New York’s COVID-19 Reopening Plan: What You Need to Know

Photo courtesy Governor Andrew Cuomo | Flickr

How it works, when it starts, and who will be affected.


Looking for the latest on where Westchester County stands in the reopening process?
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has shared the first details of how and when the state plans to reopen businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The strategy will include phased tiers and regions, with several complicating factors, so let’s break it down to what you need to know most.

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When Will New York Start Reopening Businesses?

Based on guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and headed by the newly formed New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board, the state will only begin the long process of rebooting its economy after a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate.

This means the plan does not have specific start dates but, rather, is dependent on how soon social distancing, isolation, and treatment can slow the spread of the disease.

How Does the Plan Work?

The reopening of New York will be conducted both regionally and in phases, according to a set of 12 guidelines, including industry risk, hospitalization rate, viral tracing ability (at least 30 dedicated tracers for each 100,000 residents) and other pandemic management staffing, ICU capacity (at least 30% vacancy), “reimagined” tele-health and tele-education plans, and more.

Governor Cuomo describes the plan as “a regional analysis on what we call our economic regions that we’ve been working with the state on, and those regions have been working together on economic policy.”

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Once a two-week decrease in hospitalizations has been confirmed, select businesses will be permitted to resume operations based on their low risk level and prioritization of more “essential” functions.

Phase One will start with the most in-need services that are least likely to spread the virus and cause a spike in new infections and hospitalizations. After another two-week period of monitoring to ensure public safety, “less essential” businesses will follow in Phase Two, with the pace of further reopenings speeding up as infection rates decline.

Regions must not open any business or attraction likely to draw a large number of visitors.

Read More: Westchester’s Wegmans Postpones Their Grand Opening Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The plan will be highly-variable by region, paying special attention to coordinate the reopening of public transit, parks and beaches, schools, summer activities, and more.

The Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North County and Southern Tier are on track to begin reopening on the May 15 start date. You can follow your area’s progress at the Regional Monitoring Dashboard here.

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Who Gets to Reopen?

The plan will be conducted in cooperation between the coaligned New York Metro Area states and, within that, regionally with a careful emphasis placed on downstate New York, which specifically includes Westchester, NYC, and parts of Long Island.

First to reopen in Phase One will be construction and manufacturing businesses, agriculture/forestry/fishing, wholesale trade, and select retail establishments for curbside and in-store pickup orders, as determined by need and risk level.

Mike Bordes, owner of Rye Brook’s AA Jedson Company, says the construction sector will hopefully be one of the easiest to reopen. “Because we’ve been working as an essential contractor already, we’ve only shut down about 50% of our jobs; the other 50% are essential projects.”

“We’re practicing with masks and gloves on a regular basis — including N95 masks and medical,” adds the 914INC. Small Business Awards winner. “I think things are going to continue as it’s been, but people will be more cautious going forward on a regular basis.”

Phase Two through Four businesses will also be considered by individual and industry-wide plans to protect employees and consumers with new policies and provisions.

Phase Two businesses includes “professional services” like finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate/rental sales and leasing.

Phase Three will cover reopening dine-in restaurants, food services, and the hotel industry to the general public.

Lastly, Phase Four will reopen education, recreation, the arts, and entertainment.

Beyond transportation, public service, and education sectors, early emphasis will also be placed on food banks, childcare institutions, and services that support public housing and low-income communities. Specific low-risk businesses and recreational activities can reopen state-wide starting May 15 as well, including landscaping and gardening, tennis, and drive-ins.

“Every business leader understands that we can’t just re-open and go back to where we were and what we were doing before,” says Cuomo. “We have to move forward in light of the circumstances that have developed.”


You can read more about the reopening plan and the state’s efforts in the 50-page NY Forward Reopening Guide.

Read the CDC Guidelines for the reopening of specific types of business and recreation here.

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