ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy will hold a media availability to take questions on changes to COVID-19 regulations Wednesday afternoon.
In his briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that due to drops in positivity rate across the state, orange and yellow zones are lifted for everywhere in New York, except a few downstate areas, including spots in the Bronx, Queens, Washington Heights, and Newburgh.
Most of Monroe County has been under yellow zone restrictions since last fall, while parts of Rochester, Irondequoit, Gates, and Brighton were under orange zone rules since late November.
“I think today’s announcement of zones being lifted is a great thing, and youth sports coming back is a great push,” Duffy said. “I think now people are getting closer to normalcy, but we’re not there yet. This pandemic is a journey, and we don’t want more strains coming. Some of these cities around the globe are basically empty, but I thought today gives me hope that we’re on the right trajectory, we’re seeing progress, and that progress is being rewarded with less restrictions.”
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“I think it’s safe to say we’re past the holiday spike,” Gov. Cuomo said Wednesday. “We will adjust the valves to those facts. This is not emotional, this is not anecdotal. The micro-cluster zones are down. All across the state — you look at Monroe, was up to 10.5% now down to 4.5% positivity.”
The governor said the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars is still in effect, but added the department of health is reviewing that policy.
Some COVID-19 rules stay in effect, exclusive from previous zone restrictions, like residential and non-residential gathering capacity, as well as testing and safety protocol for schools and retail businesses. Restrictions that were in place before the micro-cluster strategy was implemented include:
- Retail and personal care: 50% capacity
- Gyms and fitness centers: 33% capacity
- Gatherings: Residential limit 10 people, non-residential limit 50 people
- Restaurants outside of NYC: 50% capacity, 10 people maximum per table, 10 p.m. close for on-premises consumption
- Social distancing and masks required, all businesses must comply with DOH/NYForward guidance
Even with eased restrictions, Duffy admits the road to recovery is a long one, especially for small businesses.
“The pandemic is not over, we’re getting more vaccines to the state,” Duffy said. “This is a long term project, we need relief. Not everyone in America needs a stimulus check. I’m sorry, but it should be helping those most impacted, including small businesses.”
Duffy said relief plans should help businesses like Seabreeze Amusement Park, which went all of 2020 without having any customers.
“I went to Seabreeze as a kid, I took my kids to Seabreeze, and they just went a whole year without any customers coming through the gate,” Duffy said. “Small businesses need help.”
Duffy also said he was happy that high school, high-risk sports will be able to resume soon.
“I played sports in high school and college and I feel for those kids,” Duffy said. “To be in your junior or senior year and not be able to get out there. We’re glad to see sports coming back.”
Duffy said he expects it will take one-to-three years for the economy to recover from coronavirus.
“I think it will take time for people’s fear and concerns to fade and for us to return to normal,” Duffy said. “For small and mid-sized businesses, that needs to be the emphasis right now.”
Duffy said zone restrictions could be reimplemented if hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, but he credited the regional health care systems and said they have done a great job making sure that doesn’t happen.
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.