New York City could be cleared to reopen as early as June 1 — then what?
Mayor Bill de Blasio maintained Tuesday that the Big Apple remains on pace to begin its coronavirus comeback within weeks if not days, but kept tight-lipped on the details of what that looks like, to the frustration of both business owners and elected officials who aren’t sure he actually has a viable plan.
“We’re going to be briefing all New Yorkers on each of these questions as we get closer,” de Blasio said when pressed by reporters in his daily City Hall briefing. “I’m feeling confident right now that phase one will begin by the first or second week of June.
“That’s a lot that we have to put together and put on the table, but it’ll all be in place well before we announced the actual day for the restart.”
And with “unquestionably several hundred thousand people” poised to teem out of their homes and return to work, de Blasio acknowledged that the city was still working with the MTA to hammer out the details of how to safely move all those people.
“Obviously, a lot of them will be taking subways and buses, that’s a concern we’re going to be working with the MTA on that,” de Blasio answered vaguely. “So, the work of preparing for the restart is going on every single day.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) questioned exactly what de Blasio has been contemplating all this time under lockdown.
“We should have spent the last two months planning for this,” Johnson, a presumptive 2021 mayoral candidate, told The Post. “Now we’re a few weeks away from hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of New Yorkers restarting their commutes and not knowing how to get to work safely.
“We need clear guidelines on subway safety and protocols,” continued Johnson, also calling for pop-up protected bike lanes and an expanded network of open streets. “And we need it all ASAP.”
Under the first phase of the state’s four-tier reopening plan, lower-risk industries including construction, manufacturing, landscaping and curbside pick-up retail can reopen once seven metrics are met on hospital admissions, deaths, available beds, testing and tracing.
As of Tuesday, the city — the last of the state’s 10 economic regions to be cleared for reopening — had met five of the seven criteria and remained on track to clear the other hurdles by mid-June at the latest.
But the lack of nitty-gritty details with June fast approaching left city business owners even beyond the scope of the first phase clamoring for answers.
“I would like to be more informed, to have information on hand as to when my business would open,” said Lamont White, owner of El & John’s Barber Shop in East New York, Brooklyn. “I’m in limbo and I don’t really know.”
White beseeched de Blasio to deliver clear, specific guidance to businesses on both when they can reopen, and what rules they’ll have to play by.
“Give me more info as far as what’s the criteria for smaller businesses,” he said. “I just know I have to practice social distancing within the business but what will be the target for that and how should we implement that? There’s no information on it.”
Julio Peña, who along with his wife owns Alphabet City Italian joint Il Posto Accanto, said that his patience has worn thin as the pandemic has wound on.
“Listen, it was and is a fluid situation — that’s change — so you can’t put that much blame on them [City Hall] initially,” he said. “[But] I really feel that the city and the mayor and all the politicians around him have really done very little to help anyone who’s in our position.”
As de Blasio remained mum on how the city would reopen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo detailed stock on the state’s overall battle.
“[The] number of new COVID cases [is] down to the lowest level since this ever started, just about 200,” said Cuomo in a briefing at the New York Stock Exchange, referring to the three-day rolling average of new hospitalizations, at 201 through Monday.
At the pandemic’s height in April, the daily rolling average of hospitalizations was over 3,000.
Another 73 New Yorkers succumbed to the bug in the 24-hour period ending at midnight Tuesday, the lowest daily toll since 56 fatalities were reported on March 23.
Cuomo called the daily tally — which raises the confirmed state death toll to 23,564 — a bittersweet figure.
“In this absurd new reality, that is good news,” said Cuomo. “Any other time and place when we lose 73 New Yorkers, it’s tragic.”
Additional reporting by Reuven Fenton and Bernadette Hogan