MANHATTAN (CN) — Laying out a data-based plan for reopening New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a chart marking where each region of the state stood Monday.
Cuomo’s plan splits New York into 10 regions and sets seven data-driven criteria they must meet to open. None meets all the qualifications so far.
“May 15th is a possible reopening if you’re ready; this is how you’re ready,” Cuomo said in the press conference that he has held every day through the outbreak, referring to the expiration date he set in one of the first briefings where he announced the policy “New York on Pause.”
The governor pointed outside the United States to countries that reopened too quickly and had to shut back down.
“Nobody wants that,” Cuomo said.
Before it can reopen, a New York region must see either a 14-day decline in hospitalizations or fewer than 15 new hospitalizations over a three-day average; a 14-day decline in hospital deaths or a three-day average of fewer than five deaths; and fewer than two new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.
There’s also a series of 30s: Regions must also retain 30% empty hospital and ICU beds in case of a surge, be testing 30 of every 1,000 residents per day, and have at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents.
“You do those things, you will control the rate of transmission of the virus, which is everything,” Cuomo said.
“Nobody says you’re going to go and eliminate the virus in the short term,” he said. “Nobody. But you can control the rate of transmission. If you can control the rate of transmission, you can control [it] from becoming an outbreak or an epidemic or overwhelming your public health system. That is the best you can do.”
All but three of the regions — New York City and its suburbs, Long Island and the mid-Hudson — fail to meet the testing requirement. New York City in particular has been walloped by Covid-19, accounting for half the state’s cases and over two-thirds of the confirmed deaths. Some of the state’s first recorded cases erupted in the mid-Hudson's Rockland County, which now has 12,095 infections. Long Island has about six times that, 72,042 cases.
New York City is currently testing about 13,000 people per day for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday, “but that number has to grow a whole lot more,” he added. The state as a whole has tested over a million people as of Monday.
Like other experts, epidemiologist Denis Nash said New York cannot reopen safely without drastically increasing its diagnostic testing capabilities.
“We clearly are not anywhere near having the number of tests that we need, even right now,” said Nash, a distinguished professor at City University of New York, late last week in a phone interview. “And we certainly don't have the number of people in place that are going to need to do the contact tracing and help monitor people who need to go into isolation and quarantine after the testing.”
On Cuomo’s reopening checklist, New York City has the smallest percentage of ICU beds empty at just 21%. Long Island met the fewest number of criteria, just two of the seven, while New York City and western New York met just three.
“If upstate has to wait for downstate to be ready, they’re going to be waiting a long time,” Cuomo said Monday, highlighting the rationale behind his regional approach.