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Business Reopening Discussed During Chamber Breakfast

Chautauqua County has been “ahead of the curve” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That is how County Executive PJ Wendel described the work being done by county officials throughout the public health crisis during the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce County Executive Breakfast online web seminar Friday.

Wendel said the work of his COVID-19 public health and financial response teams, along with the plan for reopening the economy by regions created by state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, have been templates used by other areas of the state to react to the public health crisis.

“Lo and behold, these things have resonated across the state of New York,” Wendel said. “We have been ahead of the curve in reacting to the COVID-19 crisis. For the most part, we have moved forward in a progressive manner.”

During the web seminar, Wendel answered questions asked by Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. Tranum read questions that people watching online wanted to ask Wendel. One of the questions was, “What do businesses need to consider to remain open.”

Wendel answered by stating that businesses are responding very well to what needs to be done to reopen. He said it was exciting to see some restaurants reopen with outdoor seating Thursday.

“I’m excited to see the opportunity for (restaurants). I’m excited to see what they can provide coming out of this,” he said.

Wendel said all business owners should visit forward.ny.gov so they know what is expected of them and what they need to do to be able to reopen. The website details the four phases of reopening the state’s economy and the businesses allowed to reopen during each phase.

“If you do not see your business in a specific area, you need to be ready to open at any time,” he said.

Another question answered by Wendel was what is the protocol during the reopening if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases. Wendel said there is a protocol in place, but he reminded people that if they follow the guidelines dealing with isolation, social distancing and wearing a face mask that there won’t be a dramatic spike in cases. He said, with seven new cases announced Thursday, people need to continue to follow the rules. He added that when the county announced 10 new COVID-19 cases on May 22, nine out of 10 of those cases dealt with interacting with one person who had the virus.

Wendel said the county is on track for Phase Three reopening, which is scheduled to happen June 16.

When Wendel was answering a questions about the economy in the county following COVID-19, he discussed what is happening with the former NRG power plant in Dunkirk. He said with the $60,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant, county officials were able to hire Bergmann Associates of Rochester to consultant on possible reuses of the plant. He added that the consulting firm has generated five possible reuse scenarios.

“I feel confident what we do moving forward will be a positive for the county,” he said.

Another questions dealt with the rise in domestic violence and overdose deaths during the pandemic. Wendel said, along with six fatalities from COVID-19, there has also been six deaths from opioid abuse during the past few months.

“Unfortunately, there has been a toll,” he said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 affected a lot of areas, but didn’t affect social problems. We still have addiction, and domestic violence has increased.”

Wendel closed the web seminar by stating he believes in the people of Chautauqua County and the recovery from the pandemic will only make residents stronger.

“Our comeback will be greater than our setback,” he said.

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