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Experts to decide if regions can go to Phase 2 of COVID reopening

Experts to decide if regions can go to Phase 2 of COVID reopening

Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties among those ending Phase 1
Experts to decide if regions can go to Phase 2 of COVID reopening
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media Thursday in Brooklyn flanked by Chris Rock and Rosie Perez.
Photographer: Governor's Office

BROOKLYN — Phase 1 of New York’s economic restart soon could give way to Phase 2 in the Mohawk Valley and four other regions of the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said the two-week-long Phase 1 ends Friday in the five regions, and international experts will review the metrics of COVID-19 pandemic within each region to determine if it’s ready to enter Phase 2.

His brief remark during an interview with Alan Chartock on WAMC radio Thursday caused a bit of surprise among people who weren’t aware that such a review was a requirement.

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“Guys, we laid this out like a week ago,” Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi tweeted later Thursday afternoon in response.

Dr. Samir Bhatt, senior lecturer at Imperial College, joined Cuomo via video link during the governor’s May 18 daily briefing to discuss the science of monitoring the pandemic during reopening. Cuomo said Bhatt and Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, would be reviewing the state’s metrics going forward.

However, Cuomo has become deeply rutted in the same talking points during his daily briefings: the feds must help states, no time for politics, shame on Mitch McConnell, New York’s congressional delegation has failed, rebuild smarter, slash school aid 20 percent, wear a mask. The governor has made little mention of how a region will move from Phase 1 to Phase 2.

He has said each phase would last a minimum of 14 days, and that progression through phases would be slowed or halted in a region if the pandemic took a turn for the worse there.

Cuomo told Chartock the experts would look at each region’s COVID-19 metrics — a set of seven statistics showing virus activity in the region and the region’s ability to counter it — and decide if it could move ahead.

“If they they sign off and say ‘Go to Phase 2,’ andiamo,” Cuomo said, using an Italian word that generally means "we go."

The Mohawk Valley, which includes Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties, reopened in Phase 1 on Friday, May 15, as did the North Country, Central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier. Western New York and the Capital Region followed last week, and then the Mid-Hudson and Long Island regions. New York City, hardest-hit by the virus, is the last region on full shutdown of all non-essential businesses.

Speaking from Brooklyn on Thursday for his daily briefing, Cuomo continued his push for New Yorkers to wear masks.

The 62-year-old governor joked that he might not be cool enough to communicate the need for masks to the younger people not wearing them. He introduced actress Rosie Perez and comedian Chris Rock, both 55, who will help spread the message.

He also said he would issue an executive order later in the day authorizing private businesses to bar entry to anyone not wearing a mask.

A reporter asked Cuomo if this might not increase the number of confrontations and conflicts in an already stressed population.

“It’s New York,” he replied. “You can have a conflict if you say ‘good morning.’”

As of Thursday morning, 1.88 million New Yorkers had been tested for COVID-19 and 366,733 confirmed positive. The official statewide death toll increased by 74 to 23,722.

In the Capital Region, no new COVID-related fatalities were reported, though Albany County noted the passing of 11 residents at a nursing home from April 29 to May 9 which previously had not been included in the statistics the county has maintained.

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