The last thing we can afford is to let down our guard and let this disease back in the door,” he said. He stressed that New Yorkers had to stay vigilant and comply with social-distancing rules. “We need to win our way to the next phase. Obviously, we have a long way to go.”

 

The city is now in a phase of “widespread transmission,” according to the mayor. The next phase would be one of “low-level transmission,” when there are so few new cases that the city’s disease detectives can actually trace each one. That period could come in May or June and would involve some relaxing of the social-distancing restrictions—although the mayor didn’t say which ones would be relaxed, and indicated that different rules might be tightened and loosened at different points. “People have to be smart about it and not overdo,” he said. Having access to testing would be key to this phase so that new cases could be quickly isolated.

The mayor said the move toward a “low-level transmission” posture would be governed by 10 days to two weeks of consistent decreases in the number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, the number of people admitted to hospital ICUs for suspected COVID-19 and the percentage of people tested who are positive for COVID-19. “We need to see a clean clear pattern that sustains itself for several weeks,” he said.

The third phase, which the mayor said is months away, is a period of “no transmission”–when the only new cases of COVID-19 are among people infected elsewhere who travel to the city. In that phase, all social distancing rules would be ended.

Perhaps the biggest decision facing the city is whether and when to reopen schools. De Blasio said Thursday that there are discussions underway about that, and indicated that he sees one last chance for in-person learning to resume again this school year.

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