‘Turning the page on COVID-19,’ governor says Phase 1 for Long Island begins Wednesday

After more than two months of closures for a wide array of nonessential businesses, the first major step toward returning to a new normal on Long Island begins Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during Tuesday’s media briefing that Long Island will start Phase 1 of the NY Forward reopening plan on Wednesday. He said contact tracers — one of the seven metrics required for each region — will come online today and be ready to start. The last remaining metric is a 14-day decline in hospital deaths, which Long Island will be on target to now reach.

“We’re going to turn the page on COVID-19,” the governor said, adding that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone rushes back to the beach. “It was never a question of reopen or not reopen. The answer was always reopen. The question was always how smart are you on the reopening? How intelligent are you on the reopening?”

The Mid-Hudson region, north of New York City, is reopening for Phase 1 today. That leaves New York City as the last region still waiting to begin Phase 1.

Many upstate regions are already a week into Phase 1, which allows for manufacturing, construction, curbside or in-store pickup for retail, wholesale trade and agriculture.

The second phase will open up retail fully as well as professional services, administrative support and real estate. Restaurants, a major point of contention, are still listed as Phase 3.

The governor reiterated that preventative measures such as wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing will need to remain in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from picking up again.

“It makes a real difference,” Mr. Cuomo said as he held a surgical mask in his right hand.

The latest numbers on statewide new hospitalizations for COVID-19 are their lowest since the outbreak began in March, Mr. Cuomo said. There were 73 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours, which is also the lowest figure since the start.

“In this absurd new reality, that’s good news,” he said of the latest number of fatalities.

A Regional Control Room for Long Island will monitor all the data as reopening begins and respond however necessary. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is in that control group.