There’s been a lot of scuttlebutt about whether New York State will reopen—whether it be, say, once the May 15 work-from-home order expires or months beyond that—but it does, at least at present, sound like it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.
While most New Yorkers have been waiting for and wondering whether Governor Andrew Cuomo will once again extend the work-from-home order, which is a little over three weeks from now, that hasn’t happened yet. And in his daily press briefing on April 26, Cuomo made no mention of an extension, but rather of a more tangible plan for reopening (and “reimagining”) the state. He noted that any type of reopening would be based on a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) directive, stating that the state and regional hospitalization rate would have to be in decline for 14 days. Then it would be up to the state itself to decide whether to reopen or not. Of course, per Cuomo in previous briefings, any reopening would not only be phased, but also be coordinated with our neighbor states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.
What would be a phased reopening look like? From a standing start, that would first mean that construction and manufacturing businesses would be able to reopen, but those with the lowest risk of driving up the infection rate. The next phase would be reopening more essential, low-risk businesses, who would then also have to do self-analyses on how to keep that risk low. There would be two weeks between the two phases of reopening, and the businesses and state itself would be closely monitoring it throughout.
Of course, reopening, say, a specific region, like Saratoga County, would come with a number of caveats, the most front-and-center of which being that it wouldn’t be able to have attractions or openings that drew larger numbers of visitors from adjacent states to a specific location. Clearly, without mentioning them by name during the briefing, Cuomo was referring to places like Saratoga Race Course and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, though he did indirectly mention sports and wondered, rhetorically, whether they could be done without an audience. (As in, could a potential scenario for the racetrack be a fan-less summer meet?) Cuomo reemphasized that any decision would have to be made within a multi-state context.
So, exactly how close are we to reopening? According to Cuomo, the statewide infection rate now sits at 0.8 percent, down 0.1 percent from last we knew. Somewhat surprisingly, the current infection rate is higher in Upstate New York than it is downstate—0.9 percent versus 0.75 percent, respectively—but both effectively mean that one person infected with COVID-19 is infecting less than one person, which is good news. The key to gauging a region’s readiness to reopen will be based on a three-pronged monitoring system: noting the number of hospitalizations, positive antibody tests and positive diagnostic COVID-19 tests. If the state’s rate of transmission goes above 1.2 percent, then it’s back to square one.
Once again, total hospitalizations and intubations were down (the former being at the level they were on March 31). The number of new COVID-19 cases was also down to 1,000, a decline of 100, day over day. And the total number of deaths also dipped considerably, down to 367 on April 25 from 437 on April 24.
New York State still leads all other states in America with nearly 300,000 total COVID-19 cases and more than 22,000 total deaths.