New York, New Jersey and Connecticut lift most Covid-19-related restrictions on May 19, signaling the unwinding of some of the country’s toughest lockdown orders and social distancing protocols imposed during the pandemic.
The unified approach – announced separately on Monday by the three governors who had previously appeared together (albeit virtually) at Covid-era press conferences – follows a public row between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. The two Democrats’ mutual antipathy has intensified as Cuomo faces calls to resign amid two scandals and de Blasio ends his second term.
Cuomo unveiled the latest regional strategy at a late-morning New York press conference, while New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to announce a similar schedule later Monday at his regular briefing in Trenton. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont had previously announced plans to end most Covid-related restrictions in his state.
“This is a major reopening of economic and social activity,” Cuomo said, adding that while the New Jersey and Connecticut councils will not be the same, “our policies complement each other and I don’t think we will be the same. ‘they get cluttered. . ”
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will resume 24-hour service on May 17 to prevent the lifting of curfews and the reopening of businesses and offices.
Two days later, on May 19, most capacity restrictions will end in the tri-state region. Offices, restaurants, museums and theaters will no longer be subject to capacity limits, although they will have to maintain the 6-foot social distancing requirements recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If the CDC changes its guidelines, we’ll change our guidelines,” Cuomo said.
Large stadiums will also increase capacity to 33% on May 19, Cuomo said, although discussions are underway with Connecticut and New Jersey on a common protocol to allow higher capacity with a warning against testing. or vaccination – similar to what has been tested at Buffalo Bill Games.
At the start of the pandemic last year, the three governors were apparently stranded, issuing joint statements to close restaurants and ban large gatherings after a handful of cases around a Westchester County synagogue quickly metastasized in an unprecedented health crisis.
Within weeks, as New York and its surrounding suburbs emerged as the global epicenter, tents were pitched in Manhattan’s Central Park to safeguard the city’s overburdened hospital systems. Refrigerator trucks were brought into the parking lots of hospitals in northern New Jersey after the mortuaries ran out of space. In Connecticut, usually packed commuter train cars slid empty into New York’s Grand Central Station.
Together, the three states have lost more than 85,000 people to the pandemic, a death toll that was considered unthinkable in an extremely wealthy region with some of the world’s most renowned health systems. In retrospect, the factors that led to this result seem obvious, with low-income and minority communities most affected by the virus as the region’s economy has locked itself in.
While all three governors garnered national praise and acclaim – in Cuomo’s case, even an Emmy and lucrative book deal – for their early handling of the pandemic, the flaws in their responses quickly became evident.
Nursing homes have become the sites of some of the nation’s deadliest epidemics, a scandal that engulfed Cuomo after his administration deliberately covered up the true death toll among some of New York’s most vulnerable populations. Murphy drew a similar fire in New Jersey following deaths at state-run veterans homes, where around 200 residents are believed to have died after contracting the virus.
The US District Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI have reportedly launched inquiries into disclosure of deaths in nursing homes in New York City. In Albany, the Assembly Judiciary Committee is also considering the matter as part of an impeachment inquiry against Cuomo.
Multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the workplace further made Cuomo a political outcast, with several top Democrats – including most of the state’s congressional delegation – calling for his resignation.
Murphy, the only governor to be re-elected in 2021, hasn’t suffered as many flashbacks. Republican efforts to tie his administration to the nursing home scandal that precipitated Cuomo’s downfall have largely failed to generate significant traction. GOP lawmakers hardly argued at a recent hearing where Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli offered a lengthy defense of the administration’s long-term care policies.
While GOP leaders for months have called on the governor to speed up the timeline for reopening the state, it is only recently that Democrats have started to launch similar criticisms.
The three governors coordinated contact tracing, testing for Covid-19 and reopening efforts in the early days of the pandemic, but their times of re-emergence from the depths of the first wave were quickly diverted. Cuomo announced steps to bring restaurants and retailers back to upstate and western New York City long before Murphy took similar steps in densely populated New Jersey. Lamont, meanwhile, got ahead of New York by reopening some industries in his own state.
Monday’s joint statement follows Lamont’s April 19 press conference announcing Connecticut would end all trade restrictions on May 19, with the Department of Public Health issuing recommendations for the safe operation of domestic events and exteriors.
“When we did the shutdown, if you remember, we did it on a regionally coordinated basis… And that’s how we’re going to reopen,” Cuomo said. “If New York has different – drastically different – rules than New Jersey and Connecticut, you’ll see people going back and forth and that doesn’t help anyone.”