BATAVIA — As of this morning, local officials were told the Finger Lakes was allowed to begin Phase 4, the final specified phase of the New York Forward plan to reopen.
This phase specifically includes higher education, low-risk outdoor and indoor arts and entertainment and media production. Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, told those who were participating in Thursday’s video conference.
Pettit said Genesee county’s understanding was that Phase 4 was to go into effect at midnight.
“It does appear that we are going to make that deadline ... and move into Phase 4,” he said Thursday morning. “We did receive notification that Phase 4 is being limited to some extent at the moment, at least on the onset. We’ve also heard that there’s not going to be a Phase 5 per se. It’s just that Phase 4 is going to be prolonged and stretched out over time.
“We heard that malls and movie theaters and gyms, those types of facilities and activities are not opening, essentially, at 12:01 (this morning). They will be opened at some point, when the governor gets on and decides that he has the data and the support from the virus transition rate available to make that decision to open,” Pettit said. “Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to be able to open those locally. We’re continuing to monitor that and continuing to advocate locally based on our numbers. We have many conversations and many groups working on many different levels. On the public health side, we work through our many counterparts around the state and within the region.”
The county has been getting “slow leaks of information,” Pettit said, something that really hasn’t changed.
“Even with the flow of communication in Albany — they are often not aware and/or not in tune with some of these changes that are occurring. They find out about them in real time, just like we do, from the governor, which makes it very challenging for us to be able to have the information for you,” he said. “It makes it challenging for you guys and frustrations on you guys to be proactive in meeting the intent of the guidelines and having the information you need. We realize that continues to be a point of frustration for you and it’s a point of frustration for us. We are working to get clarifications.”
Pettit said he was sure there was a lot of news from Wednesday on people’s minds about the travel advisory — which said travelers coming to New York from states with high coronavirus transmission and positive testing rates must self-quarantine for 14 days.
Pettit encouraged those on the call to continue to monitor the COVID-19 data on the New York Forward webpage.
“What’s been listed there over the last four to six weeks has been malls, movie theaters, gyms, those types of things. Those have been removed at the moment. The expectation ... is that those will be added into Phase 4 at some point,” Pettit said. “We’ll continue to monitor and push that information as soon as we know, but this is where it will fall. If you happen to be one of those businesses on the line right now that are looking for that information, this is where it will be.”
The summary guidelines linked to the governor’s website at https://tinyurl.com/y85fg938 show mandatory guidelines and best practices for those who are opening up.
Petit shared some things Gov. Andrew Cuomo had announced in his press conferences recently, such as that faith-based organizations can now have services of up to 33 percent capacity.
“The social gathering requirements and limitations have been upped to 50. We know that it’s been kind of slow in creeping up here. It was at 10, went to 25 and now we’re going to be at 50,” he said. “We’ve been asked several times, ‘When do you think it’s going to go up higher than that?’ We really don’t have any good indication on that.”
The public health director shared some data updates. He noted 50 COVID-19 deaths have been in skilled nursing facilities and only one in the community.
“The number we’d like to talk about a lot is the recovered side and the 147 — these are folks that would be coming off mandatory isolation. Once they meet the state guidelines for clearance, they bump over into the recovered category.”
There are 108 recoveries for Orleans County.
“One thing we do that we tried to draw attention to throughout this pandemic is that COVID is impacting all of our different age groups. There was a lot of talk early on about, obviously, higher impacts to our seniors and our vulnerable populations. From the severity end, that still remains true,” he said. “Most of our cases where we have hospitalizations and we have negative outcomes with death, unfortunately, that does still remain to be more in our senior population and those with compromised immune systems. If you look at the numbers, we have a lot of folks in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, ... who have had COVID. That’s really just a quick snapshot of what’s going on locally, in Genesee and Orleans counties, specifically.”