(Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday the state would join New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware in reopening beaches for the Memorial Day weekend, aiming to prevent people from crossing state borders for a respite from the coronavirus lockdown.
The move is part of a broader loosening of restrictions in New York, which gave the green light on Friday to five of 10 regions outside urban areas to start reopening their economies, starting with construction and manufacturing work.
Cuomo was following his counterpart in New Jersey, Phil Murphy, who on Thursday announced he would open his state’s beaches for the traditional May 23-25 start of summer, news that was welcomed by many beach goers eyeing the Jersey shore.
“If we don’t open our beaches people will go to New Jersey beaches, I promise you that,” Cuomo said, adding with exaggeration that he wanted to prevent “4 million New Yorkers” from heading to New Jersey or Connecticut to get some sun.
Even while relaxing restrictions, Cuomo stressed that New York would continue to pursue a science-based approach that was “all about the numbers and the facts,” warning that moving too quickly could spark a new wave of cases.
Cuomo said 132 additional New Yorkers died on Thursday from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, down from 157 a day earlier. He said hospitalizations and intubations remained on a downward trend.
Restrictions on an array of construction and manufacturing work were lifted on Friday in five regions in central and upstate New York, while a broader pause on activity in New York City and elsewhere was extended until at least May 28.
Cuomo said he was increasingly concerned about a rare inflammatory syndrome reported in 103 children across the state who have also tested positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies. To date, at least three of the cases have ended in death.
He said the syndrome reflected the ever-changing understanding of the virus. He noted the case of a young person he said had died from a stroke that appeared to have been triggered by COVID-19.
“Apparently the virus can affect the heart and the liver and other organs besides the lungs and we didn’t know that,” Cuomo said. “The facts here have been changing and the facts have only been getting more negative.”
Cuomo urged adherence to social distancing guidelines, arguing that voluntary actions were key to suppressing a virus that has killed more than 27,000 New Yorkers, accounting for more than a quarter of the 85,427 total U.S. fatalities.
“When they write the history books they are going to write about how New York turned that curve,” Cuomo said, adding that there was no way for him to enforce guidelines like wearing masks across a state of 19 million people.
“That’s not government action. That’s social action. Those are people who choose to do the responsible thing.”
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Chris Reese and Dan Grebler)