Cuomo orders restaurants, bars, casinos to close

With the state closing of restaurants and bars Monday, as well as casinos, theaters and gyms, COVID-19-related restrictions grew more onerous for New Yorkers. 

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday announced a pact with adjoining states Connecticut and New Jersey to adopt similar restrictions, lacking federal guidance. Some local establishments — Genesee Brew House and Webster’s Proietti’s — had already made the decision to close. Proietti’s closed its dining room and moved to takeout over the weekend. 

Del Lago Casino & Resort announced Monday it would close at 5 p.m., three hours earlier than the required closing. 

Meanwhile, local colleges have shared more details on their moves, such as the cancellation of April 25’s Imagine RIT, the annual festival that brings tens of thousands of visitors to the Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Under Cuomo’s new state rules, restaurants can remain open for takeout and delivery, providing some employees continued work as well as access to prepared foods for customers. 

The pandemic is causing an unprecedented economic dislocation, officials say. “The economic impact nationally will be in the billions,” said Bob Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, in a phone news conference Monday morning.

As for the local scene, Duffy said, “Rochester, with a very large population living at or below poverty, will be heavily impacted.”

Duffy said he hoped employers would hold on as long as they can before laying off workers. Similarly, he said he hopes the state budget being prepared now will include some assistance for affected businesses, particularly in helping them manage increased demand for sick leave. He expects the hospitality industry and other jobs where people can’t work from home to be especially hurt. 

If the rates of infection can be slowed quickly, the economic impact won’t be as bad, he said.  

Duffy urged employers to make smart decisions, follow the recommended precautions and use common sense. And he provided this advice for consumers: “If you’re going shopping, shop for a week. Don’t buy toilet paper for the next three months,” as hoarding causes panic and shortages. “We’ve been assured the supply will not slow down,” he said. 

One exception to the expected downturn are the businesses that supply food and household supplies. To deal with the crush of business, Wegmans late last week changed its schedule so stores normally open 24 hours would be closed at night for cleaning and restocking rapidly emptying shelves.  Wegmans has posted a list of nearly 50 common items, including toilet paper, bulk packages of chicken breasts, pain relievers and sugar on which it now enforces a purchase limit.

Tops on Monday released a list of 14 limited products, and many retailers, including Target, have imposed at least some purchase restrictions to prevent hoarding and supply problems.  

Some non-food retailers, including Lands’ End and Ethan Allen, have issued statements saying they remain open for now but in some cases with limited hours.

A just-released poll from MFour Mobile Research in California shows consumers spent up to 32 percent more in big box stores in March than in February. In-store purchases of home decor and clothing dropped about 31 percent, but online purchases increased 46 percent.  

As for colleges, most are turning to online or other forms of distance learning. The University of Rochester was conducting classes for instructors Monday on how to use the technology, with some of those classes for professors also being taught remotely this week. UR’s daily newsletter, which typically features listings of events, now focuses on the virtual, such as Wednesday’s informational session on MBA programs offered by the Simon Business School.  

Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School announced Monday afternoon that the college will delay the inauguration of President Angela D. Sims from its scheduled date of April 14 to Sept. 29. In a separate announcement, the school announced it is closing campus and will continue instruction online.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva remains fully open, but has moved instruction online, allowing students the choice of whether to remain on campus or go home. President Joyce P. Jacobsen shared an essay in which she predicted that the massive turn to online instruction will prove the continued need for in-person classes.

In Rochester Institute of Technology’s announcement over the weekend to parents, besides noting cancellation of the Imagine RIT festival, it said a decision about graduation ceremonies will be made by April 3. Colleges all over are having to decide how or whether to hold commencement exercises when campuses are mostly closed and large gatherings are either not recommended or prohibited outright. 

A state agency for disabled people announced it has suspended its competition for college students to come up with inventions that help people with disabilities. UR, RIT and Alfred University were among the schools that already had submitted projects for the competition. 

The national ACT test scheduled for April 4 has now been postponed to June 13. Students already registered for the April test will be notified by the nonprofit educational company about the new date. 

In a press conference Monday morning, Cuomo said a national set of recommendations is needed, and states can’t anticipate every conflict in individual states’ coronavirus rules. 

“I want federal guidance. You can’t have one state taking actions that are different from other states,” Cuomo said, noting it can cause some dangerous situations. “If I close down my bars and New Jersey doesn’t close down their bars, everybody drives to Jersey to drink and everybody drives home,” he said.  

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