An increase in COVID-19 cases in New York City may be expected as the city begins its reopening, but it's not inevitable, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
The city entered the first phase of the state's reopening plan Monday morning — 100 days after the state began counting coronavirus cases — and as many as 400,000 people were expected to go back to work in non-essential retail, manufacturing and construction.
Cuomo said the state has continued to see a steady decrease in coronavirus infections in the nine other inter-county regions that have begun reopening. Many of those regions have entered Phase 2 already or will do so this week.
Officials attribute the positive data to people continuing to take the virus seriously — social distancing and wearing masks when they go out, even as onerous restrictions on businesses and social gatherings are relaxed.
While many other highly-populated states, including California, Florida and Texas, are seeing spikes in infections with reopening, Cuomo called those states "cautionary" tales and said New York doesn't have to mirror those results.
He says the state took no shortcuts when it began the road back from the shutdown.
"Why are we reopening? Because these numbers say we can," Cuomo told reporters.
New York has adhered closely to guidelines from the CDC for reopening, as Cuomo has pledged that data and not politics would determine the state's reopening. New Yorkers have already exceeded expectations with how much they changed their lifestyles to flatten the curve, he said; there's no reason the trend can't continue with reopening.
"I make these decisions and for me it's very simple," he said. "I just assume I'm making the decision for myself and my children."
In April, Cuomo ordered subways to close nightly for deep cleaning. Monday morning, he rode the MTA's 7 Train. Cuomo later remarked that "the subways are cleaner than they have ever been in my lifetime." The MTA is also providing masks and hand sanitizer at most stations.
For "so many years, they couldn't figure out how to get the newspapers and the coffee cups out of the subway cars," Cuomo added. "Now they're disinfecting them."
New York has been one of the global leaders in coronavirus testing per capita for months. The governor says they are currently doing 35,000 tests per day in New York City alone. The percentage of positive test results has declined steadily each day since last Thursday.
Cuomo repeated his prior calls for New Yorkers who attended protests in the city over the past week-and-a-half to please seek out a test and behave as if they are infected until or unless they get a negative result.
There are 240 coronavirus testing sites in the five boroughs and tests are free to all city residents.
Last week, New York City's coronavirus contact tracing program began. Tracers reportedly interviewed hundreds of people who had recently tested positive for the virus. The state is using that data to help respond to and isolate new outbreaks locally.
While the overall infection rate in the city is pegged at around 19 percent, there are several zip codes where that rate is closer to 50 percent or even above.
People who live in the following neighborhoods are encouraged to get tested:
- Bronx Park South
- Jerome Park
- Queens Village
- Pelham Gardens
New Yorkers can go to Coronavirus.health.ny.gov to find a test site and plan an appointment.
Photo: Getty Images