Rochester business owners react to Cuomo's announcement that COVID restrictions may be loosened

Charles Molineaux
Updated: January 25, 2021 11:11 PM
Created: January 25, 2021 10:04 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester area businesses cheered the news Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo planned to lighten the burden of coronavirus restrictions.

The revelation was particularly welcome in parts of Monroe County currently designated an orange zone.

“I think we are at a new place now,” the governor declared at a Monday briefing at which he said an improving picture statewide, even in Western New York which he described as previously “problematic,” warranted reconsideration of some restrictions.  

His comments thrilled local businesses like hair salons which currently face restrictions on customers and mandatory testing… and which Stacy Cudzilo, owner of Park Avenue Salon & Day Spa in Rochester, says have been feeling stuck even as COVID numbers improve.

“A lot of frustration at that point,” she explained. “A lot of us caught in that orange zone at salons and spas. We are like ‘OK, so 2 miles away they don’t have to test but we have to test and the numbers of positivity look the same, and the hospitalization rate applies to all of us. So why do we still have that restriction?'”

The governor gave no details at his briefing and said they’d be coming this week but he did say lower coronavirus infection and hospitalization rates make it possible for the state to give long-struggling businesses a break.

“And start to open up more economic activity,” he said, “and reduce some of the restrictions and reduce some of what we called ‘micro cluster zones,’ ‘orange zones’ etc.” 

“I am optimistic. I am suspenseful,” exclaimed Ellen Brenner Boutillier, owner of Fleet Feet, “and I am hoping that he’s going to come out with something that’s really going to help.”

Boutillier says orange zone retailers like hers, which, unlike restaurants or personal care businesses have been able to operate, albeit with some restrictions, since coming out of lockdown in early summer are nonetheless suffering because the clampdown on businesses like restaurants has stifled normal activity.

“Especially once the orange zone came into place, and especially when the restaurant situation came into place,” she said. “We saw an immediate impact. Because you didn’t have the groups of people doing all these things out and about in the world.” 

Owners of businesses like these say they've been watching for cues from the governor but more closely watching those regular updates on coronavirus cases, for hints about the future of their livelihoods.

“Now with things coming down, I think we’re all positive that maybe we will get to stay open and keep moving forward,” Cudzilo said.

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