While WNY still waits for OK, state releases guidelines for Phase 2 businesses

May 29, 2020

The five counties which make up the state's Western New York economic region must continue to wait for at least a few more days, while five other regions, including the Finger Lakes, have been given the green light to proceed to Phase Two of New York Forward. In the meantime, institutions which fall under Phase Two now have guidelines by which they can prepare.

The five counties which make up the Western New York region — Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties — could qualify to enter Phase Two as early as next Tuesday, two weeks after it officially entered Phase One. The Finger Lakes economic region, which includes the City of Rochester and Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming Counties, got the OK to proceed Friday.

"I feel confident that we can rely on this data, and the five regions that have been in Phase One can now move to Phase Two, because their data has been reviewed and the experts say to us it's safe to move forward," Cuomo said during his daily briefing, held Friday afternoon in New Rochelle.

Businesses within that zone that will be permitted to reopen under Phase Two include: offices; real estate; "essential" in-store retail; retail rental, repair and cleaning; commercial building management; hair salons and barber shops.

Barber shops and salons, upon reopening, will not yet be able to deliver the full range of services they traditionally offer. The cutting, coloring and styling of hair is permitted. Beard trimming, however, is not. Nor are nose hair trimming, facials, manicures and pedicures, makeup application, threading, tweezing or waxing.

Nail salons and tattoo parlors are not covered in the barber and salon guidelines put out by the state.

Just like the facilities that were allowed to reopen under Phase One, eligible Phase Two businesses will be required to complete a plan detailing the company's plan for addressing health guidelines. While the plan does not require state approval, it must be posted on site for inspection on demand by employees or any other person.

The state's website lists the following as institutions which remain closed:

  • Malls; specifically, any indoor common portions of retail shopping malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space available for lease; however, any stores located within shopping malls, which have their own external entrances open to the public, separate from the general mall entrance (e.g. strip malls), may open.
  • Dine-in and on-premise restaurant or bar service, excluding take-out or delivery for off-premise consumption.
  • Large gathering/event venues, including but not limited to establishments that host concerts, conferences, or other in-person performances or presentations in front of an in-person audience.
  • Gyms, fitness centers, and exercise classes, except for remote or streaming services;
  • Video lottery and casino gaming facilities;
  • Movie theaters, except drive-ins; and
  • Places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, family and children’s attractions.

The state has posted a "lookup tool" online to determine whether a business is eligible to reopen.

In Niagara Falls, Howard Ivey has already made plans for how he'll run his business when allowed to reopen. Ivey, who owns Howard's Hair Studio for Men, will wear personal protective equipment, as will his customers. He'll also have a face shield handy, and he plans to schedule customers to one per hour, so he may be able to thoroughly clean and sanitize the facilities between each customer.

"I don't plan on having a lot of guys sitting around like I used to years ago, until this thing is just about completely over," Ivey said. "Precautions I'm using are a mask, sanitizing, barbicide frequently, and the customer can have a mask on. But I'll also have my mask on and sometimes I'll wear a shield even, you know, just in case a guy starts coughing or whatever. You don't want that directly in your face."

As for when Erie County and the other counties of the Western New York economic development region may get the go-ahead to advance, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein admitted Friday afternoon officials had no indication when the state may tell them. While the county's hospitalization rates have generally flattened, there were a couple spikes in admissions that raise concerns.

"They're very concerning. We'll have to see how the governor in New York State interprets this data and hoping that we'll still be allowed to progress into Phase Two," Burstein said. "We know that not all regions of New York State have been allowed, by just by length of time, to progress to Phase Two. Not all regions are going to be allowed to progress to Phase Two. We'll have to see."

She was also asked whether she, as a health official, had concerns about residents living within the Western New York region who may feel the desire to travel outside the area to do business or visit peers in a Phase Two zone.

"Any type of travel or large gathering, we know, is a risk of bringing in new infection to our community so again, I just want to caution people. Try to, if they do venture out, try to stay within the bounds of Western New York," she said. "Try not to go outside and get exposed to something new and bring new disease inside our community. Minimize all non essential travel."

WBFO first met Ivey in 2017 when he shared his story of providing not only haircuts but also blood pressure checks of his customers. Semi-retired, Ivey admits having to close the shop since March has caused an economic strain but the camaraderie and conversations among customers have also been missed. Those chats about politics and other topics will have to wait a little while longer.

"I get phone calls every day. You know, 'when are you going to open?' I said it's not up to me at this time and point. But whenever I do, I have my contact list and I'll give them a call," he said. "I still do the blood pressure checks in the shop, you know, and a lot of guys depend on that.

"Financially, it's been hard too because that money does come in handy. And it's like you have to start off all over again. But I stay in touch with my customers by phone, so I'll let them know, as soon as I know, when it will be time that we open again."