New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed in broad terms his administration's strategy for reopening parts of the state in phases, beginning as early as mid-May.
Gov. Cuomo laid out the plan Sunday in a briefing in which he also reported New York's lowest daily death toll in close to a month, with 422 deaths on Friday, the lowest since March 31.
Cuomo's New York PAUSE executive order is in effect through May 15. While he plans to determine this week whether to extend the initiative, he added New York state is not a monolith and many upstate counties have been minimally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor has considered allowing some counties to reopen in spite of PAUSE, but he has also worried publicly that doing so would flood those counties with people trying to escape onerous social distancing restrictions, effectively bringing the virus to those localities.
His comments Sunday indicate that some upstate counties will be permitted to reopen in phases after May 15, but the highly-congested downstate area remains complex and will probably only be reopened after consulting with officials in New Jersey and Connecticut.
No major step towards reopening will occur before there are 14 consecutive days of decline in the hospitalization rate, in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Other factors include the number of ICU admissions and the percentage of people testing positive for the virus.
Cuomo says the state is still in dire need of more data on the novel coronavirus, specifically with regard to the true infection rate. But as the federal government and private industry has pledged assistance with securing materials for testing, he is more confident about moving forward.
Phase I will allow of construction and low-risk manufacturing businesses to resume. With no major setbacks, after a waiting period of two weeks — equal to the longest presumed incubation period of the virus — officials will begin expanding reopening.
"Get creative," Cuomo said. "Government will set the criteria for a phased reopening. Businesses will reimagine their workplaces and protocols. Individuals will make decisions on their own health. We will build back better. As long as we keep being smart, the worst should be over."
Phase II broadens the risk/essential calculus. Without giving examples, Cuomo suggested the onus would be on individual companies to prove to the state that they fit the guidelines — that social distancing can be maintained at the office and that employees won't be on crowded public transportation on the way to and from work.
The governor said businesses will have to reimagine how they could reopen while minimizing the risk of infection spread.
He emphasized there is still no target date for reopening.
As of Monday morning, there were 288,045 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 21,000 likely COVID-19 deaths in New York State.
Officials suspect the outbreak is far more widespread, as the bulk of the positive tests are from people who have been hospitalized with symptoms.
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