Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the North Country region has met all metrics to begin the first phase of reopening after the New York State PAUSE order expires Friday.
The North Country is the fourth region of the state to meet all of the standards of New York Forward to begin reopening businesses and industry. The announcement came after the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley met the benchmarks. Governor Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa said testing parameters from the White House Coronavirus Task Force are used to determine if a region is ready to reopen. “The North Country had been just beneath the 419 that is needed for the North Country. But as of yesterday we had 454 tests and so now the North Country has met the criteria and moving forward we are confident that they have the testing capacity they need to reopen.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: “Once you have the testing capacity you won’t lose the capacity, or you shouldn’t lose the capacity. It’s now what those tests say every day. You’re looking at how many test positive, what’s happening on the hospitalization rate. And that’s how you’re monitoring whether or not you’re making progress or you’re going backwards.”
Construction, manufacturing, retail curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup; and agriculture, forestry and fishing can open. Essex County Legislature Chair Republican Shaun Gilliland says it starts moving the region out of a metaphorical abyss. “In Essex County construction is a big sector for us and this is the construction season. We also have the manufacturing sector and agriculture and forestry, horticulture, hunting, fishing, those kind of things are also included in the opening. Those areas that are good for Essex County. This phase one may not look like its big and it was not meant to be a big jump. It’s meant to, as the Governor says, open the valve a little bit and measure. This is the perfect way to do it.”
Clinton County Legislature Chair Republican Mark Henry is excited to see a green light for the region to reopen. “It’s critical to start the economy rolling. There is no national recovery without a local economic recovery. We’re pleased that we can start at least at some level with economic development but we cannot lose sight of the public safety piece of this, the public health piece of this. Everything is designed to monitor the public health.”
The North Country Chamber has been holding a series of webinars for employers to understand new health and safety requirements. President Garry Douglas is also a member of the New York Reopening Advisory Board. “All businesses going forward through all of the upcoming phases need to create an individual health and safety plan for their business compliant with state guidelines to put the right things in place. How they’re going to maintain social distancing; masks when they’re interacting with customers; how they’re going to appropriately and how frequently they’re going to sanitize things. So the webinars we’re providing are helping them do that.”
Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of the 21st district released a statement applauding North Country health care professionals, officials and business leaders who helped the region meet the benchmarks for reopening and said she would “work tirelessly” to restore the economy.