Cuomo: Construction, manufacturing will be first to return in phased reopening
Hospitalizations must decline for two weeks for a region to be considered
ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo offered a first glimpse on Sunday into the state’s reopening plan, a phased approach that will begin with resuming manufacturing activities.
The early stages of the plan, divided into two parts, would begin with construction and manufacturing in low-risk environments. The second phase would restart “more essential, lower-risk” businesses, a category that has not yet fully been defined but that state officials are asking companies to begin planning.
Those businesses must consider “how they’re going to reopen with that ‘new normal,'” Cuomo said, noting that many organizations may reconfigure their physical spaces or change daily practices to reduce in-person interactions. Companies will submit plans to the state before restarting, he said.
“This is not a one-sided equation here,” Cuomo said. “Businesses, you develop a plan on how you would reopen given everything we now know, and if you have a plan that actually takes into consideration these new circumstances.”
The state will take a two-week break between reopening phases to monitor infection levels and ensure that coronavirus cases do not rapidly increase. Opening too quickly and too soon could cause a second wave of the virus that again overwhelms the state’s health care system, the governor said.
He declined to take a firm stance on reopening schools, saying that sending children back to the classroom must be coordinated with a large-scale opening of businesses. Some localities have been discussing the possibility of summer school to make up for lost time in the spring.
“That we have to feel out as we go,” the governor said. “On any of these things, I’m not really comfortable getting too far ahead of ourselves. You want to talk about a two-week window – I think that’s an intelligent window to talk about.”
Cuomo reiterated on Sunday that the state will take a regional approach to its reopening plan, noting that officials will avoid authorizing large events or other activities that could draw mass crowds from other areas. The state could begin reopening as early as mid-May, when the state’s “on PAUSE” order is set to expire – as long as regions have seen declining hospitalizations for at least 14 days, in accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cuomo said.
Hospitalizations and intubations continue to decrease, as do the number of COVID-19 deaths statewide. A total of 367 people died from the virus on Saturday – down from 437 the day before – bringing the state’s death toll to 16,966.
Parts of upstate New York – including the North Country and the Mohawk Valley – will likely begin reopening before New York City and its surrounding counties, Cuomo added.
The revival of parks, schools, beaches and businesses downstate must be coordinated within New York City and Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, Cuomo said. New York is also continuing to work with its border states on any large-scale reopening plans that could prompt people to cross state lines.
Thousands of New Yorkers are increasingly anxious to get back to work, as the pandemic has led to record numbers of unemployment claims. The state Department of Labor announced Saturday that it has paid out $3.1 billion to New Yorkers since the coronavirus began impacting businesses in early March. More than 1.4 million people have completed unemployment applications in that time, officials said.