Frustrated upstate officials and businesses are demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo allow them to immediately begin Phase 2 of their economic reopening following the two-month shutdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Five upstate regions in Phase 1 were expected to start Phase 2 expansion Friday — but the governor provoked a firestorm of criticism Thursday when he delayed making a decision to move forward.
The governor issued an executive order Thursday night that did not advance any of the regions from Phase 1 to Phase 2.
Phase 2 would allow thousands of retail stores, hair salons and barbershops to reopen their doors to customers. Phase 1 permitted the return of construction jobs and manufacturing.
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said he was “shocked and frustrated” by the delay because the Mohawk Valley met all of the state’s seven health metrics to move forward.
“Many Montgomery County residents have spent time and resources preparing to reopen tomorrow and many of you have been looking forward to experiencing simple things such as a haircut,” Ossenfort said.
Cuomo, when asked on WAMC radio Thursday about when regions could expand to Phase 2, said, “The reopening in the first five regions ends tomorrow. When the reopening of Phase 1 ends, we’ll give the experts all the data. It is posted on the web but let them analyze it. And if they say we should move forward, we’ll move forward.
“How many people are getting sick, what the infection rate, what is the transmission rate, what is the hospitalization rate, what is the contact tracing rate, what is the testing rate, all the data points. And we analyze it and then we give it to the international experts. And we are going to ask them to analyze it and if they sign off and say go to Phase 2, andiamo,” the governor said, using the Italian word meaning “Let’s go.”
Cuomo will discuss when Phase 2 can begin at his press briefing Friday.
New York City, the hardest-hit region by COVID-19, has not yet met the metrics to even qualify for Phase 1. Only businesses deemed essential — such as grocery stores, drugstores and takeout eateries — are open.
Spread of the virus is still a concern. Cuomo issued an order allowing businesses to remove any customers not wearing a mask.