Long Island is on track to reopen next week, as long as the number of COVID-19 deaths continue to drop and the number of contact tracers come online as expected, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at his daily briefing on Friday morning.
Contact tracing is underway in seven regions around the state, but Long Island and the mid-Hudson area remain closed, in part because the regions do not have enough tracers to track down those who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said earlier this week the county had 230 tracers, and needed about 400. Both Suffolk and Nassau counties have been working with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health to hire and train people as contact tracers.
If enough tracers are online by next week, Long Island can begin the first phase in reopening the economy, which means construction, manufacturing, and wholesale trade can resume, along with limited curbside retail. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing is also part of the first phase of reopening.
In anticipation of the start of Phase 1, Cuomo also announced construction staging — setting up of equipment and materials at work sites — is now permitted on Long Island and in the mid-Hudson region.
State Loans Available
New York is beginning its own program to help small businesses, nonprofits, and small landlords struggling as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. New York Forward Loan Fund, a new economic recovery program, has over $100 million to offer. It will target businesses with 20 or fewer employees — 90 percent of all small businesses — and less than $3 million in gross revenues.
Economists are projecting that more than 100,000 small businesses have shut permanently since the pandemic began. Minority-owned businesses are especially at risk, the governor said.
Landlords who have lost rental income are also eligible. Nonprofits must provide direct services and have an annual operating budget of less than $3 million annually.
The U.S. Small Business Administration loans are part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus bill, known as the CARES — Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security — Act, passed in late March, as well as an additional $484 billion aid package passed late last month.
Only those who did not receive a loan from the SBA Paycheck Protection Program or SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan are eligible for the state program.
More information can be found at esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans. Pre-applications will be available starting May 26 at noon. Businesses in industries that have already reopened by then will be given priority.
More Testing Sites
The governor also announced that the state is launching a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct COVID-19 testing, bringing the total number of testing sites up to 750. Pharmacies can conduct 7000 tests per week.
Cuomo urged anyone with even the slightest of symptoms, or those who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, to get a test.
“We have state-run sites where we have more capacity than we are performing tests,” he said.