STEUBEN COUNTY - The Southern Tier region that encompasses Steuben County is showing promising signs to enter phase two of reopening next Friday, according to county officials.


“We are on a very good track for reopening,” said Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler. “Phase one of reopening has gone very, very smoothly.”


Despite the positive news regarding a potential phase two ahead, officials cautioned residents to abide by social distancing guidelines during Memorial Day weekend.


“We are discouraging families [from] large Memorial Day barbecues in the yard,” said Steuben County Public Health Director Darlene Smith. “They can celebrate the day with household members.”


Officials noted failure to comply could have real and immediate consequences.


“If we see a spike in cases due to things such as large gatherings this weekend, that will hinder our ability to move to phase 2,” said Wheeler.


Memorial Day service gatherings are limited to 10 people or fewer.


Officials are encouraging any Memorial Day ceremonies be streamed on social media.


“Obviously Memorial Day is an important holiday,” Wheeler said. “We need to honor our fallen soldiers and should honor them; but we need to do it in a different way.”


Phase two will allow a wider range of businesses to reopen, including storefront retailers and businesses in the professional services, finance and insurance, administrative support, and real-estate and rental-leasing industries.


Metrics that have to be met by Steuben County and the Southern Tier to enter phase two of reopening include a decline in total hospitalizations; a decline in deaths and new hospitalizations; hospital bed capacity; ICU bed capacity; diagnostic testing capacity; and contact tracing capacity.


A full outline of the metrics can be found at https://forward.ny.gov/regional-monitoring-dashboard.


As of Friday afternoon, Steuben County has seen 257 positive COVID-19 cases, 98 in isolation or self-quarantine, 176 recovered and 41 deaths.