Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday took five New York state regions off his “PAUSE” list, allowing them to reopen.
Western New York was not on that list, having only met five of seven metrics identified by the governor.
Speaking Friday on LCTV, Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh said, “For much of the last week, the Western New York region, which Niagara County is a part of, has been hitting five of the seven metrics. Unfortunately, yesterday we did backslide down to four of the seven. The good news is I can tell you again today we are back up to five. That is good to see.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said his area has seen a decline in overall hospitalizations over 14 days, “but the state standard is not just a straight, 14-day decline. It is also based on a three-day rolling average. And if we had a three-day rolling average, that also showed less than 15 hospitalizations, we would be able to reopen. Unfortunately, under the state metrics, we are not.”
Wydysh said, “This morning, the governor also extended his ‘PAUSE’ order for another two weeks (until May 28), for the regions that are not hitting the metrics. The good news is that, at any time during that timeframe, if we reach those metrics – if we reach all seven – we can immediately be reconsidered for phase one.
“Even just a week or two ago, the impression we had was that, if we didn’t reach by May 15, we would have to wait two weeks to be reconsidered. That is not the case. The governor’s office tells us that as soon as we meet all seven metrics, we can begin to look at the phase one reopening.”
Communities – and Young People – Play a Part in Reopening
Poloncarz said the fluctuating metrics in column No. 3 are “frustrating.”
“It's out of the control of Erie County; it’s out of the control of New York state. It’s really in the hands of the public,” he said.
Poloncarz explained, “It is maddening, because it's something that can be controlled by proper social distancing, people wearing their masks when they're out in public. And if we continue to see growth in that category – and it's not individuals who live in nursing homes – then it's just really out of my hands. But it's in the hands of the public.”
He added, “I want to reopen as much as anybody. I mean, I've got family I haven't seen in a while. I got hair that's growing like a weed. I want to get us in a reopening phase; I want our businesses to reopen; but we have to do it safely.
“And I agree, we're not going to reopen until we feel it's safe to do it. And the state has set the law down. I agree; we've got to do what's right to protect our community. It's public health.”
Cuomo said, “The amount of personal responsibility here to keep oneself safe, to keep one's family safe, I cannot stress highly enough, do not underestimate this virus and do not play with this virus.
“I can be asymptomatic and not know that I have the virus. But I can put my hand down on this table today, you can come touch this table three hours from now and pick up the virus. I can walk into a store to pick up a package, not know that I have the virus, put my hand on stainless steel counter, you can come in the store the next day, put your hand on that counter and pick up the virus. I don't care how diligent the store owner is and how many masks you wear – that's how powerful this virus is.
" ‘Well, it's only old people.’ No – tell that to the families who have a 8-year-old and 7-year-old in the hospital. Tell that to the 21-year-old girl's family, where the 21-year-old girl passed away. Everyone is vulnerable to this virus – everyone. And government can't keep you safe. Only you can keep yourself safe. But when you keep yourself safe and I keep myself safe, that's the way we keep all of us safe.”
Poloncarz said, “I think this is important for the public to know: Too many people are saying, ‘Oh, it's only old people in nursing homes and hospitals.’ We know that is not correct. I've been talking about how approximately 45% of the individuals in Erie County hospitals are (age) 64 and under. …
“You will note that, between May 12 and May 13, our hospitals, actually, we saw an increase in the amount of patients 64 and under, and a decrease in the number of patients 65 and above. There were 20 in the age range of 20-44 on the 12th, there now are 22. And then there were 66 from 45-64 on May 12, and there were 70 on the 13th. So, it just goes to show that it's not just seniors that live in a nursing home that are being hospitalized.
“And we think it's very important for the public to understand that; and why we are in some ways still in the ‘PAUSE’ order here is because we have younger people being hospitalized. And, unfortunately, the contraction rate is still out there. People are being tested that just contracted the coronavirus and being found to be positive. So, it's very important that we continue to stop the spread as best as we can to reduce the number of hospitalizations, but moreover just reduce the overall spread of the coronavirus.”
Wydysh said, “And we ask, of course, that you do your part, as well. Very important to keep following those social distancing guidelines, staying six feet apart, wearing your mask.”
Poloncarz put it bluntly: “Economies recover, people who die do not. It's as simple as that. And we need to do what’s best to protect the public's health, so that we can then reopen the economy. Our economy will recover. It might take some time, but it will recover. But if somebody dies needlessly that shouldn't because they were exposed to COVID-19, they're not coming back. So, we as a community need to do what's best to protect all. And I think if we do that, then fairly soon – I've been saying all along I think we'll reopen by June 1.
“But if these numbers keep on bouncing and we keep on having increases and decreases increases and decreases, it's going be tough for the state to say, ‘Go ahead and open.’ ”
Cuomo outlined additional safety measures businesses should employ once they are allowed to enter phase one of his reopening procedure:
Retail Business Owners – Curbside Pickup
Retail Business Owners – In-Store Pickup
"Throughout this entire pandemic, New Yorkers have stepped up to the plate and done a great job of working together to bend the curve, and today half the regions in the state will begin to reopen," Cuomo said. "These regions have met the seven criteria needed for reopening, and as soon as other regions hit those benchmarks they can begin phase one of reopening as well. As we move forward with this process, it is up to all of us to understand our personal responsibility – that's how this worked from day one and that's how we will continue to slow the spread of the virus and start our new normal."