The state of New York experienced the world’s biggest and deadliest coronavirus outbreak and still remains far behind other states when it comes to coming out of the lockdown. However, most of the state is finally coming around towards reopening. As of May 20, seven out of the ten regions in New York will have started a four-phase reopening process after the statewide lockdown that was ordered in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The regions that are reopening are the Capital District, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier, and Western New York. Long Island and Mid-Hudson have started the process of reopening, while New York City remains weeks away from starting the process. The Mid-Hudson region had started reopening on Tuesday, and Long Island followed that on Wednesday, after the launch of their contact tracing program.
Requirements Each New York Region Must Meet to Start Reopening
In order to reopen, each region needs to meet a variety of criteria, which include most importantly, the seven health-related benchmarks regarding infection, death, hospitalization rates, health-care system capacity, and test-and-trace capacity.
Hospitalization and Death Rates
- A 14-day decline in coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths from the virus on a three-day rolling average.
- 15 or fewer total new confirmed cases of COVID-19 or five or fewer new deaths from the coronavirus on a three-day rolling average.
- Fewer than two new coronavirus patients being admitted to hospitals per 100,000 residents.
Health-care Capacity after Elective Surgeries Resume
- 30% of both total hospital beds and ICU beds must be available.
- Hospitals must have a 90-day stockpile of PPE.
Testing and Contact Tracing
In order to reopen, the regions must have the following:
- Capacity to conduct 30 diagnostic tests per month for 1,000 residents, via an appropriate number of well-advertised testing sites depending on the population of the region, and testing needs to prioritize people who show symptoms or have been in contact with people with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- At least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents, or more if the projections warrant that.
Regions will also need to continue ensuring that essential workers are protected, and they have set up a regional control room for monitoring all indicators of progress throughout the reopening phases. They will need to reevaluate and collect their infection-rate data, and test-and trace programs and the reopening of public transportation systems and schools need to be coordinated with surrounding regions.
What Regions Have Reopened and How Close Are Others?
As of May 22, there are seven qualifying regions that have begun phase one of reopening. The progress of the regions in the seven health-related benchmarks is being tracked by the state on a regional monitoring dashboard. New York City, where most of the coronavirus cases have been concentrated, has only met five out of the seven benchmarks and is currently the only region with a share of total beds available that is less than the threshold of 30 percent.
Here is where the regions stood as of May 25:
When Will New York City Start to Reopen?
It’s still not clear when New York City will start to reopen, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has estimated that the city will meet the state’s reopening criteria sometime in the first half of June. Governor Cuomo has also expected a mid-June reopening of the city. Regarding the metrics, it hasn’t met as of May 25:
- The city is working to hire contact tracers and is expected to have them ready soon, but it doesn’t have the required 30 tracers per 100,000 residents.
- The city’s hospital-bed vacancy rate is at 28 percent but needs to be at least 30 percent.
Once the city meets all the criteria for reopening, it is expected to open its doors, and the public will be able to come out and go about their normal lives.