ALBANY — State beaches will reopen for Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday, as half the state started to reopen and federal lawmakers negotiated a fifth COVID-19 bill to fund state and local governments.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware beaches and lakeshores will open for Memorial Day weekend starting Friday, May 22, as part of a multi-state agreement.
“They were going to open beaches,” Cuomo said Friday afternoon during a pandemic briefing at the state Capitol. “Our responsibility to our neighboring states is important. If New York did not open beaches, you would see an influx of people to the Jersey Shore and Connecticut. That would put New Yorkers in jeopardy.”
Beaches and lakeshores may open May 22 through May 25 at 50% capacity by controlling entrances and exits and limiting parking. Group activities such as volleyball or football are prohibited. Concession stands, picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions, arcades and amusement rides will be kept closed.
Employees and visitors must maintain social-distancing measures, and must wear masks when social distancing is not possible.
Localities do not have to open their beaches and lakeshores for the holiday weekend, but must make a decision by Wednesday. Beaches or lakeshores that do not comply with state social-distancing regulations will be closed immediately.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli did not release an expected report Friday with updated numbers detailing New York’s expected cuts to education, hospitals and local governments in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, Cuomo said New York faces a $61 billion budget shortfall over four years and state education, hospitals and localities should expect cuts up to 20%, which would cut spending for schools, health care workers and first responders.
“I hold to a certain level of faith in humanity and common sense and I believe Washington, despite their dysfunction and politics, will ultimately provide funding for state and local governments,” Cuomo said. “The survival instinct of a politician who has to run for re-election this year in any state affected by COVID will not come home and stand for re-election if they don’t.”
The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on its fifth coronavirus package, named the Heroes Act, on Friday. As it stands, the bill is expected to give $34.4 billion to New York, including $17.2 billion for New York City and $15.1 billion for other municipalities. The bill includes another $1,200 stimulus check for Americans, $200 billion for hazard pay and extends unemployment through January 2021. The legislation also provides funding for COVID-19 testing and repeals the State And Local Tax deduction, which allowed taxpayers in high-tax states to deduct local tax payments on their federal tax returns.
Half of the state could start reopening Friday after meeting and sustaining seven criteria about an area’s coronavirus hospitalization, infection and death rates, available hospital beds, testing and tracing capacity. The North Country, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regions resumed construction, manufacturing and curbside or in-store pickup retail industries under phase I of the state’s four-phase reopening plan. Officials will monitor virus data for two weeks between each phase. The Capital Region, Western New York, the Mid-Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island remain under lockdown.
Cuomo extended his NY On Pause executive order, mandating the closure of nonessential businesses and enforcing social-distancing measures, to May 28 for the remaining five regions that are not ready to reopen. A region can start to reopen when it satisfies the seven criteria regardless of the On Pause expiration date, the governor said.
“As soon as other regions hit those benchmarks, they can begin phase one of reopening as well,” Cuomo said. “As we move forward with this process, it is up to all of us to understand our personal responsibility — that’s how this worked from day one and that’s how we will continue to slow the spread of the virus and start our new normal.”
Each business that reopens must sign a compliance agreement and develop a written plan outlining how the company will keep workers and customers safe with social-distancing protocols. The agreement and plan are not submitted to a state agency for approval, but must be completed and kept on premises in case of a state Department of Health inspection.
To file a complaint about a business or company that is not complying with social-distancing orders or state guidelines, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov. Complaints made to the state will be forwarded to county and local officials, Cuomo said.
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached at least 21,593 Friday — up from 21,436 Thursday. 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 27,841 Friday.
The state saw 132 virus-related deaths Thursday, including 96 in hospitals and 36 in nursing homes. The death rate is on a slight decline after 157 fatalities Wednesday, 166 Tuesday and 195 Monday.
The state tested 1,338,048 people as of Friday, revealing 345,813 total positive cases of COVID-19. New York’s hospitalization rates continued a downward trend to 6,394 patients Thursday, down 312 overnight, according to the governor’s office.
More than 400 new virus patients continue to enter hospital statewide each day, which is down from about 600 last week.
The state is sending about 30,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests per day, or 120,000 weekly, to more than 600 statewide nursing home facilities following the Cuomo’s recent executive order mandating testing all nursing-home staff twice per week.
“The federal government is working on the supply chain,” Cuomo said. “It’s working much better than it has, but I don’t think anyone would say we are there yet.”
State and national medical officials continue to study 110 reported cases of virus complications in New York children causing inflammation of blood vessels and extremities, mimicking symptoms similar to severe illnesses such as Kawasaki disease and toxic-shock syndrome after initial reports the virus does not primarily affect children.
“It’s important each of us understands our responsibility,” the governor said. “When they write the history books, they’re going to write how New York turned that curve. That’s not government action, that’s social action.
“Do not underestimate this virus. Do not play this virus. Everyone is vulnerable to this virus and the government can’t keep you safe. Only you can keep yourself safe. When you keep yourself safe, that’s the way we keep all of us safe.”
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