All systems go – Finger Lakes to start reopening Friday

Julie Sherwood, Daily Messenger John Christensen, Chronicle-Express
The metrics used by the state will allow the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley regions to begin reopening Phase I this Friday.

Friday marks the end of the statewide closure due to COVID-19, and local leaders in Ontario and Wayne counties say they are ready to begin the process of reopening.

The Rochester-Finger Lakes region had met state goals and was prepared to begin a gradual move toward normalcy, as were the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions. Cuomo reviewed each region in the state against seven key criteria outlined for areas to qualify for reopening.


Level of testing is one of the key elements of the reopening plan. As part of the Finger Lakes Region, Yates County has a testing target of 750 per month or around 25 tests per day according to Public Health Director Deb Minor. That is the county's part of the region-wide target of 1,500 tests per day. Cuomo also issued an order mandating that nursing home staff be tested at least two times weekly.

Quest Diagnostics, in collaboration with regional officials and local health care providers, has committed to dramatically boost testing capacity and kits in the region. Details include providing an initial quantity of 3,000 tests per day, which, added to existing capacity, will exceed the reopening standards covering 3 million people in New York, according to the announcement. Supplies will be shipped multiple times per week to meet demand in the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Western N.Y. regions — available for rapid deployment to specific locations or communities across the area that need quick access as new COVID-19 hotspots.


“This reopening phase is locally driven, regionally driven,” Cuomo said.

Reopening will be phased in, with construction, manufacturing, wholesale supply, and some retail operations permitted to resume activities starting Friday. Most of the retail operations in phase 1 would be those that could provide curbside pickup.

Three additional phases would roll out in subsequent weeks — Phase 2: Professional services; finance and insurance; retail; administrative support and real estate/rental leasing. Phase 3: Restaurants/food services; hotels/accommodations. Phase 4: Arts/entertainment/recreation; education.

New York will also loosen restrictions on some low-risk businesses and facilities statewide beginning Friday: gardeners and landscapers will be allowed to resume normal activities, and some low-risk, outdoor recreational activities such as tennis will also be permitted across the state, Cuomo said.

“It’s an exciting new phase,” Cuomo said. “We’re all anxious to get back to work. We want to do it smartly, we want to do it intelligently, but we want to do it. And that’s what this week is all about.”

The coronavirus has hit New York harder than any other state, with more than 21,000 confirmed deaths since the start of March. But the vast majority of those deaths have been concentrated downstate — including 67% in New York City alone — while some upstate regions have come through relatively unscathed.

Cuomo first ordered nonessential businesses across the state to close March 22 as the virus was spreading rapidly. Essential businesses, however, including grocery and hardware stores, remained opened. Since then, Cuomo has outlined the four-phase approach to reopening businesses, with each phase lasting at least two weeks, and more businesses added along the way.