(Reuters) - Niagara Falls is part of a sixth New York state region to start reopening after clearing a hurdle for tracing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.
Cuomo told a daily briefing he would encourage professional sports teams in New York to play games without fans - but on television - and said he personally would like to watch the Buffalo Bills football team.
“New York state will help those major sports franchises to do just that,” he said.
Five regions across a large swath of central and upstate New York were given the green light to start the first phase of reopening on Friday after meeting seven criteria focused on keeping hospitalizations and infections at a manageable rate.
Cuomo said the sixth region, to begin reopening on Tuesday, would encompass Allegany, Erie and Niagara counties in western New York, starting with construction and manufacturing and some retail operations after meeting a threshold for contact tracers.
Niagara Falls, a popular tourist city named for the famous waterfalls it shares with a city of the same name in Ontario, Canada, was included although tourism would not be allowed in the first phase of the reopening plan.
Contact tracers seek out all the people who have interacted with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and are seen as critical to isolating exposed people to curb the spread of the disease.
Cuomo has stressed that his easing of restrictions would be based on science, data and seven main criteria, which include having 30 percent of hospital capacity available for patients and a sustained downtrend in deaths.
The New York City region, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, remains under strict lockdown restrictions, as it still falls short on four of the seven reopening criteria.
“Let’s keep all our opinions out of it and let’s just look at the data,” the governor said.
He said statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19, which have been on a downtrend for more than a month, fell by 57 over the past 24 hours to 5,840 on Sunday, while deaths increased by 106, the lowest daily total in about two months.
Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Chris Reese and Howard Goller