Officials fear demonstrations across New York State over the death of George Floyd could lead to another COVID-19 shutdown.

On Friday, five of New York's 10 regions entered Phase 2 of the four-phased reopening plan. Two more regions are expected to hit Phase 2 by Wednesday. Next week, the Mid-Hudson Region and Long Island could enter Phase 2 and New York City is expected to enter Phase 1.

However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expressing concerns that protests linked to the death of Floyd could lead to another surge of COVID-19 cases.

Cuomo says he supports the peaceful protests but believes all the steps taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 could be for nothing if social-distancing measures are abandoned.

“Just don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City,” Cuomo said on Monday during his COVID-19 briefing. “And now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could in fact exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masks, socially distanced. And then you turn on the TV and you see these mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything that we have done. We have to take a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?”

Cuomo warned if there is a rise in COVID-19 due to the Floyd protests, he may be forced to put the state "on pause" again. This includes regions of New York that are already in Phase 1 or Phase 2, according to the Dutchess Business Notification Network.

"We don’t even know the consequence for the COVID virus of those mass gatherings," Cuomo said. "We don’t even know. We won’t know, possibly for weeks, the nature of the virus. How many superspreaders were in the crowd?"

Under metrics laid out by Cuomo, based on CDC guidelines, if there's a new spike in COVID-19 cases the reopening could be stopped or slowed.

"Calibrate intelligently the reopening. Hopefully, you never have to close again. And you keep those margins where hopefully you can manage them," Cuomo said. "Watch those gauges."

Cuomo understands why people are protesting, and he has said many times he stands with the peaceful protesters, but he thinks the protests are "counterproductive" if protesters are not mindful of social distancing.

“This is not helping end coronavirus,” he said. “I think this has been counterproductive in many ways.”

Cuomo fears large gatherings, people not wearing masks, or not standing six-feet apart could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.

"These mass gatherings over the past several nights that could in fact exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. Look at what happened with this COVID infection rate, nationwide. It took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart?" Cuomo added.

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