WANTAGH — Government must take the lead to stimulate the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday, as campgrounds, RV parks and veterinarian services are set to reopen statewide.
Campground and RV parks will open statewide Monday, the governor said. State park beaches are open, including Long Island’s Jones Beach, Sunken Meadow, Hither Hills and Robert Moses. All beaches are operating at 50% capacity to reduce crowds or population density, which aggravates the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
“Be smart,” Cuomo warned New Yorkers during an outdoor pandemic briefing at Jones Beach Theater on Sunday afternoon, as more industries resume business.
Officials do not anticipate implementing other regulations, such as designated beach-going days for New Yorkers by license plate number, as long as people do not overcrowd areas and maintain social distancing.
“We’re following the numbers — not the emotions,” the governor added. “This is a public health question about stopping the disease. Next week is a function of what we do today.”
All veterinarian practices are permitted to resume statewide Tuesday.
Former Google CEO and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt headed up a state Blue-Ribbon Commission in the state May 6 to “reimagine” or develop ways to improve the state’s health care and education systems. The 15-member commission is focused on improving telehealth and broadband access using new technology, and includes officials from various industries, organizations and universities across the state.
Government must play a role in stimulating the economy as many U.S. states face budget deficits of billions of dollars, Cuomo said.
“How does this commission come up with ideas to jumpstart the economy...to get the private sector engaged and confident and people in a position where they’ll invest once again?” the governor asked. “Let’s make sure we’re better for what we’ve gone through...We’re writing history in America for a modern-day governmental and societal response.”
Government must “think big” with its projects moving forward, Cuomo said, suggesting long-needed improvements to U.S. infrastructure, such as airports, mass public transportation systems, updating roads and bridges and a new public health system.
The governor did not discuss estimated project costs or what part of the state budget could fund the initiatives. Over the last two months, Cuomo and state Budget Director Robert Mujica have said they expect New York to see a $61 budget shortfall over four years because of unforeseen pandemic expenses.
“Let’s build that new public health system,” Cuomo said. “Let government lead the way.
“...We built New York,” the governor continued. “We did it, and we can do it again.”
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached 22,619 Sunday — up from 22,510 Saturday. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s online COVID-19 tracker, which includes probable virus deaths in its tally, listed the state’s virus death toll as 29,141 Sunday afternoon.
The state saw 109 virus-related deaths Saturday, including 82 in hospitals and 27 in nursing homes. New York’s COVID-19 death rate is fluctuating, but on a decline after totaling 84 fatalities Friday, 109 Thursday and 105 Wednesday.
The state tested 1,699,826 people by Sunday, revealing 361,515 total positive cases of the virus. New York’s hospitalization rates continued a downward trend to 4,393 patients Sunday, according to the governor’s office.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees will thoroughly clean and disinfect every bus and all of its commuter trains daily to curb the virus’s spread — similar to the MTA’s daily cleaning of New York City subways implemented last month.
“We never disinfected trains and buses before,” Cuomo said. “We didn’t think they had to.”
The Long Island Rail Road is prepared to add additional train cars to ensure riders can maintain social distancing. Face masks are mandatory in New York when riding public transportation and when it is impossible to remain 6 feet from others.
“You’re making a grave mistake if you don’t use a mask in your own personal life,” the governor said.
The North Country, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regions started reopening May 15 — the day the state’s NY On Pause order, which mandated the closure of schools and nonessential businesses, first expired. A regional control group of officials continues to monitor virus testing, tracing, hospitalization and death metrics each day.
New York professional sports league training camps were cleared to restart Sunday, Cuomo said. Leagues must follow mandated state Health Department social-distancing protocols.
The governor encourages professional sports to resume without fans and televise events. Earlier this month, officials said they would work with teams, arenas and franchises to make the idea feasible.
“Work out the economics if you can,” Cuomo said. “We are working and encouraging all sports teams to start training camps as soon as possible. We want people to be able to watch sports. It’s a return to normalcy.”
State officials continue to study the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which ravaged the state and nation for more than two years. St. Louis and Denver both experienced sharp increases in deaths after relaxing stay-at-home orders. In Denver, the deaths spiked worse than the first wave.
Cuomo pointed to a recent study highlighted in The Washington Post on Sunday that shows 24 states may have uncontrolled COVID-19 growth to reiterate why New Yorkers must continue to wear face masks or coverings in public, wash their hands and remain 6 feet from other people.
“They reinforce the point we have been making,” Cuomo said. “Follow the numbers, follow the science. That’s why you see our curve coming down when many places in the country are going up.”
The Mid-Hudson region remains on track to start reopening nonessential businesses Tuesday under phase I, including construction, manufacturing, forestry, fishing, pickup retail and wholesale trades.
The region is expected to reopen after it satisfied the criteria of a steady decline in the area’s number of COVID-19 deaths and plans to train more than 800 contact tracers by the end of the day Monday.
Long Island remains two criteria away from reopening, but is on track to reopen Wednesday, if the area’s number of virus deaths continues to drop. The region’s contact tracing operation is expected to be completed and online by Wednesday.
Cuomo urged New Yorkers to get a free diagnostic test at one of more than 760 sites statewide. Frontline workers, New Yorkers who come in contact with a COVID-19-positive person or anyone with symptoms should get tested and will be prioritized to receive a diagnostic test.
“If you’re infected, we don’t want any delay,” Cuomo explained. “I want to know right now and start contact tracing. Getting that data is very important to us. It’s all private, but we want to know where the infection is coming from so we can, like a laser beam, focus on those areas.”
Repeat diagnostic tests are permitted. To schedule a free COVID-19 test, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov.
With millions of unemployed New Yorkers, the demand on state food banks has skyrocketed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said officials, who are requesting assistance from philanthropies.
To help or provide assistance to local food banks, send an email to COVIDphilanthropies@exec.ny.gov.
To see where each region stands on reopening and the complete county breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.