During Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing at Rochester Regional Health in Irondequoit on Monday May 11, he announced that the Finger Lakes region — which includes Monroe County — is among those that have met the necessary criteria to reopen amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Cuomo’s “New York on Pause” order, which mandated that all non-essential businesses close their physical locations and all individuals only leave their homes for trips to the grocery store and other essential needs, goes through May 15. Any region that has met certain criteria can start to reopen after that date, while regions that have not met the criteria will see an extension of the stay-at-home orders through June 1.
In addition to the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regions have also met all seven of the metrics the state has set up to guide New York’s reopening. The Central New York and North Country regions have each met six of the seven benchmarks, falling just one short and not quite qualifying for reopening yet. The Capital Region, New York City, Long Island, Mid Hudson, and Western New York regions each have met five or fewer of the guidelines, meaning they have more progress to make until they can start the reopening process. The seven metrics determining which regions can and can’t reopen are as follows:
A 14-day decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations (3-day average)
A 14-day decline in COVID-19 hospitalized deaths or under five new (3-day average)
Under two new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents (3-day rolling average)
Share of total hospital beds available (threshold of 30%)
Share of ICU beds available (threshold of 30%)
30 out of 1,000 residents tested month (7-day average of new tests per day)
30 contact tracers per every 100,000 residents or enough to meet the area’s infection rate
No matter what phase of reopening a region is in, the governor has emphasized the need to reopen slowly and cautiously. Doing so is the only way to prevent further spread of the virus and spikes in infection rates.
With Rochester receiving the green light to start the reopening process on May 15, Rochester businesses are gearing up to do it while following the necessary safety protocols. The owners of Welch’s Greenhouses, for instance, are looking forward to having people coming in and out of their stores again to do their normal shopping. Owner Laura Vendel says that they have signs up asking shoppers to wear a mask when they enter. They also have lines on the floor to encourage shoppers to space out as they purchase items and plexiglass up at the registers.
“So I think this will be positive, I just hope people don’t rush too quickly and that they respect the rules put in place,” said Vendel.
Despite concern over shoppers adhering to social distancing measures, businesses are eager to open and recoup some of their losses from the past couple of months. While some businesses were able to keep selling their products or services online and others made efforts to boost the marketing of their business’s corporate identity to keep their business in the minds of consumers, others haven’t had the resources or ability to make these operational changes. Reopening their businesses is the only way forward for them.
Businesses that can reopen in phase one include those in the construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, and agriculture, hunting, fishing, and forestry industries. Retail businesses will also be allowed to perform curbside pick-up and drop-off. Retail businesses that are considered essential and have been operating under their current protocols will be allowed to continue to do so.
In phase two, businesses that fall under professional services, finance and insurance, administrative support, and real estate and rental leasing will be able to start to reopen. Retail businesses may also start to be able to offer in-store shopping. Phase three will allow businesses in the restaurant and food services industry to reopen as well as those in hospitality. The final phase is phase four, which will consist of facilities and programs for arts, entertainment, recreation, and education reopening.
It is still unclear how medical facilities in the region can expect to move forward with elective surgeries. There is a wide range of patients waiting for elective surgeries, from those who need knee replacements to women who would like breast reductions, of which there are 90,000 every year. While these procedures are considered elective, it does not reduce their importance or impact on the patient’s life. The revenue medical facilities receive from elective surgeries is essential in funding the facilities, creating another incentive to get guidance on reopening sooner rather than later.
While businesses in all industries and sectors sort out where they fall in the reopening phases and start to form plans for safe reopenings, Rochester residents can expect the next few months to be much different than past summers. Annual festivals, such as the Jazz Festival and Park Ave Fest, have been canceled for the foreseeable future to prevent large gatherings. As in the case of Welch’s Greenhouses, businesses will be enforcing rules like spreading out in check-out lines and wearing masks. The county is currently distributing masks to residents across the Greater Rochester area with designated mask pick-up locations. Mayor Lovely Warren has announced that city residents will receive a package of five masks per household in the mail starting this week.
Masks will likely be the most common accessory seen this summer and possibly for the remainder of the year. The average household in the United States has 300,000 items in it and that number will be increasing ever so slightly as residents stock up on these essential accessories for their family to wear in public. Cuomo has said that he would support local governments that choose to enforce penalties for people who don’t wear masks in public. Rochester has put no such penalty in place yet, but the governor has emphasized the importance of masks in previous briefings.
“I think there should be a penalty. You could literally kill someone. You could literally kill someone, because you didn’t want to wear a mask. How cruel and irresponsible would that be,” Gov. Cuomo said.
With residents donning masks in public and businesses deciding what precautions they need to take, Rochester is adjusting to this new form of life. Only time will tell if these adjustments are permanent and how the city can continue to move forward from here.
Just a few short months ago, Wegmans made headlines for its willingness to lead the charge ahead of the statewide plastic bag ban. While annual polyethylene production clocks in at around 80 million tons worldwide, the popular grocery store chain was willing to be the first to tell its customers they’d need to make the switch to reusable or paper bags instead.
But now, Rochester’s hometown supermarket is being subjected to even more pressure to our rapidly changing world. As COVID-19 continues to impact thousands of Flower City residents, Wegmans is evolving almost as quickly as new cases are confirmed.
Following a bit of backlash on social media pertaining to the lack of masks being worn by workers in Wegmans stores, the chain officially announced on April 8 that they would be providing face masks to its employees. The chain previously announced workers would be allowed to wear masks, but those workers would need to provide their own face coverings. Following Governor Cuomo’s recent order for all individuals in New York state to wear face masks in public areas where social distancing measures could not be followed, Wegmans has mandated that all customers also wear face coverings while in their stores.
Wegmans has also begun to perform wellness checks on their workers at the beginning of each shift. These wellness checks consist of a few questions about the employee’s health and a thermometer reading. Any employee who has a fever of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit will be instructed to go home with pay. The chain will also cover the cost of telemedicine services for employees who do not have a doctor. Since at least two different Wegmans employees have subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, the store has since implemented detailed protocols to follow in the event that other coronavirus cases are confirmed among their workforce.
A select number of Wegmans locations, including the popular East Avenue branch, were selected by the state of New York to act as coronavirus antibody testing centers. These tests aim to confirm whether an individual had previously been infected by the novel coronavirus in an effort to provide vital information about the disease’s spread and whether immunity has been built up as a result. At each of the 20 different grocery stores chosen by the state, five nurses working on behalf of the Department of Health have been charged with the responsibility of conducting up to 150 antibody tests. These tests can be performed on customers or employees of the store with their consent.
Although trucks move roughly 71.5% of the nation’s freight by weight, the increased need for essentials and subsequent panic-buying taught both consumers and store operators a tough lesson about the rules of supply and demand. In the interest of public health, Wegmans has taken steps to limit the number of customers allowed in their stores at any one time during the pandemic. Stores have already made sizeable cuts to their operational hours, but they now plan to ensure stores are operating at 15% to 20% of their maximum occupancy. This has resulted in having customers wait in lines at certain locations and at certain times to prevent stores from becoming too crowded.
But while the chain is trying to limit customer interactions, they’re also trying to make the shopping process easier. The available in select locations prior to the pandemic, it’s a welcome addition in light of social distancing procedures. Using the app, customers can actually use their phones to scan their items as they shop. If, say, you own one of the 75 million pet dogs in the U.S. and plan on adding a heavy bag of dog food to your cart, you can simply scan it when you take it off the shelf. Then, you can finalize your cart when you arrive at self-checkout, reducing time at the register and limiting necessary interaction with others.
Ultimately, no COVID-19 grocery shopping experience will be perfect — even if you’re a loyal Wegmans fan. But given the brand’s willingness to provide residents with what they need while making concerted efforts to keep everyone safe, a Weggies trip will probably be your least stressful option when trying to fill up the pandemic pantry.
There is no doubt about it… the world will forever be different after the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has impacted virtually everyone’s life in every part of the world. Families are shattered with grief, entire cities are shut down, and uncertainty and worry are sweeping the globe.
Across the U.S., hundreds of businesses have already filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation bankruptcy) and owners are doing everything they can to keep their businesses afloat — but they’re running out of options. Unfortunately, small businesses are suffering just as much due to the nationwide quarantine, and Rochester is no exception.
The concept of iced coffee and cold brew dates back as fas as the 1600s in Japan and Rochester has plenty of local coffee shops that people enjoy visiting daily. Additionally, manufacturing business owners are typically worried about pipeline corrosion, which costs the economy more than $9 billion each year. From manufacturing plants and real estate firms to small coffee shops and spas, every business in our community is fighting to keep their staff employed and their lights on.
“We told our employees point-blank: as soon as we can reopen they’ll all be rehired,” said Craig Gamble, co-owner of Waterlily Cosmetics & Spa. “I think our relationship between us and our employees and us and our customers will be stronger when it’s all said and done.”
Gamble was forced to close the shop’s doors on March 14 in response to the social distancing requirements and growing concerns over the coronavirus. Afterward, Gamble had to lay off his eight employees
“As a small business, we’re lucky in the sense that we stock up three to four months of inventory — a lot of other businesses don’t do that. We’re confident we have enough products to ship to clients during this shut-down, but a lot of businesses are having a tough time getting products because of supply chain issues.”
“Think about what the tenants are facing,” said Margaret Rhoda, an associate at Harter, Secrest & Emery LLP. “That should give you information on how a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) will react and the steps that they may need to be taken.”
Market officials expect that the real estate sector will look similar to that of the 2008 financial crisis. However, once the pandemic is over and the health crisis is quelled, companies will be able to raise more capital, potentially trickling down into more real estate purchasing and investing.
Since the pandemic is still underway, schools and all non-essential businesses will remain closed across New York.
The rapidly spreading new coronavirus is already taking its toll on Americans — and residents of the Flower City are now being encouraged to wait out the worst from the comfort of their own homes. With major holiday events and public school courses both on the cancelation list, it’s an eerie feeling for a city that normally has no shortage of things to do.
The cancelation of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and related festivities was a tough blow for many Rochesterians who were eager to celebrate all things Irish (including whiskey and Guinness). Although the U.S. police force is expected to increase by an estimated 41,400 people from 2012 to 2022, the Rochester PD presence wasn’t needed in the way it’s always been. Concerts, traveling theatrical productions, home and garden shows, upcoming Easter events, and even the Mayor’s Ball had to be outright canceled or postponed for dates yet to be determined. Local libraries have been shuttered and expos have been shut down. And even though officials might have been hopeful that canceling St. Paddy’s merriment could cut down on the 15,000 car accident injuries that happen nationwide each year due to drug and alcohol use each year, many Rochesterians could still be found in bars and at house parties — ignoring concerns about social distancing.
But since the second local case of COVID-19 was confirmed and all schools in Monroe County were declared closed until further notice, residents are paying a bit more attention. Rochesterians joined the throes who lost their minds trying to stock up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And while some were still harping on the cancelations, declaring that the media had swept everyone into an unnecessary frenzy, it’s clear that most are in favor of these seemingly drastic actions. Although 93% of children have seen a doctor in the last year, most people don’t want to risk having to go to the hospital for complications from the newest coronavirus. Now, all bars, restaurants, gyms, and other facilities throughout New York State are set to close Monday evening to impede the spread of the virus.
It might not be fun to see your favorite seasonal event be on that cancelation list, but it’s truly for the greater good. Once Rochester is in the full swing of festival season, residents will probably be glad they decided to stay home in March and April.
After the Erie Canal was rerouted south of downtown Rochester, the Rochester
Industrial & Rapid Transit Railway (the subway) was built in
its place as a link between the five different railroads and interurban trolley
lines that served the Rochester area. As the industrial landscape of Rochester
changed, and highways replaced the railroads, the Rochester subway gradually
became a relic of a bygone era. In 1956 the subway was abandoned and much of
its route was converted into Interstate 490 built to connect Rochester
with the New York State Thruway (I-90). Read more about the history of the Rochester Subway.
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