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Life in a Finger Lakes region that has reopened

While Western New York remains locked down, the Finger Lakes region has been allowed to start reopening. And it’s not far to get to.

BATAVIA, N.Y. — While the Western Region, as designated by the State of New York, continues to be unable to meet benchmarks set by the state to lift coronavirus-related shutdown orders, there are other regions that have entered Phase 1 of reopening on Friday.

One of those regions, the Finger Lakes, contains adjoining counties like Orleans, Genesee or Wyoming.

This means that people in the Western Region can travel a short distance into a region that is beginning to open.

But if they do, they may not find much in terms of differences, nor much that would draw them into making a regular trip.

Not all that different

The same types of stores that were listed as essential since the shutdown order was issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo remain in operation whether a region is still closed or beginning to open.

And even in a region where some additional stores are beginning to open again, they are doing so under some strict rules, including only having curbside pickup or allowing customers in but for a moment to retrieve something they've already arranged to have ready for purchase.

Under orders from the Governor, who was granted extraordinary powers by the state legislature at the onset of the pandemic, they cannot linger or browse.

Even the restaurants here are -- as they have been all along, only doing takeout -- just like in regions that have yet to reach Phase 1. In some cases, they are allowing customers inside, but only to grab their grub and go.

That means that in the Finger Lakes Region you still can’t dine in, probably won’t be able to do so for another month (under Phase 3), and even then you may have difficulty finding a table due to expected capacity restrictions.

A feeling of hope

Despite there being not too much different in some regard, there is a feeling in the air about being able to do a few things that you can't someplace else.

Moreover, having reached Phase 1, the Finger Lakes region is that much closer to reaching Phase 2.

“It is different. It’s sort of a different mindset that we are getting toward the end of this, and we are getting over the hill,” said Greg “Philly” Phillips, a barber who owns a shop on East Main Street in Batavia and who hasn’t been able to cut hair since March 21.

Things got even brighter for Phillips on Friday when Cuomo announced that barber shops would be among the businesses allowed to reopen (with restrictions) during Phase 2.

It means Phillips may be allowed to resume serving customers as early as May 29.

“It means a lot,” said Phillips, who said he has applied for unemployment benefits but has yet to receive any. “It just means some normalcy again for me and my family as far as income and being back to work.”

Phillips also expects no shortage of customers seeking to have their shaggy manes shorn.

"I've had a quite a few people say they are ready to braid their eyebrows,” he laughed.

Concerns over reopening

But even among businesses eager to reopen, there are some concerns.

There may still be several customers worried about venturing out and contracting the virus. As well, many customers have learned how to shop differently, especially on line, during the shutdown.

Indeed, a recent survey conducted by the Genesee County Economic Development Center revealed that 63 percent of local businesses have concerns about getting their customers back inside their doors, and 46 percent of them worried about having enough personal protection equipment available in order to allow them to reopen under new rules

There’s also the worry of whether they can be profitable under the restrictions that might lead to an inability to maximize profits, and if they can get their employees to come back.

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