Governor Cuomo unable to answer why Chemung County is in an orange zone

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(WETM) – When asked by WETM during his daily press briefing why Chemung County has remained in an orange zone since October, Governor Cuomo said he was not sure.

“I cannot off the top of my head (explain why Chemung is in an orange zone) but I will get you the answer after this call… I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head for the county. So I’m sorry.”

18 News has not heard from the Governor’s office following Friday’s call and has made multiple requests to the Governor’s office regarding the orange zone prior to Friday’s press conference.

Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss says he’s sent multiple letters and emails to the Governor and his staff and said on Friday afternoon that he’s “surprised that the Governor wouldn’t be aware of the situation in Chemung County.”

State Senator Tom O’Mara says he’s also reached out to the Governor’s office several times with no response.

“Frankly, I’m appalled by his answer. Chemung County has been in the orange zone for 10 weeks, there has been constant outcry for that orange zone designation to be revisited. The Governor knows full well what the situation is in Chemung County.”

Because of the prolonged orange zone restrictions that have shut down local businesses, Chemung County has filed a 10-page petition with the New York State Supreme Court to relieve the orange zone restrictions implemented by the Governor.

The verified petition/complaint names Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, saying that the microcluster zone restrictions implemented on Oct. 23 should be lifted under the new guidelines.

The sum and substance of the petition onlines the failure of the State of New York to review Chemung County’s rolling daily average on a 14 day cycle are originally outlined in the initial micro cluster guidelines. Furthermore, on or about December 11, 2020, the Governor announced new criteria for cluster zone designation which is a combination of both positive testing rates on a seven day rolling average and hospital bed availability. Chemung County does not meet the newly announced criteria and therefore should not be held to a different set of standards as other counties and municipalities throughout the State


According to the petition, the county’s 7-day rolling average of positive cases for the area is at 4.5%, the hospital bed capacity is at 45%, and the ICU bed availability is at 38%.

The restrictions have forced businesses in Elmira, Elmira Heights and parts of Horseheads to close for weeks and limited schools’ ability to hold in-person learning.

The Forward NY website outlines the following protocols that set an area into an orange zone:

Orange Zone: A geographic area will be eligible to an Orange Zone if it has a 4 percent positivity rate (7-day average) over the last 10 days and it is located in a region that has reached 85 percent hospital capacity. Alternatively, a geographic area may also become an Orange Zone if the State Department of Health determines the region’s rate of hospital admissions is unacceptably high and a zone designation is appropriate to control the rate of growth.

On Friday Chemung County reported 60 cases of COVID-19 with 70 total deaths since the pandemic began with a 6.25% 7-day rolling average of tests returning a positive result.

This is a developing story and 18 News will have more information when it becomes available.

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