De Blasio praises New Yorkers for warm weather social distancing

NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers were mostly adhering to social distancing rules while outside enjoying the warmest weekend in a spring clouded by the coronavirus crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday.

“The big story here is what New Yorkers have done right,” de Blasio said.

Tens of thousands of people flocked to the city’s parks and public spaces Saturday as temperatures hit the low-70s (about 23 degrees Celsius).

Police commissioner Dermot Shea said officers issued 51 summonses on Saturday, including 43 in parks. Shea said he was aware of three arrests.

About 1,000 police officers were out on foot, bicycles, in patrol cars and even on horseback to enforce public health restrictions requiring people — as well as couples, families and other small groups living under the same roof — to keep 6 feet away from others. Police had to break up some large gatherings and stop people from playing team sports, which are still banned.

Officers were also handing out face masks, which people are required to wear when social distancing is not possible.

“The vast majority of New Yorkers have really risen to the challenge,” de Blasio said, though he and Shea acknowledged some hiccups, including big crowds at Manhattan's Christopher Street Pier and Brooklyn's Domino Park.

De Blasio said he's also asked police to increase patrols Sunday in Manhattan's Hudson River Park after crowding issues there on Saturday.

In another incident, Shea said police seized six motorcycles in Astoria Park in Queens on Saturday, including two that were found to have been stolen.

Still, Shea said, the vast majority of New Yorkers behaved.

“We had tens of thousands of interactions with people all across the city yesterday, most of them all without having to issue any type of enforcement activity,” Shea said. “New Yorkers are exhibiting extreme patience for the last two months. We’re going to ask for a little more of it.”


Here are other coronavirus developments in New York:


Mount Sinai Hospital Health System said it’s shutting down the small field hospital it erected in Central Park through a partnership with a charity run by Christian evangelical preacher Franklin Graham.

Only eight patients remained at the makeshift hospital as of Saturday.

It plans to stop admitting new patients to the field hospital as of Monday. Officials said it would take about two weeks to treat these last patients and then decontaminate and remove the tents.

“While this crisis is far from over, this marks a significant turning point in the coronavirus outbreak in New York that gives us assurance that we are returning towards normalcy,” the system said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We are grateful to have fought the coronavirus together alongside the courageous people of New York City.”

Mount Sinai Health System partnered with the Graham's charity Samaritan’s Purse to open the field hospital, treating 315 people infected with the coronavirus since April 1.

The hospital had come under fire from some city officials and activists over Samaritan’s Purse’s practice of having volunteers and staff sign a statement of religious beliefs that included a rejection of same-sex marriage. That practice didn’t apply to the Mt. Sinai doctors staffing the field hospital.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, called Friday for the hospital to be taken down because of its affiliation with Graham.



The virus killed 299 people in the state Friday, according to Cuomo. That brings the state’s official death toll to more than 18,900, a number that does not include 5,200 additional victims in New York City whose deaths were blamed on the virus on death certificates, but whose infections haven’t been confirmed by a lab test.

Another 831 people were hospitalized with the virus Friday, Cuomo said, a number that has been dropping but which he said remains disturbingly high.

The governor on Saturday toured a Metropolitan Transportation Authority maintenance facility in Queens, seeking to highlight the closure of New York City's subway system from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. so trains and stations can be disinfected.

He described the cleaning as labor intensive, with workers wearing haz-mat suits.

“This has never been done before,” Cuomo said. "You have to go through the whole train with a misting device where they spray disinfectant on every surface.”