NY North Country on its way to meeting Cuomo reopening criteria

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 4:36 PM EDT
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has released a plan to start reopening the state by region based on seven coronavirus-related criteria. Northern counties including Franklin, Essex, Clinton, Hamilton, Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Jefferson would be first on the list under the proposal.

"It's not a question of do we reopen, it's a question of how we reopen," Cuomo said Monday.

The North Country region fulfills five of the seven criteria already -- a decline in hospitalizations, a decline in deaths, hospital beds and ICU beds having 30 percent availability, and under 2 per 100,000 residents newly hospitalized. The two criteria holding back reopening are testing and contact tracing. The Governor says the region needs to test 30 per 1,000 residents monthly.

"About 40 tests per day," said Andrea Whitmarsh with the Essex County Health Department. She says they think they will be able to meet that requirement, equaling just over 1,100 tests a month. "Right now we definitely have the capacity to perform 40 tests per day, so we're not too concerned with that number itself."

Clinton County would need over 2,400 tests a month and Franklin County would need to test more than 1,500.

Whitmarsh says these are only the COVID tests, not antibody testing, and would be for people showing symptoms or not. "We are going to have to really push for people to go and be tested to make sure they aren't asymptomatic carriers," she said.

The counties also are being mandated to have more contact tracers. Cuomo says the region needs to have at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents, meaning at least 12 for Essex County, 15 for Franklin County and 24 for Clinton County.

"It's not something we are even apart of," Whitmarsh said. The hiring and training for these positions is up to state health officials, said Whitmarsh, and those logistics are still being figured out. Essex and other counties are in communication weekly making sure they are staying on track. "We want to make sure we're not the county that's holding things back or that you we want to make sure that every county is doing things the same way," she said.

Whitmarsh says it really depends on meeting all seven metrics before the region can even think about opening back up it's doors. "I would say we are really looking to try and meet those metrics in time for the May 15th time frame but that's still up in the air," she said. And just because a region may be opening does not mean that social-distancing and masks are going away anytime soon.

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