Reopening on track for swaths of central, northern New York

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People wearing masks wait in line for food donations Wednesday, May 13, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Large swaths of central and northern New York state that appear to be at low risk of a COVID-19 surge are poised to start to reopening Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, urging businesses to prepare plans to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

New York City is broadening the criteria for who should get tested for the coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. The new testing guidelines include anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 and anyone who works at a nursing home or shelter. De Blasio also praised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposed $3 trillion virus aid package.

Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in New York:

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REOPENING NEW YORK

While central New York, the Mohawk Valley, the Finger Lakes, the North Country, and the Southern Tier are expected to begin their reopening Friday, Cuomo said New York City, its surrounding suburbs and western and eastern counties have yet to meet the state’s criteria.

Cuomo’s plan allows construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, manufacturing and wholesale trade businesses to start reopening in the first phase. Retail stores can also provide curbside or in-store pickup or drop-off.

“Big question to me is how many businesses choose to reopen tomorrow,” Cuomo said.

The state is still advising residents to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable individuals. And prohibitions on large gatherings of any size remain in effect.

Cuomo urged New Yorkers to proceed with caution.

“There is no law or regulation that tells you how to interact with your personal relationships,” he said. “That’s up to you. I hope you do it smartly.”

The state reported another 157 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in nursing homes and hospitals died Wednesday. The number of overall hospitalizations is continuing to gradually decline, but the average of new COVID-19 patients entering hospitals has ticked up for a third day to 420, up from 401.

New York’s shutdown of schools and nonessential businesses is officially in place through Friday under a Cuomo executive order.

Cuomo’s administration has divided the state into ten regions that must meet seven criteria that include a 14-day decline in or a small number of hospital deaths and hospitalizations before reopening. Each region, led by teams of local representatives, must also make sure they provide enough testing and hire contact tracers among other conditions.

Regions will backtrack if it appears infection rates are increasing, according to Cuomo’s office, or move on to the next phases of re-opening after at least two weeks.

Cuomo’s administration says that re-opening businesses must come up with a written safety plan that outlines how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Cuomo has said hospitals must have a 90-day supply of personal protective equipment as the state re-opens, but it’s been unclear how the state will enforce that.

His spokesman said Thursday that “regulations are forthcoming.”

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TESTING CRITERIA BROADENED

The expanded new testing guidelines come as the city opens more testing sites with the goal of administering 20,000 tests a day by May 25, de Blasio said.

When the virus first hit New York in March, testing kits were in such such short supply that it was difficult for anyone except the most severely affected to get tested. People who suspected they had been infected but who were experiencing only mild symptoms were told simply to stay isolated at home.

De Blasio said the city still needs help from the federal government to expand testing to the point where it’s possible to contain the virus through a comprehensive testing and tracing program. “When we get the real support we need from the federal government and that additional lab capacity, we’ll be able to go much father,” he said.

New York City has reported more than 186,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, a figure that is likely much lower than the number of city residents who have been infected.

The number of children in New York City diagnosed with a rare inflammatory syndrome possibly linked to the coronavirus has grown to 100, de Blasio said. Of those, 55 have tested positive either for the coronavirus or for antibodies to the virus.

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VIRUS AID PACKAGE PRAISED

The $3 trillion aid package proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is exactly what New York, other states and cities need to revive their economies that have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

“Right now, if we don’t get a massive infusion of federal support, we cannot go through this recovery,” the Democratic mayor said on CNN’s “New Day.” “We cannot get our city back on its feet because we won’t be able to pay for the basics.”

The coronavirus aid package proposed Tuesday by Pelosi includes $1 trillion for states and cities, “hazard pay” for essential workers and a new round of payments to individuals. The Democrat-controlled House is expected to vote on the package as soon as Friday, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Republican-controlled Senate will wait until after Memorial Day to consider options.

De Blasio said the House proposal “would actually allow New York City and New York state, cities and states everywhere, blue states, red states, everyone to get back on their feet.”

The mayor has said that New York City, the epicenter of the virus in the United States, has lost more than $7 billion in revenue because of the two-month coronavirus lockdown,

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