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Central New York cleared by NYS to begin phased in reopening Friday

Ellen Abbott
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking in Syracuse Thursday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that the central New York region has met all seven metrics to begin reopening businesses Friday. He made the announcement during his daily briefing, held at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

Central New York joins the North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley as regions cleared to begin slowly opening businesses that have been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All regions in the state have to meet seven metrics in order to begin phase one of reopening. The Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier met all seven on Monday. The North Country was given the okay by the state Wednesday.

The regions shaded in green have been cleared to begin reopening Friday

Central New York was being held up on one metric. The state said it was not conducting enough tests. The state is requiring each region to conduct a minimum of 30 tests per 1,000 residents each month. For central New York, that means the region must conduct an average of 775 tests each day. Onondaga County dramatically increased testing earlier this week, pushing the region over the threshold. As of Wednesday, the region's average was up to 845 tests a day. As of Thursday, that average was over 1,000.

The first phase of the reopening process includes businesses related to construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fishing and forestry. Retail businesses will be allowed to reopening, but only for curbside pickup.

"Here we are. We've gotten to the point where we can restart," said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon. "Now we need to do it safely and productively. and if we can do that over the next two weeks, we'll be talking about phase two where you'll see some downtown's breathing new life."

The state posted updated guidelines Thursday for businesses that are eligible to reopen.

"Thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of employees getting back and starting to earn a wage. That's going to generate economic activity. But, there's risk with this, so we have to balance it," said McMahon. 

Local governments working together in their respective regions will, for the most part, balance that risk; monitoring coronavirus infection rates and testing numbers every day, and ensuring that businesses comply with plans to keep workers safe through social distancing and personal protective equipment.

One thnig that is not included in the first phase, and may not be included until at least phase 3 are services held in churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship. Gov. Cuomo said it has less to do with the service and more that it's a gathering of people. 

"The last thing you want is 100-200 people in close proximity. That is the last thing you want," Cuomo said.

Syracuse mayor Ben Walsh agreed, saying it's still too dangerous for gatherings at this point. 

"Ultimately, when you're talking about large gatherings, we know that is the most dangerous place for this virus to spread, wether you're in an agricultural facility, a meat packing plant, or a church. large gatherings of people is dangerous," Walsh said. "It's a risk and we have to mitigate that as much as possible."