Local leaders angry at governor's last-minute delay of Phase 2 reopening in 5 regions

May 29, 2020

Updated at 6 a.m. Friday. Local officials in five regions around the state that began Phase 1 of reopening two weeks ago have been preparing for Phase 2 to begin Friday, and officials have been telling business owners to be ready to open. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo says Phase 2 will not start until data from phase one is examined by outside experts.

The five regions, Central New York, the North Country, the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier, all began Phase 1 on May 15. They have been under the assumption that Phase 2 would begin two weeks later. But as of Thursday evening, no guidance had been released from the state on how businesses should reopen, and the governor did not address phase two during his daily briefing. Later in the day, Cuomo said an analysis was needed before regions could move forward.
 

"The reopening in the first phase ends tomorrow for five regions," Cuomo said Thursday afternoon in an interview on WAMC radio in Albany. "When the reopening of Phase 1 ends, we'll give the experts all the data, let them analyze it, and if they say we should move forward, we move forward."

Last week, Cuomo announced that Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and Dr. Samir Bhatt, Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London, will work with the state to provide technical advice and analyze data/metrics throughout the state's reopening process and help track the state's progress.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon was visibly frustrated during his daily briefing Thursday, which was happening at the same time Cuomo made the statement to WAMC.  

"Nobody has ever said phase two isn't a go for Friday," McMahon said. "Everybody has been talking about Friday since we got to phase one. Friday is tomorrow; Phase 2."

The daily call that the regional control rooms have with state officials was pushed to Thursday evening, McMahon said. That call usually happens in the afternoon. McMahon and the other regional control room members were told on that call that phase two would not begin Friday, and some weren't told when it may begin. Other control board members said they were told phase two could start as soon as Saturday. 

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente held a press conference late Thursday, and lambasted the govenor. 

"This is unbelievably disrespectful and a terrible way to do business," Picente said. "This is a governor who’s getting rave reviews because he’s on 17 networks, but doesn’t have the ability to call up and talk to local elected officials in Central New York and tell them what he’s thinking."

Picente said he would encourage businesses in Oneida County who had planned to open Friday to open, and said he wouldn't enforce any order to shut them down. 

"Let me tell you governor, not a way to do business. Not respectful to people," he said. "You’re dealing with people’s lives. The same way you ignored people’s lives in nursing homes, the same way you ignored people’s lives in hospitals. The same way you are ignoring businesses. Businesses that have been struggling. 15,000 people in Oneida County going on unemployment."

McMahon said in a statement, that he looks forward to getting guidance on reopening from the state. 

"Central New York has met all the metrics to enter into phase two," he said. "We anticipate the state will release guidance imminently so our local businesses can affirm they met the necessary guidelines for reopening. Our small businesses can then begin their economic recovery for their employees and families. We look forward to hearing more from Governor Cuomo at his daily briefing on phase two restart."

At about 11:30 p.m. Thursday night, the state did release the guidance for businesses that plan to open for Phase 2.