Reopen NY: What you should know about New York's reopening phases

Reopening New York amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, July 20, 2020
Cuomo explains keys to getting NYC to reopening phase
NY Gov Cuomo says attacking infections in specific communities is critical

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York state has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, but with key health indicators dramatically improving, all regions are now reopening their economies.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has outlined guidelines to help the 10 New York regions create individual plans based on facts and data to reopen the state.

abc7NY Phase Tracker:

Which regions are reopen/what phase?

Phase One: All regions have progressed past Phase 1

- Construction

- Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting

- Retail - (Limited to curbside or in-store pickup or drop off)

- Manufacturing

-Wholesale Trade

Phase Two: All regions have progressed past Phase 2

- Professional Services

- Retail

- Administrative Support

- Real Estate / Rental & Leasing

- Restaurants for Outdoor Dining

Pursuant to the Governor's Executive Orders, the following businesses remain closed:

Malls: Specifically, any indoor common portions of retail shopping malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space available for lease must remain closed to the public. However, any stores without their own external entrance(s) may operate via curbside pickup in Phase 1 and 2 providing purchased items to customers at or near the general mall entrance and any stores with their own external entrance(s) separate from the general mall entrance (e.g. strip malls, anchor tenants), may open for curbside and in-store pickup in Phase 1 and all in-store retail activities in Phase 2.

Indoor on-premise restaurant and bar service, excluding take-out or delivery for off-premise consumption in Phase 1 and outdoor on-premise restaurant and bar service in Phase 2.

Large gathering/event venues, including but not limited to establishments that host concerts, conferences, or other in-person performances or presentations in front of an in-person audience.

Gyms, fitness centers, and exercise classes, except for remote or streaming services.

Video lottery and casino gaming facilities.

Movie theaters, except drive-ins.

Places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, arcades, fairs, children's play centers, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, family and children's attractions.

Phase Three: All regions have progressed past Phase 3

- Restaurants / Food Services (Indoor dining delayed in NYC)

- Gatherings of up to 25 people

Phase Four: Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier, Capital, Western New York, Mid-Hudson, Long Island, New York City

- Arts / Entertainment / Recreation

- Education

Retail businesses authorized to reopen:

- Clothing stores

- Direct selling establishments

- Electronics and appliance stores

- Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

- Furniture and home furnishing stores

- Florists

- General merchandise stores

- Health and personal care stores

- Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

- Lawn and garden supplies stores

- Office supplies, stationery, and gift stores

- Used merchandise stores

- Shoe stores

- Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and bookstores

- Other miscellaneous store retailers

Construction industry authorized to reopen:

- Building equipment contractors

- Building finishing contractors

- Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors

- Highway, street and bridge construction

- Land subdivision

- Nonresidential building construction

- Residential building construction

- Utility system construction

Manufacturing businesses authorized to reopen:

- Apparel manufacturing

- Computer and electronic product manufacturing

- Electric lighting manufacturing

- Fabricated metal product manufacturing

- Leather and allied product manufacturing

- Machinery manufacturing

- Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing

- Paper manufacturing

- Petroleum and coal products manufacturing

- Plastics and rubber products manufacturing

- Printing and related support activities

- Textile mills

- Textile product mills

Wholesale Trade businesses authorized to reopen:

- Apparel, piece goods, and notions merchant wholesalers

- Chemical and allied products merchant wholesalers

- Furniture and home furnishing merchant wholesalers

- Household appliances and electrical and electronic goods merchant wholesalers

- Machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers

- Metal and mineral (except petroleum) merchant wholesalers

- Paper and paper product merchant wholesalers

- Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers

- Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers

- Miscellaneous durable goods merchant wholesalers

- Miscellaneous nondurable goods merchant wholesalers

How do I know if businesses will be safe?

New York state requires employers to conduct employee health screening. The staff will be reminded to monitor their health closely and stay home if sick. Staff who arrive to work sick or become sick at work will be sent home immediately. Employers should relax leave policies to encourage staff to stay home until they meet the criteria for ending self-isolation. It is also essential to promote physical distancing, good hand hygiene and regular use of face coverings - these precautions are essential to protecting against the spread of COVID-19, especially if someone is sick but does not have symptoms.

What are the 4 phases of reopening?

Each region will reopen businesses in phases, with at least two weeks in between each phase. This allows state and local leaders to monitor the effects of the reopening and ensure hospitalization and infection rates are not increasing before moving to the next phase and permitting more economic activity.

The phase-in plan prioritizes businesses considered to have a greater economic impact and inherently low risks of infection for the workers and customers, followed by other businesses considered to have less economic impact, and those that present a higher risk of infection spread.

Additionally, when phasing-in reopenings, regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area.

Governor Cuomo said that businesses that are most essential and pose the lowest risk will be the first to open.

-- Phase 1: Construction, retail (Limited to curbside or in-store pickup or drop off), agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, manufacturing, wholesale Trade

-- Phase 2: Professional services, retail, real estate

-- Phase 3: Restaurants, food services etc.

-- Phase 4: Arts, sports, education.

What if there's a new outbreak in a reopened region?

The state is monitoring core factors to determine if a region can reopen, which you can follow on New York state's regional dashboard. You can find what is opened and closed in New York state here.

Officials say once a phased reopening begins, it is essential that the rate of transmission be carefully monitored and remain under control. Each region must appoint an oversight institution as its "control room" to monitor the regional infection rate during the phased reopening.

The loosening of restrictions in New York will be considered on a regional basis, based on the following criteria -- these criteria are designed to allow phased reopenings to begin in each region only if:

-- The infection rate is sufficiently low.

-- The health care system has the capacity to absorb a potential resurgence in new cases.

-- Diagnostic testing capacity is sufficiently high to detect and isolate new cases.

-- Robust contact-tracing capacity is in place to help prevent the spread of the virus.

What are the initial metrics for reopening?

The first key to reopening is continuing to control the rate of transmission of COVID-19, which limits infections and ensures that healthcare facilities are not overwhelmed.

The state has set up 7 metrics that each region must meet before reopening can be considered. Full details are available at

Metric #1: Decline in Total Hospitalizations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that reopening be dependent on a downward trajectory of hospitalizations and infections over a 14-day period. Before a phased re-opening begins, a region must experience a sustained decline in total net hospitalizations - the total number of people in the hospital each day, calculated on a three-day rolling average - over the course of a 14-day period. Alternatively, regions that have seen few COVID cases overall will satisfy this metric if the daily net increase in total hospitalizations (measured on a three-day rolling average) has never exceeded 15.

Metric #2: Decline in Deaths

Before reopening, a region must experience a sustained decline in the three-day rolling average of daily hospital deaths over the course of a 14-day period. Alternatively, regions that have seen few COVID cases overall will satisfy this metric if the three-day rolling average of daily new hospital deaths has never exceeded 5.

Metric #3: New Hospitalizations

In addition to monitoring the decline in disease trajectory, it's important to monitor the absolute level of infection in each region. This is because it's possible for a region that has seen a high level of infections - for example, New York City - to see a sustained decline in hospitalizations and deaths over a 14-day period, while still having an underlying infection rate that is too high to allow for a safe phased re-opening.

A phased re-opening for each region will be conditioned on the occurrence of fewer than two new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents (measured on a three-day rolling average).

Health Care Capacity

This pandemic has made clear that having enough hospital capacity is critical. Upon the recommendations of public health experts, every region must have the healthcare capacity to handle a potential second surge in cases - regions must have at least 30 percent of their total hospital and ICU beds available at all times.

Metric #4: Hospital Bed Capacity

In addition to ensuring that disease progression is contained, guidance from both the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) require that regional health system capacity remain sufficient to absorb a potential resurgence of new cases. Phased re-openings will therefore be conditioned on the hospital bed capacity in each region. Regions must have at least 30 percent of their total hospital beds available before a phased re-open can begin.

Metric #5: ICU Bed Capacity

Nearly 30% of hospitalizations for COVID-19 ultimately require critical care. It is therefore critical that regional health care systems not only maintain sufficient bed capacity for a potential resurgence in cases, but also achieve sufficient capacity for ICU beds specifically. Accordingly, regions must have at least 30 percent of their ICU beds available before a phased re-opening can begin.

In addition, to ensure nurses and doctors have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need, every hospital must also have at least 90 days of PPE stockpiled. The State is working with the hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities to develop a timeline to build a robust stockpile. We can't afford to risk another scramble for PPE while medical personnel are left under-protected.

Diagnostic Testing and Contact Tracing Capacity

The key to controlling the virus is aggressive testing and tracing, so that hotspots can quickly and effectively be isolated.

New York is scaling up testing at rates higher than any state or country in the world. Hospitalization rates are important, but testing identifies the full rate of spread. Regions can watch that rate move, and adjust their reopening strategies as needed.

Widespread testing is also key to effective contact tracing. This allows health officials to identify asymptomatic carriers, who are spreading the virus undetected, and isolate them before they infect others.

Metric #6: Diagnostic Testing Capacity

Widespread diagnostic testing is a key lynchpin on which the state's ability to contain the spread of the virus depends. Testing is critical to identifying new infections, isolating them, and tracing their contacts. Phased re-openings will depend on the ability of each region to achieve 30 tests per 1,000 people per month, consistent with the recommendation of Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. New York scaled up testing at rates higher than any state or country in the world. The State is committed to continuing to rapidly expand our capacity statewide to help all regions meet this threshold.

Metric #7: Contact Tracing Capacity

The CDC and WHO also recommend that robust contact tracing programs be in place before local governments consider easing restrictions. Contact tracing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 by rapidly interviewing positive patients; identifying their close contacts; interviewing and alerting those contacts to the risk of infection; and instructing those contacts to quarantine or isolate for 14 days, to be sure they don't spread COVID-19 to others. The New York State Department of Health (DOH) has partnered with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, and Vital Strategies to recruit and train an army of contact tracers to meet the needs of each region statewide, including from State, City and County Health Departments. In collaboration with these partners, DOH has established region-specific thresholds for the number of contact tracers required, based on the characteristics within each region.

Contact tracing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 through four key steps:

-- First, labs report positive cases of COVID-19 to contact tracers on a daily basis via a state reporting system.

-- Contact tracers then interview positive patients to identify people they may have been in contact with over the past 14 days. Based on the results of the interview, tracers will advise the positive individual to get tested, and either isolate or quarantine themselves for the following 14 days to prevent further spread of the virus.

-- The contact tracer then notifies and interviews each contact of the original positive individual to alert them to their risk of infection, and instructs those contacts to quarantine or isolate for 14 days to prevent further spread.

-- Finally, the contact tracer monitors those contacts by text throughout the duration of their quarantine or isolation to see if the contacts are showing any symptoms.

Members of the tracing team will also work with any individual being traced who needs social services assistance, such as housing, food, or medicine, while they are quarantined or isolated.

Mandatory Protocols & Guidelines:

Before reopening, every business must meet specific mandatory requirements. NY State has published "summary guidelines" including both the mandatory and recommended protocols and detailed "final interim guidance" for each business category listed in Phase One. The guidelines for each sector can be found here.

Submit an Affirmation to NY State:

Businesses must confirm that they agree to operate in compliance with the detailed guidance. A link to the affirmation form is located at the end of the detailed guidance and found here.

Prepare a Written "Safety Business Plan":

Every business must have a written plan outlining how it will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Create your plan using NYS Business Re-Opening Safety Plan Template and CDC Businesses and Workplaces Re-Opening Guidance which includes:

- Wellness Checks for employees and customers

- Disinfection and Cleaning Routines

- Social Distancing

- PPE supply for employees and customers

You can find more about the phased reopenings at

Once a region is reopened, officials say the regional control room will monitor regional metrics during the reopening process. These regional control rooms will monitor the hospitalization rate, death rate, number of new hospitalizations, hospital bed capacity, ICU bed capacity, testing and contact tracing within its region during reopening and alert the state if the region's metrics no longer meet the reopening guidelines and adjust the reopening plan for that region accordingly.


It overwhelmed the health care industry, it put millions out of work, it drowned social services in an ocean of need and threatened the food supply Americans had long since taken for granted. At the apex of the crisis and for the weeks that followed, no part of life, or even what followed life, was spared.


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