New York, May 11 (efe-epa).- The state of New York is preparing to begin the first phase of economic reopening later this week in three upstate areas that are fulfilling the set of seven health requirements set forth for containing the spread of the coronavirus.
New York City is not among the three areas, and the Big Apple will presumably have to wait until June for any easing of local quarantine requirements, according to what state authorities said on Monday.
“We have a clear uniform set of criteria, the same all across the state, all science-based, all data-based. We’ll look at those data points to see where it’s safe to open,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo had said on Sunday, and on Monday, at his daily press briefing at the Rochester Regional Health center, he emphasized that the state has returned to the point where it was on March 19, before the huge outbreak of the coronavirus and the sometimes deadly Covid-19 pneumonia it causes.
Cuomo said that 488 new cases of the virus had been detected in the past 24 hours and 161 people have died, but things are pointing “in the right direction,” given that both these daily figures are trending downward and thus it is appropriate to allow his executive order for New Yorkers to quarantine themselves to expire on Friday, May 15.
He said that three regions – the Southern Tier, the Mohawk Valley and the Finger Lakes – have met all seven of the readiness metrics, thus proving that they have managed to control local virus infection rates and have ensured that local hospitals have the capacity and testing to handle any possible renewed virus outbreak.
“We start a new chapter today in many ways. It’s a new phase,” Cuomo said. “We are, from my point of view, on the other side of the mountain. Now we can intelligently turn toward reopening.”
“Some regions are ready to go today,” he added. “This is the next big phase in the historic journey.”
According to the ongoing tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University, of the almost 80,000 deaths in the US attributed to the coronavirus, 26,641 of them have occurred in New York state, so far the epicenter of the pandemic in this country. Another 58,000 people are deemed to have recovered from their bout with the virus in New York state.
Cuomo said that only three of the state’s 10 regions were ready to start easing movement and other restrictions, given that they have fulfilled all the requirements set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including significantly lowered rates of infection and hospitalization, ensuring an adequate number of available hospital beds, adequate testing figures, and several more.
The three regions in question will be allowed to have construction and manufacturing activities resume, but – depending on the evolution of the epidemic in the state – the other regions could begin their own reopening procedures in June, according to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who warned about a possible boomerang effect – that is, a spike in the number of new virus cases – if authorities reopen too quickly.
Cuomo also said that certain “low risk” businesses will be allowed to reopen statewide, including gardening and lawn care, recreational activities like tennis and drive-in movies.
The governor also said that by the end of the already-curtailed school year, most businesses will be in phase one or phase two of their reopenings, but not all will be open and childcare for working families who need it will be the responsibility of local authorities.
The regions will be closely monitored and the figures for reopening will be updated every 24 hours on a state Web page, and authorities will review them every two weeks to decide if they can begin phase one or move into a higher phase.
Nevertheless, Cuomo called on the public to exercise caution given the risk of renewed outbreaks of the virus – as has occurred in South Korea and Germany, which have started reopening their own societies and economies – but he congratulated the public for adhering to the rules laid down by New York authorities and said that the state will publish a guide for the reopening plan called “New York Forward” so that people can understand the procedure and hold the authorities accountable for it.