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Phase 2 is on hold

On eve of expected Phase 2 reopening date, state delays OK

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hosts his daily Coronavirus briefing at the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club in Brooklyn Thursday, where he was joined by Brooklynites Chris Rock and Rosie Perez. The actors were on hand to promote testing and the wearing of PPE while in public. (Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

The North Country region was on track to move into the second phase of reopening Friday. By late this evening, official authorization and guidance from the state to move forward had not yet come. Then, the state told local officials: No region is expected to move into Phase 2 Friday.

Phase 2 reopening would include hair salons and barber shops, office-based jobs such as insurance and financial services, real estate and rental leasing, and in-store retail.

To trigger this phase, the region had to continue to see a 14-day decline in net hospitalizations and deaths, the number of new people who are hospitalized needs to remain under two per 100,000 residents on average every three days, the total number of available hospital beds and intensive care unit beds needs to stay above 30%, there need to be at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents or enough tracers based on the infection rate, and the number of tests processed needs to continue meeting a set threshold.

As of Thursday, the North Country region — which includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties — still hit all of those benchmarks.

But local officials were told during an evening conference call with the state on Thursday that likely no region would be moving into Phase 2 on Friday, according to Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Gillilland, a member of the North Country’s regional control board who was on the call.

Gillilland said the state “moved the goal posts,” and told local leaders on the call that the state is assessing the guidelines and a new executive order from the governor’s office was forthcoming.

Before the call, both state and county officials said they were still awaiting guidance from the state on when Phase 2 would start.

“We still don’t have guidance right now,” Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh, said on a conference call hosted by Rep. Elise Stefanik on Thursday. “I’m in Albany, but my district office is getting swamped with businesses asking for guidance. I will put the blame on that on the governor’s office.”

A few hours later, after the call, Jones tweeted: “Hearing word that there will be no Phase 2 tomorrow. This is extremely frustrating to North Country officials & businesses. We have met all the metrics & everything indicates that we should be able to enter Phase 2. @NYGovCuomo this is unfair & frustrating.”

At his daily press briefing on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t offer details about when the next phase would begin. Later that day, in an interview with WAMC’s Alan Chartlock, the governor offered some additional insight into the process — but didn’t offer specifics on when exactly the next phase of reopening would begin.

“The reopening of the first five regions ends (Friday) when the reopening of Phase 1 ends,” Cuomo said. “We’ll give the experts all of the data. It’s posted on the web, but let them analyze it. And if they say we should move forward, we move forward.”

Cuomo said on Sunday that the decision to move forward into Phase 2 would be “more of a judgment call.”

“Phase 2 is more of a judgment call of, when have the numbers stabilized?” he said. “Can you explain an increase, or is the increase problematic?”

Business owners who restarted operations under Phase 1 are encouraged to visit forward.ny.gov/industries-reopening-phase to read state guidelines, affirm they’ve read them, and learn more about required postings.

Both Essex and Franklin counties had just one active COVID-19 case each as of Thursday, according to each county’s health department. Between the two counties, at least 7,700 COVID-19 and coronavirus antibody tests had been processed as of Thursday. Franklin County has seen 16 test-positive and 94 suspected cases of COVID-19 since March. Essex County has reported 37 test-confirmed and 15 suspected cases in that same timeframe.

Neither county has reported a COVID-19 fatality.

Local hospitals continue to conduct COVID-19 testing around the region.

Anyone who wants to be tested in this area is encouraged to call their primary care physician to get a health order for testing. Call Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake at 518-897-2462 to schedule an appointment at the main clinic or one of its upcoming mobile testing sites. There will be a mobile testing clinic at: ¯ Franklin Town Hall in Vermontville on Tuesday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Northwood School in Lake Placid on Wednesday, June 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Quinn Elementary School in Tupper Lake on Thursday, June 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

¯ St. Bernard’s Church in Saranac Lake on Friday, June 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Elizabethtown Community Hospital can be reached at 518-873-3069; its Ticonderoga campus can be reached at 518-585-3927. Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone can be reached at 518-481-2700. Mountain Medical Urgent Care, with offices in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, also has tests available; its main phone number is 518-897-1000.

The statewide COVID-19 hotline is 1-888-364-3065.

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