With more testing, North Country could be among first regions to begin phased re-opening

Coronavirus

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced new guidelines for a regional approach to re-opening businesses in the coming months.

The guidelines identify seven health and safety metrics, including the rate of new COVID-19 infections, overall health care capacity and testing levels, that will determine whether a region is ready to re-open.

Gov. Cuomo updated where New York regions currently stand in the state’s re-opening guidelines.

The North Country meets five of the seven metrics, but falls short in the number of tests and contact tracers per capita. Under the guidelines, a region must have the capacity to conduct 30 tests for every 1,000 residents per month, and a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents.

Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read said the North Country is “closer than any other region” in meeting the new guidelines, but needs to ramp up testing if it hopes to reopen.

“This region must dramatically increase its testing rate to allow us to re-open and monitor its success,” Read said. “Testing has improved somewhat over the last week or so, and that’s reassuring.”

The new guidelines were a cause for both cautious optimism and confusion for Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

“We believe there’s a good chance that the North Country region will meet the seven criteria,” Douglas said. “Its a step forward in terms of starting to define things, but there’s so much more to be defined. It certainly is raising more questions than answers among the business community – when will these phases happen? What kind of timetable?”

There will be four phases for re-opening. First, construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain, and select retail using curbside pickup only.

The second phase includes professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate and rental leasing. The third phase includes restaurants and food service, as well as hotels. The fourth and final phase will include arts, entertainment, recreation and education.

Scott Murray, owner of Anthony’s Bistro in Plattsburgh, said some local owners are anticipating a return to normal operations after re-opening. He said he’s planning for a changed industry.

“I think there’s going to be a percentage of people that still choose to stay home,” Murray said. “The way we want to balance this is to get to people who are interested in coming here safely, take care of our employees safely, and be able to be who we are within restaurant service, but still be able to supplement that with take-out which will still be an important part.”

A full outline of Gov. Cuomo’s phased re-opening plans can be found here.

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