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As surrounding states reopen, New York keeps a close eye, Cuomo says

Office of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo/YouTube

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that state officials will have a close eye on how reopening plans in nearby states affect the COVID-19 infection rate in New York, which is expected to have a more drawn out revival of its economy than surrounding areas.

Some regions of New York could begin to reopen select businesses as soon as next weekend, but an all-out reopening is expected to be phased in over a series of months.

But neighboring states New Jersey and Connecticut announced this week that they’ll start reopening their economies on a different timeline in New York. Restaurants in Connecticut could reopen this month with strict guidelines. The same goes for beaches in New Jersey.

Cuomo said that, despite the differing plans, officials from New York are still coordinating with surrounding states on their strategies to reopen.

“We talk through everything we do before we do it,” Cuomo said. “"We can't align every action, but we're aware of it, and we'll monitor it.”

Restaurants in New York won’t reopen in any region of the state before mid-June at the earliest, according to Cuomo’s plan.

They’ll be allowed to reopen in the third phase of the state’s strategy, which is spaced out to allow two weeks between each phase. If a region’s first phase starts next weekend, that would land the reopening of restaurants in that area around June 12.

But that’s assuming the region will be cleared to begin its first phase of reopening when New York’s statewide lockdown order expires on May 15. As of Monday, no region had met the state’s standards that would allow it to begin reopening at that time.

And when a region is cleared to begin reopening, each phase of the revival may take longer than two weeks to begin. It’s all dependent on if the region continues to see a decline in COVID-19 as it starts to reopen its economy.

If it doesn’t continue to see a decline, or if the disease becomes more prevalent, a region’s reopening would be paused. It could also be rolled back, according to the state’s plans.

Cuomo said Saturday he recognizes that, for some regions of the state, having businesses closed during the summer tourism season could be a major financial hit.

“The tourist season is the money making period for a whole sector of businesses, all across this state,” Cuomo said. “Tourism is one of the big job drivers, period.”

New York state, alone, is expecting a $13 billion loss in revenue due to COVID-19, which doesn’t count the economic downfall of individual businesses, and how that could snowball on the state’s fiscal health.

It also doesn’t count the direct spending the state has made to respond to COVID-19, which is well above $3 billion since the start of March.

Those financial troubles will likely lead to cuts in state spending across the board in areas like education, local government, and hospitals, Cuomo has said. He appeared hopeful Saturday that Congress would follow through with aid for the state government in New York.

"As bizarre as the federal government is at times, I can not believe they would turn their back on working Americans at this time,” Cuomo said.

Congress has already approved four stimulus bills aimed at helping individuals, small businesses, corporations, and others recover from the financial impact of COVID-19. Cuomo has said the legislation hasn’t done enough to directly fund state government.

“Everything relies on federal funding, whether it’s substance abuse or education,” Cuomo said. “Right now, everything is dependent on federal funding.”

Cuomo’s expected to propose a series of cuts in state spending within two weeks, which will largely be dependent on how much revenue the state took in during April.

New York has been the hardest-hit state by the disease, with the statewide death toll reaching 21,271 Friday, the latest data available from the state.

The total number of hospitalizations have now declined to levels not seen since around March 20, Cuomo said Saturday, a bittersweet sign that the state has continued its decline from the disease. As of Friday, 333,122 had tested positive in New York.