May 12 (UPI) –New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday his state will reopen on Friday when his shutdown order expires, adding that New Yorkers are entering an “exciting new phase” of the coronavirus recovery.
Cuomo made the declaration at his daily briefing after noting the state’s latest counts have fallen to just under 500 cases and 161 deaths, the lowest daily metrics since the middle of March.
The “Pause” declaration, which closed all non-essential businesses, will expire on Friday and it will be replaced by a system in which officials in 10 New York regions will make reopening decisions based on health criteria.
“A new chapter starts today,” he said. “This is the next big step of this historic journey.
“We’re on the other side of the mountain. It’s an exciting new phase, we’re all anxious to get back to work.”
Several of New York’s upstate regions, including the Finger Lakes region around Rochester, will partly reopen this weekend. The relaxation will allow for limited amounts of manufacturing, construction and curbside retail. Recreational outdoor activities and low-risk business like landscaping, gardening and drive-in movie theaters will also be allowed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report Monday that New York City’s figures have likely been under-reported.
The report shows 5,293 other related deaths between March 11 and May 2 that were not identified as COVID-19-related deaths, but may have been attributable to the virus.
In the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC blamed inadequate testing, possible false negatives and underlying chronic health conditions for 22 percent of the other deaths.
The report came just hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said key coronavirus figures are still declining in the city. As of Friday, the latest data available, hospitalizations fell to 55 and those in intensive care were down to 537, he said.
De Blasio also announced an initiative to supply 1,000 community clinics with protective equipment, and said schools are on track to be open for the next academic year in September.
Nationally, there have been 1.3 million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and 79,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In Seattle, a closely watched model maintained by University of Washington slightly raised its prediction for the number of U.S. deaths to just over 137,000 by early August.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said it raised last week’s forecast of 134,475 deaths as more states “continue to ease social distancing mandates” and new data is acquired on people’s movements.
“The increase is explained primarily by people’s movements, as captured in anonymous mobility data from cell phones,” IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said. “We’re also seeing fewer deaths expected in some states; however, we’re now forecasting slower downward trajectories in deaths after states hit their peaks in daily deaths.”
In Florida, the state marked a fourth straight week with at least 300 deaths. Figures compiled by the Department of Health showed 342 deaths for the week ending Sunday, pushing the state’s total to 1,735.
Florida’s number of new cases have declined for the fifth consecutive week. South Florida has been the state epicenter, with about 58 percent of new cases.
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf threatened Monday to withhold relief funding from counties that reopen their economies earlier than allowed.
During an online news conference, Wolf criticized a growing number of local officials who’ve said they will move from “red” to the less-restrictive “yellow” designations on their own.
“They need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act,” Wolf said. “They are engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe.”
Under Wolf’s declaration, 24 counties moved into the first (yellow) phase of reopening on Friday. Others, including those containing the state’s largest cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, remain under the strictest “red” designation.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday in a press briefing that the state’s economy would open in four phases. Phase one, which could begin as soon as May 18, was dubbed “Start,” in which limited businesses with few face-to-face interactions will re-open with severe restrictions.
Phases “Cautious” and “Vigilant” are expected to proceed over the next months with more businesses and industries opening with restrictions and capacity limits, but only if the data continues to show downward trends of coronavirus cases, Baker said.
Finally phase four, “The New Normal” will proceed when a new vaccine or treatment is developed for COVID-19, Baker said.
“We all know life will be different, but as the medical and life science communities make progress in developing treatments or vaccines, we can really begin to put this virus into the rearview mirror,” Baker said. “But none of that is going to happen overnight.”