Jesse McKinley

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday presented a soft blueprint for how New York State’s economy might begin to restart, a set of criteria that will determine which regions allow what sectors to reopen and when.

In remarks at an event in Monroe County, where the coronavirus has killed more than 100 people, Mr. Cuomo reiterated that the entire state would remain locked down until May 15, when his stay-at-home order is scheduled to expire. New York City and its suburbs, which are still besieged by the virus, may be the last places to start returning to some semblance of normal, he suggested.

Still, the guidelines laid out by the governor offered a glimmer of hope for businesses that have been battered as the economy reels and residents who are weary of closed stores, shuttered bars and the scared and subdued society around them.

“This is not a sustainable situation,” Mr. Cuomo said of the shutdown, now in its seventh week. “Close down everything, close down the economy, lock yourself in the home. You can do it for a short period of time, but you can’t do it forever.”

Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said New York would rely heavily on progress in key areas — declines in new positive virus cases and deaths, and increases in testing, hospital capacity and contact tracing — under a complex formula that will determine when parts of the state are eligible to reopen.

New York Coronavirus Map and Case Count

A detailed county map shows the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, with tables of the number of cases by county.

Once the requirements are met, the plan would first allow construction and manufacturing and some retail stores to reopen for curbside pickup, similar to California, after May 15.

The effect of phase one would be evaluated after two weeks. If indicators are still positive, state officials said, the second phase of reopening would include professional services, more retailers and real estate firms, among others, perhaps as soon as the end of May.

Restaurants, bars and hotels would come next, followed by a fourth, and final, phase that would include attractions like cinemas and theaters, including Broadway, a powerful financial force in New York City.

The governor’s announcement came after states that have not been hit as hard by the pandemic moved toward restarting their economies in a limited fashion. In one of those states, California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said bookstores, florists, clothing shops and some other businesses could begin meeting customers for curbside pickup as soon as Friday.

But New York, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, with nearly 25,000 deaths and more than 300,000 cases, has moved more cautiously.

Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, said on Monday that ever since shows went dark in March, there has been an understanding that Broadway houses would be among the last businesses to return.

“It’s just common sense,” Ms. St. Martin said, noting that Broadway theaters tend to be tightly packed, and productions could not afford to put on shows at half capacity. “We hate it, but we get it.”

Schools, which have already been canceled statewide for the rest of the academic year, would also be covered in the final reopening phase.

The calculations apply to the state’s 10 regions, which include heavily populated areas like New York City and its suburbs and large rural swaths of upstate like the Southern Tier, which borders Pennsylvania.

The governor made it clear that the less-populated areas, where infection rates have been minuscule compared with what the city and suburbs have experienced, would be the first to re-emerge from the shutdown.

“If upstate has to wait for downstate to be ready,” Mr. Cuomo said, “they’re going to be waiting for a long time.”

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 1, 2020

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      More than 40 million people — the equivalent of 1 in 4 U.S. workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • How can I help?

      Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.

Each region would have to satisfy seven specific criteria before businesses and services can open again.

The criteria, heavily influenced by guidelines issued last month by the White House and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:

  • Net hospitalizations for cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, must either show a continuous 14-day decline or total no more than 15 new hospitalizations a day on average over three days. The latter would probably be a realistic goal only in less populated areas.

  • A 14-day decline in virus-related hospital deaths, or fewer than five a day, averaged over three days. New York City and many other parts of the state have reached that benchmark, but Long Island and the Hudson Valley have not.

  • A three-day rate of new hospitalizations below two per 100,000 residents a day, something that was well beyond the grasp of New York City and its suburbs on Monday.

  • A hospital-bed vacancy rate of at least 30 percent, which Mr. Cuomo has said is necessary to be prepared for possible new waves of the disease in the future. Most parts of New York have met the threshold, despite more than 9,600 coronavirus patients still being hospitalized.

  • An availability rate of at least 30 percent for intensive care unit beds; 3,330 people remain in such units, often on ventilators, which are needed in severe cases of the disease.

  • A weekly average of 30 virus tests per 1,000 residents a month. This category could be the most challenging one to meet in many rural or more remote areas, where testing, and thus positive results, has lagged far behind major cities, like New York, which already is surpassing this goal.

  • Finally, the governor also wants at least 30 working contact tracers per 100,000 residents as part of a program led by Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, who has given $10.5 million for the effort. Mr. Cuomo has described the initiative as “a monumental undertaking,” requiring “an army” of tracers, some of whom will be public employees who have been redeployed.

The urge to reopen the state comes as New York’s budget is under immense pressure: The state’s coffers are being drained by the cost of the outbreak — nearly $3 billion spent, at last report — and a precipitous fall in various types of tax revenue.

Even limited increases in commercial activity could help county and city governments, said E.J. McMahon, a conservative economist and founder of the Empire Center for Public Policy, saying that revenue had “cratered during the lockdown.”

“With restaurants still very tightly constricted, and with seasonal fairs, festivals and sporting events still banned, it will be a very weak and partial recovery,” Mr. McMahon said. “But it would at least mean that sales taxes have hit bottom.”

Representative Tom Reed, a Republican who represents the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier areas, two regions where the number of tests being conducted does not currently meet the governor’s requirements, said that he and other officials were working “to build out the necessary testing infrastructure.” Mr. Reed added that he hoped Mr. Cuomo understood “the impact a prolonged shutdown will have on key local industries and historically underserved rural communities.”

Mr. Cuomo said on Monday that he wanted to see businesses open again, but that he also worried aloud about possible resurgences of the virus that had occurred in places like South Korea.

“You see that you reopen too soon or you reopen unintelligently and you can then have an immediate backlash,” Mr. Cuomo said. “And that’s not speculation. That is looking at other countries, and look at what has happened around the world.”

© 2020 The New York Times

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About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.