New York State is leading the nation in its containment of COVID-19, and most regions maintain a positive test rate of about 1 percent, yet many businesses remain closed. Owners of small businesses like movie theaters, spas, and bowling alleys are seeking guidance and clarity from the state as to when, or if, they will be allowed to reopen during this public health emergency.
Given the low infection rate, businesses that remain closed are asking why they cannot resume operations safely. They have been patiently awaiting further guidance from the state, but their patience and financial resources have been exhausted. State health experts owe those businesses an opportunity to demonstrate that they can resume operations safely. If state health experts still believe it is not safe to open some or all of these businesses, the state must explain why, and tell those businesses what additional measures the business can take to allow them to reopen safely. If there are concerns with a particular type of business or industry, we should consider implementing a pilot program to allow them to reopen in a particular region, and then closely monitor the infection rates in that region to assess whether an additional risk has been created. But to simply leave these businesses waiting and wondering is unfair and contrary to any notion of transparency in government.
We understand the gravity of the situation and that more essential activities, such as returning children to schools in a safe manner, must take priority. However, many businesses have invested time and money into developing plans and acquiring equipment to facilitate a safe reopening without any insight into whether those investments are helpful. As state representatives, we owe these business owners an answer.
Letter to Gov. Cuomo is attached.