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Cuomo OKs phase 2 reopening for 5 upstate regions; NYC to enter phase 1 on June 8

Gov. Andrew Cuomo enters his daily coronavirus briefing in New Rochelle on Friday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo enters his daily coronavirus briefing in New Rochelle on Friday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the go-ahead to five upstate regions to enter phase two of the reopening process Friday and said New York City, the last part of the state still on lockdown, will begin phase one of reopening on June 8.

Cuomo created some confusion when he said on WAMC public radio Thursday afternoon that the five regions of the state poised to enter phase two -- the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, the Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, North Country and central New York -- would have to wait until the metrics of the virus in their areas were reviewed by “international experts.”

The governor on May 18 announced that top scientists from the University of Minnesota and Imperial College London would work with his office on analyzing reopening data, and help track the process.

Some local leaders expressed frustration and said they were blindsided by the announcement and that there was a lack of transparency from the governor’s office.

Cuomo, in a 1 p.m. briefing Friday, shrugged off the controversy, saying the regions were still authorized to enter phase two on Friday, just a little later than they had anticipated.

“A county executive may be very good at what they do, but they’re not an expert in viral transmission in a global pandemic,” Cuomo said. “I wanted to make sure we had the best minds look at all the data before we stepped forward.”  

Phase two reopening includes barbers and hairstylists, for appointment only. The governor’s office published detailed guidelines on its website, NY Forward. Among them, hair care professionals will need to get tested for the coronavirus every two weeks.

Other businesses authorized to reopen in phase two include professional offices, at 50% occupancy, as well as real estate offices and car dealers. Retail shops can open, also at 50% occupancy. All must practice social distancing and wear masks or face coverings. Shopping malls will remain closed for now, except for stores with outside entrances.

The governor also announced New York City will begin reopening June 8. Social distancing plans for public transportation, including commuter trains and the New York City subways, will be completed in the coming days. Cuomo said the trains will continue to be disinfected, and riders will be required to wear masks.

The remainder of the state -- the Capital Region, western New York, Long Island and the Hudson Valley -- are in phase one of the reopening, and local leaders in those areas believe they will be given the green light to enter phase two sometime next week. But Cuomo did not guarantee that will happen, saying the numbers have to be reviewed to  show it is safe to continue reopening.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.