New York state begins to ease some coronavirus restrictions this week

New York will begin a phased reopening this week that allows industries at a low risk of spreading the coronavirus, including landscaping and drive-in movies, to resume operations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

The low-risk, outdoor businesses and activities, which also include tennis, can reopen statewide on Friday as hospitalizations and infections from Covid-19 continue to decline, he said. 

New York’s statewide stay-at-home order expires Friday, but some regions will be allowed to relax rules more quickly than others. Three areas in upstate New York — the Finger Lakes, the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley — are ready to move into phase one of the state’s reopening plan, he said. That will allow them to resume manufacturing, construction and agricultural operations as well curbside pickup or in-store drop-off for non-grocery retail stores in those regions, Cuomo said.

Cuomo said the state will reopen businesses gradually on a regional basis for areas that meet seven guidelines, including a slowdown in local cases and hospitalizations. New York City, one of the state’s 10 regions, has met only four of the seven criteria needed to reopen businesses as of Monday, according to a chart presented by the governor.

Regions must report two weeks of declining hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations on a three-day average, two weeks of declining coronavirus deaths or under five new deaths on a three-day average and under two new hospitalizations for Covid-19 per 100,000 residents on a three-day rolling average. 

A region must also have proper hospital and intensive-care bed capacity and meet an adequate threshold of contact tracers and testing. 

Businesses that reopen will have to implement safety precautions outlined by the state, including social distancing practices, strict cleaning standards and continuous health screening of employees. 

“This is the next big step in this historic journey,” Cuomo said at a press conference at Rochester Regional Health. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier Monday that his city is “clearly not ready yet.” He said “unless something miraculous happens,” New York City’s stringent stay-at-home orders will remain in place “into June.”

Cuomo warned, however, that reopened regions may have to rewind their activities or slow down their plans if the rate of new infections begins to increase.  

“We’re now on the other side of the mountain,” Cuomo said. “Next step: How do we reopen, how do we reopen intelligently and how do we reopen without taking a step back.” 

On Monday, the state reported a decline in total hospitalizations related to Covid-19 and new daily cases. Cuomo said there were 488 new cases on Sunday, which is “just about where we started this horrific situation.” 

“We’re right about where we were on March 19 before we went into the abyss of the Covid virus,” he said. 

Cuomo said 161 people died from the coronavirus on Sunday, which “still too high … but better than what it has been.” The last time the number of daily deaths was below 200 was on March 28. 

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