By Gwendolyn Craig
During Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus update on Tuesday, this time from Syracuse, a reporter asked whether events including the New York State Fair would happen this year.
“It breaks my heart, but they can’t,” Cuomo said, “unless it’s done statewide and unless it’s done not just statewide, but with our neighboring states,” he added, referring to their reopenings.
The fair, which draws about 1 million people each year to Syracuse, takes place between Aug. 21 and Sept. 7.
The news could mean cancellations of events and tourism attractions across the Adirondacks this summer, many of which take place before the fair. The motorcycle festival, Americade, which takes place in Lake George, has already been pushed from June to July. The Adirondack Wine and Food Festival in Lake George has also been rescheduled to September.
County fairs in August and September, car shows in Old Forge and Lake George, and other area events are also in limbo.
James McKenna, CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, said event coordinators and businesses are looking at alternate plans, like downsizing their events or putting social distancing protocols in place.
“Clearly it’s going to be coming down from the state and county public health departments, what the outcomes will be,” McKenna said. “Nobody has really canceled at this point.”
He expects most Adirondack Park businesses and events will know their position for the summer around May 15, when the current state shutdown order is slated to end.
Cuomo went into more detail on Tuesday about regional plans to reopen, but the focus is reopening schools, manufacturing and construction businesses, transportation systems and elective surgeries at hospitals.
The state is using a legal term called, “attractive nuisances” to describe businesses that bring tourism to an area, and those are not yet allowed to open. The virus spreads easily in dense populations, so Cuomo said if you were to open an attraction in one region, “you would have a massive infusion of people from everywhere.”
“It’s not over,” the governor said about the pandemic. “We can’t now negate everything we accomplished.”
As part of the state’s reopening plan, Cuomo said regions will have to assess both their hospital capacity and their infection rate on a regular basis. Those two items will act as a circuit breaker. Should hospital capacities reach 70% or higher, the region will have to close. That’s true, too, if the region’s transmission rate reaches 1.1% or higher.
It’s not yet clear who will be monitoring those figures for each region, or what will be opened and closed. Cuomo did say on Tuesday that the state would have a decision about the reopening of schools by the end of this week.
The governor also released a somewhat vague 12-step analysis for reopening by region. Those steps include:
1. A region must see a consistent 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. This is based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations.
2. Businesses will reopen in phases, starting with construction and manufacturing. The state is still identifying businesses that are not tourism attractions, which may be allowed to open during phase two. “Businesses considered ‘more essential’ with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized,” according to a news release.
3. Businesses that are part of reopening must identify precautions to protect the health and safety of staff and the public, including social distancing measures, ways to monitor for coronavirus and personal protective equipment.
4. A region’s health care system must have at least 30% of its hospital and ICU beds available, with necessary equipment and personal protective gear stockpiled.
5. There should be some testing regimen for front-line and essential workers, and advertising of testing.
6. A tracing system should be in place with at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people.
7. Facilities should be identified to house infected people who need to be isolated from their families.
8. There should be regional coordination when it comes to schools, transportation systems, testing and tracing.
9. Tele-medicine should be reimagined.
10. Tele-education should be reimagined.
11. There should be a regional “control room” where the opening/closing decisions are made. “Each region must appoint an oversight institution as its control room to monitor regional indicators during the phased re-opening, including hospital capacity, rate of infection, PPE (personal protective equipment) burn rate and businesses,” according to a news release.
12. Essential workers should be protected with testing, equipment and the disinfection of public transportation they may need to get to work.
Overall, the state will have a new advisory board to examine its reopening strategy.
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