WATERTOWN — The Salmon Run Mall will only partially open under the Phase II reopening execut…
WATERTOWN — Scott A. Gray isn’t dwelling on Thursday night’s chaos and confusion that briefly delayed the north country’s moving into Phase II of reopening.
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“I’m just squarely moving us forward and getting us open,” he said, just a few minutes after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo finally gave the go-ahead for the region to proceed with Phase II during his daily pandemic briefing Friday afternoon.
Mr. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, said the governor signed the executive order at 1 p.m. to officially approve the reopening.
Before the governor’s briefing, it was a long and difficult 24 hours for the control room, the group overseeing the north country’s reopening. Reopening was delayed from 12:01 a.m. Friday after the governor’s office told the group that international experts needed to review data and metrics to determine if it was safe to move ahead.
But on Friday afternoon, Mr. Gray said his focus is just on reopening and helping businesses understand the guidelines they must follow in order to open and remain open.
With the information from the experts in hand, the governor said it’s safe for the north country, Central New York and three other regions — the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier — to move forward with Phase II.
“It’s not just open the door and have a party,” he said during his daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.
Some businesses began opening Friday morning, despite the last-minute directive by the governor’s office that Phase II was put on hold until a group of international experts analyze the metrics to ensure the region has met the state’s requirements for reopening.
Before the governor’s announcement Friday, the control room met in the morning to talk about the situation and met with high-level officials from the governor’s office about the reopening.
Under Phase II, Watertown’s Salmon Run Mall, hair salons, barber shops, massage therapy offices, furniture stores, lawyer offices and Realtors were all anticipating the reopening at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Lauren Garlock, executive director of Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce, said people were already walking village streets Friday morning, wondering when they would get the OK to go inside and start shopping in gift shops and other stores.
She continued to advise shop owners to wait until the official word came from the control room and the governor signs the executive order before they open.
“I’m just glad it’s not delayed further and we can start this weekend,” she said.
Corey Fram, director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, said getting retail on board will be a big boost for the county’s tourism industry.
“It defines our downtowns,” he said.
Having the retail sector back will get local folks to visit different communities within Jefferson County — for instance, people from Watertown first going to river communities, then heading to someplace like Sackets Harbor along Lake Ontario — before people from outside the area start coming to visit the north country, he said.
But Mr. Fram also noted that the confusion of the past 24 hours was exhausting for businesses.
“I’m very sympathetic to businesses,” he said. “It was very frustrating.”
Mr. Fram advised that businesses must go to the state’s New York Forward website at https://forward.ny.gov/ to review the guidelines for its business sector and then affirm they’ve read them.
Businesses also must fill out a safety template and make sure it’s on their premises in case of a state inspection.
On May 18, Gov. Cuomo announced the international experts being brought in to help advise the state’s reopening plan are: Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Samir Bhatt, senior lecturer at Imperial College London.
They’re working with the state to provide technical advice and analyze data/metrics throughout the state’s reopening process and help track the state’s progress, the governor announced on his website.