Local leader to governor: ’Leave us open’

Updated: Nov. 16, 2020 at 4:45 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - One local leader is pleading with Governor Cuomo to keep businesses and schools in the north country open.

Scott Gray, a member of the North Country control room, tells the governor the region can manage the caseload.

Gray says local governments are willing to put in the work to keep both businesses and schools open, but residents have to do their part to stop community spread.

“We are asking the governor, leave us open,” said Gray, who is also Jefferson County Legislature chair. “We will manage this. It is difficult, but we will manage this.”

This comes as all three counties see record-high numbers of positive cases.

But despite that, Gray says another shutdown would be a “contentious situation.”

“There’s a mindset out there that people want to cooperate, that’s a majority of people. There’s also a mindset of people that see all of this as regulation and there’s a natural act of defiance in that. That doesn’t serve our community well, our businesses well, or the school districts well,” said Gray.

Education officials say based on data, north country schools have been doing a good job to minimize the spread of the virus in schools.

“Schools are doing a good job with practices and procedures to keep people safe. Social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, all of those things. We are seeing community spread,” said St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Tom Burns.

He says if the governor decides that closing schools would help flatten the curve, then so be it.

“That wouldn’t be up to us, but I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re pretty good soldiers up here. We’ll follow the rules, we’ll get it done,” said Burns.

Gray says ultimately, the north country is ready to do what it takes to stay open, but communities need to put in the work on their end.

“There’s our responsibility to the public and we’re prepared to do what we have to do. Then there’s the public’s responsibility. They have to be prepared to do what we are asking of them,” he said.

To be clear, it has not been said if the state will be closing businesses and schools. But Governor Cuomo did make more restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms, and house gatherings last week.

This comes as Cuomo met with neighboring governors this past weekend to discuss the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Gray says he has a call with the governor’s office Tuesday.

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