ALBANY, N.Y. — New York City is on track to begin the second phase of the coronavirus reopening process next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, paving the way for a slate of long-shuttered businesses in the five boroughs to get back to basics, including restaurants.
The expected Monday phase two kickoff is in the cards because New York’s coronavirus death tolls and positive test rates have plummeted to record lows, Cuomo said in a briefing from the State Capitol.
“The numbers are good, so New York is on track to enter phase two on Monday,” Cuomo said. “We did it. … We are stronger for it, I believe that. We’re stronger as a community.”
Seventeen New Yorkers died from COVID-19 on Tuesday, Cuomo reported, the lowest daily death count by far since the pandemic hit the Empire State in March.
Along with the sinking death count, Cuomo said less than 1% of nearly 60,000 coronavirus tests performed across the state Tuesday came back positive, signaling the virus is on the retreat.
“This is one of the best days for New York since we started,” Cuomo said.
With all arrows pointing in the right direction, Cuomo said — somewhat morosely — that he will hold his last daily coronavirus briefing on Friday after doing them every day for the past few months.
“These daily briefings, while fun, take a lot of time,” he said, adding he may still do an occasional briefing, just not every morning.
He added, “Now that we are on the other side of this, we’ll climb new mountains together.”
Cuomo’s optimistic phase two announcement stood in sharp contrast to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s comments just a few hours earlier.
In his own briefing from City Hall, the mayor did not want to commit to a phase two start date for the city, saying there are still too many unknowns about how recent mass protests against police brutality may have impacted COVID-19 spread.
“We’re all mindful we had a very unique situation with the protests,” de Blasio said.
“If we’re judging by today’s numbers, we’re in great shape,” he continued, “but what we’re looking for going into the weekend is, do we see any variation there? I know the state’s very concerned about this as well. It’s a day-to-day discussion.”
In phase two, restaurants are allowed to open their doors to outdoor service at 50% capacity, as long as six feet of social distancing can be maintained between patrons. Indoor service remains prohibited.
In addition to restaurants, hair salons and barbershops will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, with the caveat that customers and staff must wear face masks at all times.
Other businesses that are allowed to resume operations with limited capacity in phase two include real estate companies, most offices and car dealerships, among others.
Pivoting away from phase two, Cuomo took renewed aim at the Trump administration over its response to the pandemic, accusing the president and his advisers of putting lives in danger by urging states to rush to reopen their economies.
“The federal government is making a historic mistake,” he said.
Cuomo noted that COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing in Arizona, Florida, Texas and several other states that started the reopening process before meeting coronavirus metrics set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York, meanwhile, is seeing those numbers decline.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Cuomo said. “The states without the smart reopening plans are going up. That is a fact.”
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