New York reported another decrease in its single-day COVID-19 death total on Tuesday, but that doesn't mean officials are wavering from plans to proceed with caution when it comes to reopening the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported Tuesday that there were 335 new COVID-19 deaths in the state. While the number would be astonishing in normal times, since the pandemic reached its deadly peak in New York a month ago, 335 is the lowest single-day death count blamed on the virus.
Gov. Cuomo appears ready to allow some lesser-impacted areas of New York to begin reopening after May 15, when his New York PAUSE order is set to expire. He has outlined a 12-point plan during his daily press briefings.
Before proceeding to reopening, each region must see a 14-day downward trending hospitalization rate, per CDC guidelines.
From there, construction and low-risk manufacturing operations may open. If another two weeks goes by with no significant increase in positive coronavirus tests, COVID hospitalizations or deaths, the state will expand its allowances for low-risk "more essential" industries.
There will be no exceptions for industries based around attractions or large social gatherings.
The onus will be on business owners to provide a plan to protect employees and consumers and reduce infection risk. To maintain the reopening, each region must have at least 30 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds available after elective surgeries resume.
As Cuomo has repeated over the past several weeks, expanded testing is crucial. With help from the private sector and the federal government, Cuomo says testing will expanded and states in the region will hire an estimated 30,000 contact tracers to help investigate positive tests, locate and isolate new outbreaks.
There must also be plans to make rooms available for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
A determination on reopening schools will be coordinated with nearby states in the region after there is mutual progress.
Each region must appoint an oversight institution as a "control room" to monitor key metrics like hospital capacity, infection rate, PPE and business compliance. The institution will be charged with sounding the alarm if new problems arise and having a plan to manage issues.
Cuomo also says regions must plan to protect essential workers, ensuring public transit is clean and safe.
While the process will likely feel agonizing, Cuomo says he believes New York will emerge better for this ordeal and more resilient in the future.
New COVID-19 hospitalizations now average under 1,000 per day for the first time in a month and the rate of COVID deaths relative to positive tests has also decreased.
Cuomo reminds New Yorkers that just two weeks ago, New York was losing more than 700 people per day to the pandemic respiratory disease.
State officials are reevaluating the crisis weekly, looking cautiously at what other states are reporting, using three-day averages — not one-day totals — to measure progress.
New Jersey's highest single-day death toll (391) came one day after it reported its lowest (61) since the peak of the outbreak. The state is seeing an overall downward trend in other metrics.
While the flattening of the hospitalization curve has proven that New Yorkers have the ability to protect themselves and others with their actions, Gov. Cuomo says the state's main worry is protecting frontline healthcare workers from being overwhelmed.
The initial COVID chaos has subsided in hospitals, but hospital workers are still getting sick, still working grueling 12-hour shifts and still returning to work the next day.
"We have gone through hell and back ... and we have to respect what we accomplished here," Cuomo said Tuesday.
Far too little is known about the novel coronavirus for officials to feel confident that we are on a path to victory.
The fact remains that it's not over until there is a vaccine.
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