This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Saturday, April 25th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.

Read our guide to understanding New York on PAUSE, NY’s stay-at-home order; a look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

4:00 p.m. The estimated 5,000 independent pharmacies in the state will be permitted by executive order to administer COVID-19 testing as more categories of essential personnel become eligible for testing, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

“We’re going to authorize all the independent pharmacists in this state to be collection sites for testing,” he said in his Saturday briefing. “Some of them have already been doing it, some of the larger national chains. But if your local drugstore can now become a collection site, people could go to their local drugstore. There are about 5,000 in New York — they would be collection sites that would quickly ramp up our collection capacity. So we’re doing that and since we now have more collection sites, more testing capacity, we can open up the eligibility for those tests.”

Due to supply chain and testing equipment shortages, the state health department still prioritizes testing for people who need hospital care, though there has been an increased capacity to test for essential healthcare workers and first responders.

Adding the pharmacies to the network of testing sites means more frontline essential personnel can be now tested, Cuomo said.

“We had a protocol with eligibility—not everybody could get a test and that’s been a big complaint across the board. Everybody wants a test and they couldn’t get tests because we had a tight screen on the eligibility, because we had a limited capacity to test. As you increase the capacity to test, you can increase the eligibility,” he said. “We’re dramatically increasing the capacity with these groups.”

Newly eligible candidates are people who work in a variety of service industries as shown in one of Cuomo’s slides:

A list of essential personnel that can now seek testing for COVID-19.
A list of essential personnel that can now seek testing for COVID-19. GOVERNOR’S OFFICE SCREENSHOT
“Hopefully one day we get to the point where anybody who wants a test can walk in and get a test, right? That was the dream, but we found out quickly that we couldn’t do that. You have 19 million people in the state,” he said. “So, we had to prioritize. We still are prioritizing, but we’re opening that prioritization. The more capacity, the more tests, the more we’ll open the eligibility criteria.”

Cuomo also announced the state will conduct antibody testing for health care workers at four hospitals: Bellevue Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital Center, Montefiore Medical Center and SUNY Downstate Medical Center which is currently being used only for COVID-19 patients.

The state will also begin antibody testing for first responders and transit works such as MTA employees, state police and NYPD next week.

The full benefits of antibody testing remain inconclusive, as the reliability of the numerous tests on the market haven’t been confirmed. This week, the city’s Department of Health issued guidance to healthcare providers warning that the antibody tests were unreliable and that they should not be used to determine “durable immunity.”

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority also announced Saturday that they will be checking employee temperatures at more than 70 rotating locations through their Temperature Brigade team.

The MTA originally began with seven temperature check locations, but the virus has had a devastating effect on the agency—at least 80 transit workers have died due to COVID-19.

“Our goal is to provide the optimal level of protection for our heroic employees, as well as extend that assurance to essential workers riding our trains and buses,” said MTA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren in a release. “We are heading toward having our Temperature Brigade Program test our entire workforce periodically prior to their reporting to work, an important measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The temperature check locations include 40 subway facilities, 13 MTA PD locations, 10 bus locations, four Long Island Rail Road facilities, three Metro-North facilities, and one Bridges & Tunnels location. These locations include bus depots and shops, train service delivery crew reporting facilities, stations, train car and right-of-way maintenance facilities, bus and subway control centers and a central operations training location.

Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher is sent home and instructed to seek medical guidance and report back to the MTA.

Cuomo Voices Concerns Over How Long Virus Lives On Surface
11:32 a.m. Before he outlined New York State’s estimated $13.3 billion budget shortfall during his Friday briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed COVID-19’s ability to survive on surfaces.

“One of the things we’re working on is how do we clean, how do we disinfect. We’re talking about reopening. We still have public transit systems running. We still have buses running. So we’ve been working on how to come up with new cleaning and disinfecting protocols,” he said. “I asked a simple question to our team a few days ago: how long does the virus live? It’s something we need to know, but frankly, I think it’s something everybody needs to know.”

A slide from Governor CUomo’s presentation that details how the virus can lives up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel
From his April 24, 2020 presentation GOVERNOR CUOMO’S OFFICE
Noting how the novel coronavirus can live on plastic and steel surfaces for up to three days, the governor said, “Just think about this from a transit point of view or from your car point of view. It can live on a vinyl car seat up to 72 hours. It can live on a pole in a bus or on a seat in a bus for up to 72 hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard, up to four hours on materials like copper, and the droplets can hang in the air for three hours.”

“This was a shocker to me,” Cuomo added. “When they were talking about droplets, I thought it was a droplet, and then it falls, right? It’s a droplet that can hang in the air for three hours. I don’t even know how that works. And many of the people who spread it are showing no symptoms at all. So just factor that in in your daily life when you’re going through your own precautions.”

This comes as other states have begun to reopen: Georgia allowed some businesses, like hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, gyms, and bowling alleys to see customers again on Friday, and on Monday dine-in restaurants can resume full service; Tennessee will let restaurants and some retail stores reopen next week. Wendy Hamilton, who has a small salon outside Atlanta, told the AJC she wouldn’t be opening just yet: “It’s just not a risk that I’m willing to take.”

President Donald Trump held a much shorter briefing on Friday evening, a day after he falsely and dangerously suggested that ingesting disinfectants or exposure to daylight could kill the virus. That announcement prompted Lysol and Clorox, along with the U.S. Surgeon General and numerous state health departments, to tell everyone not to ingest the chemical cleaning agents.