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Hochul says state gov't is 'watching very closely' how well WNY reopens

New York State

The first day of Western New York's restart went well, according to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The lieutenant governor, speaking to reporters Tuesday, made clear there are a lot of uncertainties, including whether it will be two weeks until another stage of the reopening takes place. She said that 14-day period reflects the incubation time of the coronavirus and probably will not change.

Hochul said businesses have to make sure to follow all the worker safety rules of the new age.

"Every single business that opens their door during Phase One has to certify online at our state website, Forward. NY. gov, that they've read all the rules, that they're familiar with the necessary compliance, that they're taking the protocols to make the environment safe for their workers and also, if there's public interface, that's it's safe for the public to come in those doors. This is essential," Hochul said.

New York's rules on safety for workers include posting the safety plan for the new days and filing signed paperwork with Albany affirming that the plan exists and that the workers know what it is, including things like masks and safety barriers.

One of the key issues is that church services are in Phase Four, which might not be until late June. Hochul said religious leaders have to prepare their spaces for the new reality of social distancing.
"Maybe every other pew or whatever you have to do," she said. "I know the clergy are anxious. I spoke to them. They're already developing these plans, right now. We are conveying this information and factoring this in with the health care dynamics. I think there's an anxiety because one of the biggest outbreaks, actually, in the world at the time was the result of exposure during a religious gathering because by nature there's more people together."

That is a persistent problem, with a church in Arkansas now a hot spot, with 61 cases and four dead because of a prayer meeting held by a pastor and wife who both turned out to be positive.

Hochul said state government is watching carefully.
"We are monitoring the seven metrics that we achieved," she said. "Right now, we're doing just fine with that, watching very closely. But if it turns out that we do a major outbreak somewhere, we are in a far better position now, with that early warning systems, get people tested, get the contact tracers out there and to really contain it so it won't have an effect on our ability to open up, literally in two more weeks, to a much larger scale."

Hochul said the first crop of COVID-19 contact tracers had their online training Tuesday. With everyone expecting an increase in coronavirus infections, the 521 contact tracers in the five-county Western New York region are supposed to find every contact of new cases and make sure the virus stops right there.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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