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Tompkins County will begin reopening today according to an announcement Monday by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The Governor announced that as of Monday, three upstate regions had met all seven metrics required to begin phase one of the state's regional phased reopening plan when NYS on PAUSE orders expire on May 15th. If the trend continues, starting on May 15th, the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier (which includes Tompkins County) and Mohawk Valley Regions will be permitted to begin opening businesses for Phase 1, which includes what are considered to be low risk businesses including construction; manufacturing and wholesale supply chain; retail for curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup; and agriculture, forestry and fishing. Masks and social distancing will continue.  Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa said that Tompkins County residents should proceed with caution.

"It's important that everyone stays vigilant and plans carefully for reopening, following guidelines and requirements from New York State. Public health is our top priority, and this plan was created with that in mind." Kruppa said, "Considering density reduction, social distancing, face coverings, and hygiene will be necessary to ensure the safety of our staff and the people we serve. Even as we consider reopening, we can't become complacent."

Kruppa said Monday that rules for gatherings in Tompkins County will not change.  They must remain small, and only be held if necessary.

"Our position really hasn't changed," he said. "We want to keep them fewer than 10 people. But really, what's important is focusing on face covering and social distancing. Any time you can't maintain the six foot separation you want to be wearing a cloth mask. Ultimately we're still asking to keep gatherings very small, and only when absolutely necessary.  

The seven metrics Albany is using to determine regional eligibility are Decline in Total Hospitalizations; Decline in Deaths; Decline in Decline in Deaths; Hospital Bed Capacity; ICU Bed Capacity; Diagnostic Testing Capacity; and Contact Tracing Capacity. The State estimates that 2.6% of the population in the Southern Tier region have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Tuesday Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) announced, "Businesses will need to self-certify through a portal (not yet available), and will be required to have a plan in place in each location, identifying safety measures that have been taken to protect employees and consumers, make the physical workspace safer and implement processes that lower risk of infection in the business."

Cuomo said that the North Country and Central NY regions have met 6 of the 7 metrics and could be ready at the end of the week. Wednesday he said 12 more counties are now eligible to resume elective surgeries, and North Country had met the seventh metric, making it eligible for Phase 1 of reopening.  A total of 47 counties can now resume elective surgeries. He also announced a Regional Monitoring Dashboard website has been established that provides a snapshot of where each region stands in meeting the metrics.

"We are starting a new chapter in the fight against this virus - we've worked together as a state to flatten the curve and the decline has finally reached a point where it is just about where we started this journey, so now we can turn to reopening," Cuomo said. "As we approach May 15, we have put regional control rooms in place, which are made up of the top government officials and academic and healthcare professionals in that region, to watch the situation in each region develop and increase or decrease the activity and speed of reopening based on the metrics and guidelines. These control rooms are critical because we just made it over the mountain and nobody wants to go back to the other side now."

Additionally Cuomo announced who will serve on the regional 'Control Rooms' that will monitor the seven metrics. Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino is part of the Souther Tier Control Room, which is chaired by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick also sits on the Southern Tier committee.

"The Regional Control Room will monitor the metrics on a daily basis," Molino said Monday. "We're also taking information from the State to relay to our communities, and taking information from our communities in order to relay it to the state."

Molino said that businesses that want to reopenare required to attest on a State website that they are conforming to state guidance on reopening.  he noted that new guidance is likely to be issued by the State on a daily basis.

Albany has instituted four phases for reopening qualifying regions:

  • Phase 1 – Construction, Manufacturing and wholesale supply chain, Curbside pick-up service for Retail, and Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting
  • Phase 2 – Professional Services, Finance and Insurance, Retail, Administrative Support and Real Estate/Rental Leasing
  • Phase 3 – Restaurants/Food services and Hotels/Accommodations
  • Phase 4 – Arts/Entertainment/Recreation, Education

Saturday the Tompkins County Administration announced its own reopening plans, which they are calling Reconstitution Of Operations Plan ‐ 2020 (ROOP). The plan was developed by the planning team of the Emergency Operations Center in consultation with the Tompkins County Public Health Department.

"Our departments and staff have been extremely flexible over the past few months as we worked to shift operations under our continuity of operations planning. We followed a similar process in developing this reconstitution plan." said Tompkins County Assessment Director and Planning Chief of the Emergency Operations Center Jay Franklin. "We are happy to share this framework so that businesses and organizations can have a point of reference as they begin to make their own operational plans. We recognize it is designed for our organization's structure, but believe the concepts are transferable to most situations."

If our region continues to maintain the metrics in two weeks Tompkins County may be allowed to open a little more under Phase 2.

"What will come after that is us monitoring our metrics on a daily basis," Molino explained" "Assuming we can continue to maintain those metrics as phase one continues in a period of time -- possibly 14 days after phase 1 opens -- we could move into phase 2, and so on to phase 3 and phase 4."

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