Phase 2 gets green light

Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seen speaking at a pandemic briefing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, said during his Friday briefing that the Finger Lakes Region was among five that could begin Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan.

The Finger Lakes region, which includes the four GLOW region counties, are among five region that will be able to enter into Phase 2 of reopening, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The announcement was made and tweeted out on the governor’s Twitter feed during his media briefing this afternoon.

Phase 2 allows for the openings of offices, essential and in-store retail businesses, professional services such as hair salons and barbershops, real estate businesses, vehicle sales, leases and rentals; retail, rental, repair and cleaning; and commercial building management. They will be able to, though, “It’s not just open the door and have a party,” Cuomo said during his daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses, like those in Phase One, will be required to have a safety plan. Hair salons and barber shops will be able to reopen with strict guidelines, including providing services by appointment only, employees must wear face coverings and workers need to get tested for COVID every two weeks. Retail stores can reopen to 50% capacity and employees also must wear face coverings.

For more detailed guidance on Phase 2 businesses, visit the NY Forward website here.

During today’s briefing, the governor was not clear on whether or not the reopening takes effect immediately, or if the reopening will begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Around 1:15 p.m., about 10 minutes after the governor’s briefing had begun, Livingston County officials tweeted out that “LivCo open for Phase 2.”

Livingston County Board of Supervisors Chairman David L. LeFeber said in a statement that “The county supports a phased-in approach to re-opening that is grounded in science, objective facts, and agreed-upon datasets and public health principles. We do not believe that everything, at once, should be reopened.”

Livingston County and the Finger Lakes region continues to meet all of the state’s seven benchmarks for opening.

Livingston County has maintained more than 30 percent hospital and ICU capacity for the past six weeks and currently has its lowest positive rate of cases since the inception of the pandemic, at 3 percent, LeFeber said.

The county health department has 19 dedicated contact tracers who continue to monitor all exposure and contacts.

All objective indicators In Livingston County show a control in the spread of COVID-19 cases, LeFeber said.

County officials conduct daily briefings with its own Incident Command Team. The briefings review day-by-day health data from Livingston County on COVID-19 positive and negative test results, nursing home staff and resident testing, recoveries, antibody testing, hospitalizations and numerous other indicators, LeFeber said.

“This allows for movement, resource deployment and responsive action should an uptick in a trend present as worrisome from a public health perspective,” he said.

County officials are also part of the Finger Lakes Control Room where information is shared with other counties in the region.

LeFeber cautioned that the move to Phase 2 “should not construe a relaxation or looseness as it relates to public health or safety.”

“This is not carte blanche, and this is not done haphazardly,” he said.

The county does not yet meet the requirements to begin phase three of reopening, which would include restaurants and food services.

“Our residents and businesses have endured the social and economic hardships of this pandemic, gritted their way through, and adjusted to this new normal incredibly well, given the challenges and circumstances,” LeFeber said. “As a County, our goal has been to protect the health of the public from Day 1 – control the spread, flatten the curve, and educate the public on public health best practices. We have succeeded in doing that and will continue to press and push on all measures and alerts to advise the residents of this fine County on the status of the pandemic, our response, and our recommended action plans. In all that we do, public health is paramount. It must be – it has to be – and it will be.”

The other regions given the green light to reopen include North Country, Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk valley and Southern Tier.

“The data in these regions has been reviewed by county, regional & state officials as well as global experts in virology,” Cuomo said.

On May 18, during a briefing at Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, Cuomo introduced Samir Bhatt, a senior lecturer at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, and Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnestoa, and said that they had agreed to review the state’s data.

The most recent reopening announcement came after a chaotic and confusing several hours. As late as Thursday night there was uncertainty as to when Phase II would begin in the five regions, which had opened on May 15. Late Thursday the governor’s office issued a last minute directive that Phase Two was put on hold until a group of international experts analyzed the metrics to ensure the regions had met the state’s requirements for reopening.

Phase 2 follows the Phase 1reopening of the manufacturing and construction industries; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; curbside sales or in-store pickup for retailers, wholesale trade and other businesses, including drive-in movie theaters.

Subsequent phases, according to the plan announced in early May by the governor’s office, include restaurants and food services in Phase 3 and arts and entertainment, recreation and education in Phase 4.

The following businesses remain closed:

n Malls; specifically, any indoor common portions of retail shopping malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space available for lease; however, any stores located within shopping malls, which have their own external entrances open to the public, separate from the general mall entrance (e.g. strip malls), may open;

n Dine-in and on-premise restaurant or bar service, excluding take-out or delivery for off-premise consumption;

n Large gathering/event venues, including but not limited to establishments that host concerts, conferences, or other in-person performances or presentations in front of an in-person audience;

n Gyms, fitness centers, and exercise classes, except for remote or streaming services;

n Video lottery and casino gaming facilities;

n Movie theaters, except drive-ins; and

n Places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, family and children’s attractions.

The regions for reopening are based on the geographies of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Council.

The Finger Lakes region includes Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

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