December 4, 2021

Cortland enters Phase 4

But Phase 4 has phases, so hold onto that workout gear

Kevin L. Smith/staff reporter

Roger Wrisley looks to install plexiglass Wednesday at the front desk of the Cortland YMCA. Behind Wrisley is Noah Beck, director of the Cortland YMCA.

As Cortland County moves into Phase 4 on Friday, some industries still won’t be allowed to open up right away, including malls, movies and gyms.

“The governor is clearly paying attention to an increase in cases around the country as he slows things down, and in my view he’s been stung by the nursing home allegations, as well,” Garry VanGorder, the executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency, said in an email. Cuomo in late March ordered nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive for coronavirus, an order he reversed in May.

“He is not about to rush back into anything under these circumstances,” VanGorder said. “That may make sense from a public health perspective, but it’s devastating for so many businesses that are hanging on the edge.”

Phase 4 includes higher education, low-risk indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment and media production. But the reopening of those businesses will also be done in phases. Van Gorder said state representatives will look at:

Businesses that are still closed and assess when they can open.

When guidelines in place for businesses now open can be loosened.

When businesses like gyms and theaters can open, but that hasn’t been announced yet.

The Cortland YMCA had Plexiglass shields installed Tuesday in preparation for reopening and has been adding signs and ramping up cleaning as part of its reopening — whenever that may be. The organization has set a tentative opening date of July 6, but that depends on the state.

“Members will be asked to wear a mask in the building when they aren’t using fitness equipment, and there will be hand sanitizer set up at regular intervals throughout the building,” said Margo Upson, the membership director.

She said the facility will undergo a phased reopening, including shorter hours and limited facility use at first.

“But that might also mean some exciting outdoor group exercise classes and other options that we might not have otherwise tried as we take advantage of the beautiful New York weather to provide better distance and air flow for our classes and programs,” she said.

SUNY Cortland is also preparing for what Phase 4 could bring, said Fred Pierce, its director of communications.

“Phase IV will hopefully allow us to resume on-campus education in the fall,” he said. “We have submitted a detailed plan to SUNY Administration that we believe will enable SUNY Cortland to provide a high-quality educational experience while providing effective safeguards against the spread of COVID-19 among our students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community. SUNY is reviewing the plan and we hope to receive their comments soon.”

At Tompkins Cortland Community College, little is expected to change with the new phase, said public information officer Peter Voorhees.

“We’re already teaching all of our summer classes online,” Voorhees said in an email. “Campus remains closed to the public through the end of July, when we anticipate transitioning out of our summer hours (where the majority of staff is working remotely).”

The one exception Voorhees noted is that the child care center is looking to open on or around July 6. Its staff is working on reopening plans now. He also said the college is working on several reopening plans for the state.

Some entertainment places also won’t be able to open up right away, which could include the Center for Arts in Homer. However, Executive Director Ty Marshal said he wasn’t planning to open the facility for large events until sometime in the fall, anyhow.

“The governor is being very cautious,” he said. “When you gather large groups of people together you have to be very careful. We’re going to take our pace much slower. We want people to feel safe coming to our facility.”

Marshal said he is examining both the state standards and how patrons feel.

“We’re grateful for their support,” he said. “I think we’re seeing a full spectrum of people’s comfort level.”

VanGorder said the inconsistent information coming from the state isn’t helping, though.

“No one wants to go back to where we were, but this perpetually inconsistent rollout of policy guidance makes it a very difficult assignment for people to stay the course,” VanGorder said. “Overall, I would say we’re doing well with that in Cortland County, and I expect that to continue, but there is no question that patience is wearing thin. We are still under 50 cases since this whole thing began, and it is hard for people to square that with the conditions that we’ve been living under since March.