Full New York City shutdown could come after Christmas, de Blasio suggests

traffic safety
Times Square was completely desolate save a few people during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.
File photo/Todd Maisel

A day after warning that another New York City shutdown could happen soon, Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated Tuesday that might occur right after Christmas.

“I don’t say this with anything but sorrow, but I do think it is needed, we are going to need to do some kind of shutdown in the weeks ahead,” de Blasio told reporters. “If we implement that my nomination would be right after Christmas.”

The shutdown would resemble the spring’s New York state PAUSE, which shuttered all non-essential businesses across the state and stopped residential and commercial evictions for 90 days. This time, however, the city would be out of it “in a matter of weeks” if the curve begins to flatten in January, the mayor noted.

City health officials on Tuesday reported 2,813 probable and confirmed cases of the virus and a 5.51% COVID-19 positive rate based on a seven-day rolling average across the five boroughs. In addition, de Blasio said 160 New York City residents were admitted to a hospital with suspected COVID-19 symptoms with 53% testing positive for the virus yielding a hospitalization rate of 2.89 per 100,000. 

Details about a potential post-Christmas shutdown remain fluid and in the works, he added. Ultimately, it is the state’s call on whether new restrictions will be placed on the city. 

The mayor said on Tuesday that a second PAUSE would most likely not impact schools, but again, New York state would make the call on whether to keep school buildings open amid a citywide spike in cases. 

“We are seeing extraordinary success and keeping our schools safe,” said de Blasio. “I want to keep them open.”

Both of the mayor’s health advisors, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi and Senior Advisor for Public Health Dr. Jay Varma, support keeping schools open during a second potential PAUSE order.

“What we have seen with our data that we get from testing in schools…is that schools are not increasing the rate of transmission. People’s risk of getting infected if you are a member of the school community is either similar to or some situations much less than it is for anybody else in the community,” said Dr. Varma. “I do feel strongly that we can keep the school environment safe even while we have this pandemic raging around us.”  

Just over  740 students and adults have tested positive for the virus between Oct. 9 and Dec. 12, according to the Department of Education’s school-based testing report. During that time, there have been 201,168 COVID-19 tests administered in schools yielding a positivity rate of 0.37%

On Monday, Cuomo warned that New York City, along with any other region in the state will be declared a “red zone” and put on pause if hospital capacity is projected to reach 90% in three weeks.