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Five Regions in Upstate NY to Begin Reopening Process

WILL WALKEY, HOST: Today, five regions in New York are opening a limited number of businesses. Manufacturing, construction, and agricultural companies can now go back to work. And some retail stores can offer curbside pickup. These are businesses that have high economic value to their regions, and low risk of human contact. So control rooms of local officials in each region decided that they’d be part of the new first phase of reopening. The mayor of Utica, Robert Palmieri, is part of the regional control room in the Mohawk Valley Region. I asked him about how government officials are planning the economic reopening.

ROBERT PALMIERI, MAYOR, UTICA, NY: This is more of a marathon than it is a sprint, and I think each phase that we have will be a phase that brings into the next level of a new normal. It certainly won’t be normal for a while to the level that we all understand and grew up with. Each level will be a little bit more of the contact with each and every one of us.

WALKEY: You said this phase is coming at an opportune time for your city. How has the Coronavirus affected Utica economically thus far?

PALMIERI: All you have to look at is the number of jobs that have been lost. The fact that these businesses have been closed down for several months. So this has a tremendous impact all the way through. At some point, we may have to make some drastic changes within government and we have gone through that once before. In 2012 the city of Utica was close to bankruptcy and we reduced our workforce by roughly 20 percent. So this is kind of like the second exercise.

WALKEY: And so moving forward. You know you’re in phase one of the reopening process. I want to know for a place like Utica, what’s the best case scenario in terms of opening areas back up and making sure that everything goes as smooth as possible?

PALMIERI: In order for us initially to be one of only three of the regions to open up, and the other ones have followed since, this means that we were getting a lot of compliance from our residents. People were doing stay at home they were doing the six foot, they were wearing the masks. They were providing all the necessary steps in order for us to get to this level. So as we move into this first phase I'm sure the residents are going to comply and do all the things we have to do so that we can move into the second phase the third phase and get back into the new normal that we fully don’t understand at this time.

WALKEY: If for some reason you do see a second wave, what's the plan of potentially rolling back the phases?

PALMIERI: If god forbid we have a resurgence. You would pause at your first phase and not be able to go to...your phase two. Again, we’re going to do everything in our power to work with all the taxpayers that are out there and all the men and women that are out there to make sure that we are compliant. And I think that the residents will self-comply

WALKEY: My last question is you talked about the new normal. And I want to know, what is normal in the city of Utica right now and how do you envision normal being in the next few months as you start to reopen?

PALMIERI: So, where we were. We were probably one of the city in new york state that has seen a resurgence in our downtown development. We're building a new hospital. Our downtowns are occupied with lofts. The Millenials our enjoying our great eateries. We are a very warm and welcoming community. We are a melting pot. So we had a lot going for us, and we will continue to have an awful lot going for us. But the new normal at this point is you have social distancing. You have the masks. You have all the requirements that you have to do to keep this horrible, horrible pandemic at bay.

WALKEY: Mayor Robert Palmieri, thank you so much for talking to me today.

PALMIERI: It’s been a pleasure, and the only thing I would say to all of your listeners out there is be mindful that we're not out of the woods yet. And the only way we come out of the woods is we all kind of work together.

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