ALBANY – Certain businesses across much of upstate New York began the reopening process Friday, May 15, after nearly two months of being forced to shut their doors amid the torrid spread of the coronavirus.
But much of the state — including the Buffalo area, New York City and its suburbs — remain in a shutdown, unable to meet the state’s metrics to make it eligible for the first phase of reopening.
Now, the Buffalo and Albany areas are nearing a reopening date, but downstate New York remains a ways off.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has laid out seven key metrics each region of the state must meet in order to qualify for a partial reopening on Friday, when eligible regions will be allowed to let construction, manufacturing and retail businesses resume in-person operations.
Nonessential retail operations will be limited to curbside pickup, while essential retail — including grocery stores — will continue operating as normal, as they have throughout the state’s stay-at-home order.
Why is one region of the state allowed to open when another, nearby region isn’t?
Here’s a look at the state’s required metrics for reopening and where each region does or does not fall short.
Last updated: Sunday, May 17, 2020
New York’s reopening benchmarks
First, the metrics.
Each region must meet seven benchmarks in order to be eligible for Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan, which will last for at least two weeks.
Decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations: A “sustained decline” in total hospitalizations over a 14-day period. A region can also meet this benchmark if its three-day average never jumped by more than 15 hospitalizations from one day to the next since May 15, according to the state. Decline in hospital deaths: A sustained, 14-day decline in total daily hospital deaths. A region can also meet the benchmark if “the three-day rolling average of daily new hospital deaths has never exceeded five” since May 15, according to the state. New COVID-19 hospitalizations: Fewer than two new daily coronavirus hospitalizations for every 100,000 residents. Hospital beds: At least 30% of a region’s hospital beds must be available. ICU beds: At least 30% of intensive care unit beds must be available. Testing: Must have had the capacity to conduct a daily average of 30 COVID-19 diagnostic tests per 100,000 residents monthly. The number is calculated by a daily average over the prior week. Contact tracers: Must have at least 30 “contract tracers” — who interview COVID-19-positive patients and determine who they had contact with — per 100,000 residents, or a lower rate determined by the state based on a region’s infection rate.
Of note: The hospitalization and death metrics are calculated based on a three-day rolling average.
Counties: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Warren, Washington
Major cities: Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs
Metrics met: 6/7
Where is the region falling short? The biggest obstacle for the Capital Region had been the hospitalization and death totals.
From April 28 to May 11, daily hospitalizations dropped from 156 down to 104. The numbers bounced around a bit each day, but the three-day average dropped each day, which meant the region met the metric.
But the daily numbers ticked up on May 10 (103), May 11 (104) and May 12 (121). That meant the Capital Region’s three-day average saw a net increase — ending its 14-day streak and setting back its effort to reopen.
That changed Sunday, when the state reset the clock to May 15 for calculating major hospitalization and death spikes.
Now, the Capital Region meets the hospitalization and death metrics because it hasn’t seen a significant spike since May 15.
But the region still needs to hire more contact tracers; It was 166 short as of Sunday.
Central New York
Counties: Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego
Major cities: Syracuse, Auburn
Metrics met: 7/7
What’s missing?: Nothing. The Central New York region has been cleared to begin Phase 1 of the reopening process May 15.
Counties: Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates
Major cities: Rochester
Metrics met: 7/7
What’s missing?: Nothing. The Finger Lakes region has been cleared to begin Phase 1 of the reopening process May 15.
Counties: Nassau, Suffolk
Metrics met: 5/7
What’s missing?: New York City was hit harder than the rest of the state by the coronavirus, so it’s no surprise that the city’s suburbs lag behind much of upstate in terms of reopening.
Long Island has seen a steady decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations since hitting a peak, with 35 consecutive days of decline as of Sunday.
But the number of daily hospital deaths hasn’t been as steady, increasing earlier in the week. As of Sunday, the region’s daily death rate (based on a three-day average) had just four days of sustained decline, well off the required 14.
On Sunday, the region’s rate of hospitalizations dipped below 2 per every 100,000 residents, making the mark for the first time in days.
Like other unopen regions, Long Island still has to hire additional contact tracers, according to the state.
Counties: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Westchester
Major cities: Yonkers, White Plains, Mount Vernon, Poughkeepsie, Middletown
Metrics met: 4/7
What’s missing?: The Mid-Hudson is a largely downstate region that was hit hard by the virus.
And much like Long Island, the region has struggled to meet the hospital death and hospitalization rate metrics.
As of Sunday, the Mid-Hudson had a new hospitalization rate of about 2.41 per every 100,000 residents, according to the state. It has to be under 2 for reopening.
The region had also only seen a two-day decline in the number of hospital deaths as of Sunday, well off the required 14. And it still needs to hire more contact tracers to qualify.
(Of note: Until Sunday, the state’s dashboard has counted a region as qualifying for the contact tracer metric if it was “expected” to meet it. That’s no longer the case, explaining why the Mid-Hudson fell back to 4/7 metrics met.)
Counties: Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Schoharie
Major cities: Utica, Amsterdam, Herkimer
Metrics met: 7/7
What’s missing?: Nothing. The Mohawk Valley region has been cleared to begin Phase 1 of the reopening process May 15.
New York City
Boroughs: Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens
Metrics met: 3/7
What’s missing?: New York City has been hit harder than any other region of the state, accounting for more than half of the state’s 23,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
As of Friday, the city’s new hospitalization rate was about 2.32 per 100,000 residents, well above the required 2.
The share of open hospital beds (29%) and ICU beds (24%) also remained below the mandated 30% for reopening. And like its downstate neighbors, New York City still needs to hire more contact tracers.
Counties: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence
Major cities: Plattsburgh, Watertown. Includes the Adirondack Park.
Metrics met: 7/7
What’s missing?: Nothing. The North Country region has been cleared to begin Phase 1 of the reopening process May 15.
Counties: Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins
Major cities: Binghamton, Ithaca, Elmira
Metrics met: 7/7
What’s missing?: Nothing. The Southern Tier region has been cleared to begin Phase 1 of the reopening process May 15.
Western New York
Counties: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara
Major cities: Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Jamestown
Metrics met: 6/7
What’s missing?: Much like the Capital Region, Western New York benefited enormously from the state’s shift in how it counts a key hospitalization and death metric.
The three-day average of total hospitalizations had increased in Western New York on Wednesday and Thursday before it fell Friday, meaning the region needed another 13 continuous days of decline. Deaths had declined for only two consecutive days as of the data released Friday, well under the required 14.
But since the state reset the clock May 15 for the alternative way of counting those metrics, Western New York qualified because it hadn’t seen an average daily increase of 5 deaths or 15 hospitalizations since then.
The region still needs to hire 352 contact tracers before getting the green light, Cuomo said Sunday.