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Cuomo clears Finger Lakes, 4 other regions for Phase 2 reopening

File photo
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
File photo

(AP & WXXI News-New Rochelle) Gov. Andrew Cuomo cleared a large swath of upstate New York to reopen hair salons, retail shops and offices under strict guidelines.

On Friday, Cuomo said virology experts had reviewed infection and hospitalization data and cleared the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, North Country, central New York, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier to enter the second phase of reopening.

Barbers and hair stylists will need to get tested every two weeks and retail stores must close shared amenities including self-serve sampling stations and bars, under Friday's guidance. Store owners can prohibit customers without masks.

The announcements followed a day of confusion that had businesses in several regions making plans to welcome customers Friday -- only to be told late Thursday they could not.

All of the state except for New York City is now at a phase that allows manufacturers to bring employees back to work and lets retailers operate with only curbside pickup.

The governor's executive orders leave it up to his administration to decide when a region has met the state's standards for lifting restrictions. The rules guiding exactly when counties can move from one reopening phase to another have been less clear, though the state set the minimum amount of time between phases at two weeks, saying that gap was needed to let officials monitor infection rates.

Although some local government officials in upstate New York were not happy with the process for moving the Finger Lakes and other regions into Phase 2 of the reopening, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Bob Duffy is defending the process.

Duffy also is an adviser to Governor Andrew Cuomo for the Finger Lakes reopening, and he’s also a former Lieutenant Governor who has kept close ties with Cuomo.

Duffy said that although the two week period for Phase 1 ended on Friday, it was not a guarantee that Cuomo would move the region into phase two.

“So in essence he’s taking a bit of a chance in doing it now but he had two experts  last night going through all the health data. I’m proud to say the Finger Lakes does look really good and I’m very happy with that, but it is an issue when you let people at that level, and whether you are the governor or the president, and you’re making these decisions, you will be criticized for whatever you do, so I understand the caution," Duffy said.

Duffy said he understands the frustration of business owners and government officials who are anxious about reopening, but he says health and safety have to be the top priority.

Last week, Cuomo announced the hiring of two experts to analyze the data and consult on reopening decisions.

New York City is on track to begin reopening June 8 as the state gradually loosens restrictions put in place during the coronavirus crisis, Cuomo said Friday.

Cuomo said the city was meeting goals set for hospital rates and testing, will "stockpile'' personal protective equipment and will focus on infection rates in hot spots by ZIP code.

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