ALBANY, N.Y. - Some upstate New York business owners who made plans to reopen Friday as the state gradually loosens restrictions put in place during the coronavirus crisis remained close amid last-minute confusion over whether their region indeed had the OK to move forward.
County leaders learned on a 7 p.m. call with state officials that public health experts hired by the state would have to sign off on the next phase of reopening, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said at a Thursday night news conference.
“It’s an insult to every business in this community that has been struggling," said Picente, a Republican. "It’s a lack of respect for the business community.”
Annette Knapp, owner of Salon Bellezza in Syracuse, had lined up eight clients for Friday, the first at 9:15 a.m., only to find out at 10 p.m. Thursday that she couldn’t open.
“I’m sure some people are still opening today,” she said. “It’s like you’re having a baby. You get to the due date, you want to have that baby. Any day after is frustrating.”
As New York tries to get its economy going again, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has divided the state into 10 regions that can start to reopen businesses in phases.
All of the state except for New York City is now at a phase that allows manufacturers to bring employees back to work and lets retailers operate with only curbside pickup.
The next phase is more expansive, allowing offices to bring back more workers, hair salons and barbershops to reopen and retailers to bring some customers into stores.
The governor’s executive orders leave it up to his administration to decide when a region has met the state’s standards for lifting restrictions. The rules guiding exactly when counties can move from one reopening phase to another have been less clear, though the state set the minimum amount of time between phases at two weeks, saying that gap was needed to let officials monitor infection rates.
Last week, Cuomo announced the hiring of two experts to analyze the data and consult on reopening decisions.
“We’ll give the experts all the data. And if they say we should move forward, we’ll move forward," the Democrat said on public radio Thursday.
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said Thursday that data indicated that his central New York county, which includes Syracuse, meets the state’s phase 2 reopening benchmarks, but acknowledged he had yet to get the green light from the governor's office
“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."
Thompson reported from Buffalo.