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Several upstate regions begin to reopen at 12:01 a.m. Friday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his daily COVID-19 briefing May 13. At left is Chief of Staff Melissa DeRosa.
Governor Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his daily COVID-19 briefing May 13. At left is Chief of Staff Melissa DeRosa.


Several upstate regions of New York are poised to begin reopening Friday. Among them is central New York after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that it can now join the areas that are starting the first phase of a reopening.

The city of Syracuse and surrounding areas, along with New York’s North Country, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Rochester-Finger Lakes area will begin the first phaseof economic reopening Friday.

Construction and manufacturing firms will be allowed to restart, as well as all retail stores for curbside or in-store pick-up only. The businesses must work out a plan to keep their workers safe through adequate personal protective gear and cleaning and social distancing, and they have to submit it to regional boards set up a few days ago for review.

Cuomo said while the news is welcome to people living in those areas, he says they should be sensible about it.

“People are going to say ‘hallelujah’ and run out of their house. They are going to want to get out, they are going to want to do things,” Cuomo said. “Phased reopening does not mean the problem has gone away.”

All of downstate, New York City and its suburbs, Long Island, and the Albany and Buffalo regions will remain shut down for now, because either the rate of infection is not declining, or there aren’t enough extra hospital beds.

There are some limited businesses openings statewide. They include landscapers and gardening services, low-risk outdoor activities, including tennis, and drive-in movie theaters.

The regions that are allowed to open will be monitored each day to make sure the rate of new infections or hospitalization rates don’t spike again. If that happens, those businesses allowed to open might have to be shut down again.

Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s chief of staff, said it's hoped that the phased-in reopening is done carefully, with proper testing and contact tracing.

“Or else we go back to square one,” DeRosa said. “And I think we can all agree no one wants to live through this again.”

If the first phase is successful, the second phase could begin in a couple of weeks. That step includes the full reopening of shopping malls and retail stores, along with professional and administrative services, as well as real estate and rental leasing agencies.

The third phase would allow restaurants to reopen, and in the fourth phase, arts and entertainment like sporting events and concerts could be held, and schools would be allowed to reopen.

There are still some details to be worked out. Cuomo, in response to a question during his daily coronavirus briefing, said he and his aides have not yet determined when some personal services can reopen, including hairstylists and barbers.

“I just don’t know where hairstylists fall,” Cuomo said. But he said he hoped to have an answer soon.

Houses of worship are also not specifically mentioned in any of the reopening phases, but the governor said they would fall under the category of large gatherings, which still need to be avoided.

While there are rules about businesses, Cuomo was asked about personal behavior, and whether people should continue to avoid visiting elderly relatives as a means to keep them safe. The governor said it’s up to the individual to decide.

“I suggest caution, because this virus has only gotten worse, the more we know,” Cuomo said.

But Cuomo said he did approve a series of guidelines in an executive order on March 20 that he dubbed “Matilda’s Law” after his mother, Matilda Cuomo, who is 88.

It requires elderly or immunocompromised New Yorkers to stay home and, in case of an emergency, limit visitors to immediate family or close friends who are not experiencing any symptoms of illness. Everyone should wear masks during the visit. Cuomo said he has not visited his mother since mid-March, before the shutdowns began.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.