Cuomo Announces Phased Plan to Reopen New York; Deaths Drop

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New York’s coronavirus deaths dropped to 367 Sunday, the lowest in almost a month, as Governor Andrew Cuomo sketched out a phased-in reopening that begins with construction and manufacturing. That could start as soon as May 15, he said, probably upstate before the New York City area.

The governor’s briefing -- filled with technicalities and conditions for restarting the state -- was a sharp contrast to the depths of the virus outbreak in New York. On April 9, a record 799 people died. Total fatalities are now 16,966, even as new hospitalizations and intensive care cases continue to fall.

“There is no doubt that, at this point, we’ve gone through the worst,” he told reporters in Albany. “And as long as we act prudently going forward, the worst should be over.”

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It was the first time Cuomo spoke in detail about reopening -- a massive and complicated undertaking after the governor on March 20 shut down most business, schools and locked down a state of 18 million people.

After construction and manufacturing, he said businesses would reopen based on how essential they are. He didn’t give any firm dates but set two markers: He has officially declared the state closed until May 15th, and new hospitalizations would need to have dropped for two weeks.

Hospitalizations on Sunday dropped to 1,087, the ninth consecutive drop. The state also reported 5,902 new cases on Sunday, down from 10,553, for a total of 288,045.

Pause to Assess

He said there would be a two-week pause after the first re-openings to assess progress, which would be monitored by new hospitalizations, new cases and testing for antibodies that show whether a person had contracted the virus.

He said the measure would be that one person infects no more than one other.

He said that opening New York City was far more complicated than more sparsely populated areas upstate -- and more connected to Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Cuomo stressed it would take a re-imagining of workplaces, schools and public spaces to contain the virus.

”How are you going to protect your people?’ he asked. “What are you going to do differently with your employees? What does the physical space look like when you reopen in this new normal? What’s the access? What’s the screening? How do you move people?”

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Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg

Sunday also moved from the human toll of Covid-19 to the economic consequences and political battles to come on all levels of government.

As Cuomo criticizes the federal government for so far not aiding state budgets, he has also announced billions of dollars in cuts in New York that will hit localities hard.

“I can’t tell you how alarmed we were,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Sunday. “If New York City cannot provide basic services then there won’t be a restart of the economy in New York City or New York State.”

Task Force

But de Blasio also discussed reopening: if new hospital admissions continue to decline for two weeks, officials will begin to relax stay-at-home practices and reopen schools, businesses and cultural institutions.

For advice on the reopening, the mayor said he’s created a task force from the city’s cultural, nonprofit, labor and financial sectors, including Richard Ravitch, a leader in the city’s come-back from its 1975 fiscal crisis, and Fred Wilson, an early tech industry investor. Creating more economic fairness and opportunity would be a key goal, he said.

“Normal isn’t good enough for our future,” he said. “I’m aspiring to something new and better, addressing all these inequalities while building up a strong city.”

— With assistance by Maria Elena Vizcaino

(Adds metric for checking infection spread in eighth paragraph. Corrects spelling of Richard Ravitch in 15th paragraph.)
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