Saying it’s time to start writing a new chapter in New York’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning gave the go-ahead for the Finger Lakes Region to begin the phased-in reopening of the economy on Friday.
Construction, manufacturing and retail businesses that can safely provide curb-side pickup will make up Phase 1. Agriculture, forestry and fishing also have the go-ahead to reopen on Friday.
“This is the next big step in this historic journey,” Cuomo said Monday during a visit to Rochester Regional Health’s Riedman campus in Irondequoit. “We are on the other side of the mountain. Because we have abated the worst by what we have done, we can intelligently turn to reopening.”
In order to restart business activity, regions must meet seven criteria that are based on CDC guidelines. The Finger Lakes was in compliance on five steps as of last Monday: a 14-day decline in hospitalizations, a 14-day decrease in deaths, the rate of new hospitalizations had to be below two per 100,000 residents, and 30 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds must be available.
The final two steps were met over the past week: 30 of every 1,000 residents must be tested monthly and there must be 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents to meet the current infection rate.
“It’s an exciting new phase, we’re all anxious to get back to work,” Cuomo said. “We want to do smartly, we want to do it intelligently, but we want to do it and that’s what this week is going to be all about.”
When home-building activity resumes, carpenters, masons and all others at construction sites will embrace new safety guidelines.
The names of everyone entering the site — be it workers or delivery personnel — will be charted and wash stations will be erected.
“Naturally we’re delighted that we’re able to go back to work,” said Rick Herman, CEO of the Rochester Home Builders Association. “Our industry is so strapped for skilled labor, everyone that was working before is going to be able to come back right away.”
The phase-in will continue over the next few weeks. Next up: real estate and leasing, retail, professional services, finance and insurance and administrative support.
The third phase involves restaurants and hotels, with arts and entertainment, recreation and education in the fourth and final phase.
Cuomo said each region must have a circuit-breaker in place to monitor how the gradual reopening is impacting the rate of spread.
“Depending on how intelligently you increase activity will be the possible effect on the spread of the virus,” he said. “You need to know what the impact is, you need to know it in real time, and you need to be in position to respond. If it does not go well, and you see that infection rate moving, you have to be able to pull the plug or slow down the increase in activity.”
Also given the go-ahead to open on Friday: Drive-in movie theaters.
“Talk about going back to the future,” Cuomo said.