Move to reopen doesn’t end rules

Bittersweet Farms offers a selection of plants at the first Canton Farmers Market of the season. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — St. Lawrence County’s recent move into Phase I of reopening from the coronavirus shutdowns, does not mean New York’s orders on social distancing are not in effect, Public Health Director Dana O. McGuire said.

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Under Phase I, construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, retail (limited to curbside or in-store pickup or drop off), manufacturing and wholesale trade are allowed but residents are still expected to follow the rules of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s social distancing executive order.

“There is a little bit of difficulty in trying to clarify what is actually OK and what is not OK,” Ms. McGuire said. “We are still in effect with mask wearing, social distancing and gatherings of no more than 10.”

In a news release issued by Public Health Monday, County Administrator Ruth Doyle stated the county’s position.

“While we are encouraged to meet the established criteria to begin Phase 1, we remain concerned that there may be confusion about the need to continue practicing aspects of caution including face covering, social distancing, and disinfecting. We would like to make sure that current practices, that may have impacted the recent reduction in cases, are continued to help prevent transmission of COVID-19. While it is true that we have seen multiple days without new confirmed cases, it is possible that we could see an increase that could cause an unintentional setback. We will be prepared to address the needs should they arise,” Ms. Doyle said. “County government will continue with the current limitations for public access with reduced staffing levels until May 28.”

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls from recreational groups and other services that fall into phases 2, 3 and 4,” Ms. McGuire said.

Business owners who have questions about how to reopen or what phase their business fits in have a tool at the web site, Ms. McGuire said.

A lookup tool on the business resource page will give businesses information tailored for their category and for the county in which they are located.

Even if a business isn’t in Phase I, there is vital information on the website, she said.

“Just because you are still closed it doesn’t mean you can’t start writing your plan,” Ms. McGuire said.

The website has templates for Phase I businesses that can be helpful for businesses opening later, she said.

“All of the social distancing, all of the health screening, that’s all going to play into most of the other phases.” Ms. McGuire said. “There might be a few things you might have to modify, but you can really get your plan in place based on those templates. And, be thinking about how are you going to modify all of the procedures you do on a daily basis.”

The county has seen a recent run of days without new cases of COVID-19 being reported. The slowed growth has occurred during a time of increased testing, Ms. McGuire said, including antigen tests that have produced only a few positive results — an indication that the infection rate in the county is extremely low, she said.

“I don’t know if it’s because we have done well with all of the social distancing measures and wearing masks and then that we have been able to contain the current cases that we have and get the contacts into quarantine,” Ms. McGuire said.

But, the good news is not an excuse for residents to let their guards down.

“Barbecues, family gatherings, nothing larger than a group of 10 is allowed,” Ms. McGuire said. “It is still best to stay mainly with your own household. (Reopening) should take place slowly and systematical so as we move through these stages we don’t see a large spike and have to go backwards.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

St. Lawrence/Franklin County Editor

Slowly self-propelled. Two-time cancer survivor. Nearly 30-year newspaper veteran.

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