BUFFALO — New York’s economy will reopen in phases starting upstate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
He spoke from Erie County, where a surge of COVID-19 cases has left the highest death toll in the state outside the New York City area — 151 residents are dead — but where hospitalizations appear to have stopped rising for now.
Because the virus is spreading to different regions at different rates, the reopening cannot happen all at once statewide, the governor said.
“We're going to make reopening decisions on a regional basis. Based on that region's facts and circumstances about the COVID virus,” Cuomo said. “In other words, just like some states will reopen before other states because they have a different circumstance when it comes to COVID and their status with COVID, it's also true across the state. North Country has a totally different situation than New York City. Central New York has a different situation.”
Cuomo also said the state would try to “reimagine” each region as it went along, making it better than it was before the pandemic. A day earlier he introduced the idea, which would entail significant societal changes at unknown cost in dollars and effort, resulting in greater equality for New Yorkers and sweeping systemic changes.
On Monday, Cuomo said the Reimagine NY initiative mainly would be focused downstate. On Tuesday, he said upstate would reimagined as well. He named his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, to lead efforts to reimagine the future in the Western New York Region, and said he'd ask his former lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy, to lead efforts in the Finger Lakes Region.
Reopening the economy in stages starting upstate has been a goal of the Republican minority in the state Legislature.
On Sunday, state Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, wrote Democrat Cuomo to suggest that he reopen New York outside the downstate area served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority starting May 1.
He said Tuesday that he was glad to hear the governor’s announcement that morning and is looking forward to seeing the details.
“There’s no room for partisanship,” he said. “This is a public health issue … now it’s becoming a public economic issue. If we don’t get the economy open again, we’re going face other problems.
“We can do this in a way that can be safe.”
He didn’t mind the fact that Cuomo offered no timetable for the reopening.
“Which is great, it gives us some time,” Amedore said. “I think there are precautions, protocols that employers can put in place.”
State Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, also supported the concept laid out by the governor.
“When it comes to reopening Upstate New York’s economy, our first priority must be to continue to take every measure necessary to prevent a second wave spike in COVID-19 cases. I support taking a regional and incremental approach along with increasing testing for those who may have the virus, anti-body testing, and contact tracing,” he said via email Tuesday.
Each of these points has been hammered by Cuomo repeatedly.
Tedisco also called for a reimagining, but likely in a different way than Cuomo has in mind.
“We don’t want to go back to the old economy where 189,000 people last year and over one million in the past decade left the state. In a multitude of negative economic rankings, New York ranks number one or close to the top. That’s why, once this COVID-19 crisis stabilizes, I will continue to work with Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and my colleagues in a nonpartisan way to shine a bright light on this population loss that’s been particularly felt in our upstate areas.”
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, also applauded.
“I have consistently advocated for a regional approach when it comes to re-opening New York's economy,” she said in a prepared statement. “I am pleased that New York state has recognized that the challenges and circumstances of the North Country are different than New York City when it comes to re-opening. I believe our local county public health officials and hospitals will help guide these decisions. Additionally, in my role on President Trump’s Task Force to Reopen the Economy, I will be working with my bipartisan colleagues on this regional approach to ensure we balance both public health and the need to get people back to work safely.”
In other COVID-19 related development Tuesday:
- The death toll reached 14,828 statewide, with a cumulative 251,690 confirmed cases of the virus.
- Albany County reported the deaths of two residents at its Shaker Place Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, where 22 residents and ten employees have tested positive. Elsewhere, Columbia, Rensselaer and Warren counties each reported one death from COVID.
- Albany Medical Center said 88 of the 772 employees it has tested were confirmed positive, a rate of about 11.3%; the positive rate for Albany County as a whole is 9.6% of those tested.
- The Schenectady County COVID-19 Emergency Response Coalition said it will host a drive-thru food distribution event from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the rear parking lot of Schenectady County Community College.
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced furloughs of 280 employees "whose duties and responsibilities cannot be performed remotely." The furloughs go into effect May 1 and will last until July 31, college officials said in a message sent to the college community. RPI said furloughed staff will continue to receive the health benefits they are currently enrolled in and noted that the furloughed staff would be eligible for enhanced unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act passed last month.
- One of the biggest shows of the SPAC summer season — Dead & Company — canceled its tour.