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No region in NY currently qualifies to reopen businesses, Cuomo says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new metrics for reopening by region Monday
Office of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new metrics for reopening by region Monday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a seven-point metric for regions to follow in order to begin reopening businesses in less than two weeks Monday, but no part of the state currently qualifies to meet those standards. He delivered Monday's briefing at the Wegmans Conference Center in Chili.

The two most difficult metrics for regions to meet, according to state data, are requirements to increase the availability of diagnostic testing and contact tracers per capita.

New standards announced by Cuomo Monday will require each region to have 30 diagnostic COVID-19 tests available for every 1,000 residents, and 30 contact tracers employed for every 100,000 residents.

“These are the facts that they have to have in place to do it,” Cuomo said. “This is what a community has to deal with to reopen safely and intelligently, in my opinion.”

Contact tracers, who track where a positive COVID-19 patient may have spread the disease, appear to be particularly difficult, with no region in the state currently at a level that would allow businesses to reopen.

New York City has the most contact tracers of any region, with 2,520 available. The North Country has the least, with 126, according to the state. Neither meets the new standard to allow businesses to reopen, nor does any other region, the state’s analysis shows.

And only three regions of the state currently have the capacity to test 30 people for every 1,000 residents: New York City, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson region, where the state’s first major cluster of COVID-19 originated in Westchester County.

None of the state’s seven other regions — all considered to be in upstate New York — test enough people to begin reopening businesses later this month.

Cuomo’s so-called PAUSE order, which closed all nonessential businesses and limited restaurants to take-out and delivery, is set to expire on May 15. Regions can thereafter begin to reopen businesses if they’ve met the standards announced by Cuomo Monday.

Some of those standards are set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Others are specific to New York state.

The full checklist ranges from standards on the number of hospitalizations over time to the share of hospital beds available in each region. To start reopening, regions must have:

A 14-day decline in hospitalizations or fewer than 15 hospitalizations on average

A 14-day decline in hospital deaths or fewer than five deaths

Less than two new hospitalizations, on average, per 100,000 residents

More than 30% of total hospital beds available

More than 30% of intensive care unit beds available

At least 30 diagnostic tests available for every 1,000 residents

At least 30 contact tracers available for every 100,000 residents

Half of the state’s regions are close to meeting each of those standards. Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, and the Southern Tier have all met five of the seven standards, but they’re still behind on testing capacity and contact tracers.

Other regions have a long way to go. Long Island has seen a 14-day decline in the number of hospitalizations and has enough testing per capita, but hasn’t met any of the five other standards.

New York City and Western New York have both met only three of the state’s standards, though they’re different between the two regions.

Hospitalizations, deaths, and the testing capacity in New York City are above the state’s standards, but the five boroughs are behind on the four other metrics. In Western New York, the region has to work on hospitalizations, testing, and the number of contact tracers.

When each region has met all seven standards, it can begin to reopen businesses, which will happen in four phases, Cuomo said Monday.

The first phase will include construction, manufacturing, and some retail locations with curbside pickup. The second phase will eye an expansion of retail, and allow professional services, finance, insurance, administrative support, and real estate businesses to resume operations.

The third phase will include restaurants, food services, hotels, and other accommodations. The fourth phase will involve education, arts, entertainment, and other recreational activities.

Different industries are likely to be included in each phase as the state’s reopening plan moves forward.

Statewide, the COVID-19 data in New York continued to trend in a positive direction Monday. The total number of hospitalizations dropped again, with 9,647 people in the hospital as of Sunday, the state’s latest data. Of those, 2,743 were intubated.

More than one million people have now been tested for COVID-19 in New York, with the total number of positive cases now at 318,953. So far, 53,34 people have been discharged from the hospital.

An additional 226 people died from the disease in New York on Sunday, bringing the statewide total confirmed deaths to 19,415.