County governments across New York are discussing what they can do to get their respective regions reopened in the near future.
The NY State Association of Counties has been working to better understand the seven conditions regions must meet in order to start that process.
"Those indicators affect the entire region where millions of people live so the access to this data (is) very, very important," NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario said during a Wednesday teleconference.
NYSAC said local governments don't have direct control when it comes to conditions regarding patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in their regions. However, the association said there are two of the seven factors they can directly address.
"If this protocol had been in place three weeks ago, I'd be much less certain that we'd be able to make it in a short period of time but because of the way we've been able to ramp up, I think we can," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, D, said.
Poloncarz said he's confident the county health department and local hospitals can increase testing by roughly 300 per day to satisfy the condition of a monthly average of 30 tests for every 1,000 people. Other counties also appear optimistic.
"Bottom line in that regard is that county governments are going to do what's necessary," Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, R, said.
The other factor counties said they can address is tracing the contact people with the virus have had. The state is requiring 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people.
Poloncarz said that amounts to 277 tracers in Erie County. There are currently 20.
"We can handle it with the contact tracers we have which are department of health staff but we have to ramp up so we're going to ramp up," he said.
While NYSAC said the state is responsible for hiring contract tracers, county executives aren't confident that army, as it's being called, will be in place soon.
So, in counties like Erie and Dutchess, they're starting to take it on themselves.
"I'm just going to take the existing staff I have and we're going to train them to be contact tracers so if it does take them awhile to ramp up I don't have to wait because I've got the people on hand," Poloncarz said.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro is hopeful his area could begin opening around May 17. Poloncarz is aiming for June 1, but without federal assistance soon they said the process could be difficult whenever it happens.
NYSAC estimates counties have lost $2 billion in sales tax revenue alone during the pandemic.
"It is very difficult to discuss reopening in any capacity, whether it be a slow roll-out, a 60-90 day, 120 day roll-out of reemerging from this without the federal resources to help offset the losses that we have sustained," Acquario said.
Molinaro said there's also uncertainty about whether the state may reduce its assistance to counties if the federal government provides direct aid.
"The reality is there is a financial burden and impact to the state of billions upon billions of dollars that the state's going to have to confront," he said. "We certainly hope and ask that not much of that be balanced on our backs, keeping in mind that the 2020-2021 state budget already includes some shifted costs."
In both Erie and Dutchess, the county executives said they have not laid off any employees yet, but that could change if the federal funding doesn't materialize.