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Officials Seek Accommodations For Warren, Washington Counties

A color-coded map of New York's economic development regions

Officials from Warren and Washington Counties say the region merits a closer look after New York’s Capital Region experienced a setback for reopening. 

New York has been split up into 10 regions to coordinate reopening strategies. As of Thursday, four regions have met all seven metrics as outlined by Governor Andrew Cuomo to begin Phase 1 of reopening on Friday.

The North Country, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, and Finger Lakes regions have met all requirements.

The Capital Region had a setback Wednesday, with its current COVID-19 hospitalization rates not allowing for reopening. As of now, the region has only met five of the seven metrics outlined by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

While many who live there commute to Albany, Warren and Washington Counties in the northern part of the Capital Region have much in common with the North Country. And some officials want the state to take another look.

Assemblyman Dan Stec of Queensbury, a Republican, signed on to a letter to Governor Cuomo that seeks to accommodate the more rural northern counties.

“We’re all working together, but I think the gist of our letter was that certainly Warren and Washington County’s numbers merit a more favorable look. They’re much more in line with what we’re seeing in the North Country,” said Stec.

The officials spoke on a conference call organized by the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

State Senator Betty Little, whose 45th District stretches from Washington County to the Canadian border, said she’d like to see modifications made for what businesses can and cannot remain open. She gave an example of retail, where smaller stores are suffering but larger stores deemed essential can remain open.

“You can go into Walmart and you can buy clothing and everything else, but our small business clothing stores, like the ones that are in downtown Glens Falls, they’re not able to open,” said Little.

Little, a Repubilcan, said changes can be made to ways businesses and services operate to accommodate customers safely.

“Everything can be achieved, I mean, we can even get started with appointment-only or for the libraries allow so many people in per hour, and they select an hour that they’re coming for, we’ve got to get started on it and have to do it carefully,” said Little.

Democratic State Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner of Round Lake, who represents portions of Saratoga and Washington Counties, said in the meantime, businesses can start developing uniform operating procedures, particularly in a local downtown area.

“Consistency matters. So get together as a group and develop a set of operating protocols that everybody’s going to follow,” said Woerner.

Woerner also predicts that businesses that develop and share best practices in accordance with state guidelines can reduce the likelihood of facing legal issues, as the future of how the coronavirus will spread remains unknown.   

“By establishing a plan, and executing against a plan that’s all based on industry best practices that the state has advised, they, A, think that that will limit the transmission of the virus, and, as well, I think provide some foundation for defense against liability lawsuits,” said Woerner.  

For his part, Governor Cuomo said on WAMC Thursday that regional leaders must monitor metrics meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

NOTE: After this story's original airing, the Central New York region had met all seven requirements to begin reopening.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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