As Governor Andrew Cuomo put it, "this is the next big step in this historic journey." The state's PAUSE order is set to expire on Friday, and three of the state's 10 regional economic zones are ready to enter the first phase of a gradual reopening. Western New York, unfortunately, is not among them.
The Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions have, according to Cuomo during his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday, met all seven metrics required to be ready for phase one. The Western New York zone, which includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties, has met five of seven metrics as per the chart presented during Cuomo's briefing.
The five counties of the Western New York zone have yet to show a 14-day decline in hospitaliztions (or three-day average of less than 15 new hospitalizations) and a 14-day decline in hospital deaths (or three-day average of less than five fatalities).
Within the regions that are allowed to begin reopening, construction, manufacturing and supply chains may resume operations though with adjustments to help prevent the spread of the virus. Other business which are allowed to open are considered low-risk, including landscaping and gardening, drive-in movie theaters and low-risk recreational activities such as tennis.
"Businesses have to put safety precautions in place. We understand what has to be done, how the workforce has to have personal protection, and socially distance the workspace itself," Cuomo said. "In some cases, to be adjusted, reconfigure. How do you have people work but they're six feet apart?"
Regional "control rooms" will monitor progress, while continuing to pay attention to health trends. Cuomo says the control group will need to have a "circuit breaker" plan in place to respond to any signs of an uptick in viral infections. He likened it to turning a valve — not entirely shutting things off again, but adjusting so the region could recalibrate.
Cuomo again, during his latest briefing, looked back upon the earliest projections by federal health officials that predicted the state might need well over 100,000 hospital beds to serve a potentially high caseload. The numbers never went that high, the governor insists, because of the state's actions but also because of the public's response.
"People, they accomplished a great, great feat in this state. We had the worst situation in the nation. The worst," he said. "And now, our numbers are on the decline and the rest of the country is still on the incline. But New Yorkers did what nobody could have imagined. If they show that same resolve and intelligence in this next phase... it's up to them. It is up to them."