NEW YORK – Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the go-ahead for New York City’s entry into Phase II during its last daily pandemic briefing on Friday after 111 consecutive press conferences since New York City York announced its first confirmed case on March 1.
“In the past three months we have done the impossible,” said a passionate Cuomo. “We are controlling the virus better than any state in the country, any nation in the world. I am so incredibly proud of what we all did together and as a community. We reopened the economy and saved lives, because it never was. A choice between one or the other. It was always correct to do both. “
New York has fought furiously against COVID-19; In March, it was a desperate race to find enough hospital beds and ventilators to save lives. It was COVID running rampant, the cases increased exponentially in the midst of an epic tragedy. In mid-April, there was a full week period where nearly 800 New Yorkers died daily.
In less than three months, a virus that no one had heard of a year ago claimed at least 24,661 lives, although authorities acknowledge that the actual number is likely to be much higher.
New York City is preparing to enter Phase II of its reopening.
Today, New York State has the lowest transmission rate in the nation and the highest number of tests per capita, Cuomo said. Daily deaths are in the low double digits. Seven out of 10 regions have reopened more than half. New York City, one of the world’s most vibrant meccas, will reopen most of its economy on Monday. New Yorkers’ commitment to curb the spread went a long way in flattening the curve.
“We all benefit when we work together. We show that in the end, love wins, no matter how dark the day is, love brings light. That is what I will take from the past 111 days,” Cuomo said, his voice cracking. a little. “If we could accomplish this impossible task of defeating this deadly virus, there is nothing we cannot do. And we will be better off.”
The Governor had wanted a panel of independent world experts to review New York City’s metrics before it moved to Phase II, as it has done with all other regions poised to move to a new phase. He had hoped that the results would return in favor of the transfer of the five municipalities to Phase II. It will happen on Monday.
Phase II allows for the reopening of cookouts in bars and restaurants, in-person retail stores, beauty salons, and hair salons (but not personal care services like nails or massages) and more office work, all in the middle of capacity and with the mandatory guidelines of COVID instead as social distancing and face masks.
“It includes the largest part of our economy. We all agree that this is the right thing to do,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday when he revealed a key plan for New York City’s next move. “It is time to move forward, and if anything comes up in the data, it is a concern, we are going to talk about it publicly.”
The mayor launched the city’s “Open Restaurants” initiative on Thursday, which focuses on providing more temporary space for restaurants through sidewalk seating, open streets, pedestrian plazas, and seating in the backyard. See all the details on that plan, which de Blasio said could save up to 5,000 restaurants and 45,000 jobs, here. The restaurant plan comes with a list of rules, and repeat violators could lose their authorization for open restaurants.
Cuomo went one step further Thursday, signing an executive order empowering the state to shut off violators of local reopening guidelines and strip them of their liquor licenses. He also signed an executive order that bars are responsible for the sidewalk area in front of their businesses.
New York City is the only region in the state that is still in Phase I. The Long Island and Mid-Hudson regions are in Phase II, but they will make the move to Phase III, opening up indoor food services. and personal care, in the middle of next week. In Phase III, the limit on indoor meetings increases from 25 to 25.
The Mid-Hudson region, which includes Westchester and Rockland counties, asked Cuomo to allow him to start Phase III on Friday so he can have bigger Father’s Day gatherings this weekend. The governor has yet to respond, but given his stance on standard rules for all regions, he is unlikely to force the request to shorten the two-week requirement between phases.
Phased regional reopens have not caused statistically significant spikes in infection so far in New York, even as nearly half of the nation’s states are dealing with new outbreaks. Many of them lack solid New York reopening standards.
Cuomo said Thursday that he is concerned about rising COVID rates in Florida and is considering imposing a 14-day quarantine for people traveling from there to New York. Florida was among the states that did that for New York travelers at the start of the pandemic, as the virus spread across all five boroughs, he said.
“Fast forward, now we fear they will bring you to our state,” Cuomo added.
On Thursday, the Empire State saw its lowest daily percentage of positive tests (0.9 percent) since testing began, though Cuomo said it is closely monitoring central New York, where daily positive percentages are increasing. As of Thursday, the region’s Phase III daily positive testing rate was up to 3 percent, notably higher than its seven-day moving average of 1 percent. The state has conducted more than 3 million COVID tests in the past three and a half months. 12 percent of New Yorkers have tested positive, though the city’s rate is higher.
Right now, the percentage of New York City residents who test positive on a seven-day average is only 1 percent. That is a far cry from 59 percent at the peak of the crisis earlier this spring. Statewide, that seven-day moving average is also 1 percent.
The five boroughs of New York City are still adding a few hundred new COVID cases daily, but considering that 30,000 or more are being tested each day, that’s not unmanageable. Even Brooklyn and Queens, the two deadliest COVID counties in the United States, are having a daily positive test rate well below 2 percent.
Starting next week, Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey would add COVID’s probable deaths to its total number, as New York City has. He says the change will increase the state’s overall toll, which stands at 12,835, “significantly.”
These are all reasons to remain vigilant, says Murphy, as the state prepares to take the next step on Monday, reopening beauty salons, tattoo and massage parlors, and more personal care services, along with contactless team sports.
Starting on Father’s Day, nursing homes, assisted living residences, dementia care homes, pediatric transitional care homes and comprehensive personal care homes may allow visits in designated outdoor spaces, Murphy said on Friday.
The governor also set a date for this week for the long-awaited reopening of closed shopping centers. Those can return on June 29 with restrictions. Food courts, common seating areas, theaters, and game rooms remain closed.
All of that has been reopened in Connecticut as of this week. The least affected state in the tri-state area in the midst of the COVID outbreak has been the most aggressive of the three in its reopening. All that is closed in Connecticut are schools, summer camps, state camps, DMV, and bars.