Different Regions Of New York Will Reopen Before Others, Cuomo Says

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NEW YORK NOW – New York state is planning to reopen its economy on a regional basis, rather than a statewide order, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, meaning parts of the state deemed less likely to experience a spread of COVID-19 will be allowed to reopen businesses first.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Credit: Cuomo’s Flickr account

Cuomo has hinted that different parts of the state may reopen before others, but he advanced the plan Tuesday, even appointing Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to lead the strategy in the Buffalo area.

“If a situation is radically different in one part of the state than another part of the state, take that into consideration,” Cuomo said.

He didn’t say which areas of the state would be first in line to reopen businesses, but stressed that each economic region has experienced the disease in different ways. While hospitalizations downstate appear to be on the decline, they’re at their peak in Buffalo, for example.

Hochul will lead the public health and reopening strategy in Western New York, Cuomo said, while former Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy would head efforts in the Finger Lakes region.

There’s currently no timeline for when the first region of the state would reopen. Cuomo said that decision will be based on the prevalence of the disease and the potential risk to the public from reopening businesses.

It’s possible that different industries in each region of the state will also be assigned different schedules for reopening. Cuomo’s said before that the state will prioritize businesses based on how essential they are to the economy, coupled with the risk of infection by reopening.

New York is also working in conjunction with six other states in the northeast to develop a long-term regional plan for reopening the economy. It’s unclear if the regional approach within New York will be part of the multistate plan.

A coalition of Republicans, including Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and a group of state lawmakers, called on Cuomo earlier Tuesday to allow businesses in Western New York to reopen, saying they could do so without risking public health.

“I think we are very well-positioned to open up our region and make the claim to the governor that what happens in western and upstate New York is much different than obviously the situation we’re all well aware of in New York City,” Reed said.

Reed said a regional reopening wouldn’t mean businesses would operate as they did before COVID-19 hit New York. The approach would be phased-in, he said, with safety protocols in place to prevent further spread of the disease.

He also noted that the risk of infection may be lower in areas of upstate New York, like his district west of Binghamton, where the population density isn’t as high as parts of downstate, like New York City.

Cuomo gave his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday in Erie County, where 2,147 people have tested positive for the disease, according to state data. The average number of people hospitalized in the county from the disease has hovered around 225 for nearly two weeks.

That would indicate that Erie County hasn’t reached a point at which the number of hospitalizations, or infections, is on the decline, Cuomo said.

That’s different from the trend in New York City, where the number of hospitalizations is slowly going down. Cuomo said the state will transfer equipment and supplies to other areas of the state as they’re needed.

“Whatever Erie County needs, whatever Western New York needs, you have more word that the rest of the state will be responsive,” Cuomo said.

Statewide, the net number of hospitalizations ticked up slightly over Monday’s numbers with an additional 32 people in treatment. That brings the most recent number of hospitalizations to 16,135. Of those, 3,975 people are intubated — a decrease from Monday.

More than a quarter million people have now tested positive for COVID-19 in New York as of Tuesday, according to state data. A total of 251,690 cases have now been identified in New York.

An additional 481 people died from the disease on Monday, 29 of which were at nursing homes. That brings the statewide total fatalities to 14,828.