Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided details on phase two of his “New York Forward” reopening process on Friday.
Phase two includes:
Five counties were permitted to enter phase two: Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country and Southern Tier. Western New York is on track to join that list on Tuesday.
“The reason we are so rigorous about is this because many states and countries have reopened and they made mistakes,” Cuomo said. “Yes, everybody wants to open tomorrow. I wanted to open before we ever closed. But you have to be smart and we have seen what has happened. Painfully, when cities and states and countries reopen too quickly, they wound up closing again – which is the worst situation; so be smart.
“We have the data. We have more data than almost any other place on the globe because of our testing and we have had it reviewed at every level. All the local officials sign off, the regional officials sign off, the best state experts, and then we go to global experts who have done this in countries around the world, who frankly have more experience than we do because they've been through this – the crisis and the closing and the opening and the closing again. And we review all the data with them. …
“But these are literally the best minds you can find on the globe when it comes to this and they have gone through all the data. So, I feel confident that where we can rely on this data, and the five regions that have been in phase one can now move to phase two, because their data has been reviewed and the experts say to us it's safe to move forward, because people have been smart and you haven't seen the spike, so they go to phase two.”
What About Western New York?
Speaking Friday on LCTV, Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh said, “From my perspective, I don't see any reason that Western New York should not begin phase two next week; and it appears that we are on target to do so.”
Of course, the region has to continue to meet the seven “Regional UnPause Dashboard” metrics outlined by Cuomo, which he took from the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization. These indicators include hospitalization rate, COVID-19-related deaths, and virus contact tracing.
Once a region enters a phase, it appears a two-week period of maintaining the metrics will be required before a location can enter into the next phase.
Western New York entered phase one on Tuesday, May 19.
Wydysh said, “Our metrics are good; our numbers are good. We know that our businesses need to get up and running, and get themselves more financially stable and start that process, which is going to be difficult.
“So, let's watch those numbers; let's continue to do what we've been doing. Let's not make all of this hard work that we've done all along be for nothing. We need to continue to follow those safety protocols. Wear your masks when you're out and about.
“We know now the governor has signed an executive order stating that retailers can deny you access to their business if you're not wearing a mask – they have the right to do that. So please, just continue to keep each other safe and healthy.”
What ISN’T Opening
“New York Forward” stated, “Pursuant to the governor’s executive orders, the following businesses remain closed:
“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;
“Dine-in and on-premise restaurant or bar service, excluding take-out or delivery for off-premise consumption;
“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;
“Gyms, fitness centers, and exercise classes, except for remote or streaming services;
“Video lottery and casino gaming facilities;
“Movie theaters, except drive-ins; and
“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.”
For industries about to reopen, Wydysh said, “Prepare your businesses. Make sure that you have that safety protocol plan in place. Make sure that your employees are comfortable with how you'll be handling your new operations, and get your PPP – get those masks, the gloves, the hand sanitizer – all of those things that you'll need to reopen. Make sure you have those on hand and ready so that, when you hear you are able, you're ready to go.”
She explained, “Please remember that, if you are a business that is looking to reopen – or also a business who was considered essential during the shutdown phase, who continues to be open and will remain open – you must go online to that state site. Read through the safety protocols; make sure that you're meeting all of those guidelines. Fill out the self-affirmation form that's on there; print that out and have it available at your business. That step is very important. Again, this is not just for businesses who are being added in in different phases, but even for businesses who have been open all along.
“Some of those guidelines between phases might have changed. If you're something like a retail store that was doing curbside previously and you're now opening your doors more to the public and allowing customers to come in, some of those state guidelines might have changed for what your safety protocols need to be. So, make sure as we move through the phases that you are rechecking those guidelines and making sure that you're following any new information that the state is putting out. Those steps are mandatory as part of your reopening process.
“Our staff at the Center for Economic Development is available to take your phone calls. They are there to answer any questions and help you through the reopening process. Beyond reopening, they can also help you with the different government loan programs that are available – all of those financial opportunities that can help you at this time. If you need assistance on figuring out what you're eligible for or how to fill out those applications, the staff is there and available to help you.”
The phone number is 716-278-8750.
Further Guidelines for Phase 2
The “New York Forward” website reads:
“The guidelines below apply to non-essential businesses in regions that are permitted to reopen, essential businesses throughout the state that were previously permitted to remain open, and commercial and recreational activities that have been permitted to operate statewide with restrictions. If guidance has not yet been published for your specific industry, but you are permitted to reopen, please refer to the NY Forward Safety Plan template.”
Summary guidelines for each industry are available to read HERE.
√ Offices must “limit the total number of occupants at any given time to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy for a particular area as set by the certificate of occupancy.”
√ Real estate professionals need, “Ensure that workforce (e.g. salespeople, workers, subcontractors, and vendors) and customer presence total occupancy is limited to 50% of the maximum occupancy for a particular area as set by the certificate of occupancy.”
Mandatory procedures for retail stores include the following:
•Ensure 6 feet distance between individuals, unless safety or core function of the work activity requires a shorter distance.
•Reduce interpersonal contact and congregation through methods such as limiting workforce presence to only the employees necessary to conduct retail activities.
•The workforce and customer presence must be limited to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy for a particular area set by the certificate of occupancy, inclusive of customers, who must maintain 6 feet of space from others and, in all cases, wear an acceptable face covering.
•Tightly confined spaces (e.g. elevators, small stock rooms, behind cash registers, narrow merchandise aisles) should be occupied by only one individual at a time, unless all individuals are wearing face coverings. If occupied by more than one person, keep occupancy under 50% of maximum capacity.
•Post social distancing markers using tape or signs that denote 6 feet of spacing in commonly used and other applicable areas (e.g. clock in/out stations, health screening stations, break rooms, cash registers, merchandise aisles).
•Limit in-person gatherings (e.g. meetings) as much as possible and use tele-or videoconferencing whenever possible. If a meeting is necessary, it should be held in an open, well-ventilated space with appropriate social distancing among participants.
•Establish designated areas for deliveries, limiting contact to the extent possible.
•Close all fitting rooms and amenities including self-serve bars and samplers.
•Employers must provide employees with an acceptable face covering at no-cost to the employee and have an adequate supply of coverings in case of replacement.
•Acceptable face coverings include but are not limited to cloth (e.g. homemade sewn, quick cut, bandana) and surgical masks, unless the nature of the work requires stricter PPE (e.g. N95 respirator, face shield).
•Face coverings must be cleaned or replaced after use and may not be shared.
•Employers must train employees on how to put on, take off, clean and discard PPE, including face coverings.
•At checkout registers, employees must wear face coverings and employers must enact physical barriers such as plastic shield walls in areas where they would not affect air flow, heating, cooling or ventilation.
•Limit the sharing of objects (e.g. tools, registers and vehicles) and discourage touching of shared surfaces; or, when in contact with shared objects or frequently touched areas, wear gloves (trade-appropriate or medical); or, sanitize or wash hands before and after contact.
Cuomo also announced the implementation of a new early warning dashboard that aggregates the state's expansive data collection efforts for New Yorkers, government officials and experts to monitor and review how the virus is being contained on an ongoing basis. It tracks new infections and their severity, hospital capacity by region, and other metrics. The early warning system dashboard was developed in consultation with internationally known experts who have been advising New York state.
The early warning dashboard can be found here.
"Remember that reopening does not mean that we're going back to the way things were," Cuomo said. "Life is not about going back. Nobody goes back. We go forward. And it's going to be different. This is about reopening to a new normal – a safer normal. People will be wearing masks and people will be socially distanced – it's a new way of interacting, which is what we have to do. Wear a mask, get tested and socially distance."
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said, "As New York state's first five regions have been given the green light to begin to move from phase one to phase two, it is absolutely critical that there is timely data to monitor new infections, hospitalizations and hospital capacity. New York state's new early warning dashboard does just that – it will help foster added transparency in the government's efforts to protect New Yorkers and their families throughout the state."
Cuomo also signed an executive order extending “New York on PAUSE,” “until and unless later amended or extended by a future executive order.”
That mandate was put in place to limit the possible spread of the coronavirus.
Flickr photo link; graphics courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.