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Mohawk Valley enters Phase 4 reopening

GLOVERSVILLE — The president of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth Board of Directors, Leslie Ford, on Friday called on agency members to model for the community the importance of wearing masks, especially as the Mohawk Valley region entered the fourth phase of reopening.

“Welcome to phase four of reopening as of today and that’s a good thing and it’s an interesting thing for all of our businesses and education,” said Ford.

The Mohawk Valley region, which includes Fulton and Montgomery counties, on Friday entered the fourth phase of reopening from coronavirus related restrictions. Under the state’s reopening plan, low risk activities related to the arts, entertainment, recreation and higher education were permitted to resume under certain continued restrictions. Social gatherings of up to 50 individuals are also permitted in regions of the state in phase four of reopening.

Ford pointed to the partial resumption of business in most industries locally as “good news,” while noting that some industries, including K-12 education, are still awaiting guidance from the state on when and how they will be permitted to reopen.

As businesses look to begin making up for lost revenue caused by months long closures, school districts are facing the prospect of rolling cuts to state aid throughout the year while meeting the additional challenge of providing childcare for essential workers and free meals to families whose children would normally access these services through school, noted Ford who is also the superintendent of the Northville Central School District.

Following the distribution of approximately 12,000 pounds of food to families in Northville in just under two hours during a drive-thru event on Wednesday, Ford pointed to the high need for these services as families continue to feel the impact of the state stay at home order.

At the same time, Ford noted that the number of new cases of the coronavirus in the United States is growing, potentially threatening the continued reopening of New York state.

“It’s going to be a tricky business,” said Ford.

With more than half of the states in the country reporting increasing numbers of coronavirus cases, some states have begun pausing their reopening and even reinstating some previously eased restrictions.

Ford called on the members of the CRG Board of Directors and agency staff to model compliance with state protocol requiring masks or face coverings to be worn in public settings to promote the behavior health experts say can reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus along with frequent hand washing and maintaining a distance of at least six feet between individuals.

“We have a big cultural adjustment to go through, other countries do this all the time,” said Ford of wearing masks. “We have not, and we don’t want to. Well that’s nice, but at the case load we have right now, the virus load, we have to look at that.”

Beyond the impact mask usage will have on the ability of businesses to keep their doors open, Ford pointed to the likelihood that staff members and students will be required to wear masks when schools are permitted to reopen by the state.

“I had a group of teachers together yesterday and they were talking about how uncomfortable the masks felt and to parents, we don’t want to wear the masks,” said Ford. “The only way we can bring children back into the building is to have them comply.”

Ford described compliance with mask wearing as the “biggest fight” businesses and school districts will face along the continued path to reopening.

“As a true leader in the county, that’s something we have to model. As uncomfortable as that may individually make us feel, it’s something that we have to promote and talk to people about actively, because there’s still a lot of people out there who aren’t socially distancing and aren’t masking and as you can see in the other states, since it’s one of the only things we can do right now, it behooves us to support that,” said Ford.

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