Memorial Day typically marks the beginning of summer on Long Island, as residents flood area beaches and host crowded barbecues.
This year, Memorial Day represents the beginning of the “new normal” as the region begins reopening its economy as it recovers from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
During his daily COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, May 26 at the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it official: Long Island is ready to reopen as of Wednesday, May 27.
Cuomo said that Long Island has met the state mandates required to begin reopening the economy, leaving New York City as the only region in the state that is yet to begin recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Phase 1 of the reopening plan allows nonessential manufacturing, construction and retail businesses to reopen, but with social-distancing and density-reduction precautions in place. Retail is only allowed curbside or in-store pickups.
“Traditionally, Memorial Days a pivot point that represents us starting summer … fashion changes, mindsets change, and it shouldn’t be much different this year,” he said. “We’re going to turn the page on COVID-19 and start focusing on reopening, and how we reopen, and how smart we are in reopening.”
Long Island has seen a steady decline in hospitalization, infection, and fatality rates in recent days and weeks, and now contact tracers are being brought up to speed and trained, meeting the final metric set forth by the state.
“Long Island will open tomorrow,” Cuomo said. “We’re bringing the tracers in, and they’ll be coming online today, and Long Island will open up tomorrow.”
Citing Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone - among others - by name during his briefing on Tuesday, Cuomo said that it will be up to “regional control rooms” to monitor COVID-19-related data to determine if the region needs to slow down reopening efforts.
“Now we’re looking at: what happened? Where did (the new COVID-19 cases) come from? Is there any commonality or geographic identity to a particular cluster,” Cuomo said. “It has to be done region by region. We have to study the numbers, which will inform you.
“Focus on what’s happening with the numbers, and if you see a little movement let’s pounce on it and resolve it.”
State officials said, “We ask that these businesses go online to the following state web links to review and complete the required forms pertaining to your business and industry sector. We are available to assist and look forward to working with you to safely and responsibly get back to business.”
Phase 2 would allow these categories of business to reopen: professional services; finance and insurance; retail; administrative support; real estate/rental leasing. Phase 3 would include restaurants and food services, though the state might put limits on occupancy at eateries and impose other safety measures.
"Smart has worked. We just have to stay smart," Cuomo said this week. "Even though it's been a long time, and people are anxious, we have to stay smart. You keep watching those numbers.”
Since the pandemic began in mid-March, 1,739,449 New Yorkers have been tested for COVID-19, with 362,764 coming back positive. In Nassau, there have been 39,907 confirmed COVID-19 cases in residents, resulting in 2,103 deaths. In Suffolk, 39,090 residents have tested positive for the virus, leading to 1,840 COVID-19 fatalities.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.