New York City eyes June 8 for first phase of reopening

US & World

A fence outside Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is adorned with a surgical mask tribute Constantino Sosa, Thursday, May 28, 2020 in New York during the coronavirus pandemic. The memorial is part of the Naming the Lost project which attempts to humanize the victims. On Wednesday, the United States’ official reported coronavirus death toll reached one hundred thousand. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York City is on track to begin reopening June 8 as the state gradually loosens restrictions put in place during the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

Cuomo said the city was meeting goals set for hospital rates and testing, will “stockpile” personal protective equipment and will focus on infection rates in hot spots by ZIP code.

“We believe all of these things can be done next week,” the Democratic governor said at his daily briefing. The state saw 67 new deaths, a number he called the “lowest ever.”

Also Friday, Cuomo cleared a large swath of upstate New York to reopen hair salons, retail shops and offices under strict guidelines.

Cuomo said virology experts had reviewed infection and hospitalization data and cleared the North Country, Finger Lakes, central New York, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier to enter the second phase of reopening.

Barbers and hair stylists will need to get tested every two weeks and retail stores must close shared amenities including self-serve sampling stations and bars, under Friday’s guidance. Store owners can prohibit customers without masks.

The announcements followed a day of confusion that had businesses in several regions making plans to welcome customers Friday — only to be told late Thursday they could not.

County leaders learned on a 7 p.m. call with state officials that public health experts hired by the state would have to sign off on the next phase of reopening, but it was unclear when that would happen, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said.

While some businesses delayed their reopening plans, others opened as planned, Picente said by phone Friday, adding he told them he would not move to stop them.

“These are businesses that have spent a great deal of money in preparing for a reopening, and then to tell them at the 11th hour … that different criteria was being looked at or that some other experts were going to look at data — we didn’t know any of that,” the Republican county executive said.

Annette Knapp, owner of Salon Bellezza in Syracuse, had lined up eight clients for Friday, the first at 9:15 a.m., but cancelled them while awaiting clarification, afraid of putting her operators’ license at risk.

“It’s like you’re having a baby. You get to the due date, you want to have that baby,” she said. “Any day after is frustrating.”

As New York tries to get its economy going again, Cuomo has divided the state into 10 regions that can start to reopen businesses in phases.

All of the state except for New York City is now at a phase that allows manufacturers to bring employees back to work and lets retailers operate with only curbside pickup.

The governor’s executive orders leave it up to his administration to decide when a region has met the state’s standards for lifting restrictions. The rules guiding exactly when counties can move from one reopening phase to another have been less clear, though the state set the minimum amount of time between phases at two weeks, saying that gap was needed to let officials monitor infection rates.

Last week, Cuomo announced the hiring of two experts to analyze the data and consult on reopening decisions.

Other coronavirus developments on Friday:

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TRANSIT FEARS

New York City appears to be on track to begin loosening restrictions in June, but residents who don’t yet feel comfortable commuting by subway may have to improvise, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.

“We are trying to get the subways and buses to be as clean and safe as possible in a really, really imperfect situation,” de Blasio said. “If people want to use cars because that’s what makes them comfortable, and obviously there still is a lot less traffic on the road, then they’re going to use cars.”

De Blasio said the city is on target to enter the first phase of the reopening process sometime in the next two weeks, which would bring an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people back to work.

Businesses normally rely on public transportation to get their employees to work in a city where fewer than half of households own a car.

Fears of the coronavirus have sent ridership on city buses and subways plummeting, but a return could mean crowded cars again and little hope of social distancing.

De Blasio said the city is providing 2 million masks for businesses reopening and will also offer training and a worker protection hotline.

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Thompson reported from Buffalo. Associated Press writer Karen Matthews in New York City contributed.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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