Cuomo: some regions will qualify to start reopening May 15
Select regions in New York state will start to reopen certain businesses next weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday, after no region of the state had initially qualified to begin reopening its economy at the beginning of last week.
Cuomo said he’ll make a more detailed announcement with leaders from the state’s counties Monday, but confirmed that some regions will be allowed to start reopening Friday.
“We’ll be going through it explicitly, but short answer is yes, there will be regions that are eligible on the 15th,” Cuomo said.
That’s when the statewide lockdown order, also called PAUSE, is set to expire. The order required all nonessential businesses to remain closed, and limited restaurants to take-out and delivery. It’s been in place since March 20.
New York is expected to allow each region of the state to reopen on its own schedule, depending on that area’s experience with COVID-19. Regions less affected by the disease will be allowed to reopen business sooner than others in a series of phases.
Cuomo, last Monday, had announced a set of seven metrics that each region had to meet to begin the first phase of reopening, which would allow construction, manufacturing, and certain limited retail companies to come back online.
Those metrics required each region to, essentially, see a decline in the number of hospitalizations and deaths from the disease while simultaneously ramping up testing for COVID-19 and the number of so-called contact tracers.
Contact tracers are either hired, or designated, to literally track connections between patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and people who they may have infected. It’s then their job to reach out to people who may have been infected and ask them to isolate themselves.
But, as of last Monday, no region of the state had met all of Cuomo’s seven metrics to begin the first phase of reopening.
No region of the state had reported enough contact tracers to meet the state’s standard, and most regions didn’t have the testing capacity to begin reopening. Four of the state’s ten regions were also struggling to reduce the number of hospitalizations.
Five of the state’s regions, as of Monday, had met all but two of the state’s metrics, making them the most likely to begin reopening next weekend: Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, and the Southern Tier.
All five of those regions, while closer than others to reopening, still didn’t have the testing capacity or right number of contact tracers, as of Monday. It’s possible that’s changed over the last week, but the state hasn’t released an updated analysis.
Cuomo didn’t say Sunday which of the state’s 10 regions would be allowed to start reopening next weekend, but confirmed more details would come Monday.
Reopening is expected to happen in four phases for each region. 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.
Regions are expected to allow at least two weeks between each phase to review how those changes affect the prevalence of COVID-19. If the data begins to trend in a negative direction, it’s possible that region’s reopening will be paused, or rolled back.
Some county leaders have suggested that the state’s ten regions be split further into subregions to make it easier for those areas to meet the state’s standards. Counties in the Mid-Hudson region are grouped with the adversely affected Westchester County, for example.
Cuomo said Sunday that splitting Westchester and Rockland Counties from their Mid-Hudson neighbors may not work because data from other counties in the region wouldn’t meet the standards to reopen.
“I think if we took Rockland, Westchester out of the region, the region still wouldn't qualify because the Dutchess numbers themselves don't qualify,” Cuomo said.
From a statewide perspective, New York’s COVID-19 numbers continued to trend in a positive direction Sunday. The number of new hospitalizations reached levels not seen since March 20, Cuomo said, with total hospitalizations now at 7,262.
Of those, 2,073 are currently intubated, which is a decrease of 130 compared to Saturday’s numbers. New York has now reported 58,006 discharges from the hospital.
The number of deaths continued to increase Sunday, but at the lowest rate since March 27. An additional 207 people died from COVID-19 in New York Saturday, the state’s latest data, bringing the statewide total to 21,478.