Gov. Andrew Cuomo, before traveling to the White House to meet with President Trump on COVID-19 matters, brought his daily briefing to Buffalo on Tuesday, where he announced the strategy to eventually reopen the economy will be done on a region-by-region basis.
Cuomo appeared at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is actively conducting coronavirus research during the pandemic. After announcing seven deaths in Erie County, the governor noted that the numbers indicate a downward trend in the York City area, but added that trends would differ among the regions of the state, just as they differ among parts of the nation.
Restarting the state's economy, he said, should also be looked upon by a regional approach.
"The we've been working on the economy in general across the state, where we recognize there's one state but there are regional economies within the state, and we've been working with each individual regional economy, we'll do the same thing on this phase," Cuomo said. "Let's talk about reopening economies in that regional context."
There are ten such regional economic zones in the Empire State Development corporation's model. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo-area native, has been tapped to oversee the Western New York region's COVID case numbers and advise when this region may be ready to safely reopen.
Cuomo identified one other individual asked to oversee a zone. Former Rochester mayor Bob Duffy, who also previously served Cuomo's lieutenant governor, has been asked to serve as the monitor of the Finger Lakes zone, which includes Rochester.
"Depending on that region's curve is how you calculate your strategy," he said.
Among the services being restored in some parts of the state is elective outpatient surgeries. The governor said this would apply to counties where hospital capacity and new COVID-19 infection rates do not pose a threat of a significant surge in cases.
The change takes effect next week but existing restrictions will remain in place for 19 counties, including Erie. Neighboring counties, however, have been deemed ready to resume elective outpatient procedures.
"Today’s announcement that Western New York hospitals can now resume the operation of elective surgeries will help soften the economic blow that the current COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on these facilities," said State Senator and congressional candidate Robert Ortt, whose district covers Niagara County.
"This is a reasonable decision that takes into consideration both the risk to public health and the economic situations these hospitals find themselves in. If these operations can be conducted without risking the resources needed to combat the current pandemic, then they should be allowed to proceed."