Following New York Forward’s guidelines for reopening your business?
You’ve got to go online and prove it.
With the exception of those listed as essential under the COVID-19 guidelines, all businesses cleared for reopening under Phases 1-3 and eventually, Phase 4, need to go to Forward.NY.gov, find themselves under “Statewide Guidelines” and affirm that they understand and are following industry-specific requirements before hitting “Submit.”
The plans do not need to be approved, just submitted.
The process is called “affirmation” and if you’re confused—or didn’t know you were even supposed to do it—join the club.
It’s likely one reason the affirmation numbers in the Mohawk Valley’s COVID metric aren’t where they should be, Supervisors’ Chairman Bill Federice said last Tuesday in a Zoom meeting “Opening Up Successfully and Safely,” hosted by Destination Marketing.
Affirmation aside, Mr. Federice said he was alarmed by a spike in COVID numbers in the region—something Governor Andrew Cuomo had called out just an hour earlier at the day’s press conference.
“I believe the Governor is serious when he says he’ll stop or pause any of these phases,” Mr. Federice said.
Public Health Director Amy Gildemeister echoed those concerns.
“If we start to get a serious up-tick, this is going to go through and community and require more draconian measures,” she said, likely impacting schools, SUNY Cobleskill, and restaurants—for starters.
The metrics—including the number of positive COVID-19 cases and the affirmations—are reviewed daily by the Regional Control Rooms; if they don’t meet muster, the regions don’t advance to the next—or this case, the final--reopening phase.
Tuesday’s moderator Cassandra Harrington took questions from the audience,” many of them very specific: are cloth tablecloths OK? What about shared water pitchers?
But most of the questions focused on how to deal with customers who won’t—or can’t—wear a mask.
“What do we do if they become aggressive?,” asked one business rep. “Can we refuse them? At what point do we call the police? Or do we just deal with it?”
RoAnn Destito, captain of the Mohawk Valley Regional Control Room and state Office of General Services commissioner said signage is critical—as is a culture of following the reopening rules.
“We know that businesses don’t want to turn anyone away, but it’s very important for our future, the future of the region, health-wise and economically,” that businesses make sure customers and employees comply, and again, that they affirm that they’re following the rules, she said.
Two days after the Zoom, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order allowing the State Liquor Authority to take away the liquor license of businesses that don’t comply and shut them down.
Ms. Destito also said anyone with complaints over businesses not following the rules can file a complaint—anonymously--with the state at Mylicense.custhelp.com/app/ask or call by calling (833) 789-0470.
Another question asked about enforcement; Dr. Gildemeister said a discussion with the owner and education are always the first steps.
“But we will cite them,” she said, and with each violation, the consequences increase, from a fine to a hearing.
“That’s exactly what we want,” Ms. Destito said, “We want compliance more than anything else.”
Another question asked about where to go for solid advice since the rules are constantly evolving.
The New York Forward website, said County Administrator Steve Wilson.
“There’s a ton of stuff available there,” he said. “It’s a complex website, but it’s probably the fastest answer.”
After that: Dr. Gildemeister’s office and then trade associations.