Duffy on COVID-19 yellow zone restrictions: ‘Would hate to see this become political’


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy held a briefing Tuesday to give an update on what the COVID-19 yellow zone means for Monroe County and the Finger Lakes region.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that due to rising cases of the coronavirus, portions of Monroe County met the criteria to be determined a “yellow zone” microcluster. When the Finger Lakes region first began its reopening efforts in May, Duffy was appointed by the governor as volunteer special advisor to coordinate the region’s COVID-19 public health response and reopening strategy.

As far as yellow zone restrictions, Duffy said he and the “control room” team expect things to remain in place for at least the rest of the month.

“There’s not going to be another category or ranking through Thanksgiving so we’ll probably be there through November,” Duffy said.

MORE | Bello, Dr. Mendoza on COVID-19 yellow zone in Monroe County: ‘Wake up call for the community’

While many in the community have wondered what the yellow zone designation can mean as far as possible shutdowns, Duffy said a lot remains fluid, including the status of movie theaters — which just got the green light to reopen last month.

“Movie theaters have been discussed so far, but there’s been no decisions as far as right now at 1 p.m. Tuesday,” Duffy said. “The key areas for spread have been, sometimes, bars and restaurants, and a lot of parties in people’s homes. No one in the nine-county region is going to be knocking on the door telling their guests they have to leave. Its those kinds of gatherings, nobody means to be a spreader, but you get that many people in close proximity, you see the spread continue. We’re at yellow, we do not want to go to orange.”

MORE | 148 new COVID-19 cases as Monroe County reaches highest number of active cases to-date

Above all else, Duffy said he hopes people follow safety guidelines, and not get caught in the trap of politicizing the pandemic.

“People are great following the rules,” Duffy said. “There’s been some exceptions, but I would hate to see this thing become political.”

The head of the Chamber of Commerce expressed optimism that the region could reign in the virus, as we have done before.

“The Finger Lakes region has been the first region to open through every phase,” Duffy said. “We don’t’ want to go to orange, and if people really follow the rules, we’re not going to get there. If you are irresponsible with the guidelines, you’re going to impact your friends, your neighborhoods, the businesses you love.”

Certain restrictions apply for yellow zones, including:

  • Houses of Worship: 50% capacity
  • Mass Gatherings: 25 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
  • Businesses: Open
  • Dining: Indoor and outdoor dining, four person maximum per table
  • Schools: Open with mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings The New York State Department of Health will establish a percentage of teachers and students/staff who need to be tested by Friday

“A family of 5 might choose not to go out at all let alone go out and be separated in a restaurant,” Duffy said. “If you want to support these restaurants, please follow these guidelines, and if you don’t feel comfortable eating out, order take out. I’ve lived off take out the past few months. I’m married to a great cook, but we are trying to support these businesses.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said Tuesday that yellow zone restrictions will be in effect for municipalities, not zip codes. The impacted areas are:

  • City of Rochester
  • Irondequoit
  • Greece
  • Webster
  • Penfield
  • Perinton
  • East Rochester
  • Pittsford
  • Brighton
  • Henrietta
  • Chili
  • Gates

For elevating to the orange zone, the City of Rochester and Monroe County have slightly different criteria based on population density. To qualify for the orange zone designation, the City of Rochester would have to meet the following benchmarks:

  • Geographic area has 7-day rolling average positivity above 3% for 10 days AND
  • Geographic area has 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on 7-day average

To qualify for orange zone designation, Monroe County would have to meet the following benchmarks:

  • Geographic area has 7-day rolling average positivity above 4% for 10 days AND
  • Geographic area has 12 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on 7-day average

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