NEW YORK, NY — Manufacturing and construction will lead the reopening of New York's economy following a weekslong economic standstill, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. The news comes as the state continued to see hospitalizations, intubations and intensive care admissions trend downward for the new coronavirus, as well as fewer COVID-19 deaths.
Cuomo said should the rate of infections continue to trend downward, certain places in upstate New York could begin phase one of reopening businesses as early as May 15, when the statewide stay-at-home order expires. The reopening will be coordinated with other regions and states comes with the caveat that it will be limited, and construction and manufacturing industries would have to be analyzed on a cases-by-case basis to see how essential they are and how they plan to lower the risk of infection. This includes implanting measures to keep workers socially distant.
However, downstate is more "complicated," he said, and would have to be coordinated with New Jersey and Connecticut.
Should the infection rate — determined by looking at hospitalizations, antibody testing and diagnostic testing — not increase, Cuomo said the second phase of reopening could come two weeks later. More businesses would be allowed to reopen on a case-by-case basis using a risk matrix that looks at how essential the business is and how risky it is for workers to become infected. Businesses would have to show they can reconfigure offices, avoid congregating, provide workers with masks and gloves, and implement other anti-spread policies.
The governor reiterated he wants businesses to reimagine how they reopen.
"We learned a lot of lessons here," he said. "Painfully."
He asked companies to consider major changes to their business models, such as sports without crowds and drive-in experiences.
"We need them to be creative and think outside of the box," Cuomo said.
He added: "What sports can you make work economically where you don’t have to sell a seat in the stadium or arena?"
Cuomo said he could see MLB games return as long as the stadiums had no fans. But those in hospitality and retail industries will likely be waiting for a longer amount of time, with the governor calling those industries "very tricky" to reopen.
He noted that localities downstate specifically need to come up with activities for residents for the summer months, noting there's a "sanity index" that is particularly hard for dense, urban areas. Domestic violence has increased, he said, as well as alcoholism, drug abuse and mental health needs.
"Do not underestimate the stress this situation has created," Cuomo said, noting people are out-of-work, missing paychecks with bills piling up and are cooped up in their homes.
Cuomo sounded less optimistic that schools could return around mid-May, noting it would have to come in conjunction with a large-scale business reopening. Many districts are considering having kids take summer school to make up for lost instructional time. While he didn't specify which districts or regions are considering summer classes, the governor said remote learning was implemented quickly and would be an element to learn from in the future.
The state will know more in May about how much schools will have to cut from their budget, which will largely depend on whether they get federal assistance.
New York saw 367 deaths overnight Sunday, down from 437 a day earlier. That includes 349 in hospitals and 18 in nursing homes.
Hospitalizations fell to March 31 levels at about 12,800. The number of new COVID-19 patients walking into hospitals Saturday dipped to 1,087, down from 1,184 a day earlier and far below its peak of 3,177.
Cuomo said the state's infection rate has dropped to 0.8 in New York — 0.9 upstate and 0.75 downstate — with severe social distancing measures. If the rate increases past 1.2, the number of infections — and deaths — would increase dramatically within days.
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