Cuomo: New York’s reopening must be data-driven

As the number of new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and intubations continues on a downward track, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shifted his focus on the reopening strategy.

During a press briefing in Syracuse Tuesday afternoon, the governor offered more specifics on how the procedures would be data-driven.

“It’s becoming rhetorical rather than factual,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We want to reopen, but we want to do it without infecting more people or overwhelming the hospital system.”

The reopening strategy will be based on two key measurements: hospital capacity and the rate of new infections.

Moving forward, even as elective surgeries resume primarily in the upstate region, hospitals must maintain at least 30% of their bed capacity, the governor said. The rate of transmission also must not exceed 1.1, which could signal another outbreak. “Those are danger signs,” Mr. Cuomo said.

In Suffolk, the total number of hospital beds available is just under 1,000, according to data provided Tuesday by County Executive Steve Bellone. That means nearly 29% of the 3,395 total hospital beds in the county are currently open. ICU units are also about 71% full.

New York’s strategy mirrors guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say states can only begin to reopen once hospitalizations decline for 14 days straight. COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined in Suffolk County for seven consecutive days, county data shows.

Gov. Cuomo reported hospitalizations were down “a tick” while deaths remain flat. The governor reported another 335 deaths Tuesday, bringing the total to 17,638. The number of new infections daily is now below 1,000, the governor said.

“We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in all of this,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Construction and manufacturing businesses will be among the first to reopen with safety precautions in place, the governor said. As other businesses reopen, the governor warned that precautions and social distancing must be followed, as all are part of the new normal.

He declined to talk about the possible reopening of schools, which are currently closed until May 15.

A decision could be forthcoming by the end of the week, he said.

“I know people are feeling emotional, but emotions can’t drive a reopening proces,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo also spoke about avoiding reopening “attractive nuisances” that could bring hundreds of outsiders to a particular area of the state.

New York State will create an advisory board made up of business, academic and civic leaders to inform the process, the governor announced Tuesday.

Mr. Cuomo also said the state needs approximately 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people, as well as isolation facilities where infected individuals can go to quarantine to reduce the risk of infecting their family members.

The pandemic, Mr. Cuomo said, has exposed many issues that should be addressed as the state recovers from the health crisis. He called for additional resources for teachers to be trained on remote learning and increasing access to telemedicine. 

“We’ve gone through hell and back over the last 60 days,” he said.

The governor continued to criticize the “alphabet soup” of international health organizations he says failed to sound the alarm about the coronavirus. 

In an interview Monday night on HBO’s Axios, Mr. Cuomo said he wishes he “blew the bugle” earlier about the coronavirus.

“All you need is one person to get on a plane,” he said, asking why no one suspected COVID-19 would be transmitted via travel.