Some areas outside New York City ready to reopen this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says several regions of upstate New York that have shown progress in taming the coronavirus outbreak are ready to gradually restart economic activity by the end of the week.

'This is the next big step in this historic journey,' the governor tells reporters

Pedestrians walk through the nearly empty Oculus train station during the coronavirus pandemic in New York City. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said some parts of the state are ready to reopen. (Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press)

Several regions of upstate New York that have shown progress in taming the coronavirus outbreak are ready to gradually restart economic activity by the end of the week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Cuomo shut down most activity in the state on March 22 as the New York City area emerged as a global pandemic hot spot, but the outbreak has been less severe in the state's smaller cities and rural areas. He said three upstate regions have met all criteria for opening some business activity after May 15: the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Finger Lakes.

Other upstate regions are making progress and could follow soon after, he said. 

The reopening regions still need to work out logistics, such as creating regional "control rooms" to monitor the effects of the reopening.

He also said certain business and recreational activities, including tennis, landscaping and drive-in theaters, could open on May 15, when a stay-at-home order expires.

"This is the next big step in this historic journey," the Democratic governor said at his daily briefing.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said regions in the state needed to meet certain safety specifications before they could reopen, such as COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations trending down. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York's first tentative steps toward reopening follow other states that have already relaxed restrictions.

Last week, Cuomo said regions of the state could phase in reopening if they met seven conditions. COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations need to trend down and there must be enough hospital beds to handle a surge. Counties also have to beef up testing and contact tracing. And businesses will need to take steps to protect workers.

The economic reopening will happen in four phases. The first businesses that can open will include construction, manufacturing and retail with curb-side pickup. 

Additionally, landscaping and gardening businesses and drive-in theaters can open statewide, the governor said.

Cuomo warns of reopening risks

Cuomo, who has emerged as a leading national voice on the crisis, warned that reopening too quickly could backfire.

"We took the worst situation in the nation and changed the trajectory," Cuomo said. "The rest of the nation, the cases are still on the incline."

Cuomo said regional reopenings would be co-ordinated across the state and that hospitalizations and other metrics would be watched closely. If "circuit breakers" are triggered, restrictions could be put back into place, he said.

"We just made it over the mountain. Nobody wants to go back to the other side of the mountain," the governor said.

At an earlier briefing on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while progress on key indicators of the outbreak had been made, the situation is not quite where it needs to be to allow for a relaxing of physical distancing measures.

"June is when we're potentially going to be able to make some real changes, if we can continue our progress."

With files from Reuters.