Governor Andrew Cuomo gave Westchester and the Hudson Valley the green light to reopen starting on Tuesday as the coronavirus death toll dipped below 100 for the first time since the crisis erupted in March.
The governor also suggested hard-hit Long Island could start the reopening process on Wednesday if the death toll and case numbers keep dropping in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“What’s safe in Buffalo is safe in Albany is safe in New York City,” Mr Cuomo said on Saturday.
The death toll dropped to 84 people Friday, the first time it’s dipped below 100 since the pandemic slammed the city and surrounding suburbs more than two months ago.
Mr Cuomo called it a bittersweet benchmark that shows how far New Yorkers have come.
“It doesn’t do any good for those 84 families that are feeling the pain.
“But we are making progress and that feels good,” Mr Cuomo said.
In the city, 52 people died of coronavirus in the 24 hours ending Friday evening.
The total death toll rose to 21,138.
There have been nearly 195,000 COVID-19 cases in the five boroughs.
Mr Cuomo explained that the Hudson Valley region, which includes suburban Westchester – the first state hot spot – Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess counties has already met the state-set benchmarks for deaths and cases.
The area still needs to meet its goal of the number of trained people to trace and track infected people, but officials expect to surpass that total over the long weekend.
Long Island, which was once as serious a COVID-19 hot spot as the five boroughs, will begin the open up on Wednesday as long as its numbers keep headed in the right direction.
New York City hopes to start its reopening process in June if officials see enough progress.
As the state continues to emerge from the first wave of the pandemic, Mr Cuomo has urged New Yorkers to get tested for the infection, even if they have previously been tested.
He said capacity had now exceeded the demand for tests so anyone who wanted a test should get one, especially if they interacted with the public.
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“Get a test. We’ve made it as easy as possible, so go do it.
“It’s not: ‘I got one test and I’m done.’ Get tested again,” Mr Cuomo said.
As the Memorial Day weekend started with a rainy Saturday, the governor praised state beach-goers for obeying social-distancing rules on Friday.
Showing photos of a sparse crowd at sunny Jones Beach, he said sun-worshipers mostly stayed safely apart from one another and many wore masks.
“People were great,” said Mr Cuomo, who added: “They are doing what they are supposed to do and we thank them.”