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Image courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo
Image courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

Western New York expected to enter phase 3 on Tuesday

UPDATED

Sat, Jun 13th 2020 12:50 pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday reaffirmed Western New York is slated to enter phase three on Tuesday.

The governor announced the state has reached the lowest number of hospitalizations and deaths since the pandemic began. The number of total hospitalizations was down Friday to lowest level since March 20, to 1,734. Thirty-two people in New York passed away due to COVID-19, down from a record-high of 800 just nine weeks ago.

"As we look ahead, Western New York is expected to move to phase three this Tuesday and the Capital Region should move to phase three on Wednesday. But as usual, we have to stay smart and continue proceeding with caution. Look around the nation and look at the spikes other states are experiencing – we're not in a vacuum," Cuomo said. "In just about half the states, infection rates are climbing up. New York is the anomaly – we reopened and our rates continue to come down, but only because we continue to remain smart and vigilant in this fight against the COVID virus."

Out of the 70,840 tests conducted in New York on Friday, only 916 (1.29%) were positive. Each region's percentage of positive tests over the past three days is as follows:

REGION

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

New York City

1.70%

1.50%

1.70%

Capital Region

0.60%

0.50%

0.70%

Central New York

1.30%

0.60%

1.20%

Finger Lakes

1.10%

0.60%

0.60%

Long Island

0.90%

1.00%

1.00%

Hudson Valley

0.80%

1.10%

1.30%

Mohawk Valley

0.90%

0.80%

1.00%

North Country

0.30%

0.20%

0.20%

Southern Tier

0.50%

0.30%

0.20%

Western New York

1.30%

1.40%

1.10%

Business guidance for phase three of the state's reopening plan is available here.

Speaking Wednesday on LCTV, Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh said, “It's clear right now that, as of next week … as early as Tuesday, we should be getting that green light to enter phase three reopening of businesses, which we all want to see.”

Wydysh is part of the Western New York “control room,” which is overseeing this region’s reopening as part of Cuomo’s “New York Forward” plan.

She said, “Phase three should include things like restaurants and food service opening up more, and more of the personal care options that you're looking forward to. Of course, we're going to be focused on the reopening of restaurants in the area. We know this is a big one for indoor dining. Outdoor dining has been going well. We've seen those restaurants expand their outdoor dining significantly here just in the last week, and now they're looking forward to indoor dining, as well. Seating in those facilities will be limited, of course, to 50% of capacity to start.

“We also know that more personal care options are going to be opening up – things like nail salons, massage therapy, tattoos and piercing – all of those other services that, of course, we've been missing throughout this time.”

On Monday, Cuomo said he would allow gatherings of up to 25 people in phase three; that is up from 10.

Phase 3 – Restaurants

The “New York Forward” website noted patrons will once again be allowed to eat inside brick-and-mortar establishments.

The “New York Forward” site stated, “These guidelines apply to all restaurants and food services establishments, including food trucks and other food concessions. In regions that are in Phase 1, or have not yet reached Phase 2, such establishments may only operate by take-out and delivery. In regions that have reached Phase 2, such establishments may open outdoor spaces with seating for customers, in accordance with ‘Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services.’ In regions that have reached Phase 3, such establishments may open indoor spaces with seating for customers, in accordance with the guidelines below/in ‘Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Food Services.’ ‘Outdoor space’ is defined as open-air space designated for the consumption of food/beverage, which may have a temporary or fixed cover (e.g. awning or roof), so long as such cover has at least two open sides for airflow.”

Moreover, restaurants in phase three must do the following:

√ Limit indoor capacity to no more than 50% of maximum occupancy, exclusive of employees.

√ Limit outdoor capacity to the number of tables that can be safely and appropriately arranged, such that each table is a minimum of 6 feet away from another.

√ All indoor and outdoor tables with seating for customers must be separated by a minimum of 6 feet in all directions. Wherever distancing is not feasible between tables, physical barriers must be enacted between such tables. Barriers must be at least 5 feet in height and not block emergency and/or fire exits.

√ Regardless of physical distance, employees must wear an acceptable face covering at all times.

√ Patrons must wear face coverings at all times, except while seated; provided that the patron is over the age of 2 and able to medically tolerate such covering.

√ Individuals seated at the same table must be members of the same party (but may be from different households), with a maximum of 10 people per table. Seating in bar areas and communal tables are only permitted if at least 6 feet can be maintained between parties.

√ Clearly signal 6 feet spacing in any lines for customers waiting to order, pick-up food, be seated, or use the restroom, as well as in any pick-up or payment location.

Find additional guidelines on the “New York Forward” website.

Phase 3 – Personal Care

Phase three also includes personal care. Per “New York Forward,” this stage includes: “non-hair-related personal care businesses and services, including tattoo and piercing facilities, appearance enhancement practitioners, massage therapy, spas, cosmetology, nail specialty, UV and non-UV tanning, or waxing. This guidance does not apply to any hair-related personal care services (e.g. haircutting, coloring, or styling), which are addressed in ‘Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Hair Salons and Barbershops.’ ”

Mandatory protocols include:

√ Customers must only be permitted entry into the facility if they wear an acceptable face covering, provided that the customer is over the age of 2 and able to medically tolerate such a covering.

√ Employees shall be tested for COVID-19 through a diagnostic test every 14 days, so long as the region in which the personal care workplace is located remains in phase three of the state’s reopening.

√ Implement mandatory health screening assessment (e.g. questionnaire, temperature check) for employees and, where practicable, vendors, but such screenings shall not be mandated for customers and delivery personnel. At a minimum, screening must determine whether the worker or vendor has had: (1) COVID-19 symptoms in past 14 days, (2) positive COVID-19 test in past 14 days, and/or (3) close contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case in past 14 days. Assessment responses must be reviewed every day and such review must be documented.

√ Limit the workforce and customer presence to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy, inclusive of customers, who must maintain 6 feet of separation from others, except during the service, and, in all cases, only be permitted entry if wearing an acceptable face covering; provided that the customer is over age 2 and medically able to tolerate one.

√ Ensure 6 feet distance between individuals at all times, unless safety or the core activity requires a shorter distance (e.g. performing a piercing/tattoo, providing a massage, performing a manicure/pedicure). Employees must wear face coverings any time they interact with customers (e.g. performing a service, ringing up a purchase) and any time they come within 6 feet of another person.

√ Ensure that customer seating allows customers to maintain a 6 foot distance from all others except for the employee providing service (e.g. tattoo and piercing workstations, massage tables, or salon workstations must be 6 feet apart from each other), unless a physical barrier is in place in accordance with OSHA guidelines.

√ Ensure that employees at appointment desks/cash registers maintain 6 feet of distance from others, unless there is a physical barrier (e.g. Plexiglas) between them, or the employee is wearing a face covering; however, even with a barrier, employees must wear a face covering any time they interact with a customer.

√ Close waiting rooms.

√ Put in place practices for adequate social distancing in small areas, such as restrooms and breakrooms.

√ Personal care services that require customers to remove face coverings (e.g. lip/nose piercings, face massage, facials, lip/nose waxing) are prohibited.

Find additional guidance on the “New York Forward” website.

LCTV posted a graphic stating hotels would likely be able to reopen their dine-in restaurants, spas and gyms in phase three.

Cuomo’s Metrics

Cuomo said the metrics related to the coronavirus in New York state – particularly the number of hospitalizations and deaths – is under control. He introduced a new marker on Tuesday – the percentage of daily positive results by region dashboard – which he said will be used to track a region’s ability to remain or advance within the four phases.

“You can look by region and by county. … Now, the numbers are relatively small, so day-to-day you'll see some up and some down. That shouldn't set off any alarm bells. But if you see it's ticking up – and it's ticking up for a number of days – then it's something that people have to pay attention to,” Cuomo said. “So, we're in a new phase. We're feeling good. We've done great. But we have to stay smart, because reopening resets the whole game.

“When you reopen and people start coming out in some ways, you go right back to day one; and we know as a fact that reopening has very often caused problems. We know as a fact that reopening other states, we're seeing significant problems.”

“Every region of the state is now reopening, so we need to look at the facts and the numbers through a different lens now,” he said. “We're all reopening. Everything is reopening; the question now is could there be any spike in the rate of transmission upon reopening? That is the relevant question.”

Cuomo explained this new metric “is what people should look at every day: hospital administrators, elected officials, citizens. The percentage of positive tests per day by region, and then you can look at it by county. This is the number to focus on. How many tests did we do yesterday in the region and what percent is positive of those tests?

“Just because you reopen does not mean you will have a spike; but if you are not smart, you can have a spike. We need to be as smart and diligent as we were up until today, going forward. And my hesitancy is, well now people think it's OK. ‘Oh, we're reopening, well then we're fine.’ No. No; we're not fine. We've made great progress, but we have to stay smart, we have to stay disciplined.”

‘Energize the Reopening’

Speaker to reporters on Wednesday, Cuomo said, “Going forward, we need to do two things simultaneously. No. 1, monitor the reopening; what we've just been talking about. Watch the numbers, be smart, be diligent. Second, let's energize the reopening. Let's set the bar a little higher. Let's not just reopen, but let's have an affirmative strategy that reenergizes the opening.

“How do you do that? Stimulate the economy. Now is the time to do large-scale development projects. Now is the time you want to see government investing, the private sector investing in building large-scale developments that you know can help drive economic growth. You actually have an opportunity.

“ ‘Well, everything is closed down, there's less activity, there's less volume.’ Great. Great on one level. If there's less activity, then we can actually build more aggressively, because there's less disruption.”

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