SYRACUSE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some communities on Long Island say they are close to meeting Centers for Disease Control guidelines for reopening, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo says not so fast.
Cuomo says the New York Forwards Reopening Advisory Board has been created and Tuesday he further laid out additional, specific guidelines for reopening. Cuomo went deeper into detail on the points he made during Monday’s media briefing.
People are getting antsy about reopening, and Long Island officials believe that region is close to doing it. Or is it?
Cuomo says New York will open on a regional basis. CDC guidelines state once a region has a 14 day decline in hospitalization they may begin a phased reopening.
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Businesses will reopen in phases. Phase one is construction and manufacturing functions with low risk. Phase two would include more essential businesses with low risks of infection, and so on. Each must present a plan to keep workers safe utilizing social distancing.
“Tell us how you are going to incorporate the lessons that we just learned. How do you incorporate social distancing? How do you incorporate fewer people in the space so you reduce density? How do you have the right people? How are you going to monitor or you take temperatures of everyone who walks in? That’s for businesses to decide,” Cuomo said.
Additionally, each region must also have at least 30% of hospital beds and ICU beds available after elective surgeries resume.
“Your health care system cannot go over 70% capacity. Again, there’s a two week lag, if you aren’t 70%, bells should go off. Don’t go over 70% in your ICU beds,” Cuomo said. “So 70% is a safe metric to use for your hospital capacity. If the transmission rate hits 1.1, that’s what they call an outbreak. That means it’s going to spread much, much faster. You wouldn’t start reopening unless you had a transmission rate below 1.1, but if it hits 1.1. That means you’re in trouble. So those are two main data points if you look at the state.”
Testing, tracing and regional coordination must also be in place.
“The current recommendation is you need at least 30 tracers per 100,000 people. So we have to have that in place,” Cuomo said.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran says her area is almost there. Tuesday marked 13 straight days of declining hospitalizations.
“That means we are one more day away from declining hospitalizations to check that very important box for CDC of protocols for phase 1 of reopening,” she said.
“We are getting closer to reaching that point in the CDC guidelines in the next week,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
But there’s more.
“The second box that we’ve got to check is the making sure that we have a downward trajectory of the number of people who are testing positive,” Curran said. “Third box to check: Ramped-up testing.”
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So as for a firm timeline for reopening, officials say there is none, but they’re getting closer.
He said he understands the angst many New Yorkers feel about wanting to get back to work, but he’s not going to cave to public pressure.
“Separate the emotion from the logic, and we have to act as our logical selves here,” Cuomo said. “And that’s what smart means. Be smart about it. Don’t be emotional. Don’t be political. Don’t get pushed politically into a situation — protesters are in front of the Capitol, we better reopen. No, I’m not going to do that. That’s not how we make decisions.”
Cuomo said it’s important for everyone to understand that the data shows that a good portion of upstate New York has hospitalization rates that rival what is being reported in states in the Midwest and West, which is why those areas will likely begin to open up well before the greater New York City area.
The governor explained the concept of an “attractive nuisance,” saying regions cannot begin opening up businesses that draw hundreds of people from other areas. While not stating specific examples, it’s likely he was referring to amusement parks and other entertainment venues and operations that have mass appeal and would have trouble implementing and enforcing social distancing guidelines.
He said state municipalities have to remember that flu season is coming in the fall and, assuming there is a second wave of COVID-19, much must be done to stockpile PPE, have widespread testing and tracing measures in place, and isolation facilities at the ready should the need arise. He also stressed the importance of regional control rooms, where everything is monitored, and sufficient advertising, so people can know exactly what the new rules are and how, if need be, to get tested.
Meanwhile, the nurses’ union, National Nurses United, says calls to reopen the country are premature.
It says, among other things, optimal PPE is needed for health care workers, “including powered air-purifying respirators, coveralls that incorporate head coverings and shoe coverings, and gloves. Otherwise, hospitals will continue to be places that spread infection.”
He also said it’s time to reimagine telemedicine and tele-education.
Cuomo made it a point to discuss the treatment of essential workers, and not just health care workers, who put their lives on the line daily to make sure the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t intensify. He singled out numerous workers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, citing their commitment to American values as a reason why they, too, should be applauded at every turn.
“We also have to remember that as a society and as a community, we’re about government and we’re about systems. But even more, we are about values. What makes us who we are, are our values,” Cuomo said.
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The governor then spoke of “two nightmares” he had once the outbreak intensified and he realized the steps that needed to be taken.
“One, that I would put out directives on what we need to do, and 19 million New Yorkers would say, I haven’t been convinced. I’m not going to do this. Second nightmare was, what if the essential workers don’t show up? You have to have food, your transportation. The lights have to be on, someone has to pick up the garbage, the hospitals have to run. What if the essential worker said, ‘I’m not showing up?'” Cuomo said.
But then, he said, something happened that showed him just how tough New York residents are.
“I just finished communicating, how dangerous this was to convince 19 million people to stay home and close schools and close businesses, and the essential worker still showed up. That is a value. They didn’t show up for a paycheck. They didn’t show up, because government asked them to show up. They didn’t show up because their employer said, ‘I need you to show up.’ They showed up out of their values, and out of their honor and out of their dignity. That’s why they showed up.”
Cuomo specifically lauded police officers, firefighters, and public transportation employees.
“It’s everyone else out there doing their jobs so they can make sure everyone else can stay home. We must protect and respect the essential workers,” he said, adding there must be enough testing and personal protection equipment (PPE) available so that they can do their jobs with less fear and worry.