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Cuomo: 5 regions including central NY, North Country, Mohawk Valley, enter phase 2 of reopening

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

At his Friday press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that five regions in phase one of reopening, including central New York, North Country, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier, are ready for phase two. 

“Their data has been reviewed and the experts say to us, it’s safe to move forward because people have been smart and you haven’t seen the spike,” Cuomo said.

Phase two includes opening offices, real estate, retail, barbershops and hair salons. But there are restrictions, outlined on the state’s NY Forward website.  

“It’s not just open the door and everybody has a party,” Cuomo said.

There will be signage, markers, face masks and social distancing. Cuomo warned against sharing food and drinks. There will be 50% occupancy in offices and retail stores.

Malls and zoos will remain closed, although Onondaga County opened its zoo last week.

Barbershops and hair salons are open by appointment only, and workers in those industries are required to get tested every two weeks. It’s recommended, but not required, that those professionals get tested before they reopen.

“If I were walking into a barbershop, I would ask the barber, did you get a test before you reopened?” Cuomo said. “When was the last time you got a test? If they got a test, they’ll have a certification, an evidence of that test.”

There will also be face coverings, he said.

Local officials and business owners have been highly critical of the miscommunication between them and the state, leading into phase two. As late as Thursday afternoon, there was still no guidance from the state on reopening in phase two, and Cuomo said in a radio interview that experts would be reviewing the data before the regions could move forward. A reporter asked Cuomo on Friday about the confusion.

“A county executive may be very good at what they do, but they’re not an expert in viral transmission in a global pandemic,” Cuomo said. “I wanted to make sure we had the best minds look at all the data before we step forward.”

As he was leaving the briefing, another reporter asked Cuomo about businesses reopening before they were allowed to. Cuomo said it’s not up to businesses to decide when they reopen.

“You have to follow the law or you will be closed,” Cuomo said.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.