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Although infections from the novel coronavirus appear to have perhaps turned a corner in hardest-hit New York, Gov Andrew Cuomo (D) put some sober perspective on that, while also continuing to look forward to when the Empire State might once again open it’s doors.
As the area in and around New York has been the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, the direction that Cuomo and others chart for the region could become a model for other regions of the United States hard-hit by COVID-19.
“The number of new people who are diagnosed with COVID, about 2,000 still yesterday. So when you see the reduction in rates, remember what we’re talking about, we’re talking about a reduction in increases. You still have 2,000 people every day, about, who are walking into a hospital for the first time or who are being diagnosed with COVID for the first time. And 2,000 is still a lot of people,” Cuomo said. “But the good news is it means we can control the virus, right? We can control the spread. And we did not know for sure that we could do that. We speculated that we could do it, but we didn’t know. So now we know that we can control this disease. The bad news is 2,000 people walked into a hospital yesterday for the first time with the disease, and the worst news is 600 people died yesterday from the disease.
“That is still continuing at a really tragic, tragic rate. Of those deaths, 577 in hospitals, 29 in nursing homes. We’ve been watching the nursing homes, because nursing homes in many ways are ground zero for this situation,” he added. “Last night the number in nursing homes was relatively low.”
The governor, however, did begin to sketch out how the state would eventually begin to “unpause,” in his terminology, and what that might look like at some point.
“At the same time, how do we unpause New York? New York is now on pause. How do we unpause it? First, do no harm. Don’t let that infection rate go up to the best of your ability. Don’t lose the progress that you have made. Second, now go back that we have some stability, and we can actually work with the health care system, which we had on overdrive for many, many weeks, and we had increased the capacity, as you’ll remember. Every hospital had to increase capacity 50 percent. Just think about that. 50 percent more beds, staffing those beds during this horrific period. Now we have a chance to be more intelligent, frankly, about handling our health care system,” Cuomo said. “Testing and tracing, testing and tracing, testing and tracing, and we need the federal government to work with us on that. And then phasing an economic return to ‘new normal,’
“Those are all activities that are going on at the same time, and that’s our plan to ‘unpause New York.’ You stopped everything. How do you now restart that machine in a coordinated way that doesn’t drive up the infection rate? That’s the balance that we’re trying to strike. On unpausing and having businesses open, that is a nuanced question. There is no light switch. It’s not all businesses go back tomorrow,” the governor said. “It’s what businesses, what do they do, what risks do they pose, and what changes can they make in their business to make them more safe? You know, this is not just government deciding, it’s government deciding with private businesses who now have to take a look at this new normal, this new reality and tell us how they think they can adjust to it.
“One of our questions and evaluations is how essential is that business service, right? You have to start somewhere,” he said. “Right now we have the economy working with what are ‘essential workers.’ That’s why the grocery store is open, that’s why public transit is running.”
Cuomo said that reopening of business would be a slow, deliberate process–and one which business owners would have an active role.
“All right, so we want to start to bring the economy back, move up one tranche on how you define essential. What’s the next level of essential businesses? Are there certain businesses that are inherently safer or can be safer? And then let’s talk about how we reopen them and where we reopen them,” he said. “And these are all questions that we have to work through on a case-by-case basis. But there is a matrix. And the matrix is how important is the business to society, how essential a service, and how risky is that business from a rate of infection? And obviously the more essential a business, the lower the risk, the more they are a priority. And then how do you do it? You do it in phases of priority, and then you phase it up the way we phased it down, which is by percentages.
“And this is going to be an ongoing process over the coming weeks that we’re working through with the other states. But the what, the how, the when, looking at how important that business is and what the risk that business poses,” he added. “And then do it in coordination with our other states, because this is really a regional issue, and it should be addressed on that basis. Coordinating with the other states doesn’t mean we’ll always be in lockstep, but we’ll talk through everything first, and hopefully we’re not doing something that’s contradictory to another state at a minimum. So far so good on that exercise.
“And then analysis is ongoing. But it’s not going to be all about what government does, what government does,” Cuomo said. “The private sector now has to think about what they do and how they do it and how they can do it differently in this new normal. Reimagine your workplace.”
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