Image: WETM

*Please note this is a developing issue. I wanted to get a post out as soon as possible to help provide some guidance about what is happening, but things may change rapidly. I will do my best to provide updates as new information becomes available.

**UPDATE – Governor Cuomo has announced that the Southern Tier Region, where Chemung County is located, can move to Phase 2.

To say what is happening right now in New York is confusing would be a gross understatement.

Last month Governor Cuomo announced a series of four phases to re-open New York’s economy. The official website describing the re-opening process, called “New York Forward”, is found here.

Under the plan, New York is divided into ten regions based on geographic location. Chemung County is located within the Southern Tier Region.

Currently all regions aside from New York City have met the criteria for entering into Phase 1, under which manufacturing and construction businesses were permitted to re-open. The Southern Tier Region entered into Phase 1 on May 15th.

According to Governor Cuomo, regions can begin moving into Phase 2, where professional offices, hair stylists and barbers, real estate agents, in-store retail and others can re-open, after spending two weeks in Phase 1 and an evaluation of how the region has fared in terms of things such as the infection rate and testing capacity is undertaken.

The Southern Tier Region has now been in Phase 1 for two weeks. Although both the infection rate and number of tests conducted in Chemung County have improved, some areas in our region – particularly Broome County – have seen a steady rise in their number of COVID-19 cases since Phase 1 began.

Throughout the past week signals from Governor Cuomo at his daily briefings seemed to suggest the Southern Tier Region and other parts of New York State were on pace to enter into Phase 2 today, though state government provided very few details to local government and business leaders about exactly how and when it would occur. Yesterday Phase 2 guidance was added to the New York Forward website, found here, further strengthening the notion that some regions would be permitted to continue the re-opening process.

However, this morning Governor Cuomo signed an Executive Order stating that all regions in New York may not yet move beyond Phase 1 until a panel of international experts reviews the regional data collected since Phase 1 began. An article describing the Executive Order is found here.

To the contrary, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss stated that our region and/or county (it is a bit unclear) is nonetheless moving into Phase 2 as we have met New York Forward’s reopening criteria according to a story published by WENY last night and found here:

As long as we met the metrics that I showed you unless something horrible happened to our numbers, we would be good to go. If the governor can’t have the courtesy to give us a call and let us know that, you know what, we’re opening tomorrow. We received one email about a meeting that was scheduled for 1:30 pm that had been postponed till 7:00 pm. So you know what, if the governor wants to travel to Elmira, New York and tell us we can’t open I look forward to the meeting,” said Moss.

So…what does all of this mean? I am not sure quite yet. Leaders in Albany need to clarify where things stand as soon possible. The public has been very patient throughout the economic shutdown and initial re-opening process, but may start to lose confidence in government if dissension between state and regional/county entities continues to percolate.

In the meantime, owners of Phase 2 businesses should visit the New York Forward Toolkit, found here, to make sure you have completed all of the necessary steps to re-open.

This entire situation is very difficult on everyone. Please try to stay positive and don’t hesitate to ask questions. I cannot promise I will be able to answer, but I will do my best to at least help point you in the right direction.

Christina Sonsire