New York has moved to tighten restrictions on social gatherings as a surge in Covid-19 throughout the US has led to a record number of hospitalisations and stoked fears about a resurgent wave of infections heading into the Thanksgiving holiday.
Indoor gatherings at private residences must be limited to 10 people beginning on Friday evening, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday. The state had allowed gatherings of up to 50 people.
Restaurants, bars and other businesses with a liquor licence must close dine-in service each night by 10pm, after which time they will be limited to kerbside pick-up. The curfew, which begins on Friday, will also apply to gyms.
The rules come as New York confirmed 4,820 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the most since April, when it was hit hard by the pandemic’s initial wave. While the city had managed to bend the curve of new cases downwards since then, that trend has started to reverse, with the number of infections accelerating through October into November.
Wednesday’s order is meant to “stop the spread in response to rising COVID numbers,” the Democratic governor tweeted. “COVID is getting worse by the day. All around the country. The fall surge is here.”
Bill de Blasio, New York City’s Democratic mayor, warned earlier this week that the city was “dangerously close” to a second wave of cases and urged New Yorkers to adhere to social distancing and other safety measures to prevent a new jump that would necessitate tighter restrictions.
Neighbouring state New Jersey previously announced a similar curfew to halt indoor dining after 10pm starting on Thursday, as it grapples with a similar rise.
The moves come as the US tallies new coronavirus cases at a record pace across its regions. On Tuesday there were 130,989 new cases nationwide, marking the seventh day that the increase has topped 100,000 and pushing the overall number of cases since the pandemic began past 10m.
As the number of cases has increased with cooler weather setting in across the country, so have hospitalisations. The number of coronavirus hospitalisations jumped to a record 61,964, up from 59,275 on Monday, according to Covid Tracking Project data — greater than the peak seen in April, when the disease was hammering the north-east US.
Texas, which is the second-most populous US state, has seen cases grow swiftly since June as part of a jump that hit it along with fellow sunbelt states Florida, Arizona and California. On Wednesday, it surpassed a total of 1m infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data, more than any other US state and many individual countries.
Geographically, the latest rise in cases has been unsparing, with cases trending upwards in every region. Multiple states have reported record one-day hospitalisations this week, according to Covid Tracking Project data.
In the west, Utah has declared a state of emergency and imposed a statewide mask mandate, citing overcrowded hospitals. Gary Herbert, the state’s Republican governor, called the situation “dire and unsustainable”.
Public officials are particularly concerned about the prospect of the disease spreading even more rapidly as Thanksgiving approaches, and Americans are forced to reconsider plans to travel and gather with family members to celebrate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance urging that celebrations be done virtually or at limited in-person gatherings with members of the same household.
Anthony Fauci, one of the most prominent members of the White House’s coronavirus task force, underlined those concerns during an interview at the FT Live Global Pharmaceutical Summit on Wednesday, warning people to be careful about travelling and socialising if they had vulnerable family members.
The 79-year-old doctor said his daughters were not coming home because they wanted to protect him. “As much as you don’t like to say you’re elderly, well in fact I am,” he said. “We don’t want to shut down Thanksgiving, but we’re asking people to consider the risk-benefit of a large family gathering.”
Additional reporting by Hannah Kuchler