Long Island's economy will remain on hold until at least the end of the month, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo last Thursday extended the New York Pause stay-at-home order for the region and New York City through May 28.
The order further states that all "enforcement mechanisms" of the NY Pause order will remain in effect through June 13, "unless later extended."
The announcement came as a blow to small business owners in the Bellmore-Merrick community, many of whom have had their lives upended since the start of the shutdown in mid-March. While most merchants have adjusted to providing their services remotely, whether through online or curbside pickup and delivery methods, some have had to close their businesses for good.
At Serengeti Design Studios in Merrick, owner Femy Aziz, who is also president of the Chamber of Commerce, has clients come in by appointment only to comply with social distancing rules. She said she and other chamber members have been communicating with their customers via email about how they’re complying with state mandates to set residents’ minds at ease.
“They need to provide that confidence to their customers and keep them in tune on what’s going on,” she said. Aziz also advised chamber members to develop “reopening strategies,” which outline how businesses will ensure customers’ safety once restrictions are lifted.
Although the extension prohibits businesses from fully reopening for a while, Aziz said she was concerned for what might happen once the region reaches that point. “The main problem to consider is, even if we were to open, are people going to come?” she said. “Once you’re inside for so long you get a little nervous.”
The governor tweeted that five of New York's 10 regions had met the state's seven criteria for reopening as of May 15, but Long Island, one of the 10, had not. The Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, North Country and Central New York regions have already started the reopening process.
"The others," Cuomo wrote, "can be UN-PAUSED the moment they hit their benchmarks."
"New Yorkers," he added, "be proud. Your actions bent the curve," meaning staying at home led to the current downward trend in new infections and hosptializations after spiking in early April.
Certain "low-risk" business activities such as landscaping and gardening, as well as drive-in movie theaters, were allowed to resume statewide last week. Certain outdoor recreation activities like tennis were permitted also.
How reopening will play out will depend on local conditions on the ground, according to the governor. To reopen, a region must meet a set of stringent guidelines, which include:
Long Island currently meets five of the seven criteria. It falls short on two — 14-day decline in hospital deaths and new hospitalizations under 2 per 100,000 — and like all other regions in the state, it is expected to have a sufficient number of contact tracers in place by the time it opens.
For regions that meet the state's criteria, reopening is to begin cautiously, the governor said, and will play out over the coming weeks in four stages:
The state, Cuomo said, has created a New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board to help guide the reopening process.