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Returning to normal: New York's plan to gradually re-open

Posted at 11:24 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 23:24:15-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — President Donald Trump announced new guidelines Thursday evening in an effort to re-open the United States. The federal plan comes in three phases.

"We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time," President Trump said. The phased plan serves as guidance, not an order. States can follow their own plans to re-open. New York state remains “on pause” until May 15th.

"What happens after then? I don’t know. We will see depending on what the data shows," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his daily update Thursday afternoon. His “blueprint” involves “reducing the rate of infection,” working with the healthcare system and increasing testing while slowly opening up the economy.

"This is going to be a moment of transformation for society. And we paid a very high price for it, but how do we learn the lessons so this new normal is a better New York?” he asked.

7 Eyewitness News reporter Nikki DeMentri spoke with Dr. Thomas Russo, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, in a FaceTime interview.

"We have another month at least of the pause order. Do you think it’s going to be a month and we start reopening things?" DeMentri asked Dr. Russo. He responded: "I think it’s hard to say. I hope actually that it’ll be sooner than that.”

Dr. Thomas Russo said we can only start to re-open once the infection rate nears zero. He agrees with a tiered re-opening plan.

"If we reopen now and started to expand our behavior in terms of the pre-coronavirus situation, I think it will be almost inevitable to have a resurgence of cases," Dr. Russo said.

Once infection numbers are down, Dr. Russo said testing needs to be ramped up significantly to ensure there isn't a second wave.

"It's difficult to predict exactly when we'll be able to ramp up testing to the magnitude to do what's needed to get us back somewhat on track," Dr. Russo said. When things do begin to reopen, Dr. Russo said modified health measures need to remain in place. Those include wearing a mask, limiting crowd sizes and social distancing.

"So maybe step one: opening certain types of businesses such as maybe barber shops and salons with masking of everyone involved for example and if that goes well, then we can move on," Dr. Russo said. He sees this being the new reality until a vaccine comes along and that’s not expected for 12-18 months.

"Hopefully we’ll get to where we need to get to sooner as opposed to later to start to get things back online," Dr. Russo said.