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Orleans Leg leader asks governor to allow all businesses in county to fully reopen

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 June 2020 at 9:35 pm

‘We can not sit idle as the haphazard application of phase transitions continues to negatively affect our business owners and constituents.’

ALBION — The chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature sent a letter today to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asking him to authorize all businesses in the county to fully reopen.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Lynne Johnson is chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature.

“The businesses of Orleans County have done an incredible job of persevering during this pandemic,” Lynne Johnson wrote to Cuomo. “They have been adaptive to the new normal, supportive of fellow business owners, and understanding of an ever-changing logistical landscape as it relates to health protocols and reopening guidance.”

Orleans County is currently in phase 3 of a four-phase reopening. Phase 4 could start on Friday, June 26, if the Covid-19 numbers in the Finger Lakes Region don’t spike with hospitalizations, infections and ICU beds.

Johnson said Cuomo and the state have given “mixed messages” in the first three phases, and often given too short of notice to businesses.

The state also initially favored big box businesses over “mom and pop” stores on Main Street, Johnson wrote in her letter.

“Some sectors were in Phase 2, then pushed to Phase 3, and then allowed ultimately to open in Phase 2,” Johnson writes in her letter. “The list goes on and on of the communication challenges. We do realize, as you previously articulated, you are ‘building the plane as you fly it.’”

Johnson also said there is “an issue lately of credibility” with large-scale peaceful gatherings “which we support,” she writes.

However, freedom to assembly for other purposes, even with social distancing or at reduced density, is only allowed with strict guidelines.


‘We will not continue to play middleman for the State’s messaging confusion.’


Johnson tells the governor she understands he has authority with his executive orders.

“We respect your position, your powers and your authority,” she writes. “That being said, we have lost respect for this process, the methodology, and the approach. We can not sit idle as the haphazard application of phase transitions continues to negatively affect our business owners and constituents.”

Johnson said the state should put out the guidelines for Phase 4 soon so those industries and businesses can ramp up for their reopening.

“The less than 24 hours notice provided in the Phase 1 and Phase 2 transitions was simply unfair and impractical,” Johnson writes.

“We have urged the business community to use discretion and caution and have stressed adherence to strict health, safety and sanitation protocols,” she said. “We are here, as we have been through this pandemic, to assist these business owners with PPE needs and questions on best practices, social distancing and mask-wearing.”

Johnson said the county officials aren’t playing politics with public health.

“Nothing about this statement is reckless or cavalier,” she said. “Our decision-making is measured, modest and rational.”

While the governor can open and close elements of the economy through executive orders, “full adherence, cooperation and unequivocal allegiance are not requirements in our job descriptions for Legislators. We will not continue to play middleman for the State’s messaging confusion.”

Johnson said the positive health data in the county and region warrant moving to Phase 4.

“We trust and respect our business community partners and know that they will be considerate and careful in their reopening process,” she concluded.

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