New York City will begin reopening June 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Friday.

As the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., non-essential businesses in New York City have been shut down since late March and police have been dispatched to enforce social distancing.

More than 200,000 New York City residents tested positive for COVID-19 and over 16,000 died from the disease.

Other parts of the state began to reopen in mid-May after satisfying seven requirements set by the governor. New York City is the only region that has not met the preliminary criteria, as the city does not yet have enough hospital beds or contact tracers.

Cuomo believes that the city will fulfill the requirements for beginning stage one of reopening by June 8. That phase would permit retail stores to open for curbside or in-store pickup and would allow nonessential construction and manufacturing to resume.

“I am proud of the way New York is figuring it out,” Cuomo said. “Remember, reopening does not mean we’re going back to the way things were. It is reopening to a new normal. It’s a safer normal. People will be wearing masks. People will be socially distant.”

The governor addressed concerns about public transportation in New York City, which often saw packed subway cars and buses during rush hour.

“We wouldn’t operate it unless it is safe,” he said, adding that riders should actively avoid crowded trains or buses.

Cuomo also said Friday that five regions: Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and the Mohawk Valley have been cleared to enter the second phase of reopening, in which offices, stores and personal-service business such as salons can reopen with some social distancing and sanitation protocols.

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