New York City has kept its Covid-19 infection rates low, but the risk of a resurgence looms over the Big Apple as fall approaches.

The city has been a success story in combating Covid-19 since March and April, when the pandemic swept through its boroughs killing thousands of people. Yet the strategies that helped suppress the first surge -- dropping the infection rate to just 1% statewide -- will be tested as cooler weather pushes people together indoors.

Melbourne, Australia, with 5 million people, offers a case in point. With the Fahrenheit dropping into the 50s, Melbourne has seen an upswing in cases, a foreboding indicator of how tough it may be for cities like New York to control infections as the mercury drops. With fall and winter approaching, it’s “inevitable” Covid-19 cases will tick up, said Ashish Jha, director of Harvard University’s Global Health Institute.

“I am worried about complacency,” Jha said in an interview. “New York went through such a difficult few months, and I am worried that people are tired. A lot of people are looking at New York over the next six months and saying: ‘Could we possibly see a spike?’”

On Friday, federal health officials, including Anthony Fauci, were testifying at a hearing hosted by a House panel calling for a national plan to contain the virus. According to their prepared testimony, the officials will highlight public-health interventions, vaccine and therapeutic development work and the build-out of testing infrastructure.

New York’s success is seen as somewhat of a beacon for the rest of the country. If the city can keep its rate low as it reopens through the fall and winter, then epidemiologists say its efforts can serve as a model for other big cities nationwide.

The city entered Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan on July 20. Stores are open, though with capacity limited, and New Yorkers can enjoy outdoor dining at restaurants. However, indoor dining, bars and gyms remain closed while the wearing of masks, social distancing and aggressive hygiene practices are still being pushed as imperative.

When the U.S. passed a grim milestone with more than 150,000 Americans having died from the pandemic, New York reported just 59 new cases citywide on Tuesday. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Florida and Arizona reported record death tallies.

State Actions
The state is already taking steps to head off any uptick. On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York is making $30 million available to counties to increase contact tracing as well as testing for the coming flu season, which generally hits in the fall and winter.

Influenza will pose problems, he said, since symptoms will look like those of Covid-19. Tests must be done at the same lab facilities that already are busy conducting coronavirus testing, according to Cuomo. “That could affect the turnaround time on the Covid tests, so we want the counties to be ready,” he said.

The city has also developed a testing and contact-tracing initiative called NYC Test & Trace Corps. Contact tracing is key in finding suspected cases, identifying clusters and isolating the sick. Though it must be paired with a quick turnaround for test results.

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