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Rensselaer County Executive Tells Businesses To Reopen Despite State Orders

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin
Dave Lucas

Seemingly in defiance of New York state orders, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin is telling most county business, that they can open.

“If you own a business, you know what to do,” McLaughlin said. “Hand sanitizer, social distancing, get the masks for your employees – you probably already have them. Your customers know what to do. You’re all smart people out there. I’m done holding back this county and I made that public today. Open your businesses.”

Speaking Friday, the Republican told bars and hair stylists to hold off on reopening.

“Hold on because you are licensed by the state and I don’t want them make an example of you and yanking your license,” McLaughlin said. “Especially if you own a bar or restaurant – State Liquor Authority – you are dealing with thugs and they will come in and grab your license.”

The Capital Region is still in Phase One of the four-phase reopening plan. 

Elizabeth Garvey, a special counsel and senior advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo, released the following statement Friday night.

“McLaughlin knows he doesn’t have the legal authority to do this and he is bizarrely encouraging people to ignore the doctors and public health experts, and put their own well-being as well as the public health at risk," Garvey said. "A public official is also asking the public to violate the law. The facts are that if any business – state licensed or otherwise -- not authorized to operate under the Phase One or Phase Two reopening plan, it is violating New York's Executive Orders and may be subject to fines and suspension or revocation of state-issued licenses to operate.”

Governor Cuomo, a Democrat, said Friday afternoon that Central New York, the North Country, the Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes are now in Phase Two. The Capital Region is expected to start Phase Two on Wednesday.

There was some confusion as county leaders in those areas had expected to start Phase Two Friday morning, but speaking Thursday afternoon on WAMC, Cuomo said international experts needed to review the regional data. McLaughlin and other county executives criticized Cuomo and the state over the holdup. 

During his daily coronavirus briefing midday on Friday, Cuomo said those five upstate regions could open.

"A county executive may be very good at what they do, but they are not an expert in viral transmission in a global pandemic," Cuomo said Friday afternoon.

The national hotspot of New York City is expected to enter Phase One on June 8.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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