Businesses urged to prepare for ‘ReOpen Orleans’
ALBION – The public health and economic development leaders in Orleans County are urging businesses to develop plans for maintaining social distancing and protecting the health of employees and customers.
Businesses shouldn’t wait for an announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that a reopening is imminent for Orleans County.
The Orleans Economic Development Agency is developing a “ReOpen Orleans’ website with resources and advice for businesses to meet the state standards to reopen, said Jim Whipple, the chief executive officer for the Orleans EDA.
Businesses will likely have to reduce occupancy so there are fewer people in a building to better ensure social distancing of at least six feet. Businesses should have plans for hand sanitizers, wearing of masks or facial coverings, and signs or floor decals to emphasize social distancing.
The governor has the state on “PAUSE” until May 15 and then may reopen different businesses and public places in four phases.
“We are very hopeful that we will be in position locally to begin to peel back some of these restrictions that have been put in place,” said Paul Pettit, public health director in Orleans and Genesee counties. “The biggest thing is we want to be ready.”
The local municipalities and businesses need to have plans in place to protect public health in order to reopen, Pettit said.
Businesses that are currently closed could follow the examples of many grocery stores, which require masks to be worn by customers, have markings on the floor to spread out people – especially at the check-out lines, and have plexiglass to separate cashiers from customers.
The businesses’ reopening plans will be reviewed but Pettit said the state hasn’t offered guidance on that process yet.
As the regions reopen and look to advance to the next phase, Pettit said the matrix from the state will be closely scrutinized to see if there has been in increase in infections and hospitalizations.
“If the regions see an increase in cases, we’ll be back on PAUSE,” Pettit said. “There’s not a lot of guidance yet on how this will all work.”
The state has developed seven criteria that need to be met to allow different businesses and public facilities to reopen to the public. Orleans County is part of a nine-county Finger Lakes Region.
The state has divvied the counties into 10 regions of the state. None of the 10 regions currently meet all seven of the governor’s criteria for reopening.
The Finger Lakes region meets all the standards except for testing and contact tracers. The state wants at least 30 people out of 1,000 tested monthly in each region. Only three of the 10 regions meet that threshold for testing (Long Island, Mid-Hudson and New York City). The state is expanding capacity to help all regions meet this threshold, Gov. Cuomo said on Monday.
Contact Tracing Capacity: Regions must have a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents, and additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in the region. The state is currently building an army of contact tracers with former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg to meet the needs of each region statewide.
The Finger Lakes meets the criteria in other categories:
- 14-day decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations for a three-day average
- 14-day decline in hospital deaths or fewer than five deaths as a three-day average
- New hospitalizations requirements of less than two per 100,000 residents (Finger Lakes has a three-day rolling average of 1.19 per 100,000)
- Share of hospital beds available must be at least 30 percent (Finger Lakes at 53 percent)
- Share of ICU beds available must be at least 30 percent (Finger Lakes at 64 percent)
The governor said regions can reopen in four phases, with the next phase to follow only if the rate of hospitalizations from Covid-19 don’t spike.
The four phases include:
- Phase One: Construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain; select retail with curbside pickup.
- Phase Two: Professional services; finance and insurance; retail; administrative support; real estate/rental leasing.
- Phase Three: Restaurant/food services; hotels/accommodations.
- Phase Four: Arts/entertainment/recreation; education.
“I’m optimistic we’ll make the first round on May 15,” Pettit said. “Let’s prepare and let’s be ready and be optimistic when May 16 comes we’ll have a lot more of our businesses open and we’ll do it safely.”