New York has passed the critical phase of its coronavirus ordeal and is poised to begin reopening, the state’s governor declared, as new fatalities and hospitalisations reverted to levels seen nearly two months ago when the crisis was in its early days.
The optimism expressed by governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday was also buttressed by comments earlier in the day from Bill de Blasio, New York City’s mayor, who indicated that the city could reopen next month.
Their assessments signal a milestone in New York’s gradual revival after two devastating months in which more than 21,000 of its citizens have perished and commercial and cultural life has been brought to a standstill, as the state became the global epicentre of a pandemic that started in central China.
“This is the next step in this historic journey,” Mr Cuomo said as he laid out plans to begin what he called a “phased reopening” of the state beginning on Friday, when his most recent shutdown order is set to lapse.
For the purposes of reopening, New York has been divided into 10 regions. In order to resume normal life — or something close to it — a region will have to satisfy seven criteria. Among these are minimum amounts of testing and hospital capacity, as well as a 14-day decline in new coronavirus cases.
“Some regions are ready to go today . . . Some are very close,” Mr Cuomo said.
If a region began to experience an uptick in new cases, authorities would respond by tightening restrictions, the governor said, as he warned against squandering the two months of sacrifice that have been required to bring the virus under control.
The reopening will proceed both regionally and by industry, with businesses given priority to resume operations based on the essential nature of their services and the risks that they pose. Manufacturing and construction will be in the first phase, with financial services and others coming next.
After weeks of ever-tightening restrictions, Mr Cuomo on Monday said gardening and landscaping services could resume on May 15, as could light recreation, such as tennis.
The number of new coronavirus deaths recorded on May 10 in New York state was 161, the lowest since March 26, Mr Cuomo said.
In New York City, coronavirus deaths, which are reported with a two-day lag, fell to 21 — down from a one-day peak of 577 on April 7, and the lowest since March 18. Mr de Blasio noted the progress even as he acknowledged the city was “clearly not ready yet” to resume normal activity.
“June is when we’re going to potentially be able to make some real changes if we continue our progress,” he said.
Signs that the tide could be turning in New York’s fight against the pandemic helped to buoy US stocks as well, with the S&P 500 breaking into positive territory for the day following the governor’s comments.