NEW YORK (REUTERS) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday (May 11) that several regions of the state outside New York City could start reopening their economies this weekend after meeting criteria related to hospitalisations and testing for the novel coronavirus.
Cuomo said that the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regions in central and western New York meet the seven criteria to reopen, including a two-week decline in hospital deaths and enough people to trace the contacts of new cases.
He also said certain business and recreational activities, including tennis, landscaping and drive-in theaters could open on May 15 when a stay-at-home order expires. The regions that qualify will also be allowed to reopen after that date.
"Some regions are ready to go today," Cuomo told a daily briefing. "They just need to get some logistical pieces in order by the end of the week."
Due to the rapid spread of the virus in New York City, Cuomo's state has been by far the state hardest hit by the pandemic, accounting for more than one-third of the nearly 80,000 American lives lost, according to a Reuters tally.
But a nearly two-month shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses worked to limit infections, staving off a collapse of the city's hospital system.
Hospitalisations have been on a downtrend for nearly a month, while the 161 fatalities reported for Sunday marked the lowest daily death toll since March 26.
While New York has taken a cautious approach to relaxing restrictions on business and daily life, other states - many of them in the South and Midwest - have moved to reopen even in the face of rising infections.
Cuomo, who has emerged as a leading national voice on the crisis, warned that reopening too quickly could backfire.
"We took the worst situation in the nation and changed the trajectory," Cuomo said. "The rest of the nation the cases are still on the incline."
Cuomo said regional reopenings would be coordinated across the state and that hospitalisations and other metrics would be watched closely. If "circuit breakers" are triggered, restrictions could be put back into place, he said.
"We just made it over the mountain. Nobody wants to go back to the other side of the mountain," the governor said.
At an earlier briefing on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while progress on key indicators on the virus had been made "it's not quite where we need it to be" to allow for a relaxing of social distancing measures.
"June is when we're potentially going to be able to make some real changes, if we can continue our progress" de Blasio said.