Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on Monday that three regions — Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley — have met the seven criteria to begin reopening.

Johnny Milano / The New York Times

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on Monday that three regions — Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley — have met the seven criteria to begin reopening.

May 11, 2020

Tompkins County Can Begin Reopening May 15, Cuomo Says, As 3 Upstate Regions Meet Health Criteria

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The Southern Tier region of New York State can begin reopening later this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) said on Monday. The announcement marks the most significant step so far toward a return to everyday operations in the state.

The region is one of three — the Finger Lakes region and the Mohawk Valley are the others — that met all seven criteria that Cuomo said would be required in order to ease lockdown restrictions. The statewide stay-at-home order is set to expire May 15.

The seven metrics for reopening, all seven of which must be met in order to begin the gradual plan, include:

  • A 14-day decline in hospitalizations or no more than 15 new hospitalizations a day on average over three days
  • A 14-day decline in virus-related hospital deaths, or fewer than five a day, averaged over three days
  • A three-day rate of new hospitalizations below two per 100,000 residents a day;
  • A hospital-bed vacancy rate of at least 30 percent
  • An availability rate of at least 30 percent for intensive care unit beds
  • A weekly average of 30 virus tests per 1,000 residents a month
  • At least 30 working contact tracers per 100,000 residents.

Nonessential business and large public gatherings have been banned in the Empire State since March 22 under the governor’s order set to expire on Friday, when some low-risk businesses and activities will be allowed to resume operations.

Cuomo’s plan for reopening the state, released May 4, comes in four phases: Phase one will be evaluated after two weeks. If indicators are still positive, the second phase of reopening would include professional services, more retailers and real estate firms. Phase three hopes to see the reopening of restaurants and bars, followed by a fourth phase that covers attractions like movie theaters. Schools also fall into the final phase.

Phase One of the reopening plan allows construction, retail with curbside or in-store pickup, landscaping and gardening services, low-risk outdoor activities like tennis and drive-in movie theaters to reopen, given that businesses have plans to protect workers and customers.

While New York City has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, upstate New York has avoided a similar impact of the coronavirus. Tompkins County had 134 positive cases as of Sunday, and has no resident deaths.

The Southern Tier region along with the Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley met all seven of the set criteria to begin Phase One of reopening.

The Southern Tier region along with the Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley met all seven of the set criteria to begin Phase One of reopening.

Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa, in a virtual Q&A on Monday, said the steps toward reopening do not change guidelines for large gatherings. People should still avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, wear masks and practice social distancing, he said.

“Social distancing is with us for a while, as long as we’re still waiting for vaccines and treatments,” Kruppa said. “While we’re entering this first phase and future phases, social distancing is going to be core to every step we take.”

County administrator Jason Molino said businesses beginning to reopen should implement strategies for maintaining social distance between employees. While enforcement mechanisms do exist, Molino and Kruppa stressed the importance of “personal responsibility” as the region moves into the next phase.

This article will be updated.