New York City to enforce quarantine order for U.K. travelers with home visits -mayor

(Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said members of the city Sheriff’s office would start paying home visits to enforce a quarantine order for travelers from the United Kingdom in an effort to stop the spread of a new COVID-19 variant found in that country.

De Blasio said that all international travelers to New York City would start receiving a Department of Health Commissioner’s order to quarantine, delivered via certified mail, and travelers could face a $1000 fine per day for violating the rules.

The city Sheriff’s office will check on travelers from the U.K. at their homes or hotels to ensure compliance, de Blasio said, taking extra precaution out of concern that those travelers could bring a new, highly transmissible variant of the virus to New York.

“We’re going to provide them with that commissioner’s order, but then there’s going to be a follow up, direct home visit or hotel visit from the sheriff’s deputy to confirm that they are following the quarantine,” de Blasio said.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

New York City changes admissions at many schools to ease racial segregation

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City is overhauling how it admits students to some of its most competitive public schools to make them less segregated by race and wealth, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday.

Some selective Manhattan high schools, particularly in wealthy neighborhoods, are allowed to give children who live nearby priority in admissions, which has tended to put children living in poorer neighborhoods at a disadvantage. These so-called geographic priorities will be ended over the coming two years, making it easier for children from anywhere to apply for a spot, the mayor said at a news conference.

The city will also end “screening” practices at hundreds of middle schools that admit students based on a mixture of grades, test results, attendance rates.

These practices led to disproportionately high admissions of white and Asian students and fewer Black and Latino students in the best-performing schools in the nation’s largest and most diverse education system, which serves some 1.1 million children. Admissions will instead be determined by a random lottery.

“We have been doing this work for seven years to more equitably redistribute resources throughout our school system,” de Blasio told reporters. “I think these changes will improve justice and fairness.”

Although calls to overhaul school admissions long predate the novel coronavirus pandemic, the disruption caused by school closures to stem the spread of COVID-19 was a factor in the overhaul: for example, some state exams were canceled and attendance rates became more difficult to track, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told reporters.

The New York Civil Liberties Union welcomed the changes but said they should have come sooner, and called for the permanent removal of screening at the high-school level.

“It should not have taken a pandemic to finally remove discriminatory admissions screens for children applying to middle school and to remove the egregious district priorities that concentrate wealth and resources into a few schools,” NYCLU organizer Toni Smith-Thompson said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Tom Brown)

New York police lacked training, used excessive force during summer protests, city investigation finds

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York Police Department used excessive force during the wave of protests across the city this summer against police brutality and racism, according to a report published on Friday morning by New York City’s Department of Investigation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio asked for the investigation in May as social media became deluged with cellphone videos showing police officers dousing protesters, elected officials and journalists with chemical irritants, shoving and hitting them while they struggled on the ground and, in one instance, driving police vehicles into them.

The report said the NYPD’s response was excessive in part because most police officers involved had not received “relevant training” in policing protests.

“The NYPD’s use of force and certain crowd control tactics to respond to the Floyd protests produced excessive enforcement that contributed to heightened tensions,” the Department of Investigation said in the executive summary of its 111-page report.

The daily New York City protests were a prominent part of what quickly became a nationwide and international movement prompted in part by anger over George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, and Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in her Louisville home by white police officers during a botched raid.

De Blasio, who repeatedly defended his police department’s conduct during the protests, said he agreed with the report’s findings.

“It makes very clear we’ve got to do something different, and we’ve got to do something better,” he said in a video statement released by City Hall.

The report concluded that the city’s unusual system of three distinct, sometimes overlapping agencies conducting oversight of the police department had caused problems. It recommended that the city create a single independent police oversight agency.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea in a statement called the summer a “difficult period” and thanked the Department of Investigation for “20 logical and thoughtful recommendations that I intend to incorporate into our future policy and training.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Winter storm set to deliver disruptive blow to U.S. Northeast

By Peter Szekely

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A major winter storm was making its way up the U.S. East Coast on Wednesday, ready to deliver a disruptive blow to the region, with up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow in parts of the Northeast and freezing rain in some Mid-Atlantic areas, forecasters said.

The Nor’easter, which was already bringing a wintry mix of precipitation to Virginia and North Carolina early in the day, was moving up the coast that is home to more than 50 million people before exiting the Boston area on Thursday afternoon, they said.

Meteorologist Bob Oravec of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said the forecast could have been worse if not for the speed at which the system was traveling.

“It’s not a slow-moving system at all, so it’s not going to be a very prolonged snow event,” Oravec said by phone.

Ground zero for snow accumulation is an area that includes several ski resorts stretching from central Pennsylvania to upstate New York, where 18 to 24 inches was expected, Oravec said.

“Typically, when you have a big snowstorm like this, you can have snow totals one to two inches plus per hour,” he added.

But a much larger area that includes the New York City area is likely to get more than a foot of snow, he said.

New York City officials began warning residents on Tuesday of the potential for hazardous travel and urged people to stay off the roads.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that it was shaping up to be the first major snowstorm in a couple of years, “and people need to take it seriously.”

New York City schools, which just recently reopened their classrooms after a brief pandemic-induced shutdown, were set to go fully remote on Thursday when students are likely to wake up to more than a foot of snow on the ground, de Blasio said. The snow could significantly reduce visibility and potentially cripple travel in places, while winds of up to 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour) could down trees and power lines, causing power outages, the weather service said.

Many areas of North Carolina and southwestern Virginia were expected to get freezing rain that will leave a quarter-inch of ice on the roads, the service said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brian in Chicago)

New York City public schools will begin to reopen with weekly COVID-19 testing

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City’s public schools will begin to reopen for in-person learning on Dec. 7, starting with elementary schools for students whose parents agree to a weekly testing regimen for the novel coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday.

The schools, which make up the country’s largest school system, were closed less than two weeks ago after the citywide rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive exceeded a 3% benchmark agreed to by the mayor and the teachers’ union.

“It’s a new approach because we have so much proof now of how safe schools can be,” de Blasio told reporters, saying the 3% benchmark was being scrapped and pointing to research that shows young children appear to be less vulnerable to COVID-19. On Sunday, the city’s seven-day rolling average of positive tests was 3.9%, de Blasio said.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who joined the mayor at a news conference, said with the new measures he believed the city could “safely and successfully keep our schools open for the duration of this pandemic.”

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that the labor union was supportive of the mayor’s phased reopening so long as “stringent testing was in place.”

New York City, which teaches more than 1.1 million students in its public schools, was one of the few jurisdictions in the United States to attempt to reopen schools in the autumn as the country continues to struggle with the world’s deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, and its efforts are being widely watched. But it closed classrooms back down in mid-November, less than eight weeks after they had begun to offer in-class lessons.

Some New Yorkers were frustrated to see schools close down again while gyms were allowed to operate and restaurants could offer indoor dining in most areas under rules enforced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has publicly feuded with de Blasio over how best to tamp down the virus’ spread.

“I think that’s the right direction,” Cuomo said of the mayor’s announcement on a later conference call with reporters. Health experts said schools “should be kept open whenever it’s possible to keep them open safely,” he said.

Pre-kindergarten classes will also reopen Dec. 7 alongside elementary schools. Schools that serve children with special educational needs, known as District 75 schools, will reopen Dec. 10. De Blasio said middle schools and high schools would reopen at later dates that had not yet been set.

Many families had opted for remote learning even as classrooms reopened in September, but the city also offered “blended” learning, with students attending in-person classes a few days each week if they agreed to monthly coronavirus tests.

With the reopening of schools next month, to enter a classroom, students must have a signed consent form agreeing to coronavirus testing or a letter of medical exemption from a doctor, de Blasio said. Tests will be soon be carried out in schools on a weekly, not monthly, basis, but only about a fifth of students will be tested in a given week.

The mayor said the plan was to have in-person learning five days a week where possible when schools reopen.

The governor retains the power to override the city and close schools in neighborhoods where the test positivity rate surges, de Blasio noted. The city will also monitor schools’ coronavirus test results, and may close down any individual classrooms or entire schools where multiple cases are reported.

The United States has reported over 4 million new cases so far in November and over 35,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a Reuters tally, with more hospitalizations than ever this year and deaths reaching their highest level in six months.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Additional reporting by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Leslie Adler)

David Dinkins, New York’s first and only Black mayor, dies at 93

By Derek Francis

(Reuters) – David Dinkins, who served as New York City’s first and only African-American mayor during the 1990s, died on Monday at the age of 93, police said.

His death appeared to be of natural causes, Detective Adam Navarro of the city’s police department told Reuters.

Born in 1927 in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins attended Howard University and Brooklyn Law School.

He eventually came to Harlem, the historically Black neighborhood in upper Manhattan, where he rose in the ranks of local politics.

“I’m feeling something painful in my heart right now. I’m feeling like a loss and an emptiness because he’s gone,” an emotional New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday. “But I also really feel his guidance still, his presence. And we’re going to keep going, we’re going to continue his fight.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James, Governor Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were among the many others paying tribute to Dinkins.

“For decades, Mayor Dinkins led with compassion and an unparalleled commitment to our communities,” James said in a statement. “New York will mourn Mayor Dinkins and continue to be moved by his towering legacy.”

“The first and the only Black mayor of NYC, he cherished our “gorgeous mosaic” & served the city & state over a career spanning decades with the hope of unity and a deep kindness,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.

In Harlem, Dinkins formed part of a group of Black power brokers, known as the “Gang of Four,” that included congressman Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton and Basil Paterson, the father of future New York Governor David Paterson.

Dinkins defeated the three-term incumbent Democrat Mayor Ed Koch in the primary and then Republican prosecutor Rudy Giuliani in the 1989 mayoral race.

Giuliani, who would come back to defeat Dinkins four years later, was among the first to pay tribute.

“I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins, and to the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him,” Giuliani said on Twitter. “He gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recognized the former mayor’s achievements in a statement on Tuesday. “Winning his election against all odds, he showed us what was possible at a time when opportunities were limited.”

New York, during Dinkins’ term, was battling high crime, a fierce economic recession and the AIDS epidemic.

But it was his role in the 1991 Crown Heights riot that would most define his mayoralty.

The riot was sparked in the racially divided Brooklyn neighborhood by the acquittal of a young black man, Lemrick Nelson, in the killing of Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Jewish student.

Speaking in 2011, Dinkins remembered his handling of the riot as one of his chief regrets.

“The thing that hurt the most, I suppose, was to be accused by some of permitting – holding the police back – and permitting young blacks to attack Jews,” Dinkins said, according to the New York Times.

“And this was untrue, inaccurate and not so, and that’s kind of painful. But if I had it to do over again, I would have said maybe 24 hours earlier to the police, ‘What you’re doing isn’t working,’ which I finally said.”

(Reporting by Derek Francis; additional reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Robert Birsel and Bill Berkrot)

California, Ohio order nightly curfews on gatherings as coronavirus surges

By Sharon Bernstein and Maria Caspani

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California’s governor on Thursday imposed a curfew on social gatherings and other non-essential activities in one of the most intrusive of the restrictions being ordered across the country to curb an alarming surge in novel coronavirus infections.

The stay-at-home order will go into effect from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. each day, starting Saturday night and ending on the morning of Dec. 21, covering 41 of California’s 58 counties and the vast majority of its population, Governor Gavin Newsom said.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement announcing the measure a week before the Thanksgiving holiday.

A similar 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew order was issued on Thursday in Ohio and will remain in effect for the next 21 days, Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced separately.

As in California, the Ohio curfew would not prohibit grocery stores from remaining open past 10 p.m., or keep restaurants from staying open late for takeout orders. Individuals would likewise be permitted to venture out for food, medical care, or other necessities, as well as to take a jog or walk a dog.

In California, the restriction essentially marks a return to the first-in-the-nation, statewide stay-home order that Newsom imposed in March, except it applies only during the designated curfew hours rather than around the clock.

Signs of a resurgent public health crisis have emerged more starkly across the country, with officials forced to retreat from tentative steps to normalize daily life during what had been a brief lull in the pandemic.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “strong recommendation” on Thursday that Americans refrain from traveling for the holiday.

Later in the day, President-elect Joe Biden emerged from a teleconference with a bipartisan group of 10 governors saying they had discussed a possible universal face-mask requirement – an idea Biden has strenuously advocated as a “patriotic duty.”

Biden also repeated he had no plans to impose a U.S. economic lockdown.

REIMPOSING RESTRICTIONS

Newsom and DeWine’s orders were among the most restrictive of various measures state and local government leaders nationwide have imposed on social and economic life this week as COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have soared heading into the winter, when more people congregate indoors.

Minnesota ordered a shutdown of restaurants, bars, fitness centers and entertainment venues from Friday until Dec. 18 at the earliest, as the state’s hospital intensive care units were being stretched to capacity.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States has jumped nearly 50% in the past two weeks, with more than 80,000 people being treated for the disease in hospitals across the country as of late Thursday, a Reuters tally showed, the most at any time during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 surge – and the refusal of some Americans to take it seriously as a real threat – has taken its toll on healthcare workers.

“I think that we’re exhausted. We feel alone, alienated and hearing people not being supportive or compassionate – in fact, saying that we’re in some conspiracy – is incredibly painful,” Mariam Torossian, a pulmonary critical care physician at Providence Saint Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank, California.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 250,000 on Wednesday, with more than 2,000 additional lives lost as of Thursday, and public health experts projecting the cumulative number could climb well above 400,000 by March.

More than 20 states have adopted new mandates this month to confront the mounting crisis.

Newsom, a first-term Democrat, warned that “more stringent actions” may be necessary in California, the most populous U.S. state with some 40 million residents, if the latest efforts to blunt the contagion fall short.

Still, Republican state Assemblyman James Gallagher branded the governor’s curfew “arbitrary,” saying it would “further decimate struggling businesses that already face some of the toughest hurdles in the country.”

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, also a Republican, said he would not enforce it.

NEW YORK SCHOOLS, RESTAURANTS

New York City’s public school system, the nation’s largest, halted in-class instruction due to rising infection rates just weeks after allowing its 1.1 million students back into classrooms on a part-time basis.

Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his decision to close the schools as a necessary but temporary measure, and said he expects the state to shut down indoor restaurant dining and gyms in the city “within a week or two” given rising infection rates.

Still, working parents voiced exasperation at the hardships it placed on them and the emotional toll on their children.

“I am sick, as a working mom, of waiting, checking Twitter to see if schools are going to be open tomorrow and how to juggle my work responsibilities and tell my daughter again to buck up,” Natalia Petrzela, whose 8-year-old attends public school in the city, told Reuters.

The Northeast, which for months had maintained low infection rates after being the epicenter of the pandemic in the spring, has experienced the highest percentage jump in hospitalizations at 85% over the past 14 days, according to Reuters data. During that same period, hospitalizations in the Midwest have risen 57%, in the West by 50%, and in the South by 34%.

In the nation’s capital, the Smithsonian Institution announced it would close its museums and the National Zoo beginning on Monday, with no set reopening date.

Looking further ahead, Pennsylvania officials announced that crowds will not be permitted to attend annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 2.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Sharon Bernstein; Additional reporting by Anurag Maan, Rich McKay, Susan Heavey, Angela Moore and Rollo Ross; Writing by Steve Gorman and Gabriella Borter; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Bill Tarrant and Daniel Wallis)

New York City holds off school closure as U.S. braces for virus-stricken winter

By Gabriella Borter and Anurag Maan

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City schools were set to remain open for at least another day despite a rising COVID-19 case count, the mayor said on Tuesday, as surging infections and hospitalizations in the United States from coast to coast prompted new restrictions and predictions of a difficult winter ahead.

New York, home to the nation’s largest school district, reported a 7-day positive COVID-19 test rate of 2.74% on Tuesday – more than double what it was over the summer, but below the 3% threshold that Mayor Bill de Blasio set for keeping schools open.

“Everyone’s been participating in the things that have kept schools safe. Everyone has been wearing their masks … and we need to keep doing that to do our very, very best to keep schools open,” de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday.

“We have some new challenges because of what’s going on around us,” he added.

Beyond New York City, which was the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 crisis in the spring, infections have reached unprecedented levels nationwide.

Forty-one U.S. states have reported record increases in COVID-19 cases in November, while 20 have seen a record rise in deaths and 26 reported record hospitalizations, according to a Reuters tally of public health data. Twenty-five states reported test positivity rates above 10% for the week ending on Sunday, Nov. 15. The World Health Organization considers a positivity rate above 5% to be concerning.

The Midwest remains the hardest-hit U.S. region. It reported 444,677 cases in the week ending on Monday, Nov. 16, 36% more than the combined cases of the Northeast and West regions.

The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in the United States hit a record of 73,140 on Monday. Hospitalizations have increased over 46% in past 14 days, according to a Reuters tally.

New York is among several northeast states that had managed to contain the virus fairly well over the summer after a frightening spring wave, but now has one of the highest week-over-week case increases as of Sunday.

Infections have also jumped in neighboring Connecticut by more than 50% in the last week from the week prior.

“Right now we see the storm clouds coming again,” Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat, told MSNBC in an interview on Tuesday.

Governors of several states and city officials have imposed new restrictions on indoor gatherings in recent days in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease over the winter, with the prospect of a widely available, effective vaccine still months away.

Several have urged citizens to exercise caution around the Thanksgiving holiday and not travel or socialize with extended family for the traditional indoor feast.

“I know this is difficult & frustrating, especially with the holidays right around the corner,” Vermont Governor Phil Scott wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, referring to his ban on multihousehold gatherings. “But it’s necessary & we need your help to get this back under control.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Anurag Maan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Maria Caspani; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Wall Street veteran Ray McGuire to run for New York mayor

By Noor Zainab Hussain and Imani Moise

(Reuters) – Ray McGuire, one of the senior-most Black executives on Wall Street, is leaving his job at Citigroup Inc to run for mayor of New York in 2021, his spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Although McGuire is a longshot in the race, a successful candidacy would make him only the second Black mayor of America’s largest city, after David Dinkins’ stint as New York mayor in the 1990s.

“It is correct that he is exploring a run for mayor … he has taken the first step in doing that, which is that he has filed with the Campaign Finance Board in New York City,” the spokeswoman said.

Current Mayor Bill de Blasio will step down after his current term, as city laws prevent him from seeking a third term.

Citi’s chief executive, Michael Corbat, told employees that McGuire will leave the bank after 15 years in various roles to pursue his “lifelong passion for public service,” according to a memo seen by Reuters.

McGuire headed Citi’s corporate and investment banking unit for 13 years and was most recently also chairman of banking, capital markets and advisory. Prior to Citi, 63-year-old McGuire was at Morgan Stanley.

The move into politics for McGuire, who until recently held the title of vice chairman at Citi, comes after he was on a short list of candidates to head the New York Federal Reserve in 2018.

McGuire is not the first Wall Street executive to dabble in politics. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg was New York mayor from 2001-2013, and Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs banker, is the current governor of New Jersey.

The New York Times first reported McGuire’s decision to run for mayor earlier on Thursday.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Imani Moise in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Lauren Tara LaCapra and Steve Orlofsky)

New York governor closes schools in coronavirus ‘hot spots’

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered schools to close beginning on Tuesday in several coronavirus “hot spots” in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

The announcement brings forward a plan by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to close schools in 11 neighborhoods beginning on Wednesday after coronavirus test positivity rates rose above 3% in those areas for seven days in a row.

“I am not going to recommend or allow any New York City family to send their child to a school that I wouldn’t send my child,” Cuomo said at a news conference on Monday.

He said the state would take over enforcement of social distancing rules from local authorities in the hot spots.

Cuomo and de Blasio have repeatedly squabbled over government responses to the spread of COVID-19. Cuomo again chastised the mayor on Monday for what he said was lackluster enforcement of social distancing rules.

The two leaders have not appeared together in public in many months, although Cuomo said he spoke by phone with the mayor earlier on Monday.

De Blasio has defended his efforts.

“I think it goes far beyond the question of enforcement,” he told CNN on Monday in response to Cuomo’s comments. “I think here’s a case where we need to really work deeply with communities, with community leaders, to have a bigger turnaround in the way people are handling things.”

Cuomo said he was also concerned about similar rising coronavirus rates in Rockland and Orange counties north of New York City, and that he may consider closing schools there too.

Many of the affected neighborhoods include large, close-knit Orthodox Jewish communities. Cuomo said he planned to meet with community leaders again on Tuesday to seek their help with getting people to comply with the rules.

New York faced one of the nation’s earliest and most devastating outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in the spring, but has since managed to largely curtail its spread.

On Monday, 1.22% of coronavirus tests statewide were reported to be positive, including those from the hot spots, Cuomo said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)