ALBANY — New York’s COVID-19 infection rate is declining, but it has a higher infection rate upstate as officials talk with businesses about creative ways to regionally reopen the state economy.
The state’s overall infection rate is 0.8%, which means one person infected with COVID-19 is infecting about 0.8, or less than one, other person. A week ago, New York’s infection rate was 0.9%. The state’s margin of error is 0.8-1.2%, so the margin error for a virus outbreak resurgence is small, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“You can blow through that window like wind through reeds,” Cuomo said Sunday during his daily briefing in the state Capitol. “The worst situation is when one person infects two people — that’s fire in dry grass...that’s where we were when this started. Right now, we’re at 0.8%, and that is good news. Statistically, it’s very close.”
Upstate New York’s infection rate is 0.9% compared to 0.75% downstate. Officials continue to monitor the state hospitalization rate and COVID-19 antibody and diagnostic tests results to determine if the infection rate continues its downward trend.
“You cannot go above 1.2,” Cuomo said of New York’s infection rate. “At 1.2, you see that number go right back up again...We have to do it [reopening] intelligently. This is the definition of intelligence in this contest.”
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached 16,966 Sunday — up from 16,599 Saturday. The state saw 367 virus-related deaths Saturday, including 349 in hospitals and 18 in nursing homes. The daily death toll continues a slight decline from 437 Friday and 422 Thursday.
Hospitalization rates also continued their downward trend to 12,839 Sunday, down 685 patients. New hospitalizations remain flat at about 1,000 new virus patients per day statewide.
“The descent continues,” Cuomo said. “We are now back to where we were on March 31 before we started this dramatic increase in the number of cases.”
The state reported 4,284 patients in intensive care. The net change in intubations was down 115 fewer patients Sunday to 3,577 total, according to the governor’s office.
Per new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states and regions must show a 14-day decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Cuomo said.
“In this case, I think the CDC is right,” he added. “We are closely monitoring both.”
New York will reopen in phases based on analysis and monitoring of COVID-19 deaths, infection and hospitalization rates by region.
“All of this is dependent on testing,” the governor said, as states have competed for weeks with each other and with the federal government for supplies and to ramp up coronavirus testing capacity.
The state’s first phase to reopen will include low-risk businesses, such as construction and manufacturing industries. State officials are speaking with more essential and lower-risk businesses one-on-one about their creative reopening plans. Businesses must consider the vulnerable populations in their staff, how employees and customers can maintain social distancing, limit gathering sizes and have adequate personal protective equipment, such as masks or gloves before reopening.
“This is not a one-sided equation here,” Cuomo said. “Businesses need to think how they will open under this new normal...We need them to be creative and think outside of the box.”
Businesses and government agencies must also assess the cleaning and hygiene in the workplace, capacity requirements, access, travel, transportation, training, risk and communication processes.
“These are all factors for businesses to consider who want to reopen quickly,” the governor added. “The way a business opens determines the risk.”
The state does not have a time frame when regions will start to reopen.
“There is no ‘x’ date,” Cuomo said. “You listen to the national experts...who said there could be a second wave. Nobody’s giving anybody a date here.”
Some school districts are considering summer classes for students to make up for lost class time or hands-on lessons and assignments. The state has not issued guidelines or changes for the annual statewide school budget and board of education vote scheduled for May 19, but will at a later date, Cuomo said.
All nonessential workers must stay or work from home and nonessential businesses and schools remain closed under the governor’s executive NY Pause order through May 15.
“I’m not comfortable getting too far ahead of ourselves,” Cuomo said. “Talking about a two-week window is an intelligent window.”
New York’s revenues are estimated to decline by $13.3 billion, or 14%, from the fiscal year 2020-21 executive budget forecast. Officials estimate state revenues will decline by $61 billion from 2021 through 2024.
New York anticipates up to 20% statewide funding cuts to schools, local governments and hospitals, Cuomo said earlier this week. The state will release updated revenues and projections May 15.
“May 1 we’ll know exactly what the revenues are,” state Budget Director Robert Mujica said Sunday. “We’ll release a plan by the middle of May. Between now and May 15, we’ll have more clarity and specifics [about] this is where the revenue picture is.”
The state will take two weeks between phases to monitor the impact and effects of reopening on the state’s COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rate.
Transportation, parks, schools, beaches and other essential businesses must be coordinated, and must be coordinated with other states, depending on that part of New York, Cuomo said.
Downstate areas, including New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, will coordinate together with New Jersey and Connecticut. Other parts of New York will coordinate reopening regulations with Massachusetts or Pennsylvania.
The state will pay special attention to public housing and low-income communities, focusing on strengthening food banks and childcare by partnering with philanthropies, Cuomo said.
The New York City subway’s L Train tunnel project, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, was completed Sunday, three months ahead of schedule saving $100 million, Cuomo said. Officials planned a complete L shutdown to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy, which took place from Oct. 22 to Nov. 2, 2012.
The project was completed under a partial shutdown with 400,000 riders on an average weekday. L train service will resume Monday.
Sunday marked the 57th day of officials fighting the virus in New York. Cuomo said, adding the state must learn from COVID-19 after the pandemic ends.
“We just went through this wild period...how do we make it better?” the governor asked. “We are not going backward. There is no return to yesterday in life. It’s about moving forward. It’s about taking your experience...and taking it to a positive effect. Let’s use this period to do just that.”
To see the complete county breakdown of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html