BUFFALO — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on Tuesday, eliminated some ambiguity regarding whether upstate will open before the hardest hit areas of downstate.
While holding his daily briefing in Erie County, Cuomo said the state will follow a regional approach to reopening similar to how it differentiates between economic areas. According to that blueprint, there are eight different regions of the state including the Capital District, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, Western New York and the Mid Hudson.
The Capital District, according to the state Empire State Development Corp., includes the counties of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga, Green, Columbia, Washington and Warren counties.
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Last week the governor did acknowledge differences in how the virus is spreading across upstate compared to New York City and Long Island, where the vast majority of cases are located and where the vast majority of fatalities has occurred.
But, on Monday, to exemplify how easy it is to travel and carry the virus from place to place, he recounted a story of how he ran into a couple from Queens having Thai food outside an Albany restaurant because they wanted to get out of the house.
Tuesday, though he said “just like the virus presents a different problem in different parts of the country, it presents a different problem in different parts of the state.”
“We have been talking about states as if they are uniform, homogeneous entities. We have very different regions within New York. When you say New York, people think New York City. But, you also have upstate New York where in some counties there are more cows than people. People don’t think of New York that way.”
He did not give a time line on when things could start to loosen, but laid out some broad parameters for examination such as if there is an increase of decrease in the rate of infection for that particular region — where that region is on its own unique curve — as well as hospitalization rate and bed capacity.
“Just like some states will open before other states because they have a different circumstance when it comes to COVID and their status with COVID, it is also true across this state,” he said. “The North Country has a totally different situation than New York City. Central New York has a different situation than New York City. We operate as one state, but we also understand variations and you do want to get this economy open as soon as possible. The same logic that applies to the rest of the country applies some states to this state, where you have those varieties across the state.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will monitor the Western New York region and former Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy will monitor the Finger Lakes Region, which includes the City of Rochester. But, Cuomo said, the decisions will be based on the data, and with input from the local elected officials.
Some states who have not been hit as hard as New York are, under guidance from the federal Center for Disease Control guidance, easing back on restrictions and opening up their economies.
Meanwhile, the statewide number of hospitalizations continues to fall, the three-day average for hospitalizations is down and the number of people on a ventilator also continues to decrease.
The bad news is there were 481 fatalities statewide from Monday to Tuesday, with 29 occurring in nursing homes. It is higher than Sunday to Monday’s total of 481, but down from a high of nearly 800 earlier this month.
Also, Cuomo said he would lift restrictions on elective surgeries in some counties across the state. Earlier, he had mandated all hospitals increase bed capacity by at least 50 percent to make room for COVID-19 patients. The majority of those beds remain empty and hospitals are being forced to lay off workers. Albany County is exempt, though, and will still not allow elective surgeries.