ALBANY — Malls, movie theaters and gyms will not reopen during phase four in New York, even as coronavirus cases have dwindled and the rate of infection in the state is among the lowest in the nation.
The Times Union of Albany reported that Robert F. Mujica Jr., the state’s budget director, informed local leaders of a reopening “control room” of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision on Tuesday afternoon during a conference call.
The Times Union reported the news is a devastating blow to those industries, which have been shut down for more than three months as the pandemic that engulfed the state is now surging in other areas of the country.
Mall operators had hoped to reopen their doors during one of the earlier phases, but have been limited to opening only stores that have exterior entrances that do not require customers to walk through the mall.
A person briefed on Mujica’s call said that the state intends to make decisions on specific industries reopening in the coming weeks and months. There is no timetable for when theaters may open.
The news came even as Cuomo touted New York being one of only three states that are on track to contain the COVID-19, according to a study by Covid Act Now.
“We went from one of the highest infection rates to one of the lowest and we did it by making decisions based on the science, the data and the facts — not on politics,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“New York is finally coming back and I can’t stress enough how important it is that we don’t blow this incredible progress now,” the governor said. “To all New Yorkers — wear a mask, get tested, socially distance, wash your hands and be smart.”
WHITE HOUSE SLAMS CUOMO
White House officials took aim at Cuomo Tuesday, slamming the governor over New York’s high number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.
“Governor Cuomo alone is to blame for refusing to shut down New York and forcing seniors who tested positive for coronavirus back into his state’s nursing homes,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.
The comments come after Cuomo has spent the past few days doing an array of national media interviews and appearing on morning shows, touting New York’s progress during the pandemic and the state’s low infection rate.
The new York Daily News reported Cuomo has repeatedly blamed the Trump administration for the high rate of nursing home deaths in the state and said New York was simply following guidelines regarding re-admittance set by the Centers for Disease Control.
“We followed federal guidance on the nursing homes,” Cuomo said earlier Tuesday during an interview on NBC’s “Today Show.”
“We had more people die than any other state. That’s a fact,” he said. “The reason that happened was because we had the virus coming from Europe when the federal government told us the virus was coming from China. And we had no screening on people coming from Europe.”
Nearly 25,000 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19, including roughly 6,000 nursing home residents.
The governor has fired shots at the federal response to the pandemic in recent days as other states see dramatic increases in coronavirus cases.
Gidley defended President Trump, who has broken with public health experts as he casts doubt on the effectiveness of testing when it comes to controlling and tracking the virus, and ripped Cuomo despite New York’s gains.
“His reckless response did not follow CMS and CDC guidelines devastating the senior population-and no amount of revisionist history can erase Governor Cuomo’s grossly incompetent decisions or the fact that President Trump’s bold, aggressive actions saved millions of lives.”
Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi pushed back on Gidley’s criticisms, citing state and federal guidelines mandating nursing homes accept “only those residents for whom it can provide adequate care.”
“I know history shows that if you don’t bend to the president’s will, you’ll get fired, but enough with the lies,” he said. “More than a dozen other states adopted the same policies off the same guidelines — and yet the Washington republicans are hell-bent on politically targeting six Democratic states in an election year for them. No one’s dumb enough to fall for it.”