The state hasn’t indicated it would roll back Cortland County’s reopening phases or implement new restrictions yet, even though Cortland County has seen a recent increase in coronavirus numbers that a county legislator said was worse than neighboring Broome County.
“To my knowledge there has not been any discussions about rolling back the phased re-opening,” interim Public Health Director Lisa Perfetti said in an emailed statement provided Thursday by Clerk of the Legislature Eric Mulvihill.
Seven possible exposures have been reported this week in the county, 11 since Sept. 28. The county has confirmed 68 new cases of COVID-19. The number of people actively with the virus has risen to 117 from 81.
Six of the public exposures came at local eateries. Of the eateries, at least one was an employee from the Red Jug Pub on Central Avenue in the city, according to a Facebook post by the company. The employee was wearing a mask during an 8 p.m. shift on Sept. 28 and washed hands frequently. The employee is doing well and the business is closed for a deep cleaning.
Central City Bar and Grill on Central Avenue had a patron who visited the restaurant between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 test positive, according to a Facebook post by the company. That location has decided to remain open.
AJ’s Diner on Port Watson closed Thursday to deep clean and decided to remain closed today for additional cleaning following a patron testing positive after visiting between 10 and 11 a.m. Sunday.
The diner is also asking SUNY Cortland students to only do take out for the next two weeks, along with other restaurants in the area.
SUNY Cortland also announced it would be moving to virtual learning Wednesday for two weeks after more than 100 active cases were reported in a two-week period.
Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin (D-Cortland) asked at a Health and Human Services Committee meeting Thursday whether the county was looking at implementing new restrictions on restaurants, churches and mass gatherings such as Broome County did, following a state order after seeking a spike in positives. Harbin said Cortland’s per capita numbers exceeded Broome’s on Wednesday.
Perfetti said Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced they would implement new restrictions based on ZIP codes in communities seeing increases.
“The reason the state has set up these cluster zones is to properly identify hotspots across the state and determine what precautions need to be taken to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in the hotspot,” Perfetti said in her statement. “However, Cuomo did not give specific metrics about how the state will determine if an area is deemed a cluster.”
The color labels are as follows:
Red — Houses of worship would be limited to a 25% capacity or 10 people. All mass gatherings would be prohibited. Only essential businesses would remain open. Schools would close or go to remote learning, and dining would become takeout only.
Orange — Houses of worship would be limited to a 33% capacity or 25 people. Mass gatherings would be limited to 10 people. High-risk, non-essential businesses such as gyms or personal care would close. Only outdoor dining would be allowed with a four person maximum per table. Schools would be closed.
Yellow — Houses of worship would be limited to a 50% capacity. Mass gatherings would be limited to 25 people for both indoor and outdoor activities. All businesses would remain open though. Indoor and outdoor dining would be allowed but with a four person maximum per table. Schools would remain open with mandatory weekly testing of students and staff.
Legislator Ron Van Dee (D-Cortland) said that the Health Department should be responsible for enforcing the COVID regulations and shutting down places that don’t follow them.
“I again believe that when places are overcrowded, they can’t follow the rules that the Health Department is the one that should go in, it’s a health issue,” Van Dee said. “Now maybe you don’t have enough help if that’s the case it’s our job to give that to you. We’re not helping ourselves by letting people get away with this. We have to do something otherwise people are going to start dying in our county.”
Perfetti did not comment on that at the meeting. Perfetti also noted during the meeting she would meet this morning with SUNY Cortland officials about steps they can take.