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Officials Disagree With Phase 4 Changes

Chautauqua County’s state representatives and County Executive PJ Wendel are expressing their disagreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s delayed Phase 4 reopening.

Businesses had been hoping Gov. Andrew Cuomo would allow them to open their doors after a three-month shutdown bought on by the pandemic. But the decision, first reported by the Times-Union of Albany, leave owners uncertain of when they will be able to welcome back customers.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the governor is once again making arbitrary, last-minute decisions on New York’s reopening process,” Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, Sen. George Borrello and Wendel wrote in a statement. “After waiting patiently for months and investing great time and resources towards developing reopening plans, deep cleaning their facilities and reconfiguring their spaces to meet strict safety protocols, businesses previously scheduled to open in Phase 4 are once again on hold per guidance issued by the state last night.”

Cuomo said during a news conference Wednesday that low-risk outdoor arts, low-risk arts entertainment, museums, film and movie production, higher education and professional sports can reopen in Phase 4, including spring training for the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. The most recent Phase 4 guidance also increases the number of people at a religious gathering from 25% to 33% and increase social gatherings from 25 people to 50 people.

“We are continuing to study of malls, movie theaters, and gyms,” Cuomo said. “There’s new information that comes out on this virus every day and anyone who thinks this is a static situation is wrong. So we are continuing to study the most recent developments. We’re looking at what happened in other states. There are some reports that malls, bars, certain social clubs with air conditioning that air conditioning may not be cleansing the air of the virus and just recirculating the virus. So we are studying that and as soon as we get some more information we will make an informed decision.

Wendel, Borrello and Goodell ask why malls, theaters and gyms are being treated differently than big box stores that have been open throughout the pandemic or from retail outlets that were able to open in Phase 3. Guidance about which businesses can open and when they can open seems arbitrary to them, though Cuomo says the decisions are based on science and metrics.

“It is hard to fathom why a cavernous shopping mall cannot open in Phase 4 when similar-sized big box retailers have been allowed to operate from day one,” Borrello, Goodell and Wendel said in their statement. “Or why safely managed and capacity-limited gyms and movie theaters present more of a risk than restaurants or nail salons. This latest directive will likely be the last straw for many businesses who have been hanging by a thread but were determined to push through as Phase 4 drew closer. These illogical directives are more than an inconvenience for consumers and the public, they are a blow to the livelihoods of thousands of small business owners and their employees and a barrier to our economic recovery. We urge the governor to rethink this decision and allow these businesses to reopen as planned.”

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