With Phase Two of New York’s reopening plan temporarily on hold due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for a review of the health data by “international experts,” Genesee County business owners hoping to open their doors to the public can only sit and wait for another update out of Albany.
That update may be coming very soon, said state Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, speaking by telephone after a nearly 15-hour legislative session that ended around 2:30 this morning.
“My belief is that he (Cuomo) is going to make an announcement this morning that on Saturday we’re going to enter Phase Two,” Hawley said, after expressing his dismay over how things have been handled since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in mid-March.
“I’m not sure how he has been able to do it pretty much all on his own up to this point with looking at statistics and data as he likes to call his decision-making process,” Hawley said. “I’m not sure why all of a sudden, he wants to bring in whoever his experts are. He has quite a few around him and pretty much has single-handedly run the state for the past two months.”
On Thursday, published reports indicated that Cuomo said he has “international experts who (will) go through it and we’ll follow the data.”
“The reopening in the first five regions ends tomorrow. When the reopening of Phase One ends, we’ll give the experts all the data. It is posted on the web, but let them analyze it. And if they say we should move forward, we’ll move forward,” the governor stated.
The Finger Lakes Region, which includes Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming counties, entered Phase One on May 15.
Regional leaders were expecting to enter Phase Two today, with that action clearing the way for more retail stores, barber shops, salons, real estate offices and professional services to reopen.
Hawley said the time has come, with adherence to proper safety guidelines, to return to some sense of normalcy.
“Enough stalling,” he said. “We have done what we need to do for the last two and a half months, and we’ve been doing it well. Western New York is not New York City.”
The assemblyman also said Republicans attempted to pass a resolution to a bill last night during session “that would have taken away his (Cuomo's) powers and suspended his one-man rule, but it failed on a party-line vote pretty much.”
“We need to get back on track and have three co-equal branches of our government operating as it was intended to do in our country and our state,” he offered.
Hawley also criticized the state Department of Labor for delays in processing unemployment insurance checks for those who have been laid off through this health crisis.
“We have folks who have been waiting for unemployment for eight, nine, 10 weeks,” he said. “The Labor Department was operating under a system known as MS-DOS, which is an outdated, archaic technology that was used back in the 1980s. It was never updated in all these years.”
Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein also weighed in this morning, acknowledging that patience has “worn thin.”
A part of the regional control room, Stein said that prior to official word from Cuomo, business owners could put their licenses at risk by opening on their own.
“We would just ask for additional patience and we understand that (patience) has already all worn thin. But to get out ahead of the governor is not a good position to be in,” she said.
She added that new guidance has been posted on the New York Forward website.
Genesee County Fair cancellation a tough break for 4-Hers
Stein said she was disappointed over the cancellation of the Genesee County Fair and felt bad for the young people involved in 4-H.
“The 4-H youth who participate in educational programs all year long, and have an animal ready to go to the Fair that they have spent an incredible amount of time, either training or growing --this type of learning experience that 4-H provides for our youth, along with the animal agriculture education, for me, that’s the hardest hit,” she said.
Co-owner of Stein Farms in Le Roy, she said she understands the work that goes into getting ready for the fair.
“It’s not just a couple weeks before the fair,” she said. “It starts when the animal is born, and there is a significant amount of blood, sweat and tears that goes into these animals and these projects. That’s where my heart really has been saddened by this.”
She said she supports the Agricultural Society’s decision to cancel.
“I know it’s been a terribly difficult decision for the Ag Society to come to, but as I see that other fairs have done the same to protect the health and safety of others, I know that just this one time, just for now, this is what needs to happen,” she said.