New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that New York City will begin to reopen on June 8, and he released guidelines on Phase 2 opening while giving the green light to five upstate regions that can immediately move deeper into the reopening process.
On the 90th day of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo offered some good news — the number of daily new cases fell to 152, “which is a dramatic, dramatic drop for us,” he said during his daily briefing May 29. “We’ll never get to zero, and what is the bottom of the curve? I don’t know, but we’re close.”
The number of COVID-19 deaths also declined to the lowest level ever — 67.
“We hope and we pray that that continues to be the case,” Cuomo said.
New York City is the only region in the state not to have begun Phase 1.
“Reopening in New York City is more complicated, as we know, but we are on track to meet all the metrics,” Cuomo said. Targeted testing is being ramped up and face coverings handed out in hot spots throughout the city. When it does reopen June 8, 400,000 people will go back to work.
Under Phase 2, office-based jobs, in-person retail, barbershops and hair salons, and real estate services, can reopen, all with restrictions, in the Finger Lakes, central New York, the Mohawk Valley, North County, and Southern Tier. Each industry is subject to specific state guidelines to maximize safety and social distancing, giving Long Islanders a glimpse of what is to come when it is allowed to move out of Phase 1.
For instance, retailers can open with 50 percent occupancy and store owners can refuse shoppers entry if they are not wearing a mask. Malls with 100,000 square feet or more of retail space, where shoppers may enter only from indoor, enclosed spaces, will remain closed. Stores in shopping malls that have their own external entrances — separate from the general mall entrance, like strip malls — may open.
Barbershops and hair salons will be open by appointment only and employees are required to be tested for the coronavirus every two weeks.
“We recommend that the professionals get a test before they reopen, that’s not a mandate — that’s a recommendation,” Cuomo said. “And we recommend to customers to ask the barber or professional in the hair salon if they had a test before you used their services.”
Business guidance for Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan is available here.
The governor stressed that entering the second phase does not mean things will go back to the way they were.
“Life is not about going back,” he said. “Nobody goes back, we go forward — and it’s going to be different. This is about reopening to a new normal, a safer normal. People will be wearing masks and people will be socially distanced — it’s a new way of interacting, which is what we have to do.”
Nassau and Suffolk County officials hope Long Island will begin Phase 2 within the next two weeks, as long as the numbers continued their downward trajectory.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said during his daily briefing Friday that while Long Island is only a few days into Phase 1, they are already looking at Phase 2 guidelines. He said county officials are in contact with others in five upstate regions to learn how reopening went elsewhere, in hopes of learning more to get Suffolk transitioning smoothly to the next phase.
“We are in this position, having been impacted more significantly than just about any other area of the country,” Bellone said. “Fortunately, we’re now in a position to be able to see the experiences of those jurisdictions that have begun to open, and opened earlier than us, and learn from that.”
Daily hospitalizations figures in Suffolk County fell below 300 earlier this week, the lowest it has been since the third week of March.
The camping reservation system for county parks reopened on Friday at 4 PM. When it initially reopened last week, it was overwhelmed. People will be able to make reservations from June 15 onward.
Cuomo also announced a new COVID-19 early warning dashboard that shows the state’s expansive data collection that government officials are monitoring and reviewing to see how the virus is being contained. The site developed in consultation with internationally-known experts, and tracks new infections and their severity, hospital capacity by region, and other metrics.
As of Thursday, Long Island’s hospital bed availability, on a seven-day rolling average, was 32 percent, while it’s percentage of intensive care unit beds available was at 39.