Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow is among several leaders saying they won't stop phase two businesses from reopening Friday
OSWEGO — On the eve of what most local officials believed would mark the second phase of a post-coronavirus economic restart, Gov. Andrew Cuomo muddied the waters and appeared to extend phase one, but a handful of local leaders are giving businesses the go-ahead.
Many local businesses had plans to open Friday morning after the central New York region appeared to meet all the criteria set forth to move forward in the reopening process. Late in the day Thursday, Cuomo indicated the reopening would not move forward Friday, but Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow was one of several leaders in upstate New York saying Thursday night it was time to move forward.
“The city of Oswego will be in phase two tomorrow,” Barlow told The Palladium-Times late Thursday night, noting the area continued to meet the seven metrics set forth by Cuomo weeks ago. “Our data puts us, in my view, in an even more favorable position now, allowing us by every measure to proceed into phase two as planned and that's what we'll be doing.”
Barlow said Port City authorities would not enforce the ban on phase two businesses reopening. Though businesses included in phase two would not be targeted by city officials for reopening, there are still requirements for social distancing and personal protective measures, as well as limits on individuals gathering.
Non-essential businesses have largely been closed since March in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19. Manufacturing, construction and limited retail operations were allowed to reopen starting May 15 as part of phase one of the state's New York Forward program to reopen the economy.
Phase two businesses include office-based jobs, real estate services, in-store retail shopping and limited barbershop and hair salon services, according to state documents. Phase three businesses, which were not expected to open on Friday, include bars and restaurants.
State officials have not offered the extensive guidance and guidelines for phase two like those that preceded the first phase of the reopening process.
Cuomo, in an interview Thursday afternoon on The Roundtable with Alan Chartock on WAMC Northeast Public Radio, caught many local leaders off guard when he said the state would delay the second phase of the reopening to let “international experts” review the state's data.
“We'll give the experts all the data and if they say we should move forward, we'll move forward,” Cuomo said.
In a Facebook post Thursday night state Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, who has in recent weeks been critical of Cuomo governing the state unchecked by other elected officials, said upstate New York is “now back in limbo” just hours away from a planned reopening of the economy.
“Rules change. No information given. While livelihoods hang in the balance,” Barclay posted. “The days of New York's one-person rule need to end right now.”
All signs pointed to the central New York region Oswego County is a part of receiving state approval to enter phase two of the economic restart on Friday, and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, who has been leading the regional effort, said as late as Thursday afternoon that phase two would be starting on Friday.
McMahon said earlier in the week there had been no discussions about continuing phase one beyond the initial two-week period that ended May 29.
The Port City is not alone in its plans to defy the governor if the restart is delayed. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr., in a press conference streamed on Facebook Live Thursday evening, expressed frustration about the lack of communication from the governor's office and the late notice.
“It's outrageous, it's an insult,” Picente said of the state informing local leaders via a Thursday night call, later adding “This is unbelievable disrespectful and a terrible way to do business. This is a governor who is getting rave reviews because he's on everyday on 17 networks,but doesn't have the ability to call up and talk to local elected officials in central New York and tell them what he's thinking.”
Oneida County, which shares a border with Oswego County, is a part of what the state considers the Mohawk Valley region. Picente told reporters the other counties in the Mohawk Valley region felt the same way.
The state of New York set the dates and the criteria, Picente said, and the upstate regions met each of the seven criteria before “the governor at seven o'clock moved the goal posts” on Thursday. During the press briefing, Picente said he would not be telling local businesses not to open tomorrow, and at one point encouraged those businesses that expected to open on Friday to do so.”
Picente, like Barlow, said local officials would not enforce the ban on phase two businesses reopening tomorrow.
NewsChannel 9 reported Thursday evening that John Becker, chairman of the Madison County Board of Supervisors, said Madison County would allow phase two businesses to reopen regardless of Gov. Cuomo's approval.
Oswego County Covid-19 cases topped 100 for the first time on Thursday at 102. The number of tests administered to county residents has increased dramatically in recent weeks, and as of Thursday afternoon stood at more than 5,500.
County officials listed only 20 active cases Covid-19 in Oswego County as of Thursday afternoon.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.