PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that five regions of the state have met the requirements to enter phase two of reopening, including the North Country.
Other regions included Central New York, the Finger Lake region, the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier.
Businesses that fall under the phase two category include offices, real estate, in-store retail, vehicle sales, retail rentals, building maintenance and hair salons.
That lengthy list means a lot of people will be going back to work soon, but only if new safety standards are met.
“There’s specific guidance on how to reopen in phase two, it’s not just open the doors and everybody has a party,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s 50 percent occupancy in office buildings with signage and markers, and no meetings without social distancing.”
Employees will also undergo a mandatory daily screening, either with a health questionnaire or temperature check. For salon and barber shop employees, COVID-19 testing will be required every two weeks.
The North Country Chamber of Commerce and Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read welcomed the latest ease in restrictions, and Read credited an early mask requirement put in place April 2 as the reason it was possible.
“The mantra at one time was testing, and I was concerned about the lack of testing in the North Country for awhile, but now we’re doing very well on testing and it’s masks,” Read said. “To the point where the CDC is already saying to continue surface preparations and cleaning, but masks are 90 percent of it.”
Mayor Read also noted that there weren’t any new cases of COVID-19 all week in Clinton County. To keep it that way, businesses will be required to have a COVID-19 safety plan.
The North Country Chamber has been helping businesses with safety training and other concerns. President Garry Douglas said phase two is significant, because future progress will be dictated by how it goes.
“In terms of the number of businesses, this is the biggest phase,” Douglas said. “We need to make sure that a couple of weeks from now, we’re at the next point and that we haven’t moved backwards in any of the health criteria.”
Phase three will include restaurants, many of which have been struggling in the North Country and the surrounding regions.