Coronavirus shutdown orders will be extended for much of New York beyond the current mid-May directive, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.
"May 15 is when the PAUSE regulations expire statewide," said Cuomo in an Albany press briefing, referring to his orders prohibiting non-essential business and gatherings.
"I will extend them in many parts of the state, but in some parts ... you can make the case that we should unpause by May 15," New York Post quoted the Governor as saying.
Cuomo did not reveal when the extension will run through, or exactly which parts of the state will be included, but strongly implied that hard-hit New York City would be included, saying, "You have to be smart about it," and noting that the Big Apple had higher infection numbers than many countries.
On Sunday, he unveiled plans for a piecemeal return to normalcy in which construction and manufacturing jobs in some parts of New York would be the first to trickle back -- even as hard-hit regions like the Big Apple and Long Island remained offline.
Cuomo talked of the extension as he detailed the troubling results of the latest round of antibody testing, which suggest that nearly 25 per cent of New Yorkers may have contracted the coronavirus at some point, as opposed to 14.9 per cent statewide.
By Monday, a total of 7,500 people have undergone the state's COVID-19 antibody testing, and 14.9 per cent tested positive, up from the 13.9 per cent by April 22 with 5,000 samples, Cuomo noted.
The results showed that while 24.7 per cent of people in New York City tested positive, the rate was around 2 per cent or even lower in many counties of upstate New York, which could justify a phased reopening plan.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his briefing on Monday that at least 40 miles of city streets will be closed to traffic so that New Yorkers will have more space to walk around or exercise, Xinhua news agency reported.
A new method of testing will be applied in city-run clinics, where people collect samples themselves under the direction of health care workers.
The "self-swab" tests will reduce those frontline workers' risk of getting infected, as the traditional way often leads to sneezing and coughing of the person who is receiving the test, said de Blasio.
Meanwhile, the city announced that it would hire 1,000 health workers to track people who had contact with individuals tested positive for the coronavirus.
"We are hiring immediately and we'll be hiring throughout the month of May," said the mayor.
He noted that a broad capacity of testing and widespread contact tracing are essential to the state and the city's reopening planning.
"Every time someone tests positive, immediately we can swing into action, figure out who were their close contacts and get those people tested to isolate anyone who needs isolation," he added.
Also on Monday, officials at the State Board of Elections voted to cancel New York's Democratic presidential primary scheduled for June 23, making it the first state to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Monday evening, over 291,000 people have been tested positive for coronavirus in the state, with more than 160,000 in New York City, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.