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Politics

Cuomo: Parts of Upstate New York Ready to Reopen by Weekend

NEW YORK — Several regions of upstate New York that have shown progress in taming the coronavirus outbreak are ready to gradually restart economic activity by the end of the week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Cuomo shut down the entire state March 22 as the New York City area emerged as a global pandemic hot spot, but the outbreak has been less severe in the state's smaller cities and rural areas. He said three upstate regions have met all criteria for opening some business activity after May 15: the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Finger Lakes. Other upstate regions are making and could follow soon after. 

The reopening regions still need to work out logistics, such as creating regional "control rooms" to monitor the effects of the reopening. 

"This is the next big step in this historic journey," the Democratic governor said at his daily briefing.

New York's first tentative steps toward reopening follow other states that have already relaxed restrictions.

Cuomo last week said regions of the state could phase in re-opening if they met seven conditions. COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations needed to be trending down and there must be enough hospital beds to meet a surge. Counties have to beef up testing and contact tracing. And businesses will need to take steps to protect workers.

The economic re-opening will happen in four phases. The first businesses that can open will include construction, manufacturing and retail with curb-side pickup. 

Additionally, landscaping and gardening businesses and drive-in theaters can open statewide, the governor said.

In a nod to social activities, Cuomo said the state also is relaxing restrictions on low-risk outdoor activities such as tennis.

Other coronavirus developments:

CONTACT TRACERS

New York is poised to launch its training plan for the huge corps of disease detectives it plans to deploy to track people who might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The effort, seen as a key to keeping the outbreak from flaring again once it is under control, is likely to involve hiring several thousand people who have no background in public health.

And since getting huge groups of people together in one place for a contact-tracing boot camp is impossible, the training will be done through a 5- to 6-hour online course launching Monday.

"There's all this discussion about using technology in some way. But fundamentally, this is a pretty human activity," said Josh Sharfstein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which developed the course with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable foundation of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

When someone becomes newly infected with the virus, the tracers will be tasked with figuring out everyone who might have had contact with that person, reaching out to them, and advising them how to quarantine themselves until they know for certain they aren't sick, too.

The video training includes having actors portray how the tracing interviews, mostly conducted by phone or video chat, are supposed to go.

Sharfstein said the training, to be offered on the Coursera website, will be available to anyone, not just those seeking to become contact tracers, the developers said. 

Bloomberg is putting up $10.5 million through his foundation to help the state roll out its tracing plan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made hiring at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents a requirement for any part of the state to reopen.

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