New York – Some remote regions of New York state begin a gradual reopening on Friday, while the stay-at-home order has been extended for pandemic-stricken New York City.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is allowing areas of central and northern New York state, which are far away from the city and have been largely spared the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak, to restart parts of their economy.
But late on Thursday, Cuomo extended the stay-at-home order for New York City, the epicentre of the pandemic in the United States, with more than 20,000 confirmed and probable virus-related deaths.
The city and other regions that have not met key requirements, including declines in hospitalisations and deaths, as well as increases in testing, contact tracing and hospital capacity, are to remain shut down until May 28.
In a tweet announcing the executive order, Cuomo said those areas could reopen “the moment they hit their benchmarks”.
The dense city and its suburbs are likely to be the last places in the state to start returning to some semblance of normalcy.
The regions that have met the state’s seven criteria – Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, North Country and Southern Tier – are allowed to start reopening some non-essential businesses, including construction, manufacturing and pick-up retail.
Cuomo warned that “we expect to see an increase” in coronavirus cases and said local officials must be ready to roll back the reopening.
“We’re starting to turn the activity valve,” he said. “Watch what happens to the infection rate, testing rate, hospitalisation rate. If those numbers start to move, slow down on the activity level.”
If the rates remain under control after two weeks, regions are permitted to move to the second phase of Cuomo’s reopening plan, which includes professional services, hair salons and more retail.
Restaurants, bars and hotels come next, followed by education, recreation, arts and entertainment, such as New York’s famous Broadway, in the final phase.
Cuomo on Friday announced that beaches in New York and neighbouring states New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware are allowed to reopen next Friday at 50 percent capacity.
“Reopening must be smart,” Cuomo said, stressing New York’s data-driven and fact-based approach.
He said New York’s curve was going down, while cases are increasing across the rest of the country.
Other US states are moving more quickly to reopen their economies, amid warnings from top health officials of a resurgence of the virus if restrictions are eased too soon.
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