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NY Forward: Phase Two

May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020

Today the Greece Chamber of Commerce hosted a free but limited online conference with Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Duffy and Vincent Esposito, Finger Lakes Regional Director for Empire State Development and former Monroe County Legislator for Irondequoit.  Duffy and Esposito, members of our Regional Control Room, responded directly to questions about New York Forward, our state’s phased reopening plan.

“We understand the hunger for information”, Duffy said in reply to the multiple questions about whether or not phase two would begin this Friday and what phase numerous industries would fall in to.  “There is a passion for business to get open again”. 

The hard truth is that neither Duffy nor Esposito know if the Governor will announce that the Finger Lakes Region can enter phase two beginning this Friday but they both assured that there will be an official announcement by Governor Cuomo before phase two begins as well as published guidelines for industries to follow.  Esposito recognizes there may be a quick turnaround from the Governor’s announcement to phase two reopening day but reminds businesses they can take their time to reopen as needed.  The most important thing is to have a solid safety plan ready to go.

The two-week time period in between phases is an estimate at best. “You have to follow along more closely than you like,” Esposito says about paying attention to state and local press conferences and forums.

Unfortunately, many people get their news through social media outlets which may not paint a full picture of a situation.  For example, many local phase two businesses are advertising a June 1st opening without waiting for official confirmation from the state.  Other businesses were under the assumption they could operate with ten people or fewer since new social guidelines were released even though their industry phase has not reopened.  Knowing the facts and being prepared is top priority for every business owner but with so many questions still unanswered it is easy to see why people are becoming anxious.

According to Duffy the number one call and message they were receiving was “when can I get my hair cut”?  While the Governor has announced that hair dressers can resume business in phase two with proper precautions they must wait for the official announcement before they can open their door to customers.  It is not clear at this time if an announcement will be made to include other salon services such as nails, estheticians, or massage therapists.  

Duffy says it is possible these services can be included in the industry guidelines that will be released by the government and it is also possible these services will have to wait until a later phase.  Some businesses, he points out, are cross functional and fall under different phases.  An example he gives is higher education.  Colleges cannot resume on-campus classes until phase four however their business offices may resume as early as phase two.

Both Duffy and Esposito refer business owners to forward.ny.gov for a comprehensive source of information and to access the ‘New York Forward Business Reopen Lookup Tool’

“It’s not perfect”, Esposito says of the tool that allows business owners to enter their NAICS code and see if they fall in to the current opening phase or what guidelines are available for their industry. 

There are some industries that are still unsure which phase they fall in to but overall, it is a helpful tool for most business owners.  There are also FAQs listed on the New York Forward website as well as information about different loan and relief options for small businesses.

Esposito says they are “cautiously optimistic” about retaining the metrics needed to achieve a phase two reopening.  Recent numbers reported show a spike in hospitalizations but those increases have been due to new rules surrounding nursing home residents not being discharged from hospitals until they have achieved two negative COVID-19 tests.  Esposito says that the number of people sick and deaths are in fact going down but we will just now start seeing the effects of phase one reopening and the warmer weather.  Hopefully, there will be an announcement this week on phase two as these incoming numbers are reviewed.

One question asked multiple times to Duffy and Esposito was what happens if customers are refusing to follow business guidelines and what should happen if a business is operating outside of their phase or public health recommendations?  Duffy says it is to each owner’s discretion whether or not they chose to allow a customer without a mask.  As for reporting a business out of compliance, that complaint can go to local county, town, or city officials or be reported through the New York on Pause website.  

While Duffy reminds us that the role of the Regional Control Room is not to be decision makers, he also recognizes that people are looking for someone to answer their questions.  Duffy says the easiest way to reach him is through the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce website.