Hon. Andrew Cuomo
New York State Governor
Albany, New York 12224
Re: Restarting Chautauqua County
Dear Governor Cuomo:
Please allow Chautauqua County to begin reopening on May 15, 2020, without waiting for Erie County or other areas of New York State to meet all your metrics. Chautauqua County meets all your metrics, including testing availability, contact tracers, and health care capacity. As noted yesterday by Dr. Donald Yealey, Chair of Emergency Medicine at UPMC that serves the Jamestown area, We can safely reopen not only our hospital care but the region and society in all areas that UPMC serves by protecting the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly, and doing things safely and smartly.
As of today, there are only 5 active cases in Chautauqua County, all in isolation. There are NO patients in any of our hospitals, or in our ICUs, or on ventilators. NO residents of the City of Jamestown or many of the towns and villages within the County have EVER tested positive. There have been NO NEW CASES in southern Chautauqua County for about two weeks.
Since March 23, 2020, there have been 4 COVID-related deaths in Chautauqua County. During the same time period, the local newspaper obituaries reported 365 deaths. In other words, you are about 99 times more likely to die from something other than COVID in Chautauqua County.
The success of Chautauqua County in minimizing the COVID infection rate reflects the incredible job of contact tracing done by the Chautauqua County Health Department. Because Chautauqua County is a rural county without any mass transit, crowded elevators, or large apartment complexes, it has been possible to accurately conduct thorough contact tracing. There are currently 53 contact tracers available, which enables the local Health Department to immediately track down all the contacts of a new case. Our residents are also doing a great job in helping to control the spread of this virus by practicing social distancing, wearing masks in public, and being careful around our elderly residents.
Allowing local manufacturing, construction, and other low risk businesses in Chautauqua County to reopen with appropriate safety protocols will not cause a surge in new cases. Except for a few employees who commute from nearby counties, almost all the employees in local manufacturing and construction are local residents. For those few employees who commute, special precautions can easily be implemented. Our major employers have developed thoughtful and comprehensive plans to reopen safely consistent with CDC and OSHA guidelines.
The quicker we can reopen, the quicker our economy can begin to recover. The longer we remain closed, the more likely that local businesses will fail. It is particularly frustrating to see Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Office Max, and many other national chain stores remain fully open, while all the local retailers who sell the same items remain closed. If people can safely shop at the big box stores while wearing masks, they can just as safely shop at smaller local stores. Very few people will travel from Buffalo to visit local stores since Wal-Mart and other big box stores remain open in Erie County. In the meantime, the competitive pressures on Chautauqua County businesses are even greater now that both neighboring counties in Pennsylvania have reopened.
The financial impact of the continued loss of sales taxes will have a devastating impact on many local governments, including specifically the City of Jamestown and the City of Dunkirk. The City of Jamestown is already at its maximum Constitutional taxing limit. It has balanced its budget for the last few years only with substantial financial assistance from New York State. The City of Dunkirk is struggling to off-set the tax loss from the NRG plant closing. Dunkirk also relies on State financial assistance to balance its budget. Neither city has the financial reserves to cover substantial losses in sales tax revenues. Unfortunately, the financial ability of New York State itself will be severely stressed by the projected loss of revenue, making it difficult for the State to continue to subsidize Jamestown and Dunkirk.
Please show your compassion and understanding to the severe fiscal impact on local small business owners, manufacturers, and others who are witnessing the death of their livelihoods and allow these businesses to reopen in those counties that meet your metrics.
|Andrew Goodell |
|George Borrello |
|cc: Hon. Kathy Hochul |
NYS Lt. Governor
|Hon. Eric Gertler |
CEO, Empire State Development
|Hon. Michael Schmidt |
Commissioner of Tax and Finance
|Hon. Eddy Sundquist |
Jamestown City Mayor
|Hon. Wilfred Rosas |
Dunkirk City Mayor