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Testing of time

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided more detail on the state’s New York Forward regional approach to safely reopen communities.

This plan stresses the importance of reaching critical public health benchmarks before gradually allowing certain industries and businesses to reopen. This phased reopening process will continue to track those public health benchmarks to assess whether the reopening process is causing a resurgence in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. As the May 15 deadline for starting the phased reopening process approaches, the North Country seems just shy of reaching all of the public health benchmarks.

Three regions in New York state appeared to have met the criteria to start the phased reopening process this Friday, while the North Country is in need of more testing. The New York Forward criteria calls for 30 per 1,000 residents tested monthly. As testing continues for this pre-opening phase, the region is very close to reaching the initial benchmark. There is hope that the benchmark is met by the end of the week; however, maintaining the rate of testing to continue into other phases is another question. Federal, state and regional officials need to pay particular attention to the infrastructure needed to maintain the rate of testing. Not only will this ensure progress toward reopening the business community, but it will provide the region critical information needed to assess its health and safety as folks begin to emerge from staying at home.

Businesses and organizations are now part of the public health system in ways that were never imagined before. The ways in which businesses and organizations reopen will have the potential to impact the rate at which the North Country moves through the reopening phases. Businesses and organizations have a responsibility to plan important precautions to keep the reopening process moving forward. The rate of testing is important to ensure continued reopening and assessment of public health, while these new business precautions are important to minimize the potential for transmission and continued positive COVID-19 tests.

In the state’s New York Forward reopening guide, business precautions include protections for employees and customers: like social distancing protocols or adjustments to shift designs, changes to the physical workplace; like requiring face masks while interacting with customers, and implementing public health policies; like screening employees for signs of COVID-19. A New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board is working on industry-specific guidelines, but while businesses and organizations await this guidance, the chamber recommends starting the planning process now.

The business community can take part in public health safety by assessing their operations and implementing proper safety measures and systems. Through the chamber’s partnership with the North Country Chamber of Commerce, there is access to reopening training sessions that will offer insight into how businesses and organizations can establish these new internal controls. This session is an introduction to strategies, techniques and policies that are new to many businesses but that are routine in industries like manufacturing and construction. Future sessions will include sector-specific guidance and state policies as it is published. Go to “http://slareachamber.org/events”>slareachamber.org/events to find the times and registration links for the “Back to Business” training sessions. The chamber will also host informal debriefs after the training sessions to allow further conversation and questions. Stay tuned for future sector specific announcements.

Patrick Murphy is executive director of the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

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