Our Reopening Must Continue Safely
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Central New York is now in Phase 3 of Reopening. As a member of the CNY Control Group, I can say with confidence that our metrics look good. This is encouraging. We will soon be able to enter Phase 4 of reopening – which will be the most challenging phase of dealing with the virus while resuming economic activity. If Phase 4 goes well, we can truly begin to recover from the economic toll of this virus.

We now know a few things about this pandemic. First, it has taken a heavy toll. We have lost over 24,000 New Yorkers to COVID-19. Many of them were our society’s most vulnerable. Together we took action to greatly reduce the health consequences and to limit the virus’s spread. This has put us in a place to reopen safely. We have now progressed through Phase 1 and 2. So far, we have navigated Phase 3 well. We have done so by being smart about social distancing, wearing face coverings, sanitizing and washing hands frequently, identifying symptomatic individuals, contact tracing, and quarantining sick individuals when necessary. It has worked. We are leading the nation in containing this threat. Now comes the hardest part. Phase 4 involves large gatherings. This is where the virus thrives.

We know that large, indoor gatherings for prolonged periods, including close personal contact without masks, are particularly infectious events. They even have a name: “super-spreader events.” How do we minimize the risk of rapidly spreading COVID-19? We will need well-designed and executed large events that keep people safe. This will not be easy.

Phase 4 of our reopening is the most delicate phase. It is where other states have stumbled. As of this week, half of the states are seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. In some cases, social distancing, mask wearing, and proper sanitizing have not been well maintained. An increasing number of individuals have contracted the disease and then have spread it, typically unknowingly, to others. This has the possibility of overwhelming health care systems and increasing the loss of life. We must do all we can to prevent this.

Each of us must do our part to stay safe. As business and community leaders, we must use the NY Forward Plan to establish safe protocols and enforce them. One sector that has done this well is manufacturing. Essential manufacturing has been open since the beginning – safely. The lessons learned are invaluable to manufacturers remaining open and safe. (To learn more about how manufacturers are doing this well visit https://www.macny.org/keep-people-safe-and-factories-running/.) Together we can keep our economy open and our community safe.

We absolutely must continue to stay open safely. We cannot afford another lockdown. If we see an increase in cases, we will need to work to determine its cause and take corrective action. We must keep businesses open safely. We will need the entire community to accomplish this outcome. Seeing what I have seen so far, I know we can do this well.

Finally, thanks to you, our members, who have led the region and state in safe business reopening. We owe you a large deal of gratitude and thanks. You inspire us all to be calm, stay safe, and to carry on.