New York to allow construction and manufacturing to reopen first - governorNew York to allow construction and manufacturing to reopen first - governor
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo holds daily briefing at State Capitol during outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Albany

(Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday outlined a phased reopening of business activity in the state hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with select industries like construction and the least affected regions.

Cuomo did not give a timeline, but the state’s stay-at-home order is due to expire on May 15 and the governor has said before that the areas with fewer infections could consider reopening after that date.

While short on specifics, the outline disclosed by Cuomo at a daily briefing was the most detailed sketch so far on how the state – the epicenter of the crisis in the United States – would start to loosen restrictions on businesses and daily life.

Cuomo said he understood the feelings of protesters pushing for a faster reopening but also warned that moving too quickly could spark a resurgence of the virus, which has killed nearly 20,000 people across the Northeastern state.

“You can do it for a short period of time, but you can’t do it forever,” Cuomo said, referring to lockdown orders which have been in place since the middle of March. “But reopening is more difficult than the closedown.”

Cuomo said construction, manufacturing and select retail shops could open in a first phase of reopening, followed by a second phase that would include the finance, administrative support and real estate and rental leasing industries.

Phase three will see restaurants and the food service and hotel industries reopen, Cuomo said, followed by arts and entertainment and recreation facilities, and education in the fourth and final phase.

Cuomo said regions of his state would be able to reopen once they meet thresholds on four main metrics: the rate of new infections, hospital capacity, diagnostic testing capacity and whether the region has enough disease investigators to trace contacts of an infected person.

While he did not specify which regions would open first, he showed a slide indicating northern and central parts of the state as “lower-risk regions” in contrast to the “higher-risk regions,” which included New York City, the hardest hit in the country.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Maria Caspani in New York, and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)