CHENANGO – Chenango County, along with the rest of upstate New York, was allowed to move into phase two of the state’s reopening Friday afternoon.
The timing of the reopening that began Friday, with upstate moving into phase two and the New York City area moving into phase one, began on the same day massive protests and riots sweep dozens of cities across the country.
Over the weekend the clashes drew thousands into crowds over the death of George Floyd. Floyd is a black man who authorities say was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer during an arrest. The incident, caught on video by a teen, shows the officer pinning a knee to Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he begs for air.
National and state health officials warn the protests could trigger a second wave of the pandemic.
Chenango County Health officials ask people to observe the current health guidelines but said they respected people’s right to protest.
“Guidelines currently say no gatherings larger than 10 people. The governor has expressed support for people’s right to protest. Please wear a face mask, do everything you can to protect yourself and others,” said Environmental Health and Code Enforcement Director Isaiah Sutton. “Keep your distance, our top concern is people’s health and safety.”
He added, “I think any large gathering has the potential to create new cases and new exposures.”
In phase two office jobs will be require to do daily screenings. Guidelines suggest temperature tests and questionnaires for employees.
Many businesses will be allowed 50 percent customer occupancy.
Retails stores are open but malls are closed. Stores can legally refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask, unless the customer has a medical reason.
Haircare businesses will open for the first time. The list of requirements for salons and barbershops also included, “Shops must keep a log of customers to trace if positive.” Masks for customers are required. Employees at those businesses who are interacting with customers must be tested at least every two weeks.
Phase two also includes: professional services, administrative services, information technology jobs, real estate services, property leasing and rental services.
A full recording of Cuomo remarks by PBS can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cb5LHAKpN-Q. You can visit forward.ny.gov for more information.
The state’s “PAUSE,” turned into a brief stall Thursday after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo implied he might delay the opening depending on the final advice of experts, despite the area meeting the requirements.
Cuomo reconsidered the reopening Thursday night and Friday morning. After about a 13-hour delay Chenango County Health Director Marcus Flindt said county officials were informed at about 1 p.m. Friday the area would be allowed to open and enter phase two.
Cuomo’s remarks caused some confusion as many local officials and business owners were already making plans to reopen.
A number of area politicians and businesses expressed concern over a delay and the lack of communication from the state.
Cuomo shrugged off criticisms about the timing of the reopening and any confusion about his comments. He said he had not been checking messages because he was too busy reviewing data and talking with experts.
Told by a reporter many thought phase two would begin immediately Cuomo responded, “Today is today, yes, but they wanted this morning instead of 1 p.m.? I understand that, but we wanted to make sure all the data was reviewed,” he said, later adding “I never talked to anyone about timing.”
After hearing of a delay some businesses in the state said they might reopen anyway.
One of the final questions Cuomo was asked Friday afternoon was what he would do about businesses that did not follow his guidelines and reopened.
“It’s not up to you when you open, you have to follow the law or you will be closed. Thank you,” said Cuomo.
A number of Republican representatives are calling to restrict the governor’s authority and have the legislative branch take on a more active role.
“Over three months ago the governor declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Assemblyman Cliff Crouch. “His executive powers were designed to be temporary, and we believe it is time that he relinquishes some of his powers to restore checks and balance to our government. It’s time the Legislature had a say in how our state moves forward out of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Chenango County is part of the Southern Tier economic region, which is made up of eight counties, Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins.