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Malverne, West Hempstead community leaders discuss Phase Four reopening

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Long Island began Phase 4 of the state’s reopening protocol on July 8, which includes low-risk arts and entertainment, film and music production and professional sports without fans. Malverne Chamber of Commerce President Kathi Monroe said that while she was happy to see the economy moving forward, she had hoped for other businesses to be included in Phase 4.

“We would like to see our gym, movie theater and bowling alley be a part of the conversation,” Monroe said. “If it wasn’t safe yet for them to reopen, I felt they should’ve been at that table, discussing what isn’t safe, to give the business owners an idea to make the necessary changes.”

Low-risk indoor entertainment includes museums, historical sites and aquariums. Examples of low-risk outdoor entertainment are zoos, botanical gardens and nature parks.

Monroe said that while the chamber has had to cancel most village events, the group hopes to hold events such as the Art Walk next year. “There are businesses that are literally starving because they can’t open,” she said.

Malverne Community Theatre President David Coonan said that although Phase 4 didn’t include theater productions, seeing entertainers return to work is encouraging. “For arts in general, it’s really important, both economically and culturally, that we’re able to continue to create,” Coonan said. “Phase 4 is allowing creative people to get back to work.”

The theater group, which has produced theatrical works in the village for more than 50 years, has also seen the adverse effects of the pandemic. It was forced to postpone its spring concerts, and has postponed its summer shows as well. Coonan said that MCT members brainstormed ways to keep theater alive. In March, they launched Theatre at Home on social media, with members read sonnets of their choosing each day.

“Just because theater wasn’t included in Phase 4, that doesn’t mean we should stop what we do as creators,” Coonan said.

He added that because Broadway has yet to reopen, he believed it would be a long time before the rest of the economy returned to normal. “I look at Broadway as the litmus test for where we actually are,” Coonan said. “Right now, the light at the end of the tunnel is in January.”

In West Hempstead, Maureen Greenberg, president of the West Hempstead Community Support Association, said the group was set to hold a Zoom meeting on July 20 to discuss fall and winter events. The pandemic forced the organization to cancel its annual Street Fair, usually held in June.

Greenberg said she hoped people would continue to practice social distancing as the economy reopened. “I think people still have to be conscious that the virus is out there and to be respectful of your neighbors,” she said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised New Yorkers for their vigilance and resilience throughout the pandemic. He said, however, that he worried that people might become apathetic and arrogant, believing they had beaten the virus.

Cuomo noted that the infection rate remains below 1 percent statewide — down from nearly 17 percent on Long Island and more than 20 percent in New York City at the height of the pandemic in April. “The numbers have actually declined since we started reopening” seven weeks ago, he said.

But Cuomo reminded New Yorkers to continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing in public spaces, in keeping with state law. He implored local police departments to enforce the law.

New York City began Phase 3 reopening on July 6, without indoor dining.