ECMC granted waiver
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said Western New York will enter into phase one of his “New York Forward” reopening on Tuesday. Nonessential services have been closed since March 20, when Cuomo put “New York State on PAUSE” to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The governor is using seven metrics based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to determine when New York can reopen. Western New York has met six of seven numbers, only falling short when it comes to contract tracing.
At Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cuomo said, “We're opening regions that have hit the data points; hit the metrics. Western New York has one metric that they have to hit, which is the number of tracers they need – 521 tracers – they've identified 525. Great piece of work that they did over the weekend. I want to thank the mayor, I want to thank the county executive and the regional officials who found people to serve as tracers, they're going to be trained tomorrow. And that means all the metrics will be hit, and Western New York will open tomorrow, so that's exciting. And it's been a long painful period, but we start to reopen tomorrow.”
Speaking to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Monday morning, Western New York “control center” head, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said, “We are in a very good place. What it requires is simply a four-hour training course. We went after all five counties, asked them to identify current government workers; it doesn't have to be in the public health realm – social services, law enforcement, building inspectors – anybody who will do this. And we now are approaching those numbers, and I'm feeling really good about where we are today. Very good.”
In the “New York Forward” booklet released last week by the state, it reads: “The CDC and WHO also recommend that robust contact tracing programs be in place before local governments consider easing restrictions. Contact tracing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 by rapidly interviewing positive patients; identifying their close contacts; interviewing and alerting those contacts to the risk of infection; and instructing those contacts to quarantine or isolate for 14 days, to be sure they don’t spread COVID-19 to others.”
Image courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
More Phases to Come
So, what comes next? “New York Forward stated: “Each region will reopen businesses in phases, with at least two weeks in between each phase. This allows state and local leaders to monitor the effects of the reopening and ensure hospitalization and infection rates are not increasing before moving to the next phase and permitting more economic activity.
“The phase-in plan prioritizes businesses considered to have a greater economic impact and inherently low risks of infection for the workers and customers, followed by other businesses considered to have less economic impact, and those that present a higher risk of infection spread. Additionally, when phasing-in reopenings, regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area.”
Cuomo said it will still be some time before groups can gather together at sporting events, tourist locations or houses of worship. Presently, these activities fall into category four.
“You have a couple of hundred people, and you have one person who is infected, you have a problem,” the governor said.
Hochul said, “As we start getting into the other phases … if we start slipping in the metrics and how we're doing with respect to the rate of infection, we're going to have to stay in that phase and not get to the next one.
“And we really want to get to each phase in a systemic manner every two weeks. We have the opportunity, but that all comes down to whether or not the public and employees and others are being really smart about these protocols.”
Cuomo explained, “Fourteen days is the guideline, because it's basically the incubation period of the virus. It will show up in about 14 days. ... It’s a pure function of management of numbers.”
•Cuomo also said, “New York State Department of Health is also granting a waiver to restart elective procedures for ECMC. We want to make sure hospitals are in a position to provide care for people who need it. So, this is a good step.”
Erie County Medical Center Corp. President and CEO Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., Ph.D. said, “ECMC thanks Gov. Cuomo for today announcing the NYS Department of Health’s approval of our institution’s waiver request to safely perform outpatient elective surgeries. This will have a significantly positive impact on ECMC’s operations and finances, and most importantly on our patients.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have adhered to federal and state guidelines on caring for our patients and protecting our caregivers. As we restart outpatient elective surgeries that will ultimately benefit our patients, we will maintain all of the required safety precautions we have instituted to help prevent further community spread of the virus.
“As a partner of Great Lakes Health System of WNY with Kaleida Health and the University at Buffalo, many of our physicians practice and teach across our systems and we look forward to a similar waiver approval for Buffalo General Medical Center.”
•Cuomo said, “I also have been encouraging major sports teams to plan reopening without fans, but the games could be televised. New York state will help those major sports franchises to do just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football – whoever can reopen, we’re a ready willing and able partner.
“Personal disclosure, I want to watch the Buffalo Bills.”
•Finally, “Judges and staff will be returning to courthouses in the 30 upstate counties that are opened this week.”
Per “New York Forward,” phase one includes:
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting
Phase one includes delivery, curbside and in-store pickup service only for the following businesses:
Note: In-store pickup is defined as a customer placing an order for specific item(s) by phone or internet in advance, then collecting such order at the retail location. The retail location must abide by physical distancing requirements, which prohibit occupancy within the location to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy, including both employees and customers. Customers are only allowed on the premise to retrieve their prearranged order; not to browse or place an in-person order. Customers must maintain six feet of space from others or wear an acceptable face covering, if unable to maintain such distance.
No waivers will be issued in phase one for businesses that do not qualify.
Businesses can click HERE for additional resources.