Citing progress taming COVID-19, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that some upstate regions should be ready to restart economic activity by the end of the week.
“It’s an exciting new phase,” Cuomo said at a daily briefing in Rochester, adding, “we’re all anxious to get back to work. We want to do it smartly, we want to do it intelligently, but we want to do it.”
Noting encouraging data, Cuomo said there were 161 new daily deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, which is the lowest daily death toll since March 27. He also noted a reduction in the number of both hospitalizations and intubations.
“So, we see all the arrows are pointing in the right direction,” he said, adding that “it’s been a crisis—and a painful one.”
“In many ways, from my point of view, we’re on the other side of a mountain,” Cuomo added, referring to the shape of the pandemic curve, which rises as the number of daily cases grows, hits a peak, and then falls as those numbers taper off.
Cuomo attributed the falling case counts to the response, which involved imposing restrictions throughout the entire state on March 22 as the New York City area emerged as a major virus hotspot.
He flagged May 15 as the target date for reopening, with the caveat that the state would “open when ready,” which means COVID-19 numbers showing a decline in line with federal guidelines, along with a program of testing and tracing.
“Sounds simple—logistical nightmare, never been done before,” he said, describing the process of tracing infections back to sick individuals and isolating them to prevent further spread of the deadly bug.
He said three regions in upstate New York have met all criteria for opening some business activity after May 15: the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, and the Southern Tier.
Other regions could follow soon after, but Cuomo said officials will “be able to pull the plug or slow down the increase of activity” in the virus resurges.
Cuomo outlined seven metrics regions must meet in order to reopen, including beefing up testing and ensuring minimum levels of hospital capacity:
- 14-day drop in hospitalizations, or fewer than 15 hospitalizations, as measured by a 3-day average,
- 14-day reduction in hospitalized deaths, or fewer than 5 new daily deaths, as measured by a 3-day average,
- fewer than 2 new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, as measured by a 3-day moving average,
- a threshold of 30 percent of total hospital beds available,
- a threshold of 30 percent of intensive care unit beds available,
- testing frequency of at least 30 per 1,000 residents, as measured by a 7-day average of new tests per day,
- 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents
“We’ve been doing more tests than any state in the United States of America,” Cuomo said, adding that as a nation, the United States is now doing more tests per capita than any other country.
“But you need it in every region,” he said, adding, “it doesn’t help the Finger Lakes if the Capital District has enough testing, you have to have enough testing and enough tracing in the Finger Lakes.”
Reopening would take place in four phases, Cuomo said last week, with the first businesses to restart being construction, manufacturing, parts of the supply chain that deal in wholesale, and select retail with curbside pickup.
“They are the most essential, with the lowest risk,” he said.
Last week, Cuomo signed an executive order that gives him the authority to set a new expiration date on the state’s lockdown, known as NY on Pause, currently set to expire on May 15.
“Yesterday’s Executive Order extended the underlying legal authority for the Emergency Order, but did not change the text of any of the directives in NY ON PAUSE and so the expiration date of May 15 still stands until further notice,” said Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, in a statement.
“At that time, new guidance will be issued for regions based on the metrics outlined by Governor Cuomo earlier this week,” she added.