TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — New York State has issued guidance for businesses set to open or expand operations as some regions of the state, including the Southern Tier, prepare to transition to the next phase of reopening.

The assumption that each phase would last two weeks, provided there were no spikes in new cases, was upended during the transition from phase one to two, as the state informed regional leadership the day before the planned move to phase two that they would not be allowed to open.

The governor then announced the next day that those regions could in fact enter phase two. The confusion has left local leadership more cautious as they get set to enter phase three.

“State officials have informed us that each move from phase-to-phase will include an expert analysis of the data. The incubation period of the disease is around 14 days, so thorough analysis happens toward the end of that window,” said Molino Wednesday. “The state has started to release guidance earlier leading up to phases, which is helpful for the businesses, but does not include a concrete date.”

Phase Three expands the operations of some businesses that may already be operating, like food services, restaurants and bars, to allow indoor seating. It also adds some personal care businesses including tattoo and piercing facilities, appearance enhancement practitioners, massage therapy, spas, cosmetology, nail specialty, UV and non-UV tanning, or waxing, according to state guidelines.

Restaurants will be able to once again provide seated service, expanding on outdoor patio seating that was allowed beginning last week. Indoor seated capacity will be capped at 50% in phase three, while patio spaces will be allowed as much capacity as they can safely provide outside while still maintaining social distance or with barriers between tables. Employees must wear face masks at all times and patrons must wear them while they are not seated at their table. Read the state’s detailed guidelines for food service businesses, here.

Personal care businesses in phase three will be allowed to expand the services provided by barbershops and salons but services that require face masks to be removed continue to be prohibited. Phase three also includes businesses like tattoo and piercing studios.

These personal care businesses will also be capped at 50% capacity, will require employees to wear face masks whenever they are interacting with customers and the closing of waiting areas.

While the state’s issuance of guidance in advance of a region entering a new phase was welcomed by local leaders, the state has still not issued a date or clear timeline to control rooms as to when regions in phase two my begin phase three.

“We do discuss when guidance can be expected, and we share that information as soon as it comes to us to relevant community partners and residents. On the timeline, we continue to hear that thorough reviews of the metrics are ongoing. Overall the metrics look good in the Southern Tier and in Tompkins County,” added Molino.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been criticized for decisions he made early on in the pandemic — particularly involving nursing homes, appears to be deferring to the expertise of medical professionals — touting the state, national and international health and communicable disease experts review of data before allowing regions to move forward.

As the region heads towards phase three, Tompkins County Director of Public Health Frank Kruppa continues to urge the public to be cautious and to observe safety precautions.

“Phase three includes restaurants and bars, and while people will be able to gather with people outside of their households, we encourage everyone to remember that mask-wearing, washing your hands, and keeping distance between you and others when you can are the best ways to not spread COVID-19,” said Kruppa. “Tompkins County citizens have done a great job containing the spread in our community, thank you to everyone for being a part of keeping each other healthy.”