By Samson Weinberg
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.
Tags: business, coronavirus, covid-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Lovely Warren, Rochester news
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