Let at least some New York City businesses reopen

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered a ray of hope for New Yorkers stuck working from home or unemployed or seeing their businesses collapse amid the coronavirus crisis — but only for some of them.

With the daily death toll now less than half its peak level, the gov indicated he’ll soon let some “nonessential” businesses reopen and get some people back to work — but not statewide. He’ll be extending his shutdown order past May 15 in areas hardest-hit by COVID-19: i.e., Gotham.

The city will take longer to recover. Its economy relies heavily on visitors and tourists, for one thing; few will be coming for some time. And keeping transmissions down is harder in the nation’s densest metropolis.

But we need to find ways to reopen some businesses here as soon as possible: Countless residents of the five boroughs are struggling to feed their families as unemployment nears Great Depression levels.

Cuomo said “low-risk” sectors such as construction and manufacturing could reopen first upstate — yet there’s no reason those industries can’t restart in the city, too.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-B’klyn/SI) wrote the gov Monday urging him to reconsider keeping the whole city shut down past May 15. Roofers and outdoor-focused companies “want to reopen,” she writes. “This type of outdoor work is a good first step to getting our economy off the ground while retaining strict safety guidelines to protect both employees and the community.”

Indeed, any businesses whose employees can work while keeping six feet apart should be able to get back to productivity, especially if they work outdoors (where transmissions are few) or can provide personal protective equipment as needed.

Grocery stores have shown that people can shop while socially distancing — and that New Yorkers take the crisis seriously and follow the recommended guidelines.

Cuomo’s message is mixed, too: On the one hand, he suggested the state might micromanage, looking company by company to see “how essential a service does that business provide and how risky is that business.”

On the other, he admitted having “no idea” how many businesses operate, saying those closest to a company are best suited to determine what it can do safely: “It’s very much going to be up to businesses.”

That’s the way to go: Let more companies figure out how to operate safely — and get New York back to work.

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