Central NY’s control room is tracking data for phase 2 reopening, but questions remain

May 18, 2020

Ten regions that make up New York State each have a regional control room with members that will review the infection, testing and hospitalization rates of the coronavirus daily, so action can be taken if positive cases increase significantly. Central New York’s control room has been able to get more clarification from the state on what businesses are allowed to reopen, but questions still remain. 

The Central New York control room is made up of nine members including Paul Heider, the chair of the Cortland County Legislature. He said the group has been holding daily conference calls and they’ve received some clarity on businesses now allowed to reopen, like eye doctors and surgery centers. Dentists can only open under urgent situations. Religious services and malls are being reviewed.

But there are still a lot of gray areas and Heider believes he can act with some discretion. Last week, a carpet installer asked him if he was allowed to reopen. Heider said to him, that would fall under finishing construction and can open in phase one.

“If a business fits in a gray area, and they’re following the guidelines, going in and affirming, if they can fit in there, I’m going to allow them to open,” Heider said.

The former Syracuse mayor, now Thruway Executive Director Matt Driscoll, is among the other members of the regional control room. As is, the current Syracuse mayor, two members of the local Regional Economic Development Council, leaders from Oswego, Cayuga and Madison counties and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon. McMahon said the group gives them the ability to work together in real time and look at the data for the five-county region.

"You can make better decisions by communicating with each other and understanding the different perspectives,” McMahon said.

If there is a spike in positive cases or hospitalizations in Madison or Onondaga County, it’s something the control room will discuss. 

“It’s not a 911 bell, it’s a moment in time,” McMahon said. “Let’s track this for the next two or three days and see if this gets back to normal.”

As long as the numbers stay within reason, McMahon said the region could go into phase two, which includes hairstylists, real estate and rental leasing, by the end of next week. And at some point after the four reopening phases, McMahon said the control room may shift its focus to economic recovery.