(Reuters) - Two New York state regions adjacent to New York City could begin reopening businesses next week so long as deaths from the new coronavirus continue to decline and a contact tracing program is up and running, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday.
Cuomo also told a daily briefing that New York would launch a $100 million program to support smaller businesses in partnership with private banks, saying the target was very small firms, including landlords hurt by non-payment of rents.
“The federal definition of small business has what many could consider large businesses but we’re going to focus on true small businesses - 20 or fewer employees, less than $3 million in gross revenue,” Cuomo said.
The governor said construction staging could begin in the Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk counties, and in the Mid-Hudson region, which includes Dutchess, Orange and Westchester counties, ahead of a likely reopening next week.
Construction and manufacturing facilities are included in the first of four phases of the state’s reopening plan. Once Long Island and Mid-Hudson enter phase one, New York City will be the only region out of 10 still under the strictest lockdown.
“If the number of deaths continues to decline, they get their tracing up and online, both regions could reopen this week,” Cuomo said, referring to Long Island and Mid-Hudson.
Contact tracing is the process of identifying all the people an infected person has had contact with and isolating them. It is seen as critical to reducing the spread of the virus.
In a separate briefing, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city could enter the first phase in the first or second week of June, allowing construction, manufacturing and retail with curbside pickup to reopen.
Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Maria Caspani in New York and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller