Mayor Bill de Blasio thinks it’s time for New York City to start down the long road past the “new normal” and closer to life beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
With June 8 the scheduled date the city finally begins the first phase of reopening, de Blasio said he believed those in the city who have endured the months-long lockdown deserve a reward for their perseverance.
“We've asked you to do a lot,” the mayor said, during his regular coronavirus press briefing on Thursday. “We've asked you now, over the last two months, to shelter in place. To practice social distancing. To wear face coverings. It's a lot, and it hasn't been easy. It hasn't been easy for a single day.”
But all those hardships are starting to pay off, de Blasio said, as he laid out his plan to begin reopening New York’s economy. At the state level, New York City is the last region to enter Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s four-tiered plan to reopen businesses and other services across 10 regions of the state.
As of Saturday, the city was short only in overall hospital beds — something both the mayor and governor believe will be resolved ahead of June 8. But even if New York City met all seven metrics designed to track infection rates and how it impacts hospitals and the very lives of those who contract it, both feel other logistics will still need to be worked out, especially in areas like mass transit.
One other metric the city is short on are contact tracers — the people who will not only identify those who have been infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, but can also find and quarantine anyone else they may have exposed. Right now, the city has 1,700 contact tracers who are set to begin work June 1, just shy of the 2,500 necessary to meet the state requirement of 30 tracers per 100,000 residents.
The first phase of reopening focuses primarily on manufacturing, wholesalers, construction and some retailers offering curbside pickup or delivery.
“We're talking about a whole range of other retail clothing stores, office supply stores, furniture stores, you name it,” de Blasio said. “But restricted to curbside pickup or in-store pickup. That means not wandering the aisles shopping or lingering or comparing things, but you know, placing an order, and coming and getting it.”
After two weeks, if the city continues to keep its infection and hospitalization rates low, it can move into the second phase, like half the state did on Friday, which expands to allow other services, including many professional offices.
But just because the city will start the reopening process soon doesn’t mean it’s are out of the woods just yet. In addition to the state-mandated two-week waiting period between phases, de Blasio said he plans to keep track of how many people are expected to travel into the city each day once the process begins.
“We do not mean flicking a switch, and suddenly everything's where it was again, of course not,” de Blasio said. “We have to make sure this virus is in check. We're going to constantly make sure we are holding back this disease, and we're going to make sure that we are putting the steps in place all the time to avoid it ever having a resurgence.”
City officials are still working on estimates of how many people will come into the city each day, the mayor said, but early figures suggest somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 people will return to work.
“That's quite a range. A lot of other parts of the country, that would be their entire city,” de Blasio said. “We can only give you a range to begin, but we're going to know really soon what the truth is.”
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