Long Island took its next step toward a new normal Wednesday as the region entered Phase 3 of the NY Forward reopening plan, allowing restaurants to resume limited indoor dining.
The latest phase also allows personal care services such as nail salons and spas to reopen.
Restaurants have been allowed to serve outdoors for the past two weeks under Phase 2.
At Nails by Vivian in Mattituck Wednesday morning, the phone rang off the hook as clients attempted to call for a coveted appointment slot.
Owner Vivian Pham said they are currently only permitted to take clients by appointments. Upon arrival, customers must sanitize their hands, wear a mask and sign a COVID-19 service agreement, which includes a health screening and acknowledges that possible exposure to the coronavirus may occur.
“It’s so exciting, but tough,” Ms. Pham said. “It’s a lot more work and we can’t take a lot of appointments.”
Despite the new guidelines, she said she’s happy to be back at work and said the shutdown really hurt her business.
She plans to have four nail techs working initially at spaced out nail stations in the Pike Street salon. Each nail station is now equipped with a plexiglass barrier to minimize contact between the technician and customer.
Kathleen Kubacki of Riverhead was one of her first clients Wednesday and said getting a manicure was one thing she was most looking forward to as reopening began. “I was doing the fake press-on nails,” she said, laughing. “This feels so much better.”
Ms. Kubacki said she stayed in touch with Ms. Pham on Facebook throughout the pandemic, awaiting news that they may be reopening. “I’m lucky to have gotten an appointment,” she said, adding that she’s currently booked through early next week.
Similar scenes unfolded at salons in Riverhead, too. At Hampton Nails, Lynn Nguyen returned to work, also equipped with a face mask, shield and plexiglass barrier at her nail station. Plastic curtains were installed above the salon’s pedicure chairs for added protection.
Gov. Cuomo returns with new press briefing
At a press conference Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said local governments will have a role to play in preventing the spread of the virus as more businesses reopen.
“Be diligent on compliance,” he said. “The state is responsible for controlling the reopening … local governments have to ensure compliance. Social distancing, mask wearing, businesses following the rules. Bars, restaurants, people on sidewalks, local government has to do that. I understand it’s not easy … not popular. Welcome to government in the middle of a global crisis.”
During the press conference, Mr. Cuomo and the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut also announced that they will require people traveling from Florida and other states hit hard by the crisis in recent days to quarantine for 14 days. The other states include Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Phase 4 plans emerge
New details have also emerged on Phase 4 of the NY Forward plan, whoich begins Friday in five upstate regions. It shows guidelines for higher education, low-risk outdoor and indoor arts and entertainment and media production. Capacity is limited at 25% for indoor arts and entertainment, such as indoor museums, historical sites and aquariums. The capacity is capped at 33% for outdoor arts and entertainment, such as outdoor zoos, nature parks, outdoor agritourism and outdoor museums. Media production includes activities related to music, television and streaming productions on set, on location, or at any production or recording site.
Occupancy at religious gatherings can also increase from 25% to 33% in phase 4 and social gatherings can increase from 25 people to 50, the governor said at a press conference Wednesday.
Higher education institutions must develop and submit a plan for reopening and operating for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The guidelines so far do not include secondary schools.
There’s been no specific mention in the Phase 4 guidance for businesses like gyms and movie theaters.
Rich Azzopardi, Mr. Cuomo’s senior advisor, said on Twitter Wednesday that “these and other outstanding issues will be treated separately and distinctly as we evaluate what is happening in other states and refine guidelines to make sure we’re not going backward.”
On Wednesday, the governor said they’re also continuing to study research about how the virus is transmitted before deciding when to reopen these higher risk businesses.
“We’re studying it and we will make an informed decision,” he said.
There has been a two-week span between each phase so far for Long Island, meaning the earliest Phase 4 would begin is July 8.