On Monday, May 5, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a preliminary blueprint to gradually reopen the state’s economy. Once a region of New York achieves seven core benchmarks set by Cuomo and his response team, that region is eligible to enter Reopening Phase 1 of 4.
These benchmarks include:
- Declines in new positive virus cases
- 14 days of decline in total net hospitalizations
- Fewer than two new COVID patients admitted per 100,000 residents per day
- Declines in death rate
- Cannot exceed 5 new deaths on a three-day rolling average
- Increases in testing
- At least 30 diagnostic tests for every 1,000 residents per month
- Reliable contact tracing
- Baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents
- Steady hospital capacity
- 30 % of total hospital and ICU beds available
- 90 days of personal protective equipment stockpiled
By sticking to the numbers, Cuomo seeks to reopen New York in a careful, measured, objective manner.
Phases 1, 2, 3 and 4
During Phase 1, low-risk construction, manufacturing, wholesale, and select retail using curbside pickup are permitted to open. If the region’s metrics continue to show positive improvement without new outbreaks of COVID-19, it can continue into Phase 2 after 14 days.
Phase two, which can begin as early as the end of May, will allow many important services to reopen:
- Professional services
- Finance and insurance
- Administrative support
- Real estate and rental leasing
This means that by mid-to-late June, regions of New York could enter Phase 3, which allows restaurants, food services, hotels, and other accommodations to reopen to the public. The fourth and final phase, which reopens education, recreation, entertainment, and the arts, isn’t anticipated to occur until late summer or early fall.
Which Regions Have Entered Phase 1?
As of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 15, five of New York’s 10 regions are officially out of “PAUSE” lockdown. Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier, Central New York, and the Finger Lakes regions are eligible to reopen for business under “Phase 1” guidelines since they met the seven benchmarks required by Governor Cuomo in his reopening plan.
“They are the regions that meet the criteria. There’s no politics to this judgment, it’s all based on the numbers,” Cuomo emphasized in his statement.
New York City and Long Island, however, remain under PAUSE lockdown with only four benchmarks achieved. This order has been extended until May 28, when the two regions will have another chance to prove they’ve met the seven essential metrics for Phase 1 reopening.
The Capital, Mid-Hudson, and Western New York regions must also abide by the extended PAUSE order since they have yet to check all seven as well. Rather than waiting until May 28, like NYC and Long Island, these regions will be “UN-PAUSED” the moment they meet all seven requirements, Cuomo insisted.
Despite these differences, Cuomo has relaxed several restrictions statewide to all regions. New Yorkers can now resume gardening and landscaping businesses, attend drive-in theaters, and enjoy outdoor activities like tennis that are conducive to social distancing.
Coordinated Effort to Open Beaches
The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York have been working together to reopen their beaches in a coordinated manner. On May 15, Governor Cuomo announced that all state and local beaches in those states will reopen on May 22, just in time for Memorial Day.
However, beach goers should expect a different experience than last summer. Capacity will be capped at 50 percent, group contact activities are prohibited, and public beach areas like playgrounds, arcades, and concession stands will remain closed. If it’s not possible to remain six feet apart from other parties, face coverings are mandatory.
The exception is in New York City, where public beaches will not reopen for Memorial Day. Major De Blasio announced the city isn’t yet ready to allow usual summer activities.