New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is moving to a "new normal" as he outlined a gradual reopening of businesses as long as the Covid-19 outbreak continues to slow, saying the crisis won't be over until a vaccine is made available.
"Where we're going, it's not a reopening in that we're going to reopen what was. We're going to a different place," Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany on Wednesday.
There are more than 600,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. with more than a third of those concentrated in New York, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While the outbreak appears to be leveling off, Cuomo said there are roughly 2,000 new cases confirmed in the state every day. The economy won't be able to make a full comeback until there's a vaccine, which scientists have said will take up to a year and a half, he said.
"It's over when people know I'm 100% safe and I don't have to worry about this. When does that happen? When we have a vaccine," he said. "Until you have a vaccine, until you have the medical treatment, what do you do? How are you building the bridge? Well, it's going to be a phased reopening."
Cuomo said the state will determine which groups of businesses are essential to the economy and which companies are able to protect employees and the public from further spreading the virus.
Cuomo said that reopening commerce in his state, and the rest of the country, in the absence of a vaccine for the coronavirus would hinge on testing people for Covid-19 and tracing the contacts of those people who test positive.
"The more testing, the more open the economy," Cuomo said.
The governor repeatedly said that the federal government needs to help expand the capacity for testing, noting that there are not currently enough tests available to do the level of screening that will be needed.
"We cannot do it without federal support and I've been saying it for days," Cuomo said. In addition to increasing test capacity, he said the federal government also would have to help states fund what would be "an army" of tracers to identify people who have had interactions with infected people.
"We need funding and the past federal legislation has not provided that, it's that simple," Cuomo said. "This has to be in the next federal legislation, and there can be no excuses about it."