Tuesday February 2, 2021
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo updated New Yorkers on the state's progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're locked in a footrace between the spread of COVID and the vaccine's quick distribution, and New Yorkers should stay vigilant as we work to get more shots in arms," Governor Cuomo said. "We have a robust distribution network at the ready, but we need more doses to kick our vaccination effort into overdrive and reach more New Yorkers. New Yorkers should be commended for the hard work and discipline they've shown beating back COVID by practicing the basic daily behaviors that help us stop the virus in its tracks. The good news is the holiday spike is over and the experts say that we're on a downward trajectory—we just need to put in the work to keep it that way."
It is important to note that data, including test results and hospital rates, reported early in the week are often not completely reflective of the current situation due to lower discharges and testing volume over the weekend. Data trends over a period of time, such as using 7-day averages, are a preferred metric.

Data is summarized briefly below: 
  • Test Results Reported - 175,038
  • Total Positive - 8,508
  • Percent Positive - 4.86%
  • Patient Hospitalization - 8,003 (+27)
  • Patients Newly Admitted - 730
  • Hospital Counties - 57
  • Number ICU - 1,500 (-34)
  • Number ICU with Intubation - 987 (-21)
  • Total Discharges - 128,354 (+556)
  • Deaths - 141
  • Total Deaths - 35,319
Business Community Voice Views of Key Issues
We once again conducted our Annual Issues Survey in late January, obtaining a valuable snapshot of the collective thinking of the North Country business community on a number of timely issues now being addressed in Washington and Albany.

Federal Issues
The top priority for action at the federal level is, far and away, "taking all possible steps to help accelerate the production and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines". 98% agree with this as a priority and, in comparison with other issues, 79% identify it as Priority #1.

Federal priority #2 is a tie. There is equal support for cooperation and planning aimed at the eventual normalization of U.S.-Canada border crossings, and for a new federal COVID relief bill including substantial aid to state and local governments.

In other responses
  • 90% support a major new federal infrastructure bill
  • 88% support restoration of SALT (state and local tax) deductibility
  • 52% oppose a $15 national minimum wage while 48% support it

New York State Issues
At the New York State level, expressed priorities for this year are:
  1. Close broadband and cell phone service gaps
  2. No new small business mandates
  3. Close the state budget gap with no tax increases

In other responses
  • 92% want employers exempted from UI experience ratings for pandemic layoffs
  • 90% ask that any marijuana legalization include strong employer protections for liability and safety
  • 90% support small business tax relief as part of recovery efforts
  • 70% support continued state investment in ORDA's Olympic venues

These results have been shared with our federal and state representatives and will be an important part of our active advocacy this year in Albany and Washington on behalf of the North Country economy.

Garry Douglas
North Country Chamber of Commerce
Assemblyman Jones Passes Bill to Protect Small Businesses from Unfair Unemployment Costs
Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) announced that he helped pass legislation to support small businesses by excluding unemployment charges due to COVID-19 from being used to calculate an employer’s experience rating (A.2001).

“The necessary shutdowns and restrictions put in place to help us battle COVID-19 have had adverse effects on many small businesses in the North Country,” Jones said. “And now, as they begin to reopen, these beloved shops and restaurants fear they will be hit with massive charges due to the rise in unemployment claims. Businesses should never be punished for following guidelines to protect public health. The bill I helped pass will prevent undue costs from further burdening our struggling businesses and help ensure they’re given a fair shot to grow and build back stronger than before.”

Experience ratings are used to assess unemployment charges on employers that reflect their past unemployment claims. Many small businesses typically have low unemployment claims and, in turn, have lower unemployment insurance experience ratings. However, due to the spike in individuals seeking unemployment as a result of COVID-19, businesses are bracing for a sharp increase in employer insurance tax rates.1 Jones has heard concerns from many North Country business owners about these impending charges and was proud to support this legislation to alleviate this unfair financial strain.
Marriage Receptions Can Take Place Under Strict State Guidance Starting March 15
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that assuming New York State's COVID-19 infection rate stays on its current trajectory, indoor dining in New York City can reopen at 25 percent capacity on Valentine's Day. The reopening will be subject to strict state guidance, which can be found here.
The Governor also announced that marriage receptions will be able to resume in accordance with state guidance on March 15. Events must be approved by the local health department. There will be a 50 percent capacity limit and no more than 150 people can attend the event. All patrons must be tested prior to the event. 
New OSHA Guidelines
On January 29th the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new guidance and recommendations for the development and implementation of a coronavirus protection program for workplaces and posted it on their website. A link to the document is inserted below. 

For more information, go to the OSHA website osha.gov and click on Coronavirus Resources.
NYS has Partnered with Leading Global e-commerce Partners to Accelerate Small Businesses’ Ability to Grow their Online Presence
The participating digital partners are offering specialized solutions such as education, free resources, marketing support and discounted pricing that are unique to the needs of New York State small business owners, restaurants and food service establishments. Empire State Development’s statewide resource partners—Entrepreneurship Assistance Centers, Small Business Development Centers, Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers, Innovation Hot Spots and Certified Business Incubators—will provide hands-on assistance, training and counseling to small businesses to launch and grow their digital presence. The aim of the program is to give small businesses access to toolkits and resources to digitize, find new markets and adapt to the new economy due to the changes from COVID-19.
Ice Palace in Saranac Lake is Under Construction
Work on this year’s Winter Carnival Ice Palace has begun.

The weather has been uncooperative and there is a global pandemic, but neither of these obstacles is stopping the Ice Palace Workers 101 from coming up with innovative ways to go forward with construction.

IPW 101 Director Dean Baker, in his 39th year of Ice Palace work, said the palace this year will be similar to an older style — viewable from the outside but closed off to entering inside.

They are working with a traditional palace shape, with high walls and a few towers. Baker said the Carnival theme, “Mask-erade,” will mostly be seen in the carvings and artwork on the walls, but he did not elaborate because the palace design is traditionally kept secret until people see it built.

The Ice Palace is one of the only parts of Winter Carnival that will remain in this pandemic year, along with the annual buttons and poster, and two fireworks shows on Feb. 6 and 13. All other Carnival events, including the Gala Parade, have been canceled to help slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
We are still flying high from all the fun we had Friday Night during our "Quarantini" Annual Awards.

There is no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year. However, the North Country Chamber was lucky to have a solid Board Chairman, Terry Beyer, who stood by our organization throughout the pandemic.

We honored him Friday for his excellent work. Here is what he had to say!
Thank You, Terry for your kind words!
To help the North Country reopen safely and meet the state and local mandates, The North Country Chamber of Commerce has created a comprehensive list of resources to navigate state and local requirements. Check out the home page for details. There is also a series of webinars available for businesses to help educate and provide answers to common questions.
Sponsored by:
  • NYS Vaccination Updates: Official Site for making an appointment to get the COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • Forward NY: Official State Website for opening procedures and guidelines.
  • NYS Travel Advisory: Stay up to date on the latest NYS Travel Advisory Updates.
  • Looking for Supplies: If your business is looking for hard to find protective products, we have created a list of businesses offering hand sanitizer, gloves, wipes, masks and other items.
  • SCORE: Small business owners are resilient and can power through this challenging time, with SCORE by their side.
Have Questions? We're here to help!

North Country Chamber of Commerce