SYRACUSE — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday outlined a protocol under which he would allow the state’s economy to reopen, region-by-region.
He offered no timeline, but the complexity of the protocol — 12 separate conditions, some of them very detailed, some involving extensive work — suggests it will take a while to put in place.
And he said he is ready to slow a region’s economy right back down again: One of the 12 conditions is that there be a regional “control room” to monitor the indicators of the pandemic, and “hit the danger button,” if need be, to slow down the reopening.
Cuomo delivered his daily briefing Tuesday from SUNY Upstate Medical School and Hospital in Syracuse. Noting the growing political push for reopening the economy, he said having this fixed, fact-based template for reopening would be useful.
“Let’s demystify it a little bit because in this environment, it is becoming rhetorical rather than factual,” he said.
The conditions for reopening a particular region are:
1: COVID-19 hospitalization must decline for 14 straight days;
2: Businesses will reopen in phases, starting with manufacturing and construction, then higher-priority/lower-risk businesses;
3: Each business and industry will create a plan to protect its employees and customers from infection;
4: At least 30% of hospital beds will remain available;
5: A testing regime will be put in place that entails an adequate number of test sites, test access for high-priority persons, full publicity on where and how to be tested, and use of test results to track and trace the virus;
6: A corps of infection contact tracers will be created, with at least 30 tracers for every 100,000 residents;
7: Plans must be created for isolation facilities for COVID-19 residents who can’t self-isolate at home;
8: Each region will coordinate its testing, tracing, transportation and re-opening with surrounding regions;
9: Tele-medicine will be re-imagined;
10: Tele-education will be reimagined;
11: An oversight institution will be appointed to serve as a regional control room, monitoring indicators such as hospital capacity, infection rate, supply of personal protective equipment and business, and standing ready to slow down the reopening at any danger sign;
12: Protections must be in place for essential workers.
Cuomo offered rationale for these 12 points but few details.
Nor did he predict how well a regional economy could restart with the constant threat of shutdown hanging over it.
In the absence of details, it’s hard to imagine how it would all come together.
Some of the 12 points might be simple enough — give essential workers masks and declare them protected.
Others seem like long-term projects — how long would it take to hire and train hundreds of tracers, then mentor them as they start their work? How long would it take to agree on a reimagining of tele-education in dozens of public school districts, then buy and build the infrastructure, then train people to use it?
Others seem at risk of failure by the very shortages Cuomo has railed about so often — masks and test kits.
And who would pay for all this? The cash-strapped state or cash-strapped local governments?
To answer some of these questions, Cuomo has created the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board to help guide the strategy. With more than 100 leaders of all stripes, it’s a who’s who of the state’s civic, business and labor communities.
Also Tuesday, a reporter asked Cuomo when guidance would be issued on when New York hospitals could resume elective procedures. Cuomo last week said that because hospitals are suffering great financial harm, and because no COVID-19 patient surge ever materialized upstate, hospitals in 43 counties could resume the procedures on April 28 if they and their county met very specific conditions related to capacity for patients prevalence of infection.
Cuomo told the reporter the guidance would be issued later in the day.
He was asked specifically about Glens Falls Hospital, which has furloughed more than 300 employees and begun soliciting donations for the costs it has incurred in the COVID-19 crisis.
Glens Falls is in the Capital Region, the governor said, which still has hospital capacity issues and where elective surgery is therefore still not allowed.
The state Department of Health was unable to provide The Daily Gazette with a copy of the elective surgery guidance or clarification of the status of Capital Region hospitals. Last week, Albany and Rensselaer counties were the only Capital Region counties on the no-surgery list.
In other COVID-19 related developments Tuesday:
- Gov. Cuomo said the number of new COVID hospitalizations dipped below 1,000 in the preceding 24 hours, a new milestone as the virus eases its grip on the state. The one-day death toll was 335, bringing the cumulative total to 17,638. In the Capital Region, three deaths were reported in Rensselaer County and one in Schenectady County.
- A new COVID testing site will open at Priority 1 Urgent Care, 2080 Western Ave., Guilderland. Tests are limited to those showing symptoms and appointments are required.
- SUNY Empire State announced cancellation of its 2020 commencement ceremonies. The online college had scheduled its Capital Region ceremony for June 14 in Albany.
- Albany Medical Center received a $250,000 donation from Activision Blizzard to support Albany Med’s use of convalescent plasma therapy to experimentally treat critically ill COVID patients.
- FuzeHub awarded Precision Valve & Automation $100,000 to support production of its PreVent emergency ventilator, which can provide critical breathing assistance to COVID patients suffering respiratory failure. It is a low-cost alternative to standard ventilators, which have been in short supply during the crisis.