NEW YORK CITY – As the number of deaths and the rate of hospitalizations is decreasing, New York State is starting to reopen in phases. Today, the Mayor shared what Phase 1 of reopening will look like in NYC.
“It’s important to remind everyone, [when] we say restart, we do not mean rushing back to something that we used to think of as normal. We do not mean flicking a switch and suddenly everything’s where it was again, of course not,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in his press conference this morning. “We have to make sure this virus is in check. We’ve come a long way. We’re not going to blow it now. We’re going to constantly make sure we are holding back this disease, and we’re going to make sure that we are putting the steps in place all the time to avoid it ever having a resurgence.”
Phase 1 will begin on either the first or second week of June, though the Mayor said he did not have an exact date as of yet. Construction, manufacturing, wholesale work, and retail that hasn’t been in the essential category (like furniture, clothing, and office supply shops) will restart, restricted to either curbside or in-store pickup only. Administration estimates between 200,000 and 400,000 residents returning back to work.
“We can only give you a range to begin, but we’re going to know really soon what the truth is,” he said. “But even if you say 200,000 people, that’s a lot of employees coming back to work. So, we want to make sure it’s done the right way, and we want to emphasize safety throughout.”
Even those allowed to reopen have to observe the six-foot social distance, though the Mayor acknowledged that at certain times (and certain lines of work) that might not always be possible. And establishments would still be subject to capacity limitations so people have more room to spread out. Every company should also provide free face coverings for their employees, Mayor said, surfaces should be cleaned routinely, and there should be health screenings.
“Every day there has to be healthcare screening. Now, that can take different forms. The State guidance is clear. It might be a temperature check in the morning as people come to their place of work,” he said. “It might be a questionnaire that people fill out each morning just talking about their situation. If there’s anything that seems symptomatic in what they’re feeling, but it’s a constant everyday check on how employees are doing.”
The City will be providing free support to businesses, Mayor promised.
There will be industry guidelines, which will vary from each industry, and a business restart hotline, with “real human beings who know the rules and know how to facilitate and help businesses think through it” starting next week. A team of small business advocates will be dispatched to businesses to personally check-in to see how they are doing.
There will be random inspections as well.
“If a business is having a consistent problem with health and safety, we’re going to give them a chance to correct it, but we’re not going to wait forever because it is about the health and safety of their employees and then ultimately all of us when it comes to stopping the spread of this disease department of buildings, they’ll be out there for the construction industry,” he said.
“So, what we will do is what we normally do, but modified for this crisis there’ll be random inspections, there’ll be agencies going out, checking on the businesses, looking for how things are going, but with a supportive attitude,” he said. “I want to be clear about this. This is not ‘gotcha’, this is not something where we want to find a problem, we’re not intending to give fines in the first instance. This is, ‘hey, you got an issue here, let’s fix this issue together’ and every employer who works with it, great, we will be supportive.”
For non-essential businesses, the Mayor is urging them to wait until the City and State formally announce the Phase 1 reopening. Don’t jump the gun, the Mayor said, or else there will be consequences.
“So the bottom line is you don’t get to jump the gun. And look, we’re talking about phase one beginning in a week or two at this point,” the Mayor said. “I don’t think it’s too much for people to be asked to wait until they get the all-clear to do the thing that’s safe, to do the thing that’s healthy because these numbers, these are about human lives. “