BELMONT — As Allegany County hits Phase 1 of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, disease levels continue to remain flat.
The Allegany County Department of Health reported that COVID-19 cases remained level at 43 for the seventh day, while 33 patients have recovered. One death was reported in late March.
To date, 612 residents have been in quarantine or isolation, while 28 remain separated — down from 48 on Friday.
Allegany County Board of Legislators Chairman Curt Crandall, R-Belfast, was pleased with the news Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Western New York — Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties — hit seven milestones on the disease and would be allowed to begin reopening some industries today.
“We’re looking forward to meeting the requirements for Phase 2, and then looking ahead to Phase 3 and Phase 4,” Crandall said.
Crandall said Phase 1, which includes manufacturing, construction, outdoors business like forestry and hunting, curbside retail industries and wholesale trade, will cover many county businesses now closed with employees out of work.
In one case — a manufacturer that works with the food industry — the firm had been attempting to get an exemption as an essential business before this week.
“With that exemption not coming along, that’s great news for them,” Crandall said.
Phase 2 includes professional services, retail, administrative support and real estate. Phase 3 includes opening restaurants and food services for regular operation. Phase 4 includes arts, entertainment, recreation and education.
Crandall said he was not particularly concerned over how the county started to reopen — whether part of the Western New York region or as officials in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties asked the state over the weekend to consider opening just those three counties.
“The rural counties were coming in good with the numbers,” Crandall said, noting that Erie County — with Buffalo seeing a large outbreak of the disease — skewed the figures into causing the region to remain closed longer.
However, figures reported Sunday and Monday brought the region into a position where it could reach Phase 1 of reopening.
“However it’s sliced, it’s good to be back in business,” Crandall said.
One workforce that will not immediately return, however, is the approximately 50 Allegany County government workers who were furloughed.
Crandall said there are two issues at play to return the workers — the furlough of which is projected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars before July 31 if they remain off the job — are demand for services and particularly revenue.
“We still don’t know where we’re going to be with cuts from Albany,” Crandall said, noting a line in the state budget which gives the governor’s office the power to cut spending if revenues lag too far behind.
In addition, Crandall noted lower sales tax revenues and concerns over residents being able to pay their property taxes on time complicate the equation.
However, the county will assess programs and services demands daily — and if there is a need, “there’s no reason those furloughs have to be out until July 31,” he said.