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As Home Working Takes Root, Are Suburbs Poised For Post-Virus Revival?

Spring is typically peak residential real estate sale season on Long Island. (Getty Images)

By Ellen Wulfhorst

New Jersey realtor Peter Engelmann says he got his first COVID-19 “exodus call” in early March from a New Yorker who ended up buying a three-bedroom suburban house.

With New York City’s coronavirus lockdown confining many residents to tiny apartments for nearly three months, experts think post-pandemic life could see a wave of migration to roomier homes in the suburbs.

“They want open space, they want to be able to barbecue. They want to get out and stretch their legs and not be worried they’re going to be contaminated,” Engelmann told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He has noticed a surge in interest in his sales patch, an area of rolling hills dotted with small towns about 40 miles (65 km) west of Manhattan.

“I’m on fire. This could possibly be my best year,” he said.

Ultimately, however, property analysts say a suburban renaissance depends on how many companies allow their staff to keep working remotely after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

“If employers a year out say it was an interesting experiment but we benefit from people being eyeball to eyeball because we want the collaboration, then I think you’re going to start to see this swing the other way,” said Jeffrey Otteau, a real estate analyst in the New York City area.

“But if employers decide to retain this flexibility over the longer term … we’re going to see continued urban flight and renewed economic growth in suburban places.”

‘GET OUT OF THE CITY’

A recent nationwide Harris poll showed almost 40% of urban dwellers would consider moving to less populated areas, and a slightly higher number said they had been browsing online for properties.

Two-thirds of respondents in a recent survey by Zillow, an online real estate site, said they would consider moving if they had the flexibility to work from home.

“Everyone seems to be talking about wanting to get out of the city,” said Debra Ross, another suburban New Jersey real estate agent.

“I don’t believe we’ve all seen this crazy surge yet, but I think everyone’s anticipating it will happen.”

Two-thirds of Americans have worked remotely since the coronavirus crisis peaked in March, according to a Gallup Panel poll, although other research has shown that only about a third of U.S. jobs could be done entirely from home.

New York state is the U.S. region hardest-hit by COVID-19, accounting for about 24,000 of the country’s nearly 104,000 deaths, mostly in and near New York City.

Most Americans now working from home have said they want to keep doing so, according to a survey conducted in April by staffing specialists Robert Half International.

Companies including Twitter have said already that some of their employees will be able to work from home indefinitely.

Facebook has said that within a decade as many as half of its more than 48,000 staff members would work remotely.

GREENER REGIONS

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, many New York City residents and companies relocated to suburban areas.

But the trend was reversed after the 2008 recession, when massive government funds were used to bolster Wall Street firms, bringing new jobs to the city.

For now, people who want to leave the city for greener regions are hampered by persistent lockdown restrictions, said Sylvia Ehrlich, head of The Intrepid New Yorker relocation consultancy.

U.S. home sales logged their biggest drop in nearly 10 years in April as the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the labor market and broader economy, plunging almost 18%.

“There’s a pent-up group of people from the city that are looking to buy outside the city and they can’t,” Ehrlich said.

“I’ve heard a lot of young couples say the city’s lost its spark.” she said. “If it doesn’t have that energy, that excitement, they’re saying ‘why am I paying this premium?'”

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Helen Popper, with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.)

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A Pandemic Nurse’s Love Letter to NY

Traveling nurse Meghan Lindsey poses inside the lobby of NYU Winthrop Hospital, where she traveled to work during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mineola, New York, U.S., May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Shannon Stapleton and Clare Baldwin

The coronavirus pandemic has restricted almost everyone’s freedoms in America but for Meghan Lindsey it has done the opposite. This is the freest she has ever felt.

Traveling to New York City at age 33 to work as a COVID-19 nurse was the first time that Meghan, a married mother of two, had ever left southwest Missouri.

“It was my first time on a plane,” she said, describing how she came to work 12-hour shifts in the intensive care unit at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. “Flying into New York was the first time I’d ever seen the ocean.”

There are many stories about the lonely coronavirus deaths in the city’s hospitals and the traumatic work of the nurses who staff them.

Meghan’s story is about unexpected opportunities. It’s a story of how the pandemic gave a woman the chance to strike out into the world, confront danger and make a difference, and how her husband stayed home to care for their daughters. It’s a story about new beginnings.

“I always wanted to do something for my country,” said Meghan. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something meaningful.”

Meghan’s first nursing shifts in New York were a shock.

There are a lot of sick people in Missouri with chronic diseases like diabetes, where the progressions are slow and the declines are familiar.

COVID-19 patients are stunned by a virus that turns their lives upside down and in many cases ends them.

“One of my patients had her toes done up all nice and pretty and still had her jewelry on,” said Meghan.

Because they were coronavirus patients and visitors were banned, it was Meghan who would hold their hands as they died.

“Once you FaceTime and you meet their family and you hear them crying and sobbing, you know their cute little nicknames and you start to know them, it just gets to be really personal,” said Meghan. “You have a hard time separating yourself and not truly grieving for them as well.”

Despite all of the death, Meghan’s time in New York City’s COVID-19 wards was unexpectedly affirming. The pandemic gave Meghan something that her life in Missouri so far had not: a feeling of everything sliding into place.

When Meghan graduated from nursing school, it wasn’t like she imagined. It turned out to be just a job. She mourned.

“Now for once, it’s actually something important,” said Meghan. “This is the first time since I’ve become a nurse that it’s like, ‘yes, this is why.’ I can make a difference, and I can help, and I am strong enough for this.”

Her kids, she said, are proud. “They know that what I’m doing is hard and that I put my life in danger.”

Meghan is from a small town in Missouri. Most Sundays, she goes to church. Her mom was a manager at Walmart and her dad worked construction. Before he lost his job to the pandemic, her husband Aaron sold fire suppression systems to small businesses.

Meghan is the first in her family to finish college and has long held her family together. As thrilling as it was to be in New York, it was also hard.

Meghan often wondered if she should come home. Her husband Aaron told her no. He and the girls were fine, what she was doing mattered and he was proud of her. He sometimes called her superwoman.

“If he wasn’t such a good dad and there for my children, I could never do this,” said Meghan. He deserves credit too, she said, “but I guess you could say the limelight’s on me.”

Being a COVID-19 travel nurse isn’t glamorous. Meghan had to wear protective gear during her shifts and there was a lengthy decontamination process when she got home each night. She lived in a hotel room with another nurse and had to find a laundromat every few days to wash her scrubs.

But sometimes it did feel like a grand adventure. She saw the Statue of Liberty. She heard someone speaking Russian. She learned how to fold a slice of pizza.

Restaurants sometimes gave her and her friends free food “because we’re nurses,” she said with a bit of awe. She took selfie after selfie standing in the middle of empty New York City streets and no cabbies honked at her.

Her husband Aaron said he was sometimes a little jealous (it’s New York), occasionally worried (again, New York), but mostly he was just really proud.

“Meghan hasn’t been out there in the world,” he said. She nailed it.

Now, at the end of her contract, Meghan is unsure of what the future holds.

She is back in a small town in the Midwest. She no longer has a job and she is coming off the biggest high of her life. She sometimes asks herself, will I have the desire to go back to this life?

Something about New York stood out to her: people there had aspirations to make something of themselves.

(Reporting by Shannon Stapleton and Clare Baldwin; Editing by Kieran Murray and Lisa Shumaker)

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Cuomo Meets With Trump To Talk Infrastructure

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks in front of stacks of medical protective supplies during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center which will be partially converted into a temporary hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Doina Chiacu

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo met President Donald Trump on Wednesday to press for investment in the nation’s roads, bridges and railways as U.S. states begin to reopen after the coronavirus outbreak left the economy in tatters.

Cuomo’s visit to Washington comes as his hard-hit state begins to see drops in rates of hospitalizations and deaths, while other states relax lockdowns and partygoers flout precautions aimed at curtailing the novel coronavirus.

Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases for the week ended Sunday as the death toll nears 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Florida reported a nearly 6% increase, while New York registered a double-digit decline.

Cuomo, a Democrat whose state has been the worst hit by the outbreak, arrived for the meeting at the White House wearing a blue surgical mask. Trump has declined to wear a mask in public even though his own health experts have recommended it.

Businesses across the country are opening doors after shuttering in mid-March as states and local governments took drastic measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, almost bringing the country to a halt. The economy contracted at its steepest pace since the Great Recession in the first quarter and lost at least 21.4 million jobs in March and April.

With a focus on infrastructure as a way to revive the economy, Cuomo, a Democrat, will touch on a topic close to Trump. The Republican president has long embraced the idea of updating the country’s infrastructure.

Cuomo, who has sparred with Trump over the federal government’s pandemic response, wants to revive the economy by undertaking major transport and other projects. He told reporters on Tuesday he would discuss a federal role in investments to modernize the nation’s bridges, roads and rail systems.

“This is one of the things I want to talk to the president about. … You want to reopen the economy. Let’s do something creative, let’s do it fast, let’s put Americans back to work,” Cuomo said.

Trump has said he believed infrastructure spending could help the economy recover from the pandemic, embracing a massive $2 trillion plan at the end of March. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month said that legislation was separate from coronavirus spending and would have to wait.

States have sought more help from the federal government to get through the crisis. Democrats who control the House of Representatives passed legislation on May 15 that would provide nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, but the bill was rejected by Trump and the Senate’s Republican leaders.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Americans flocked to beaches and lakes in large groups even as U.S. health experts warned that reopening too quickly could trigger outbreaks of COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN on Wednesday the weekend scenes of unmasked revelers gathering in large groups were disturbing.

He said a second wave of infections was not inevitable if people adhered to recommendations to minimize exposure to the virus.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Andrea Ricci and Jonathan Oatis)

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A U.S. Memorial Day Weekend Like No Other, With Parties And Biker Rallies on Hold

FILE PHOTO: A motorcycle rider with American flag fluttering passes crowds during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, U.S., May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

By Nathan Layne

Tom McNamara had planned to ride his 2013 Harley Road Glide Ultra motorcycle through the heart of Washington on Sunday, joining hundreds of thousands of bikers in a Memorial Day weekend rally in the nation’s capital to raise awareness of U.S. veterans.

But, like the rest of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic upended McNamara’s plans for the weekend that traditionally marks the start of summer, forcing him to cancel the event and come up with a safer alternative.

Even with all 50 states taking steps to reopen their economies, this Memorial Day weekend will not resemble any in decades. In many places, beaches and parks will be open, but groups will asked to stay six feet apart; restaurants will only be serving customers outside; and bars will be closed in what is customarily one of the year’s biggest drinking weekends.

“A Memorial Day party would be great,” said Michael Williamson of the Michigan State University Black Alumni, who is organizing an online kickoff party for his local chapter on Friday night. “Bars and clubs aren’t open right now, so we are doing everything virtual.”

Motorcycle rallies are a staple of the weekend. AMVETS, a veterans group, had been expecting up to half a million bikers at its Rolling to Remember rally in Washington. But it canceled the event, asking local chapters to instead organize 22-mile (35-km) rides to spotlight the estimated 22 veterans who die by suicide each day.

“This is something that is far beyond our control. We are disappointed, but we are not letting it go,” said Tom McNamara, AMVETS’ National Riders president and one of the event’s lead organizers.

Memorial Day, which falls on Monday, was established to honor and mourn American military personnel who died while serving.

The holiday weekend comes at a time of unprecedented economic and social upheaval. Over 93,000 Americans have died from the virus, and more than 38 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims since the lockdowns began in March.

A large swath of the country is expected to spend the weekend at home, in contrast with last year’s Memorial Day weekend when an estimated 43 million traveled, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

AAA is not issuing a travel forecast for this weekend, citing uncertainties due to the virus. Online travel company Tripadvisor Inc says it expects activity to vary by state, depending on how far each has relaxed social distancing rules.

New York, New Jersey and Delaware are opening their shorelines this weekend, although with various restrictions, including a swimming ban at New York City beaches. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he expected a 50 percent capacity limit to be reached by 10 a.m. due to pent-up demand.

“It’s Memorial Day weekend. People want to get out of their homes,” he told a daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday.

The northern New Mexico town of Red River will have an unusually quiet holiday weekend after canceling a motorcycle rally that had been expected to draw 20,000 riders and had been a reliable source of revenue for 37 years.

Red River’s tourism director, April Ralph, said the town had brought in portable toilets and set up picnic benches anyway. She said it expects visitors from Texas escaping the heat and that some bikers would come to tour a scenic byway called the Enchanted Circle and pay homage at a Vietnam War memorial, rally or not.

Since bars are closed, Ralph was not anticipating trouble getting visitors to follow social distancing guidelines. She said she has a stunt group known as the Busted Knuckles already booked for next year, when she hopes the virus will be under control.

“People are getting antsy to move and get out,” Ralph said. “We are hoping that next year will be a whole different ball game.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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NY Bill Would Keep To-Go Cocktails Flowing Beyond Pandemic

Cocktails to go often come in mason jars. Getty Images

For many New Yorkers, one of the only good things to come out of the coronavirus pandemic is a temporary relaxation of some state regulations, allowing people to buy to-go wine and cocktails or get them delivered.

With bars and restaurants closed for table service to control the spread of the virus in much of the United States, the change has been such a hit that one New York State senator wants to extend it for at least two years beyond the lifting of the lockdown.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) introduced the legislation this week as a way to support the struggling hospitality industry.

“It would really extend a very important lifeline to these restaurants and bars that were on the margin even before the pandemic,” Hoylman told Reuters on Friday.

In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo temporarily loosened State Liquor Authority regulations for businesses licensed to sell alcohol, allowing them to sell beverages to go as long they are in sealed containers and accompanied by food.

Unlike many countries in Europe and the rest of the world, most U.S. states have so-called “open-container” laws that restrict the public consumption of alcohol.

Last weekend, hundreds of New Yorkers with drinks in hand were seen gathered outside bars in Manhattan and elsewhere. The impromptu parties led Mayor Bill de Blasio to threaten a crackdown if social-distancing rules are not observed.

Outside Pilar Cuban Eatery in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, a few customers have been lining up 6 feet apart on recent evenings to order to-go spicy margaritas, sangria or mojitos.

“I think the alcohol right now is saving us,” owner Ricardo Barreras told Reuters on Friday.

Barreras, 49, said he welcomed Hoylman’s proposed legislation, given the uncertainty facing his business as New York City moves closer to a partial reopening in June.

“It would be an amazing thing,” he said.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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Long Island-Native Actress Lori Loughlin To Plead Guilty to College Admissions Scam

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, arrive at the federal courthouse for a hearing on charges in a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Josh Reynolds/File Photo

By Nate Raymond

Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her husband have agreed to plead guilty to U.S. charges they conspired to fraudulently secure their daughters admission to the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.

Loughlin, 55 — who grew up in Oceanside and Hauppauge — and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, 56, have agreed to serve two months and five months in prison, respectively, under plea agreements filed in federal court in Boston.

They are expected to plead guilty on Friday to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Loughlin and Giannulli also agreed to pay fines of $150,000 and $250,000, respectively.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in a statement said the plea deals ensure “these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process.”

Their lawyers declined to comment.

Loughlin and Giannulli are among 53 people charged with participating in a scheme where wealthy parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and fraud to secure their children’s admission to top schools.

The consultant, William “Rick” Singer, pleaded guilty last year to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and using bribery to secure the admission of parents’ children to schools as fake athletic recruits.

Prosecutors allege Loughlin and Giannulli agreed with Singer to pay $500,000 in bribes to have their two daughters named as fake University of Southern California rowing team recruits.

The couple had been scheduled to face trial in October alongside other parents. Their lawyers previously contended they believed their money was being used for university donations.

By Friday, 24 of the 36 parents charged will have pleaded guilty, including “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who received a 14-day prison sentence.

The longest sentence a parent has received was the nine-month term imposed on Douglas Hodge, the former chief executive of investment firm Pimco.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Belmont Stakes To Run June 20 Without Spectators

American Pharoah wins 2015 Belmont Stakes
American Pharoah wins 2015 Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes will be run on June 20 without spectators amid the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the first time the race will be the opening leg of U.S. thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) said on Tuesday.

The race, which will be held two weeks later than originally scheduled, has traditionally been the longest race of the Triple Crown series.

This year, however, it will be shortened to 1-1/8 miles from 1-1/2 miles to account for 3-year-old thoroughbreds in training, who would usually have built up their endurance by the third leg of the triple crown.

The new date for the Belmont Stakes follows the previously announced rescheduling of the Kentucky Derby to Sept. 5 from May 2 and the Preakness Stakes to Oct. 3 from May 16.

“While this will certainly be a unique running of this historic race, we are grateful to be able to hold the Belmont Stakes in 2020,” NYRA President Dave O’Rourke said in a statement.

“Fans across the country can look forward to a day of exceptional thoroughbred racing at a time when entertainment and sports are so important to providing a sense of normalcy.”

As the traditional third leg of racing’s Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes is widely known as the “Test of the Champion” and has showcased many of history’s greatest thoroughbreds.

Two of those Triple Crown triumphs have come in the last five years, with American Pharoah ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015 and Justify winning all three races in 2018 to retire with an undefeated 6-for-6 record.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)

Related Story: Belmont Stakes History Runs Deeper Than Triple Crown

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After Surviving Wars, Pestilence, Religions Use Technology To Beat Pandemic

Imam Dr. Mohammad Qatanani speaks in an empty sanctuary during a live stream at the start of midday prayers during Ramadan inside the Islamic Center of Passaic County following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Patterson, New Jersey, U.S., May 8, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Picture

By Angela Moore

Throw a global pandemic at the world’s religions, and you get confessions via Skype, virtual seders and recitations of the Koran over Facebook.

The world’s three leading religions have survived famines, plagues, pestilence and wars. Now, in the 21st century shutdown, New York-area Jewish, Islamic and Christian clerics are turning to technology to help their followers through the coronavirus.

Worshipers have taken to online connections as the dangers of the virus and uncertainty of self-isolation deepen their spirituality and strengthen their faith, the clerics said.

“I think from a spiritual standpoint, it’s very empowering,” said Sheikh Osamah Salhia, Imam at the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Clifton, New Jersey.

The government-ordered shutdowns have been “a chance for us to recognize our real priorities in life and gain a sense of clarity on what really matters: family, community, the masjid (mosque) and its role,” he said in an interview.

While bans on mass gatherings have taken away the communal aspect of prayers, especially during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Islamic Center is connecting online with congregants for classes and Koran readings, Salhia said.

Livestream prayers, however, are not encouraged, he said, adding families should pray together at home.

VIRTUAL HUGS AND KISSES

This year, many Jews, including Esther Greenberg of Long Island, gathered their families for Passover on Zoom.

“Unfortunately, we all can’t be together holding each other around, giving hugs and kisses, but we’re doing it virtually because this is what our family does,” Greenberg, 73, said at her April 8 seder.

At the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, many of the sanctuary’s mostly older congregants have been connecting via the internet for the first time, Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky said.

“Technology has been amazing,” said Rogosnitzky. “It really is a lifeline.

Congregants use online platforms to link not only to morning services but to a supportive community that has grown more spiritual during the crisis, Rogosnitzky said.

After the lockdown, he said he envisions smaller, shorter gatherings, with barriers in the sanctuary and temperature-takers greeting worshipers.

“It’s going to be more about, stay separate,” he said.

Contrary to some polls showing declines in virtual religious attendance since the virus outbreak, the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan has seen an increase in online worshipers for its Episcopal services, said the Rev. Patrick Malloy.

“One of the great things that’s happening on Sundays is we have people from all over the world, and thousands of them sharing of worship with us every Sunday,” said Malloy.

“For the first time, I heard a confession by Skype,” he added. “You know, you have to do what you have to do.”

Like other clerics, Malloy says he has seen more spirituality in the flock during the pandemic.

“When you’re locked in your house, and especially when you’re locked in a small New York apartment by yourself, day after day after day, you come to think about the bigger questions,” he said.

When the crisis ends, Malloy said he expects to see the church at least as full as it was before because “people really do miss one another.”

(Writing by Peter Szekely; editing by Bill Tarrant and Sonya Hepinstall)

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NY Steps Up Coronavirus Protections For Nursing Home Residents

A man with a mask walks past a sign advertising the Sapphire Center nursing home after reports of a number of deaths there came to light during an ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Maria Caspani and Rich McKay

New York State on Sunday announced new coronavirus-safety measures to better protect nursing home residents, who are highly vulnerable to the respiratory illness and account for a large share of the nearly 80,000 Americans who have died from it.

The effort to step up infection-prevention measures at New York’s nursing homes and adult care facilities came as the state hardest hit by the pandemic has registered a downward trajectory in its daily overall COVID-19 death toll and hospitalizations.

Numbers are on the rise elsewhere across the country, however, as dozens of states have moved in recent weeks to relax business restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected at least 1.3 million Americans.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he has ordered all nursing home staff to be tested at least twice a week for the virus and is barring hospitals from discharging any COVID-19 patient to a nursing facility until that individual tests negative for infection.

If a nursing home is deemed unable to provide proper treatment and support for a recovering resident, that person is to be transferred to the care of the state, which Cuomo said now has ample hospital bed capacity for such patients.

“Our No. 1 priority is protecting people in nursing homes,” Cuomo said. “It’s where it (COVID-19) feeds.”

Elderly individuals and people with underlying chronic health conditions are among those at highest risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Nursing homes, long-term care facilities and assisted-living centers have registered some of the most lethal localized outbreaks across the country, including the nation’s first major known cluster of COVID-19 cases and deaths in suburban Seattle.

Nearly 5,400 residents of nursing homes and adult care facilities have died from confirmed or presumed COVID-19 infections since March 1 in New York state alone, Health Department data shows. That comes to about 20% of 26,656 coronavirus deaths overall in New York to date.

Nursing home residents account for an even greater portion of COVID-19 mortality in other parts of the country – 28% in Indiana, 38% in California and 80% in Minnesota, according to state figures.

PEDIATRIC CASES

While senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, New York also is investigating up to 85 cases of children with a rare inflammatory condition believed to be linked to the coronavirus. So far three of those children, who also tested positive for the virus, have died in New York, and two more deaths are under review, Cuomo said.

The pediatric cases in question share symptoms with toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease, which can include inflammation of the blood vessels and potentially fatal heart damage.

While New York continues to see declines in key measures of the pandemic — its hospitalizations on Sunday hit a seven-week low — many states, including Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas, are reporting rising case tallies even as they move to reopen their economies.

Michigan was due to allow factories to resume production starting on Monday, removing a major obstacle to North American automakers seeking to bring thousands of idled employees back to work this month. California gave the go-ahead to manufacturing and warehouse facilities to reopen under certain restrictions on Friday after a seven-week lockdown.

The stakes could hardly be greater. Stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closures have devastated the U.S. economy and thrown some 33.5 million Americans out of work in less than two months – a level of joblessness not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Public health experts have warned that precautions needed for reopening to proceed safely, such as vastly expanded diagnostic testing and contact tracing, have yet to be put in place, risking a major resurgence of the virus.

It also remains to be seen whether many consumers are willing to venture back into shopping malls and restaurants in the midst of a pandemic for which there is no vaccine and no cure.

The White House has opened informal talks with Republicans and Democrats in Congress about next steps on coronavirus relief legislation, officials said on Sunday, but they stressed any new federal money would come with strings attached.

The coronavirus has in recent days invaded the White House itself, with a valet to President Donald Trump and the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence each testing positive. As a result, three senior health officials guiding the U.S. response to the pandemic have gone into self-quarantine, .

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, is considered to be at relatively low risk based on the degree of his exposure. Also quarantining are Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Steve Gorman; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Related Story: 21% Of COVID-19 Nursing Home Deaths in NY Reported on LI

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NY To Work With Gates Foundation To ‘Reimagine’ Schools

By Nathan Layne and Rajesh Kumar Singh

New York will work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine” the state’s school system as part of broader reforms in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a daily briefing on Tuesday.

Cuomo, who has emerged as a leading national voice on states’ efforts to battle the crisis, said he believed people were starting to see the pandemic as a rare opportunity to make large-scale changes.

“We have paid a very high price for what we are going through. But the hope is that we learn from it and that we are the better for it,” Cuomo said, citing transportation, healthcare and schools as potential targets for reform.

“We don’t want to go through all of this and replace what was there before,” he said. “We want to build back better.”

Cuomo said hospitals needed to be made more resilient and noted that New York City’s subways would be shut for disinfection between 1 and 5 a.m. starting on Wednesday morning, likely presaging bigger changes for the nation’s largest public transit system in the coming months.

He outlined plans to work with the foundation of Microsoft Corp co-founder Gates to improve New York’s education system, which includes the largest public system in the country in New York City, with more than one million students.

While he did not provide specifics, Cuomo suggested a fundamental rethink of the classroom was on the table.

“The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom, and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms – why with all the technology you have?” Cuomo asked.

Cuomo is making plans for reopening New York, the worst-hit state by far with more than a third of the country’s nearly 70,000 deaths, after a three-week decline in hospitalizations and a downtrend in the number of related deaths.

He said 230 New Yorkers died on Monday from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, a tick higher than Sunday but half the daily fatalities recorded two weeks ago. Hospitalizations and intubations continued to fall, Cuomo said.

The governor also called for a frank discussion about the trade-offs inherent in lifting restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, noting that some models were revising national death counts upwards due to the decision to start re-opening in more than half of the 50 states.

“The faster we reopen the lower the economic costs but the higher the human costs, because the more lives lost,” Cuomo said. “That is the hard truth that we are all dealing with. Let’s be honest about it.”

Cuomo criticized comments by U.S. President Donald Trump, who told the New York Post that giving federal funds to states financially crippled by the crisis would amount to bailing out Democratic governors who had mismanaged their states.

Calling on Trump to take a bipartisan approach, Cuomo said blocking funds to states hit hardest by the pandemic would prove to be “self-defeating.”

“If you starve the states, how do you expect states to fund” their reopening, said Cuomo, who has estimated New York faces a $10 to $15 billion budget shortfall. “If you go down this path of division you will defeat all of us.”

Cuomo showed a slide of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, displaying former President Abraham Lincoln’s famous line: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The memorial was the backdrop for Trump’s virtual town hall on the pandemic broadcast by FOX News on Sunday night.

(reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, David Gregorio and Sonya Hepinstall)

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