NEW YORK - While parts of the state prepare to begin reopening Friday, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the number of new coronavirus infections has fallen to the rate it was in March, New York City is not on track to start coming back to life until June at the earliest.

What to Know

  • Three upstate regions are on track to starting reopening some businesses and services Friday
  • New York City's lockdown will stretch until at least June
  • For the first time in weeks, coronavirus-related deaths in New York state in the last 24 hours dropped under 200

In his daily coronavirus press briefing on Monday, the governor said with all critical indicators on the decline, regions of the state will begin phase one of reopening on May 15 as long as specific guidelines are met.

“We’re going to open when we’re ready to open. What does ready to open mean?" Cuomo said. "Well, first the number of hospitalizations, the infection rates, show decline, the federal government with CDC guidelines have laid that out, and we think it’s intelligent, we accepted the federal guidance."

While the city will remain on "PAUSE," meaning its nonessential services and business will continue to be shuttered, Cuomo announced three regions were on track to begin reopening Friday and enter the "NY Forward" phase:

  • The Finger Lakes
  • The Southern Tier along the Pennsylvania border
  • The Mohawk Valley in Central New York.  

Construction, manufacturing, and retail curbside pickup -- considered essential and low-risk -- are among the businesses slated to lead the way.

“We will also open certain businesses statewide which are low -risk: landscaping, gardening, low-risk recreational activities like tennis, drive-in movie theaters,” Cuomo said. “Talk about going back to the future, back to drive-in movie theaters. I'm okay with that, by the way.”

The governor added that child care will be made available for regional workers returning to work, and that starting Monday the daily hospitalization rates by region will be posted on the state website.

While New York City will not join these regions, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday offered a glimmer of hope for New Yorkers desperate to end their quarantine.

“I think it's fair to say that June is when we are potentially going to be able to make some real changes if we can continue our progress,” the mayor said. “As we get close to the beginning of June, we'll be able to say if it's looking like things are really coming together, and then what are the areas where we could begin to have some flexibility.”

The mayor is cautiously optimistic: a reopening effort will have to be done in phases and carefully measured steps — whatever needs to be done to avoid a possible uptick in cases, a second wave which could force the city back into quarantine.

“We got to guard against the boomerang,” he said. “And at any point, if the data started to change, that then delays the moment when you could do any kind of loosening of restrictions.”

For weeks, the city has been tracking three key indicators used to determine progress:

  • The number of hospitalizations
  • The number of people in intensive care units (ICUs)
  • The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19

All three must trend downward for at least 10 days.

Thus, Cuomo urged New Yorkers to make informed choices and not rush things or the state could see a resurgence of the virus. He cautioned that certain countries reopened too quickly before having to shut down again — something he would like to avoid here.

But the worst of the virus appears to be over for New York, at least for now.

“And when you look at the nation compared to New York, you're going to see us on the decline, the rest of the nation on the incline,” the governor said. “People would have said it was impossible, but we did it. But we have to stay smart.”

Cuomo said there were 161 coronavirus-related deaths between midnight Saturday and midnight Sunday — still high, but below 200 for the first time in weeks.

There were 488 new hospitalizations for the virus, according to the state, also significantly lower than at the peak of the crisis.

But most of these statistics are from downstate, which will likely be the last area of New York state to reopen.


This story includes reporting from Zack Fink and Gloria Pazmino.



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