Westchester and Putnam counties are on target for a Phase I reopening sometime next week provided COVID-19-related deaths continue to fall and contact tracers are in place, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday morning.
The Mid-Hudson region, in which the two counties are included, has now gone seven consecutive days with declining deaths on a three-day rolling average, with an average of about six deaths a day through Thursday. Should the average number of daily deaths in the seven-county region, which also includes Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, drop below five a day or the region has 14 consecutive days of declining deaths, that would be one of the two remaining state standards that would be satisfied.
The final category is having 30 tracers in place for every 100,000 residents, an administrative function that is supposed to be fulfilled by the officials on the regional control board.
Although Long Island is at an average of 10 deaths a day, Nassau and Suffolk counties have combined for nine consecutive days of declines, potentially putting them five days away from a reopening.
“If the number of deaths continue to decline and they get their tracing up and on line, both regions could reopen this week,” Cuomo said.
A Phase I reopening allows for construction, manufacturing and curbside retail as long as employees are able to be socially distanced and companies provide the requisite personal protection equipment, including masks.
Cuomo said that in preparation for an increasingly likely first phase of reopening in the Mid-Hudson region and Long Island, the state will allow for construction staging.
On Thursday, New York State reported another 109 deaths, raising the confirmed COVID-19-related death toll to 23,195. In Westchester, another six residents died, raising the county death toll to 1,319. Putnam has remained steady at 58 deaths for several days.
State to Help Small Businesses
Cuomo also announced Friday a new small business relief program aimed at small businesses and landlords and nonprofit organizations that have been hurt by the economic shutdown.
The New York Forward Loan Fund will assist businesses with no more than 20 employees and less than $3 million in annual operating expenses that did not receive federal assistance this year through the Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
As many as 100,000 businesses may be lost nationwide as a result of the pandemic and small operations face the toughest challenges, Cuomo said.
“Many businesses just don’t have the staying power to pay all the fixed costs, the lease, etc., when they have no income whatsoever,” he said.
Pre-applications for the New York Forward Loan Fund open this Tuesday, May 26 at noon. For more information, visit www.esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.
New York State is partnering with 52 independent pharmacies that will able to administer another 7,000 tests a day, Cuomo said. There are now more than 750 sites statewide where the public can go for testing.
He said New York will also provide the blueprint for its contact tracing program to other states free of charge. The contact tracers are a large contingent of workers trained to reach out to people who may have come in contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus.
Tracing helps to identify individuals who have been potentially exposed to COVID-19, who can then be tested, and if necessary, isolated should they test positive.