IRONDEQUOIT — Friday is normally the last day of the work week for most people.
However, May 15 could be the day when a number of people in the region return to their jobs following a state-imposed business shutdown to stop the spread of the COVID-19.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that the Finger Lakes economic development region is one of three that have met all seven conditions required to begin the first phase of the state’s reopening plan, which includes construction; manufacturing and wholesale supply chain; retail for curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup; and agriculture, forestry and fishing.
The other two regions cleared for the Friday opening include the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions. The North Country and Central New York regions have met six of the seven metrics and could be ready at the end of the week, Cuomo said.
Cuomo, speaking at Rochester Regional Health’s training center in Irondequoit, said the reopenings are possible because the state’s residents have bought into the call to stay at home and take precautions when out — from proper social distancing to wearing masks. All that has resulted in turning the tide against the virus, he said, adding that while the New York numbers — from infections to hospitalizations to deaths — is declining, it is still rising in many parts of the nation.
“(The reopening of businesses) is the next step in this historic journey,” Cuomo said. “We’re now on the other side of the mountain.”
He said that if New Yorkers had not bought into the need to, among other things, isolate, practice social distancing and wear masks, many more people would have been infected and many more would have died.
“People had to get engaged. They had to get informed,” Cuomo said.
The governor understands residents would like to see the business, recreational and cultural reopenings come faster, but he maintains it must be done in a way in which the gains made on controlling the spread of the virus are not lost.
As part of the effort to safely reopen, Cuomo has created regional control rooms charged with monitoring hospitalization rates, death rates, number of new hospitalizations, hospital bed capacity, ICU bed capacity, testing, and contact tracing within its region during reopening. The control groups — the Finger Lakes is led by former Lt. Gov., Rochester Mayor and current Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Bob Duffy — will alert the state if the region’s metrics continue to meet the reopening guidelines.
Those rates will play an integral role in the ability of the regions to move into the next three phases of the business reopening plans, Cuomo explained.
The governor also announced Monday that certain low-risk business and recreational activities will be ready to reopen statewide on May 15, including landscaping and gardening; outdoor, low-risk recreational activities such as tennis; and drive-in movie theaters.