Governor says businesses must think about how they can safely reopen; two-phase plan to begin with construction, manufacturing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a general two-phase outline for when nonessential businesses can resume, a plan that would vary by region in terms of timeline and would appear to keep most downstate businesses closed at least through May.

Mr. Cuomo said Phase 1 would be to allow construction and manufacturing businesses with low risk to resume. The second phase would involve many of the remaining businesses currently closed and their reopening would be done on a more specific business-by-business analysis.

“If you reopen that business, how much risk are you possibly incurring and how important is that business reopening?” the governor said Sunday during his daily media briefing in Albany. “That matrix will be guiding us through Phase 2.”

There will be two weeks between phases — equal to the incubation period for the virus — for the state to monitor the effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline is for the state and regional hospitalization rate for the coronavirus to be in decline for 14 days before reopening begins.

“I think the CDC guidance is right,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Phase 1 would not begin until at least the current NY PAUSE executive order expires May 15. “That’s where you will start the conversation to get to Phase 1,” he said. The governor said regions in upstate where there are fewer cases could begin Phase 1 sooner if the hospitalization rate reaches the decline benchmark. He said he would expect the overall statewide hospitalization rate to have reached a 14-day decline by May 15.

Mr. Cuomo said it will be up to businesses to develop plans on how they can safely reopen and put safeguards in place to limit possible spread of the virus.

A business can’t necessarily determine how essential it is, but can develop safeguards that lowers risk of reopening, he said. Businesses would have to submit a plan to the state before they can reopen, the governor said. Different factors are social distancing, the number of people gathering together, personal protective equipment and vulnerable populations.

“We need them to be creative and think outside the box,” he said. “Some people even need a new economic model.”

The phases for Long Island would be tied to New York City, the governor said. He said multi-state coordination is particularly important in the downstate area, where people may live in Connecticut and work in New York or vice versa, for example.

“Downstate New York is going to be more complicated,” he said. “You can’t do anything in New York City you don’t do in Nassau and Suffolk. Coordination does not mean total consistency.”

The governor said any attractions that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area will not be allowed to reopen.

Mr. Cuomo said schools are necessary for a large-scale business reopening. He didn’t provide a specific timeline for when districts could reopen.

The state will be monitoring not only hospitalizations, but also the number of positive antibody tests and number of positive diagnostic tests in each region to track a rate of infection. The current infection rate is 0.8, meaning an infected person goes on to infect fewer than one person. If the rate rises to 1.2, the hospitalization rate will increase.

“All of this is dependent on testing,” he said.

An additional 367 fatalities in the state were reported Saturday, bringing the statewide total to just under 17,000.

Additional data is available here.