ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy held a briefing Monday regarding COVID-19 and the current zone designations in the Finger Lakes Region.
Portions of the area are moving from a COVID-19 yellow zone to an orange zone, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during a Monday briefing.
“In Monroe, parts of Rochester, Irondequoit, Brighton become an orange zone,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Ontario County, Victor is on track to become a yellow zone.”
MORE | Gov. Cuomo: COVID-19 orange zone for parts of Rochester, Irondequoit, Brighton in Monroe County
According to the governor’s office, orange zone restrictions would include:
- Non-essential gatherings shall be limited to 10 people
- Houses of worship are subject to a capacity limit of the lesser of 33% of maximum occupancy or 25 people, whichever is fewer
- Restaurants and taverns must cease serving patrons food or beverage inside on-premises but may provide outdoor service, and may be open for takeout or delivery, provided that any one seated group or party must not exceed 4 people
- Schools must close for in-person instruction, except as otherwise provided in Executive Order.
- Certain non-essential businesses, for which there is a higher risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, shall reduce in-person workforce by 100%; such businesses include:
- Gyms, fitness centers or classes
- Hair salons and barbershops
- All other personal care services including but not limited to spas, tattoo or piercing parlors, nail technicians and nail salons, cosmetologists, estheticians, the provision of laser hair removal and electrolysis
For businesses, and religious worship, the orange zone goes into effect Wednesday. For schools, the rules take effect Thursday.
Duffy said he has not received evidence that would suggest that schools, or the businesses impacted by the orange zone designation, have contributed to the spread of coronavirus, but says people who don’t follow the rules are the reason for the restrictions.
“Blame those that don’t follow the guidelines, and flaunt them, and add to the spread,” Duffy said.
Duffy said the orange zones are relatively small portions of the region, and that the new zone designation restrictions only impact those areas.
“The governor is trying to put in place this microcluster strategy to really pinpoint where these areas are,” Duffy said. “For businesses, ones that are not in the orange area, the non-essential businesses, they are not affected. So if a gym, salon, barbershop is outside the orange area, they are not affected.”
Duffy said that rules do not prevent residents from traveling from one neighborhood to another for access to industries or services that are closed in an orange zone.
“It does not prevent people from traveling from one neighborhood to another to take part in a business,” Duffy said. “It doesn’t do that, but it does pinpoint those areas that have the highest infection rates.”
“Schools may reopen if they follow new guidelines that require mass testing in schools before they reopen followed by vigilant symptom and exposure screening conducted daily,” according to the New York State Department of Health.
“Schools are affected on Thursday, they have to close for at least four straight calendar days,” Duffy said. “If all goes well, those schools could then reopen Monday.”
Back when schools went into a yellow zone they had to begin testing 20% of students and staff. The Brighton schools superintendent Kevin McGowan posted an update for families on its website on Monday, saying when they sent a survey to families for that original testing, not everyone consented. Now, in the orange zone, if a student isn’t tested they can’t come to school while the cluster is still under orange. He said Brighton will be completely remote at least through the week of November 30. He said he’s working with the state consider the low rate of infection in schools and find a better solution.
“The bottom line is that we would love to be able to test 100% of people, but realize that 100% of people do not want to be tested. We don’t have capacity to support additional all-remote learners and the logistics of going in and out of remote instruction for significant numbers of students, but not entire classes, make this type of system ineffective and unsustainable,” McGowan wrote on the district website.
Duffy said the best thing people in the Finger Lakes region can do is simply follow the regulations that have been put in place.
“These parties, gathering events where people are all together, when that happens don’t point the finger at the governor, the county executive, the mayor, or anyone else,” Duffy said. “You follow the guidelines and we won’t be in yellow, we’re not going to be in orange. The areas affected right now we want to change. My best message is hang in there and it’s not their fault. I have no evidence I’ve seen of those places being spreaders, including the schools, but it’s the other opportunities where people do come in and create spreading events.”
Duffy said he feels for the local businesses impacted by the orange zone closures, and he hopes a new relief package from the government can help offset the losses.
“I’m hoping that if this goes beyond, there is state or federal aid,” Duffy said. “I do believe there has to be some assistance in a holiday season when you have a lot of things going on.”
Watch the full briefing:
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