NYC could begin to reopen first half of June, Mayor says

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Mayor Bill de Blasio greets healthcare workers and conducts a press conference at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, New York, April 10, 2020.

EuropaNewswire | Gado | Getty Images

New York City officials hope to begin a phased reopening of the city by the first half of June, allowing construction to resume and retailers to reopen with some restrictions, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

The state has outlined seven health indicators, including available hospital beds and steadily declining Covid-19 hospitalizations, that regions must meet in order to begin reopening. New York City has currently met three of its seven indicators.

“There’s a real subtle balance that needs to be struck but if  the question is do we believe we’ll meet all seven state indicators, yes. When? The first half of June,” De Blasio said at a news briefing. “You can’t guarantee anything in life.”

Phase one of reopening will allow regions to resume manufacturing, construction and agricultural operations and retailers to reopen with limitations, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously said. 

New York’s path to reopening stands in stark contrast to some other states, including Texas and Georgia, where governors eagerly lifted statewide restrictions to restart the economy in the face of record job losses. In Wisconsin, the state’s supreme court struck down the governor’s stay-at-home order as unconstitutional and much of the state reopened over night. New York, the hardest hit state by the coronavirus, presents a more gradual path to easing restrictions as policymakers seek to balance a public health crisis and a burgeoning economic one.

New York City has seen a 14-day decline in net hospitalizations, a 14-day decline in hospital deaths and it’s testing more than 30 people per 1,000 residents every month — meeting three of the state’s seven criteria to begin the first phase of reopening. In order to meet the guidelines, the city must further drive down new hospitalizations, increase the percent of total hospital beds available and increase the share of ICU beds available.

It’s also in the process of hiring contact tracers to track new infections and all of their contacts — the last preventative measure needed to begin reopening some local businesses. 

“We clearly are making progress. There are several that we’ve met … There’s been clear progress on the number of hospital beds and the number of ICU beds,” de Blasio said. “Those are two areas where we need to go farther but we’re getting close to those goals and I think there’s a point in the first half of June when we’ll meet those.”

The city is also looking at its own three indicators for insight into whether the outbreak is growing or receding. On Saturday, 48 people were admitted to hospitals in the city for Covid-19, down from 77 on Friday, de Blasio said, but 475 people were currently in Health + Hospitals ICUs on Saturday, up from 469 the day before. He added that the percent of people tested whose results came back positive for the coronavirus remained steady at 11%.

The reopening status of all regions in New York can be found here.

The city expects to meet the requirement that it have 30 contact tracers per 1,000 residents by June, de Blasio said.

“We’re confident we’re going to get there given the number of contact tracers we’re bringing on regularly,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio previously said the city would hire 1,000 health workers as contact tracers in May. The goal is to hire 2,500 public health “foot soldiers” by June. The city’s team of contact tracers will interview and identify people who have come into contact with those who tested positive for Covid-19, de Blasio has previously said, describing them as “disease detectives.” The tracers will also provide support to New Yorkers who need to be isolated, de Blasio said. 

Last month, Gov. Cuomo announced that Mike Bloomberg, a billionaire philanthropist and former mayor of New York City, pledged to help the state develop and implement its test and trace program. Bloomberg’s team and its partners will help recruit, vet and train tracers as well as develop three smartphone apps to help the state trace every person who comes into contact with someone infected with Covid-19. 

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