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Hochul on reopening Western New York: more contact tracers, testing sites needed

The Lieutenant Governor said she doesn't believe houses of worship, barber shops, or hair and nail salons will be included in Phase 1 of the region's reopening.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is in charge of leading Western New York's regional reopening, spoke with 2 On Your Side on Thursday evening about the COVID-19 pandemic.

In particular, what needs to be done before the region that includes Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties reopens?

"I have been in regular touch with all five counties as recently as this afternoon, and I have the data that reflects the various hospitalization rates," she said. "In putting it all together to come up with a collective message that says whether or not we will be able to meet the standards in a couple days.

"We're running out of time here. But I'm working closely and working so hard to make sure that we do everything we can to meet that, particularly those (factors) that we have control over."

Hochul stressed the importance of wearing masks and social distancing as factors people can control in an attempt to reopen Western New York.

For New York State, however, she said there's an effort to make sure there are more trained contact tracers and more testing sites to ensure that any reopening happens with proper safety measures.

"I encourage everyone who plans on entering the workforce in Phase 1, when we get there -- manufacturing, construction, some limited retail -- that you should be looking to get tested," Hochul said.

"When we go into the workplace, you want to be confident that someone working next to you, close to you in the same facility, does not have the virus to undo all the sacrifices that you've had personally."

Hochul said Phase 1 would not include houses of worship, though there are plans being made for when they can reopen.

She said she's in regular contact with local clergy about how to make such facilities safe for the public.

"I know how hard this has been for people who have had to delay funerals, when normally you would have a chance to grieve together as a larger community, or the weddings that have been postponed," Hochul said. "This has been hard on people."

She added that other businesses, such as barber shops, hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors likely wouldn't be included in Phase 1.

"You can avoid touching people in most facilities," she said. "But if someone is working on your nails, or your hair, or a message, it's by nature, human touching. We will get there. I don't believe they will be Phase 1."

Hochul said business owners, like clergy, must plan to make sure that their facilities are safe for workers and customers alike.

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