As five upstate regions begin reopening Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has extended the “NY PAUSE” order for the downstate region for another two weeks.
The executive order, signed Thursday, continues the shutdown of nonessential businesses and cancellations of nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason through May 28.
“It’s all on the numbers,” Mr. Cuomo said during a briefing Friday morning. Regions must meet seven criteria, including testing, tracing and a decline in new cases and hospitalizations, before it can begin the first phase of reopening.
If a region hits the benchmarks anytime before the PAUSE order expires, Mr. Cuomo said it can begin opening.
There are a number of guidelines in place for regions which can begin opening Phase One industries, including construction and retail. Those in the construction industry are required to use masks when they cannot socially distance at work, and retailers who cannot offer curbside pickup must limit patrons to 50% of their capacity and use masks during curbside and in-store transactions.
According to the state’s dashboard, Long Island only meets four of the seven metrics required to begin reopening under Phase One. Earlier this week, it had met five of the guidelines but available hospital beds fell to exactly 30%, according to the state website.
The Long Island region also hasn’t met the criteria of a 14-day decline in hospital deaths and new hospitalizations.
SOME BEACHES TO OPEN
With warmer weather and Memorial Day weekend approaching, officials are coming up with a plan to reopen beaches in a coordinated effort with neighboring states.
The governor announced today that state beaches will open next Friday, May 22, to prevent New Yorkers from traveling to Connecticut, New Jersey or Delaware beaches over the holiday weekend.
“You will see people flock,” to open beaches, Mr. Cuomo said Friday, which could have public health impacts. “It’s not in New York’s interests to have New Yorkers go to a New Jersey beach, which is going to be crowded.”
Under the governor’s plan, the number of beach visitors will be limited to 50% usual capacity, no group activities such as volleyball will be allowed and picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions and concessions must remain closed.
City, town and county beaches may also open if they adhere to state-issued guidelines. Local governments may impose additional requirements, Mr. Cuomo said, and are required to announce their plans by Wednesday, May 20.
Mr. Cuomo said if local beaches remain closed, officials will have to prepare for an influx of visitors to state beaches.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced during his afternoon briefing that he’s submitted plans to the state that would allow Smith Point County Park and Cupsogue Beach County Park beaches to open for Memorial Day, while other county beaches would open later in June.
The county executive said it would be “unrealistic” to expect people to stay away from beaches on warm, sunny days. “It is far better for us to develop a specific plan with safety protocols in place that allows us to proactively plan for and open in a safe manner,” Mr. Bellone said.
“Beaches are a part of the fabric of life on Long Island,” the county executive added. “This virus has taken much from us — we can’t allow it to take our ability to go to the beaches this summer.”
But it won’t be exactly the same.
Masks will be required in public areas including boardwalks, stairways and restrooms, but not while on the beach or in the water. Social distancing guidelines for anyone outside of your household is also recommended.
Lifeguards on county beaches, Mr. Bellone said, would also be spaced out accordingly, in line with social distancing guidelines.
Mr. Bellone said that it will be up to towns and villages to decide whether to open their municipal beaches.
Riverhead officials said today that town beaches remain open for ‘passive use,’ and face masks should be used when social distancing is not possible.
The Riverhead Recreation Department began selling $20 2020 beach stickers to residents only Friday morning and will continue Saturday at Stotzsky Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Seniors may purchase stickers for $5 early, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Riverhead police said last week that town beaches will be monitored by a police officer or traffic control officer starting this month from noon to 8 p.m. on weekends.
Officers will be monitoring for proper social distancing and recommended use of personal protective equipment if available.
“Voluntary compliance is the ultimate goal to keep everyone safe and allow the beaches to remain open,” the press release last week said.
Officials said lifeguards will be on duty at Riverhead town beaches starting June 27.
In late April, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell announced swimming and congregating at Southold beaches would be prohibited, with parking limited to those with town stickers only. It’s unclear if beaches will be staffed with lifeguards by Memorial Day.