New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said ramped up testing capabilities would be key to reopening the state’s economy before the coronavirus vaccine is widely available.

In a follow-up address to Monday’s State of the State speech outlining his plans to revitalize New York’s economy, Cuomo said rapid testing opens many possibilities to help the state reopen its businesses.

“It can be completed in as little as 15 minutes,” Cuomo said on Tuesday.

The state is planning to work with the local real estate community to open hundreds of additional “pop-up” rapid testing sites for people to get tested hours before they eat at a restaurant, visit an arts center or engage in a social activity.

The testing strategy was piloted at the NFL’s Buffalo Bills game over the weekend and the state’s Department of Health has used contact tracing systems to monitor the 7,000 individuals in attendance. So far, Cuomo said early indications suggest the model was successful.

Rapid testing procedures alongside a growing number of vaccinated individuals will give the state the means to reopen safely, the Democratic governor said.

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Cuomo acknowledged the vaccine as “the weapon that will win the war,” but said it may not be available to all of the state’s residents until June, July or even next December.

“If we float along relying solely on the vaccine – the way many states are – we are looking at months of shutdowns and the economic, mental and spiritual hardship they bring,” Cuomo said.

New York’s coronavirus vaccine rollout – like others throughout the United States – has proceeded at a slower-than-expected pace.

As of Saturday, 543,147 doses had been administered in the state.

On Monday, the governor admitted that if New York waited until the vaccine was available to all of the state’s residents before reopening, the state would have “nothing left to open.”

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Like many states, New York shut down completely at the outset of the pandemic in the spring.

In the summer, the state shifted to a policy of targeting so-called “hot spots,” where businesses were closed within specified areas when confirmed cases climbed above a certain percentage threshold.

Cases throughout the U.S. are once again at record levels – with New York’s statewide positivity rate at 6.22% as of Sunday.

The state is facing a coronavirus-related budget hole valued at a record $15 billion.

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