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Phase One reopening in the Five Towns

Business begins slowly with Covid-19 remaining a threat

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Phase One reopening could be a slow go for most businesses as customers appear confused about the new rules and storeowners still remain tied to scheduled appointments or curbside pickup or delivery depending on the business.

At Eyes on Broadway in Hewlett, optometrist Dr. Steven Agin is “thrilled” to be able to reopen his now 20-year-old business, however he is less than ecstatic with the way businesses were classified during the shutdown. “With the understanding of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, staying closed and the social distancing there just should have been a better of evaluation of what was actually essential,” he said, noting that liquor stores  remained open but his business that serves people with prescription eyewear was closed.

“It was absolutely out of line for us to be closed for two months, I had a lot of people upset because of these restrictions,” Agin said, adding that he is taking every precaution to clean the entire store, scheduling appointments and having plenty of masks and hand sanitizer.

While speaking with Beth Star of A.J. & MOS in Hewlett, a customer stopped by and thought she could walk in and shop. Star explained to the woman that the store that sells women’s fashion and apparel could still only do curbside pickup or delivery. There is no in-store shopping.    I’m reaching out to my clients and along with that moved to a new store, but thankfully I have clients who are very supportive,” Star said, the initial A.J. & MOS was in Woodmere. “I changed my buying and definitely learned the streets in the Five Towns.” Now is the season for more casual clothes, she added. Star has kept in contact with customers through Instagram.

As projected, Long Island began the Phase One reopening of its battered economy on Wednesday, paving the way for construction and wholesale trade companies to restart operations, along with retailers for curbside pickup only.

The reopening the economy will play out by region in three distinct phases hereafter:

Phase Two: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate, rental and leasing. 

Phase Three: Restaurants and food services, beyond takeout and delivery.

Phase Four: Arts, entertainment and recreation, and education.

If the number of deaths, hospitalizations and new Covid-19 cases remains stable or declines for two weeks, a region can move on to the next phase of reopening.

Governor Cuomo rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, the first day the trading floor has been open in two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. The symbolic gesture came on the same day the Mid-Hudson Valley started Phase One reopening of its economy, and only one day before Long Island was to begin the first phase.

As of May 24, Long Island had still not met two of the seven criteria to start Phase One; it had not seen a 14-day decline in hospital deaths, and it did not have a sufficient number of contract tracers in place to identify Covid-19 hot spots and isolate them. As of May 26, it had seen the necessary drop in deaths, and was bringing the last of the required contact tracers on board, enabling the Island to reopen May 27, according to the governor.

“As more regions of the state begin reopening,” Cuomo tweeted Tuesday, “we are carefully monitoring health data to make sure that everything is going in the right direction. We rely on science and data to guide us — not emotion or politics.”

Only New York City remains to start Phase One among the state’s 10 regions. It was unclear, however, when the city would be able to begin. As of May 24, it had met four of the seven criteria. It did not have enough available hospital beds and intensive care beds, and needed more contact tracers.

Also of concern, the governor said, New York City was still seeing especially high Covid-19 infection rates in minority neighborhoods — at times as high has 40 percent, compared to the city-wide average of 20 percent.

To prepare for Phase One reopening, the governor said over the Memorial Day weekend, the Long Island Rail Road was sanitizing its trains and adding cars to them to enable riders to spread out more. A Herald tour of South Shore LIRR stations during rush hour last Thursday found only a handful of riders at any one station.

Cuomo emphasized that personal behavior would determine the success — or failure — of the reopening process. “The trajectory,” he said Tuesday, “is decided by people.”

He repeated that people should:

Wear masks in public spaces.

Wash hands frequently.

Maintain social distance.

"We want [the] economy to come roaring back," he said.