CAPITAL REGION — The political sparring over the potential re-opening of the Capital Region’s economy is underway as the governor extended the current statewide pause on economic activity, a move intended to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, in at least some parts of the state.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order Friday night that extends the state of emergency declared in mid-March, and due to expire May 15, through June 6. While that lays the groundwork to extend the “pause” expiration, the possibility remains that construction and manufacturing activity could resume in some regions upstate.
“Yesterday’s Executive Order extended the underlying legal authority for the Emergency Order, but did not change the text of any of the directives in NY ON PAUSE and so the expiration date of May 15 still stands until further notice. At that time, new guidance will be issued for regions based on the metrics outlined by Governor Cuomo earlier this week,” Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, said on Saturday, following confusion about whether the pause had been extended.
A group of Republican local elected officials from Saratoga, Washington, Rensselaer and Columbia counties, led by state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, on Friday called for Cuomo to allow their counties to re-open separately from Albany County, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the Capital Region.
Those counties “have seen, and continue seeing, far lower rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and mortality than downstate and are largely ready to re-open. However, by grouping these four counties with Albany County, meeting the seven metrics prescribed by the Governor will be virtually impossible,” Jordan said in releasing the letter Friday night.
Albany County officials, however, said they’re hopeful about being ready to re-open when the current “pause” order expires May 15.
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said Saturday that his office is working with businesses to try to get the economy re-opened, and as part of that effort has added a testing site in Coeymans, in the southern part of the county. Expanded testing capacity is one of the criteria Cuomo has set for regions re-opening their economies.
“As we discuss reopening our economy, the governor has made it clear we will be judged as a region, not a county,” McCoy said, noting that regional leaders are looking to meet the Friday deadline.
Cuomo wants to make re-opening decisions based on the state’s ten economic development regions. Using that model, the Capital Region includes Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Washington, Warren, Greene and Columbia counties. (Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie are considered part of the Mohawk Valley region.)
The retail, hotel and restaurant industries have all been hard-hit by the measures taken to reduce social interactions and reduce spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, and many businesses are anxious to re-open.
The criteria for re-opening include a 14-day decline in hospitalizations and hospital deaths; new hospitalizations of less than 2 percent per 100,000 residents; hospitals maintain a 30 percent vacancy rate and a 90-day stockpile of personal protective equipment; increased testing capacity; and having at least 30 contract tracers per 100,000 residents. Cuomo’s office has said no regions currently meet all the criteria.
Meanwhile, two more deaths were reported in the region. There were 226 deaths statewide on Friday, Cuomo reported.
In Albany County, a man in his 80s who lived at the Shaker Place nursing home died at the Albany VA Hospital Friday, bringing the county’s death toll to 59. A fourth nursing home resident died in Fulton County, bringing that county’s overall death total to nine.