When, exactly, will we be able to reopen the state’s economy without putting more people in danger of contracting COVID-19?
Not just yet, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said Monday that no region of New York is safe to start reopening based on current COVID-19 statistics.
Here’s the simple formula: Regions of the state will reopen in four phases, with two weeks between each phase. Construction, manufacturing and curbside pickup retail will open first. Phase II businesses include professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support and real estate, with restaurants and hotels set to reopen in Phase III. Arts, entertainment, recreation and educational facilities will open in the final stage, or Phase IV, of reopening.
Cuomo on Monday explained statistically what it will take to move from one phase to another, and it is complex.
The state will monitor each region’s new coronavirus infections and its health care, diagnostic testing and contact tracing capacities to determine when a region can start reopening.
Regions must have appropriate testing and contact tracing to restart the economy. An area must have 30 tests for every 1,000 residents per month and a baseline of 30 contact tracers — or people who track who infected New Yorkers have been in contact with — for every 100,000 residents to start the reopening process. Regions will calculate their COVID-19 rate of transmission with a formula using virus hospitalization, diagnostic testing and contact tracing rates. To reopen, a region’s infection rate, or rate of transmission, must be 1.1% or lower, meaning a person with COVID-19 is infecting one other person or fewer.
Regions must have at least a 14-day decline in total COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths on a three-day average, per CDC guidelines. Regions with few virus cases cannot exceed 15 new cases or five deaths on a three-day average. A region must admit fewer than two new COVID-19 patients per 100,000 residents per day to monitor the spread of infection. Regions must have at least 30% total hospital and intensive care unit beds available. New York hospitals, which include 20 public and 176 private institutions, must have a 90-day supply of PPE in preparation for a possible second COVID-19 surge.
In the meantime, as all this goes on, Cuomo has to keep a close eye on the economy. In wire service stories, analysts are predicting a recession greater than that of 2008, a depression to rival the one in 1933 and Monday, 10% inflation, unlikely but possible, entered the mix. We must have faith in the governor’s reopening guidelines.