A reopening plan is in the works for the Hudson Valley.
After New York State Governor Cuomo announced that 100 percent of the workforce must stay home beginning March 22 at 8 p.m., the region went into full NYS on Pause mode in order to combat the COVID-19 crisis.
With only essential employees (read: individuals in the financial, food services, infrastructure, media, medical, and retail industries, among others) permitted to commute to work, the Hudson Valley has adapted to self-isolation by adopting animals, making the most of online resources, and giving back to community members in need. Locals wear masks to the grocery store — a requisite — and steer clear of parks and trails that are closed to mitigate the spread to the disease.
Now, New York eyes a path to a safe reopening. Already, the move has been delayed — first to April 15, later to May 15, and now to May 28 — in response to the state’s number of outbreaks, which, as of April 26, totaled 288,045 and spanned across 48 counties.
We have studied reopening plans around the world and spoken to global health experts.
We’ve come up with factual, data-driven principles to guide us on reopening.
We will approach this on a regional basis. It’s the only smart thing to do.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 28, 2020
In an announcement on April 26, Cuomo outlined his vision, dubbed New York Forward, for a safe reopening within the state. The plan will be implemented in phases and will give priority to low-risk industries, starting with construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and select retail using curbside pickup only. In select parts of the state, the first phase commences as early as May 15.
For the Hudson Valley, this date comes with a caveat. As per Center for Disease Control recommendations, only those regions which experience a 14-day decline in hospitalization rate will be eligible for reopening. Because the Hudson Valley has only met five of the seven required benchmarks for reopening, it will remain closed until May 28 or it reaches all seven benchmarks. According to the governor’s press release from April 29, the state is currently conducting an average of 30,000 diagnostic tests per day to assess infections by region. Based on current cases, 35 counties in New York have been given the OK to resume elective outpatient treatments. In the Hudson Valley, these include Dutchess, Putnam, and Ulster Counties.
Among those considered within phase one is R.L. Baxter Building Corporation, based in Poughkeepsie. Although some of the construction firm’s projects were delayed, the group’s priority developments have been able to continue as part of the state’s essential industry classifications.
“As many of Baxter’s construction projects were deemed essential by Governor Cuomo, we’ve been fortunate to move forward with those that fall within the affordable housing, medical, and education sectors,” explains Baxter Vice President Eric Baxter.
He notes that Baxter has felt the impact of NYS on Pause in a number of ways. “We’ve decreased the number of laborers at each jobsite in order to abide by social distancing guidelines and continue to supply PPE to all workers. While this will ultimately prolong the completion of certain projects, it is our utmost priority to ensure our employees and subcontractors are healthy, safe and secure.”
Following the first phase, a transitional period of two weeks will allow the state to monitor the impact of reopening on the region to ensure that outbreaks do not increase. If all goes well, phase two will begin.
During the second stage, industries will reopen according to priority and risk level, namely those businesses with lesser chances of workplace and customer infection. Professional services, financial and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate and rental leasing are all included in this phase. As infection rates continue to decline, remaining industries will be given approval to open their doors as well. In phase three, restaurants, food service, hotels, and accommodations businesses receive the green light. Last but not least, arts, entertainment, recreation, and education organizations recommence in-person operations in phase four.
“Every business leader understands that we can’t just re-open and go back to where we were and what we were doing before,” Governor Cuomo notes. “We have to move forward in light of the circumstances that have been developed.”
Throughout every phase, regions approved for reopening will not be allowed to host any events or attractions that might draw large numbers of visitors. This means no fairs, festivals, and get-togethers of a significant size or scope.
Reopening efforts will occur in collaboration with surrounding states and will include beaches, child care, food banks, parks, public housing, schools, summer businesses, transportation systems, and more. For each approval, individual businesses and industries will need to incorporate measures to protect both customers and employees and ensure greater workplace safety and lower risk of infection.
“When it is safe for us to begin working at full capacity, we’ll continue to follow the guidelines given to us by the local and state government and continue the use of masks, gloves, glasses, and other protective equipment,” Baxter affirms.
Citrine Salon owner Allyson M. Neri is of a similar mind. As one of the non-essential businesses directed to close by March 21 (along with gyms and nail parlors), the Millbrook salon, which opened in November 2019, suffered a drastic halt in operations. As an entrepreneur, Neri was faced with the difficult task of closing the salon and telling her team they were laid off. It was a difficult transition, yet one that Neri tries to view with a silver lining.
“During these times, it’ important for us to focus on what we can control and let go of the things we cannot,” she says. “I shifted my perspective and, although we have hundreds of appointments missed, we have hundreds of appointments to reschedule. My team and I are taking this time to stay updated on education, my husband and I are making adjustments in the salon, and I am revamping the backend of the business, and more.”
Ever open to new possibilities, Neri also began to offer curbside pickup for products clients requested from the salon. With custom swag and tote bags also available for purchase, the salon continues to find creative ways to stay afloat amid the crisis.
“As of now, we have no idea of our reopen date,” she admits. “Of course, we are not happy that our small business had to be shut down – as a small business owner these times are very difficult – [but] surviving is all we can try to do.”