Regional economies reopen and a new COVID-19 related illness emerges

Photo by Darren McGee, Office of the Governor
Governor Andrew Cuomo holds his daily coronavirus briefing at SUNY Upstate Medical University on Thursday, May 14, 2020. He is joined by his daughter Michaela Kennedy Cuomo and State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

Thursday marked the 75th day since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was discovered in New York state. This same day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference from Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse to discuss plans to slowly begin reopening parts of the state this weekend. 

As of May 14, 6,706 New Yorkers are being hospitalized for COVID-19, 2,223 are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), 1,846 of those ICU patients are intubated, while the total number of discharges has increased by 565 for a total of 59,758 patients released.

As new COVID-19 related hospitalizations per day slowly decrease and more people are discharged, Cuomo warns New Yorkers to remain vigilant, reminding residents that as experts learn more about the virus, the virus is also learning more about us.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) is investigating cases of what may be a rare COVID-related illness in children with symptoms similar to atypical Kawasaki disease or toxic shock-like syndrome. This illness has resulted in the deaths of three young New Yorkers, a 5-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl.

Cuomo assured residents that New York state is on the forefront, nationally, if not internationally, in investigating this new illness.

“Today New York state has published online the nation’s first set of criteria to help health care professionals isolate, identify and test for this syndrome. It is very important we have that because it is affecting children from less than one year old to 21 years old,” Cuomo said.

On the economic front, many counties are beginning a phased reopening of the economy starting today. The North Country, Mohawk Valley, Central New York, Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier are the state’s regions that showed a large enough decline in COVID-19 related hospitalizations to qualify for reopening. 

Meanwhile, Western New York, the Capital District, Mid-Hudson Region, Long Island and New York City did not meet the metric requirements as of May 14 to begin the process of reopening.

The Governor’s Office is now posting a “daily dashboard” of local information for business owners and the public to access and use to inform their decisions. Phased reopenings of the economy will only be allowed to continue if daily monitoring of COVID-19 numbers remains stable and if businesses and individuals comply with all state rules and regulations.

“Phased reopening does not mean the problem has gone away. It means we have controlled the problem through our individual responsibility and individual actions, and that has to be maintained. I urge local governments to be diligent about business compliance and individual compliance,” Cuomo stated.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa stated that they are conducting regional control meetings throughout the state to be able to answer questions from local leaders, who can then pass down information to businesses. Local businesses do have to fill out agreements to be approved by local control groups to begin reopening.

“This is the way they demonstrate that they’re adhering to the overall guidelines and it can be a check on the business after they’ve reopened,” DeRosa said. “If there’s an issue on the back end, then you have the plan that they [businesses] said they were going to adhere to. It’s a way to hold them accountable.”

Photo by Darren McGee, Office of the Governor
Reporters listen to Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a coronavirus briefing at SUNY Upstate Medical University on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

Gov. Cuomo also called on the federal government to provide financial aid to New York. The state is facing economic uncertainty with a $61 billion hole and needs money to fund schools, hospitals, local municipalities, police stations and fire departments. Gov. Cuomo stated he and President Donald Trump spoke earlier in the day to discuss state funding issues and Trump agreed to expedite $3.9 billion in aid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

The House of Representatives on Tuesday proposed a stimulus bill that would provide funding for state and local governments, coronavirus testing, and a new round of direct payments to Americans. The bill also includes a provision to repeal the $10,000 cap on state and local taxes (SALT). 

The cap on SALT, imposed in 2017, increased federal taxes on New Yorkers $12 to $15 billion a year. Repealing the cap would help boost the economy, but Cuomo verbalized concerns about delays, special interests and corporate bailouts in Washington. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Cuomo expressed fear of the U.S. making past mistakes and putting the well-being of corporations above citizens.

Cuomo also announced a renewed statewide initiative to encourage businesses to manufacture and provide emergency medical equipment. An initial $3 million in grants to businesses to equip the state with supplies led to the in-state manufacturing of ventilators, respirators, N95 masks, face shields and gowns. Cuomo advised those interested in growing or starting a medical supply business to contact Empire State Development

“I want you to have the same caution flag that I live with. The facts of this virus have changed and I believe they will continue to change. Do not underestimate this virus,” Cuomo advised. “Be cautious and be diligent, this means wearing a mask, wearing gloves and staying away from large gatherings.”