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New York City tries returning to normal with first phase of reopening

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As New York City wakes up first thing Monday morning, the people inside will have a chance to experience something it hasn't felt in nearly 80 days — the first step toward a return to normalcy.

The city is the last of the state's 10 regions to begin the first phase of reopening, nearly two weeks behind two other stragglers in the surrounding Long Island and Mid-Hudson regions. But it's finally happening now that the state did more than flatten the curve, it bent it back down to levels not seen since the crisis began. 

More than 24,000 people died in the state — nearly 3,000 of them in the Bronx alone — and now society has to try and find a way to move forward, while still keeping the virus at bay.

What does the first phase of reopening mean? For many, it's the return of a number of retailers that were forced to shutter on March 22. Returning stores include clothing, electronics and appliances, furniture and home furnishings, florists, general merchandise, health and personal care, jewelry and luggage, lawn and garden, office supplies, used merchandise, shoe and sporting goods, among others.

But don't head out with your face mask on hoping to browse. These stores are open only for delivery, or either curbside or in-store pickup. Just rememeber that any commercial building can subject you to a temperature test before entering, and if you refuse or show any type of fever, can deny you entry.

Many jobs will return as well, not just in the retail sector, but in construction and manufacturing as well. That includes everything from building equipment to highways and streets to utilities — both residential and commercial. The manufacturing side is expansive, allowing most everything to return, as long as social distancing guidelines can be followed.

Restaurants will be allowed to do some dine-in again, as long as it's taking place outdoors. Eateries and bars are free to use adjoining sidewalk and closed street space, as long as it's adjacent to their place of business, and proper social distance is maintained.

If all goes well, New York City will enter the second phase of reopening on June 22. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio is a bit pessimistic that will happen, instead predicting it could take the city a month to move into that phase. 

Another variable that could affect New York City's progress has been the level of protests in various boroughs last week over the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Because of that, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is imploring all those who participated in the protests to assume they were exposed to the virus, and get tested immediately.

Many protesters wore face masks, and much of what happened took place outside — but new outbreaks could result from the protest, Cuomo warned.

Cuomo did have some good news for graduating high school seniors and college graduates — ceremonies will be allowed beginning June 26, as long as such ceremonies are held outdoors, maintain social distance, and are limited to 150 people. 

"The progress we made so far, and if we continue this trajectory, we'll be able to do that," Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing on Sunday.

Still, expect there to be testing in New York City. And a lot of it. More than 225 testing sites will be open with the goal of administering 35,000 tests in the city per day — 7,000 in each borough, on average. 

But the worse thing people can do right now, Cuomo said, is become complacent — especially citing recurrences and growth in states like California and Florida. 

"These are facts, this can happen," Cuomo said. "We know it can happen because it happened here. We made all this progress. Please, please, I know it's been 90 days, but please stay disciplined. Stay smart. Because it's working.

"We have come a long way, and a lot of people have suffered to get here. And a lot of people have died. Let's not be foolish now."

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