ALBANY — Despite confusion about some regions of the state beginning Phase II of the plan to reopen today, two weeks after Phase I began, officials say the Capital Region is on track to begin Phase II on Wednesday, June 3.
“The guidance we got from our control room is good,” said County Executive Dan McCoy during his daily briefing. “Our metrics are looking good. Our hospitalization rate is down, the number of people getting the coronavirus is down and our testing is up so we are doing everything we need to do and we look forward to moving into Phase II on June 3.”
Five regions — the North Country, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Southern Tier and the Mohawk Valley — were set to hit Phase II on Friday. But on Thursday Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would recruit “international experts” to review the data before giving a green light.
During his daily briefing Friday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo did give the regions an OK after the data was reviewed by the “experts.”
“We wanted to make sure the data was reviewed,” he said. “The county executives may be good at what they do but they are not experts in viral transmission during a global pandemic.”
Prior to Thursday, officials were working under the presumption that maintaining the seven metrics involving hospitalization rate, infection rate and sufficient testing and tracing would suffice to begin Phase II.
Upstate leaders were infuriated by Cuomo’s 11th hour policy shift. Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin said his county is open today, but warned businesses regulated by the state, like liquor stores, to be careful.
“I can assure you that not only do I not care what some unnamed and probably non-existent ‘international group’ has to say about our data, I don’t even care what Cuomo has to say at this point,” he said via Twitter. “This is some seriously disturbed behavior being exhibited by this governor.”
McCoy expressed similar frustration, albeit more subtle. He said he has fielded a number of questions about Phase II and how curbside pickup is mandated for small retail shops but not Walmart or Target or other large retail establishments.
“I hear this question all the time, ‘Why do I have curbside pickup with you can to into Walmart or Sam’s Club and you can pick up clothes or electronics off the shelf and put it back down and no one says anything,’” he said. “I don’t know and I don’t agree with it. When we hit phase II, I will say to Stuyvesant plaza and all the great shops that are the backbone of our community and the mom and pop shops that employ our kids and pay taxes here so I will yes. If Walmart and Sam’s Club can do it we can do it too.”
Phase II includes barber shops, salons, professional services at most offices, real estate and some retail with curbside pickup.
Meanwhile, Friday marks the ninth day in a row without a COVID-19 related fatality in Albany County. There are 1,686 positive cases, a 21 percent increase but that is related to results coming in from the mandated twice weekly testing of all nursing home patients and employees.
There have been 87 deaths in Albany County, including 53 nursing home residents, and 1,343 who have tested positive and recovered