Some of New York’s regional economies could be re-opening on May 15, or soon after, if they can meet the strict requirements outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday.
“We want to reopen, but we want to do it without infecting more people or overwhelming the hospital system,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo and his staff explained 12 requirements that each region of the state has to meet before the Governor’s Office and the State Health Department would allow businesses in that area.
For the purposes of re-opening, the distinct regions of New York are: the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Long Island, Southern Tier and Western New York.
Schools will follow a separate plan unrelated to this one, which is aimed at businesses and industries.
The Governor’s Office will follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of a 14-day decline of hospitalizations before any other factor is considered in re-opening a region’s businesses and lifting restrictions on large gatherings.
Another requirement is that hospitals in the region cannot exceed 70 percent capacity and their ICU beds cannot be higher than 70 percent capacity.
Additionally, the rate of transmission of the virus in a region must be at 1.0 or lower, meaning a person with COVID-19, on average, would infect only one other person, or less.
“We have studied reopening plans, all around the country. We have spoken to every expert on the globe who has been through this before, and we have come up with factual data points to guide us on reopening,” Cuomo said. “First point, don’t overwhelm the hospital system. If the hospital system in an area exceeds 70 percent capacity, which means you only have 30 percent left, or if the transmission rate hits 1.1, those are danger signs. We know that.”
Businesses in each region will re-open in phases.
Phase one will include opening construction and manufacturing functions with low risk. Phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses considered “more essential” with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by other businesses considered “less essential” or those that present a higher risk of infection spread.
Cuomo emphasized at Tuesday’s press conference at the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse that only businesses that can abide by appropriate safety measures can reopen.
Additionally, regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area. Cuomo referred to these as “attractive nuisances.”
“You have all of this pent-up demand in the whole tri-state region,” Cuomo said. “Make sure [you] don’t open up something that’s going to bring hundreds of people from the outside in [to your community].”
Each business and industry will be required to have a plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical work space safer and implement processes that lower risk of infection in the business.
The original projections for New York state before the worst of COVID-19 hit was that 120,000 New Yorkers would be infected and hospitalized, however the highest point the state reached was 20,000 hospitalizations.
There is disparity across the state in infection rates, with over 162,000 positive cases just from New York City. Cuomo said areas of upstate New York present data similar to the smaller impact of the virus on Midwestern states, which will dictate which regions of the state are likely to open first.
“This state is different than most states; this state has New York City, one of the most dense urban areas on the globe, and then we have upstate New York. And if you look at our infection rate upstate New York, it is very different than the downstate New York,” Cuomo said. “And if you look at the rate upstate New York, it is comparable to many states in the Midwest and the West. Much, much different than New York City.”
Once infections decline over a two-week period businesses will begin to reopen starting with construction and manufacturing, supplying a high number of jobs, while they must continue to maintain social distancing.
“We can’t now negate everything we accomplished,” said Cuomo, “We have to learn and grow from the experience and we have to build back, better than before.”
The next phase of the state’s un-pause plan will be for businesses to prove to the state that they can monitor their employees in terms of social distancing, supplying PPE, or providing testing before they could allow people back to work.
Cuomo also announced the creation of the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board, made up of business, academic and civic leaders to help aid the state in this process.
The ability to get tested for COVID-19 continues to be a challenge throughout the country. For New Yorkers to resume life it is imperative everyone, especially essential workers can get tests and are made known to them when they become available.
New York will follow Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White Horse, Dr. Deborah Birx’s testing regime of 30 tests per 1,000 people.
Through the tracing task force announced last week, led by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, regions will more readily reopen with a plan to analyze 100,000 infected people per 30 hired tracers.
Regions possibly reopening must create or coordinate isolation centers to allow those infected a safe place to quarantine completely away from friends and family.
The final component of Cuomo’s un-pause plan is further advancing tele-medicine and tele-education systems that continue to face challenges of adapting with a remote work and learning environment.
“What people have done, what the American people have done, what New Yorkers have done has been to save lives,” said Cuomo. “But, we have to remain vigilant, this is not over.”
Total hospitalizations, intubations and deaths continue to slowly decline in New York with 335 deaths yesterday.