New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday the city plans to open 40 miles of streets in May and nearly 100 miles over the course of the city's Covid-19 outbreak to pedestrians as the weather warms.
"The open streets are going to be another way to help encourage social distancing, because the warmer weather tells us we're going to have a new challenge," de Blasio said at a press conference on Friday.
He said the city will start opening streets to pedestrians on Monday, with 4.5 miles of streets opening inside the city's parks and 2.7 miles of streets adjacent to parks. The plan is in coordination with the New York City Council, he said.
However, de Blasio added that the city will monitor the area to ensure people are still following social distancing guidelines and are wearing face coverings.
"That's the beginning, and we're going to build out from here," de Blasio said. "This is going to help people to have some more space but also with vigilant eyes to make sure there's no gatherings, there are no attempts by people to create sports or group activities."
Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, said the department worked with the New York Police Department, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Fire Department to select which streets would close.
"The kind of space where a pedestrian and a family can feel very, very comfortable that they're safe once they're there but we can also make sure that social distancing is observed," de Blasio said.
De Blasio also warned against protesters who want to reopen the city and ease social distancing guidelines, saying that history has proven that declaring victory prematurely can be a "very dangerous thing." He said New York City has not yet won its battle against the coronavirus outbreak.
"When anyone, from the president on down, talks about 'liberating' a city or a state without making sure that the facts support it and the protections are in place for people's health and safety, that's not liberation," de Blasio said. "That's actually damning people. That's damning them potentially to their deaths. We will not allow that here in New York City."
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said that the city is still in a phase of widespread transmission, where the origin of individual Covid-19 cases can't be traced, which means people still need to only go outside the home for essential activities, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer often and should wear face coverings.
De Blasio said the daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected Covid-19 and the percentage of people testing positive citywide increased. He said 202 people died from the coronavirus in the city on Thursday.
"The numbers I've been over today, especially the number of new cases and the number of new deaths, that is clearly widespread transmission, I'm sorry to say. We need to get to low-level transmission," de Blasio said.