New York City is expected to begin Phase One of the four-phase program for reopening on June 8, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said this afternoon during a news conference held at the LaPenta School of Business at Iona College in New Rochelle.
Cuomo said that about 400,000 people are expected to return to work in the city for the first phase of the reopening and that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the Metro-North commuter railroad serving Westchester and Connecticut as well as the city’s subways and buses, would be prepared to safely handle those suburban commuters who wanted to ride mass transit.
Cuomo also said that as of this afternoon five regions of New York state have been cleared to move into Phase Two of the reopening plan. They are: Central New York; the North Country; the Finger Lakes; the Southern Tier; and the Mohawk Valley. If the situation in the Mid-Hudson Region continues to improve, it could be ready to enter Phase Two by June 11, which would be 14 days from when the Phase One reopening began. Westchester is in the Mid-Hudson region.
Phase Two allows for workers in office-based jobs to return to their respective offices. Real estate services can resume such as building and property management and leasing along with rental and sales services. Retail activities that are allowed to resume under Phase Two include: in-store shopping, cleaning, repair and rental businesses; barbershops and hair salons with some limitations on services offered; and motor vehicle sales, leasing and rentals.
“We’re in New Rochelle today where we had the first hot spot in the nation,” Cuomo said. “There was no such thing as a hot spot before New Rochelle had a hot spot. Congratulations, New Rochelle. We needed a new term now used by every American – hot spot. We know where the hot spots are in the city (New York City). We want to focus on them next week. Be ready to open.”
Cuomo said that reopening does not mean going back to the way things were before the pandemic struck.
“Life is not about going back. Nobody goes back. We go forward,” Cuomo said. “And, it’s going to be different. It is reopening to a new normal. It’s a safer normal. People will be wearing masks. People will be socially distanced.”
Cuomo said that whether the reopening can move forward without there being a resurgence of the virus depends on what people do and whether they continue abiding by the measures in place that have worked in helping to control the numbers of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
“People say, ‘Governor, tell me what’s going to happen next week, the week after.’ I can’t tell you. Only you know. It’s the person in the mirror,” Cuomo said.
“You tell me how the people of New York City respond, I’ll tell you what happens in New York City. You tell me how the people of Westchester respond, I’ll tell you what happens in Westchester. The New Rochelle hot spot, that was all done by New Rochelle. It was no act of God. It was no external force. It happened because of what people in New Rochelle did. We know how we got here. We know how we can get from here. If we act smart, the stores open and are smart, the customers are smart, people are smart, people on public transit are smart, then we won’t see those numbers go up as we haven’t in the upstate regions that have reopened.”
Cuomo praised New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for his handling of the outbreak. De Blasio joined the news conference by video.
“This state will have an historic economic problem from this situation,” Cuomo said. “But for me from day one it’s been about the number of deaths. This has been about that for me from day one. We can fix deficits. We can fix shortfalls. We can fight with Washington for funding. The one number that we can’t fix is the number of deaths. That’s the only number that keeps me up at night and the hot spots, higher infection rate, higher hospitalization rate, higher death rate. So, that’s first.”
Cuomo also used the news conference to talk about the situation in Minneapolis in which there have been three nights of protests leading to violence and vandalism in reaction to the death of an African-American man being detained by police. Videos show one officer holding the man down with a knee on the man’s neck while other police stand watching and the man is pleading that he is unable to breathe.
“It’s not an isolated incident. It is a continuum of cases and situations that have been going on for decades and decades and decades. These are just chapters in a book and the title of the book is ‘Continuing Injustice and Inequality in America,’” Cuomo said. “It’s about the same situation happening again and again and again and again.”
Cuomo said that he does not condone the violence that has broken out but does support the protests.
“I stand with the protesters and I think all well-meaning Americans stand with the protesters. Enough is enough,” Cuomo said. “How many times do you have to see the same lesson replayed before you do something? This country is better than this. It has been better than this and it shouldn’t take this long to end basic discrimination and basic injustice.”
The number of COVID-19 deaths yesterday in New York came to 67, with 21 in nursing homes and 46 in hospitals.
Statewide there have been a total of 23,780 COVID-19 deaths, according to statistics obtained this afternoon from the state Department of Health.
Deaths in Westchester now total 1,484. There were no new deaths of Rockland residents yesterday with the death toll there remaining at 494. There was one new death in Putnam yesterday, ending several days of no new deaths being reported in that county. The Putnam total now stands at 60. There were no new deaths reported for Orange County yesterday, with the number of Orange County residents lost to the disease remaining at 374. Dutchess County also reported no new deaths yesterday with the total there standing at 146.
New York has had 368,284 people test positive for the virus. There were 33,349 cases identified in Westchester, 13,100 in Rockland, 1,241 in Putnam, 10,361 in Orange and 3,887 in Dutchess.