The statewide closure known as New York on PAUSE ends on Friday, May 15, beginning what Governor Andrew Cuomo called “an exciting new phase” during which regions can begin to reopen their economies, if they meet certain criteria.
“We start a new chapter today in many ways,” the governor said during his daily COVID-19 press conference on Monday in Rochester.
Cuomo announced along with several upstate regions reopening this weekend, some “low-risk businesses” and some outdoor recreational activities will be allowed to resume Friday, including landscaping, sporting activities like tennis, and drive-in movie theaters.
In order to reopen the economy from the two-month shutdown of nonessential business, regions must meet seven metrics the governor has outlined in recent weeks, including a testing and tracing program, seeing a decline in hospitalizations, and having at least 30 percent of hospital beds available.
Statewide, the number of deaths reported May 11 continues to fall, to 161, the same level it was around March 26, Cuomo said. The number of new hospitalization cases is also on a continued decline, to about 488, right around where the state was on March 19 “before we went into the abyss of the COVID virus,” the governor said. “We are all anxious to get back to work. We want to do it smartly, we want to do intelligently, but we want to do it.”
Some regions, like the Finger Lakes, are ready to reopen as of Monday, others, like central New York, are within one metric of meeting the criteria. Then there is Long Island, which, as a region, has met or is expected to meet five of the seven qualifications, according to Cuomo’s office. The Island has not met the criteria of the 14-day decline in hospital deaths nor kept new hospitalizations under two cases per 100,000 residents.
“Unless there is some major turn in the metrics, we’re not going to meet it by Friday,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said during his daily briefing on Monday. However, he said, “we’re making real progress.”
A dashboard is now available on the county’s website to view how Suffolk is doing in meeting its metrics.
Suffolk is working on improving its number of contact tracers to the 30 per 100,000 residents needed. Bellone said the county is looking to hire 400 to 450 more people, in addition to the 230 already trained to index cases.
In Nassau County, Executive Laura Curran has said her county has met two of the seven, and could not see reopening before the end of June.
“I’m not going to speculate on a date,” Bellone said, noting he is focused on getting businesses ready to reopen.
Reopening will be locally-driven, and local governments may add additional conditions. Cuomo stressed there is no county-by-county plan, but local governments must communicate with one another.
The governor also announced a roster for regional control rooms being launched to determine an area’s reopening, which will monitor each phase. On Long Island, Bellone and Curran are two of five people making decisions about when and how quickly to reopen, while also watching the infection rate. If it rises again, “you have to be able to pull the plug or slow down the increase in activity, and that’s what we call the circuit breaker,” Cuomo said.
The governor again outlined the phases for reopening, starting with construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chains; curbside pickup for retail; and agriculture, including fishing. Phase II would consist of professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate. Restaurants and food service would reopen in Phase III, followed lastly by arts, entertainment, recreation, and education.