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Here's how reopening may unfold in Western New York

State officials have proposed a four-phase approach to "reopening" New York by region.

But the reopening will be in phases, and it will be gradual. Once it begins, bars and restaurants won't be able to reopen for at least another four weeks – no earlier than mid-June. And it would be at least six weeks – sometime in July – before entertainment and recreation venues, such as movie theaters, would be able to reopen.

Regions must independently meet seven criteria before reopening may begin. There are to be at least two weeks between the start of a phase and the beginning of the next one, with appointed regional control groups monitoring rates of hospitalization and infection.

On Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he believes it is possible the five counties in the Western New York region could reopen this weekend or next week.

But Poloncarz also warned that it will be hard for businesses to bring back all of their employees at once and still meet the state's requirements for social distancing and other safety measures.

Once the first phase begins, it will be at least two weeks – or around June 1 at the earliest – before the second phase of the reopening can begin. That includes professional service industries, such as law firms and accounting firms, as well as additional retail. Real estate, which would include the local housing market, also would restart.

For bars and restaurants, the earliest they could reopen is four weeks – nearly a month – after the launch of the first phase. And it would be at limited capacity. So if the reopening in Western New York begins on May 15, the earliest bars and restaurants can expect to reopen is sometime around June 15. If the reopening begins on June 1, the reopening date for bars and restaurants is pushed back to around July 1.

For schools, sporting events, recreation and entertainment that tend to attract large crowds, it will be at least six weeks from the initial reopening before they could even be considered for a restart. That's around the beginning of July, under the most optimistic timetable.

And Poloncarz has warned that the timetable could easily be delayed if Covid-19 cases spike at any time after the first phase begins.

For now, in order to reopen, Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties – as a group – still need to meet requirements related to Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

Here's a closer look at how a reopening could go in Western New York, assuming that the restart begins on June 1.

June 1 (Tentative start of phase one)

June 15 (Projected start of phase two)

  • Professional services, retail, administrative support and real estate/rental and leasing.

June 29 (Projected start of phase three)

  • Restaurants and food services, hotels and accommodation businesses.

July 13 (Projected start of phase four)

  • Arts, entertainment and recreation
  • Education

The state's 51-page "New York Forward" reopening guidance document did not include any further details on businesses included in phases two through four, as it did for phase one.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said that landscaping and gardening businesses, as well as drive-in movie theaters, would be allowed to reopen on Friday. Low-risk recreational activities, such as tennis, also would be permitted.

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