What Lies Ahead for New York?



The coronavirus pandemic has shut down the streets of New York City, and we can only hope that life returns to normal soon.


graphic for leo bernabei's column of a street sign and red text that says "five guys boroughs and fries new york city politics"Hope is dawning in New York City. 

It wasn’t long ago that everything seemed dreadful: hundreds dying each day, an upward curve of new infections showing no sign of slowing down, an impending shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment, and 8.6 million shut-in city residents. 

Today, New York is beginning to emerge from the coronavirus crisis. Now, new cases and deaths due to the coronavirus are dropping across the Empire State, as is the need for health care resources. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on April 15 that the state would even be giving away some of its ventilators to states further behind on their infection curves. Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken a more cautious tone, canceling permitted events in the city until at least June and telling New Yorkers to keep their expectations low for summer plans.

It hasn’t been since Feb. 29 that New York state was coronavirus-free. Think about where you were then. You probably didn’t have an inkling of what was about to happen — I know that I didn’t. But our world is now changed, and our past life on campus may seem like a fleeting memory.

But the state and city won’t remain closed forever. Normal life will return. We may not shake hands, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, argued, nor may we flock to sporting events or concerts as we used to, but we will go back to our regular life. The questions remain: How so, and when?

Because the virus is spreading asymmetrically throughout the country, it’s likely that states and cities not hit as hard may reopen before New York. The Trump administration is anticipating a late April or early May “Phase One” reopening for many parts of the nation.

But the federal government can only reopen so much. This burden lies on states and their governors. Cuomo has already indicated that he does not have a potential timeframe for when New Yorkers will resume their normal lives. Likewise, de Blasio said it might not be until July that the city is largely back to normal.

But there are certainly some logical steps that the city and state can take to ease us all back into the swing of things. Cuomo and others want first to increase their ability to conduct widespread testing in order to isolate the sick and track existing cases using Bluetooth technology.

It’ll be on all of us to continue to slow this spread and, hopefully by this fall, keep the curve flat.

This is step one. We still need to practice social distancing even if the state is able to test every New Yorker because of how contagious this virus is. With businesses, restaurants and schools open, this will be difficult, but not impossible. Just as Cuomo originally limited restaurants and bars to 50% of their legal capacity, the same tactic should be employed in all businesses, including essential stores, to ease us out of a shutdown. It’s also likely that his requirement to wear masks in public places where social distancing is impossible won’t go away anytime soon. New York may begin to look like cities in China where mask-wearing is seen as a necessity for many. 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has been running on a curtailed schedule for the past month, will still need to clean and sanitize their public transportation on an expedited schedule. And, of course, we shouldn’t even entertain the thought of packing Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium to the brim until a vaccine is widely available. Sean Hannity jokingly suggested that we drink beers at Yankees’ games with a straw. Once the stadium opens, that may not end up being a joke.

Instead of discussing academic and residential life policies with Fordham’s freshman class, maybe the administration will opt to replace a visit to the New York Society for Ethical Culture with a discussion on sanitation and dormitory cleaning procedures from a doctor or nurse. This is all part of the normal we’ll be returning to in the coming months.

We must not let our guard down too quickly. Even when we return to campus this fall (hopefully on time), it’s all but guaranteed that the novel coronavirus will still be spreading in our city and across the country. It’ll be on all of us to continue to slow this spread and, hopefully by this fall, keep the curve flat.

But with cautiousness moving forward, we can only hope that our city returns to normal very soon. While it may seem as if we are spending an eternity cooped inside our parents’ homes with cabin fever, New York is slowly but surely getting its routine back. It won’t be long until we do, too.