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Long Island begins Phase One reopening Wednesday: Cuomo

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As projected, Long Island began the Phase One reopening of its battered economy on Wednesday, paving the way for construction and wholesale trade companies to restart operations, along with retailers for curbside pickup only.

The reopening the economy will play out by region in three distinct phases hereafter:

Phase Two: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate, rental and leasing. 

Phase Three: Restaurants and food services, beyond takeout and delivery.

Phase Four: Arts, entertainment and recreation, and education.

If the number of deaths, hospitalizations and new Covid-19 cases remains stable or declines for two weeks, a region can move on to the next phase of reopening.

Governor Cuomo rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, the first day the trading floor has been open in two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. The symbolic gesture came on the same day the Mid-Hudson Valley started Phase One reopening of its economy, and only one day before Long Island was to begin the first phase.

As of May 24, Long Island had still not met two of the seven criteria to start Phase One; it had not seen a 14-day decline in hospital deaths, and it did not have a sufficient number of contract tracers in place to identify Covid-19 hot spots and isolate them. As of May 26, it had seen the necessary drop in deaths, and was bringing the last of the required contact tracers on board, enabling the Island to reopen May 27, according to the governor.

"As more regions of the state begin reopening," Cuomo tweeted Tuesday, "we are carefully monitoring health data to make sure that everything is going in the reight direction. We rely on science and data to guide us — not emotion or politics."

Only New York City remains to start Phase One among the state's 10 regions. It was unclear, however, when the city would be able to begin. As of May 24, it had met four of the seven criteria. It did not have enough available hospital beds and intensive care beds, and needed more contact tracers.

Also of concern, the governor said, New York City was still seeing especially high Covid-19 infection rates in minority neighborhoods — at times as high has 40 percent, compared to the city-wide average of 20 percent.

To prepare for Phase One reopening, the governor said over the Memorial Day weekend, the Long Island Rail Road was sanitizing its trains and adding cars to them to enable riders to spread out more. A Herald tour of South Shore LIRR stations during rush hour last Thursday found only a handful of riders at any one station.

Cuomo emphasized that personal behavior will determine the success — or failure — of the reopening process. "The trajectory," he said Tuesday, "is decided by people."

He repeated that people should:

Wear masks in public spaces.

Wash hands frequently.

Maintain social distance.

"We want [the] economy to come roaring back," he said.