BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – Business owners in New York State await a planned announcement regarding COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday. Without revealing details, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said on Tuesday he was optimistic.
“I think the governor will make a good announcement for this community and the rest of the region,” Poloncarz said.
Speaking at Roswell Park in Buffalo on Monday, Cuomo said that with improved coronavirus parameters, the state can begin to adjust, open up the economy and reduce some of the micro-cluster areas of the State. As it stands, most of Erie County remains in an orange zone while the rest of the county and part of Niagara County is in a yellow zone.
“I will have these announcements on Wednesday. But it would be statewide, ”Cuomo said.
Executives at several Erie County chambers of commerce said Tuesday they hoped to see the Erie County Orange Zone lifted.
“I hope they would not only eliminate the orange zone, but also penalize us by putting us in a yellow zone,” said Joe Kirchmyer, executive director of the West Seneca Chamber of Commerce.
In December, the state adjusted the settings for the micro-clusters to protect the hospital’s capacity. Cuomo said Monday Erie County hospital capacity was 48%. State data shows the western New York five-county area has the lowest rate of crude new hospitalizations in the state.
“I think the common complaint I hear is that (businesses) just want to be on the same ground as everyone else,” Kirchmyer added.
Grand Island Chamber of Commerce president Eric Fiebelkorn has suggested he would also like to see government agencies working more closely with business owners.
“The owners here tell me that I feel like these agencies are specifically looking for things to shut them down, while the rules change,” Fiebelkorn said.
Some of the state’s orange zone restrictions have been reduced in recent weeks following court rulings. For example, state officials recently said restaurants in orange zones could operate under yellow zone restrictions, which would allow them to offer meals indoors. But other restrictions remain. Restaurants in the orange and yellow zones can seat a maximum of four people at a table.
“I’ve probably heard it from every member of our restaurant, over 20 different organizations. “Why four at a table?” Said Fiebelkorn.
Restaurants statewide are also scheduled to close by 10 p.m. Amherst Chamber of Commerce chairman and CEO AJ Baynes said owners of these businesses were wondering why they couldn’t stay open until midnight. This is the case in other areas. For example, in Kansas City, Missouri, authorities extended restaurant closing times from 10 p.m. to midnight earlier this month.
Baynes is among those who hope the orange zone will be pushed back on Wednesday.
“In restaurants, they’re looking for a capacity to increase a bit,” he says. They are looking for a step back from the curfew. “
Among other Orange Zone restrictions announced in December, gyms can only operate at 25% of capacity and personal care workers must be tested for the coronavirus every week.
But small businesses need more than a reduction in restrictions, Baynes said.
“I think the most important of all is that people have confidence to engage in the economy,” he added.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning presenter and journalist who was part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.
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