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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Indoor dining experiences, nail and spa treatments and a variety of other personal care businesses and services may soon reopen to the public.
“Phase three” reopening activities are slated to take place in the region June 17. Eligibility for reopening is determined by health metrics, and as long as regional COVID-19 related infections, hospitalizations and deaths remain low, it is anticipated Gov. Andrew Cuomo may give the Capital Region the green light for “phase 3” early next week.
“We’re not out of the woods, but we are on the other side,” Cuomo said this week. Five regions in the state outside of the Capital Region were given the green light for phase three reopening on June 11.
Gov. Cuomo’s NY Pause order went into effect March 22, and the city of Saratoga Springs and the greater Capital District Region were cleared by the state to begin the phase 1 re-opening of the local economy beginning Wednesday, May 20. Capital Region’s phase two reopening plan went into effect on June 3.
The sector designated as the Capital Region includes eight counties. They are: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Warren, and Washington counties.
There are four reopening phases in all, and an up-to 14-day incubation period between phases to ensure that infection rates and hospitalizations are maintained at a manageable level. Phase three is slated for June 17 and phase four, which focuses on Arts/ Entertainment / Recreation, and Education, including libraries, will potentially hit its reopening mark July 1.
Recent actions include the reopening of outdoor dining at restaurants, as well as places of worship - with 25 percent allowable occupancy. Beginning June 26 outdoor graduations of up to 150 people will be allowed. Additionally, the New York State sales tax filing deadline has been extended to June 22.
Social distancing protocols apply throughout all four phases – that is, that people maintain a distance of six feet apart when possible, and face coverings be worn to decrease the potential spread of the virus.
Phase three showcases restaurants and food services establishments reopening their indoor spaces for the seating of customers. Indoor capacity must be limited to no more than 50% of maximum occupancy, exclusive of employees, and all tables with seating for customers must be separated by a minimum of 6 feet in all directions. Wherever distancing is not feasible between tables, physical barriers – at least five feet in height - must be enacted between the tables.
Additionally, patrons must wear face coverings at all times, except while seated, provided that the patron is over the age of 2 and able to medically tolerate such covering. There is a maximum of 10 people per table.
Also included in phase three: non-hair-related personal care businesses and services. This includes tattoo and piercing facilities, appearance enhancement practitioners, massage therapy, spas, cosmetology, nail specialty, UV and non-UV tanning, or waxing. Mandatory occupancy restrictions, distancing and mask requirements apply. For more information about the phases of reopening, requirements and gudelines, go to: ny.gov.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Summertime in Saratoga may feature new dimensions in the outdoor dining experience. Literally.
In an effort to help downtown businesses increase customer capacity while remaining compliant to COVID-19 restrictions, the city is exploring a variety of possibilities that would allow its merchants to expand their businesses across city sidewalks.
The City Council is expected to address the matter at its Tuesday, June 16 meeting - immediately preceded by a public hearing at 6:55 p.m.
A working draft of a proposal that will be presented to the council is being crafted this week.
“Right now, the draft is basically allowing businesses to use the sidewalk as long as it’s ADA compliant – which is 48 inches for people to walk back and forth,” Accounts Commissioner John Franck said on June 9, one week prior to the meeting. Specifically, the measure would allow restaurants and other establishments to expand their outdoor spaces onto sidewalks, as long as 48 inches of pedestrian walkway is maintained, as per Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
“We want to see how that affects things. Is that going to move the needle for the restaurants one way or another? Do we need to do more?” said Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton.
With summer approaching and some, but not all, state mandated restrictions related to COVID-19 being lifted, the idea of municipalities and businesses seeking creative ways to reopen the economy is a fluid one. Between this week and next week those creative options may change. Another idea being floated involves eliminating one lane of parking on city side streets to expand even greater the usable spaces for businesses.
“A second option would be to look at the side streets, take one lane of parking away from the side streets and put up Jersey barriers between the parking lane and the driving lane,” Commissioner Dalton explained. That move would allow the current parking lane to become a barriered pedestrian walkway, and free existing sidewalks in their entirety for vendors and restaurants to use. Jersey barriers are concrete partitions and are so-named because of their notable use as median barriers in the late 1940s in New Jersey.
Commissioner Franck has been leading the charge for the second option. “I’m hoping and really pushing for the change to also have the ability to add some of the street space – not close streets down – but to put barriers down that would allow more area in front of businesses – especially restaurants and bars – to give you more space for walking area and also in front of your restaurant, bar, or retail,” Franck said.
“It’s evolving, and I don’t know if the votes are there for it, but why not just put a Jersey barrier out there along one side of the street. This isn’t for the next 20 years; later we could go back to business as usual, but the summer’s here – let’s get this done,” he said.
It is not clear whether that second measure may also be part of the June 16 meeting, but a majority of Council members – at least three of five member votes – are required to approve the proposal for it to take effect.
That installation of barriers would be for a temporary period – perhaps only through the summer – but they would stay in place throughout the period of implementation. In other words, they wouldn’t be removed and re-inserted on a daily basis, or in accordance with business hours. And while they would only be placed on certain blocks in the downtown business core – and not on Broadway – their implementation could extend to both the east and west side of the city.
As to which side streets the barriers would specifically be installed needs to be figured out. “It’s not like we’re going to impose it on everyone. The code would be re-written such that if the need is there, it’s something we can do. We want to take logical steps,” Dalton said.
The Public Hearing will begin at 6:55 p.m. Two agenda items later into the meeting address the matter. The chapter amendment may be viewed HERE and a draft of the licensing process may be viewed HERE.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The City Council will host a Public Hearing June 16 regarding temporarily extending "eating and drinking establishments" onto "auxiliary seating areas" on public property, as a result of necessary spacing precautions during the COVID-19 epidemic.
The measure – which would amend chapter 136 of the City Code – would allow the city to accommodate licensed eating and drinking establishments to provide their services to the public on specific public properties. Those public property locations have not been specified, although is generally assumed Broadway – a state road - is not among them. If approved, the approval process may be conducted through an application process for holders of valid licenses.
On Wednesday, June 3, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced outdoor dining at restaurants will be permitted beginning June 4 for restaurants in the Capital Region – which includes Saratoga Springs – as well as in the six other regions that have been approved for phase two reopenings. Outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart, all staff must wear face coverings and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The New York Racing Association opened for training at both the Oklahoma Training Track and Saratoga Race Course this week, coinciding with the return to racing at Belmont Park.
Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, however, both NYRA track locations will undergo big changes. The Belmont Park spring/summer meet will be held without spectators in attendance and much the same is anticipated for the Saratoga meet, which is scheduled to begin on Thursday, July 16 and run through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7.
The Oklahoma facility was originally slated to open April 15. NYRA says after consultations with the NYSGC and state and local public health officials, it has implemented a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols designed to protect and mitigate risk for employees, horsemen, backstretch workers and the Saratoga community.
The Oklahoma Training Track and Whitney Viewing Stand will be closed to owners and the public. Access will be restricted to essential personnel duly licensed by NYRA and the New York State Gaming Commission.
All personnel working at the Oklahoma Training Track must test negative for COVID-19 or test positive for the antibodies for COVID-19. This applies to both local personnel as well as those arriving from other regions.
All personnel licensed and approved to be on the property will be required to complete a daily health screening and temperature check conducted by trained EMTs. Face masks or coverings and adherence to strict social distancing measures will be mandatory at all times. Masks and personal protective equipment will be provided.
Cover Photo: Pam Worth and Alexandra Besso of Spoken Boutique are stronger together.
Gallery: 1. Marianne Barker and Maddy Zanetti, Impressions of Saratoga on Broadway.
2. Lifestyles of Saratoga owner Heidi Owen West and Margie Rotchford.
3. The Pink Paddock on Broadway.
All Photos by SuperSource Media.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Small business owners opened their doors to in-store customers and hair stylists their salons for the first time in more than two months as part of the Capital Region’s phase two reopening plan on June 3. Outdoor dining returned one day later.
“We opened at 9 o’clock and we already had someone waiting at the door,” said Maddy Zanetti, at Impressions of Saratoga. “We’ve been open the whole time for curbside, delivery and shipping but today is the first time of customers in the store.” A table cradling bottles of hand sanitizer and disposable gloves and masks sat near the entryway door.
“People are thrilled to be out,” added Marianne Barker. “I do think people who are leery are going to stay home for a while yet, but people know we’re pretty careful, we’ve been open about what we’re doing and the steps we’re taking."
Kimberly Burton opened the doors to her Pink Paddock shop at 11 a.m. “It’s been three months. Three very long months,” she said with emphasis, celebrating the 15th year of the Broadway shop that’s been fitted with hand sanitizing stations, plastic protective shields at the register counter and posted to inform customers of in-store capacity regulations. “I think people are anxious to get out of the house, to shop, to try on some new clothes,” she said gesturing toward the dressing rooms, which are disinfected between customer uses.
Phase Two reopening allows for in-store retail sales, hair salons and barbershops, and office-based work, in addition to real estate services, commercial building management, vehicle sales, leases, and rentals, and retail rental, repair, and cleaning. Outdoor dining was added to the list on the afternoon of June 3.
“We’re already booked for the next three weeks,” said Yvette Ruddy, a hairstylist at Remarkable Finish on Broadway, where a digital thermometer rests at the entryway and customer chairs have been placed at a safe distance from one another. The employees have all been tested for the COVID-19 virus before ensuring they could return to work, she said.
An array of state guidelines and restrictions accompany reopening plans for both workforce employees and customers, with presence being limited to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy for a particular area, as set by the certificate of occupancy. Employers are also recommended to adjust workplace hours to limit in-person presence to necessary staff only, as well as maintaining six feet of separation from others and wearing an acceptable face covering.
"What we have done with this COVID virus is really an amazing accomplishment, and it was all done by the people of this state. They did it, 19 million people did what they never did before. They responded with a level of determination and discipline that I was amazed with frankly," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week. "Remember where we were: we had 800 people die in one day. We had the worst situation in the United States of America. At one point we had the worst situation on the globe. And now we're reopening in less than 50 days. We went from an internationally terrible situation to where we’re talking about reopening."
To date, more than 105,000 U.S. residents have died during the past three months due to COVID-19. More than 38 million Americans have filed unemployment claims over the span of nine weeks. Whether the worst has passed or a so-called “second wave” returns - as some in the medical community have suggested – remains an unknown.
“I’m delighted to see our retailers open again. And as we are getting caught up in our reopening details and stores are focusing on their safety plans - and we have riots going on and protests going on, It’s easy to lose track that there still is a virus present in our community,” cautioned Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton.
In Saratoga County, there have been 495 confirmed cases of COVID-19 this year, 56 specifically being Saratoga Springs residents. Sixteen people have died, and 6 people are currently hospitalized. Approximately 2,500 residents have been isolated or quarantined at some point.
“We all need to keep our eye on the ball here and realize there still is a virus present, it’s still in our community and we need to be really vigilant as we continue these reopening phases, so we can get to phase three, so we can get to phase four and we can get back to some kind of normalcy,” Dalton said.
Gov. Cuomo’s NY Pause order went into effect March 22, and the city of Saratoga Springs and the greater Capital District Region were cleared by the state to begin the phase 1 re-opening of the local economy beginning Wednesday, May 20.
There are four reopening phases in all, and an up-to 14-day incubation period between phases to ensure that infection rates and hospitalizations are maintained at a manageable level. Phase Three – which includes indoor dining at restaurants, is currently slated for its reopening phase June 17; Phase Four, which focuses on Arts/ Entertainment / Recreation, and Education, including libraries, will potentially hit its reopening mark July 1.
On May 28, Cuomo signed an Executive Order authorizing businesses the ability to deny entry to those who do not wear masks or face-coverings. "The store owner has a right to protect themselves (and) the other patrons in that store," he said. A subsequent announcement states summer day camps statewide can open on June 29. A decision on sleep-away camps will be made in the coming weeks.
Malls - specifically any indoor common portions of retail shopping malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space available for lease, remain closed. However, stores located within shopping malls, which have their own external entrances open to the public, separate from the general mall entrance may open.
Also remaining closed are: large gathering event and concert venues, gyms, fitness centers, Video lottery and casino gaming facilities, movie theaters - except drive-in theaters - and places of public amusement, such as amusement parks, water parks, children’s play centers, bowling alleys, and other locations where groups of people may gather.
ALBANY — On Sunday, approximately 50,000 tests were conducted statewide regarding COVID-19 infections, with less than 1,000 people testing positive for the virus, and 54 reported deaths.
"That is the lowest number we’ve had since this began," state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. "The progress is just phenomenal."
Saratoga, Albany, Glens Falls and the surrounding communities are currently in "Phase One" of the reopening process, and an evaluation of infection rates is underway with the possibility of the region on Wednesday going to "Phase Two."
"The Capital District region is moving to go into Phase 2 on Wednesday. All the numbers look good there. We’re going to run them by our local team to make sure they are as good as we think they are, but at this point the Capital Region is on track to go into Phase 2 on Wednesday," Cuomo said.
Phase 2 reopening includes hair salons and barber shops, in-store retail, real estate, offices and others. Distancing, mask guidelines and crowd limits remain in place. For details go HERE.
"What we have done with this COVID virus is really an amazing accomplishment, and it was all done by the people of this state. They did it, 19 million people did what they never did before. They responded with a level of determination and discipline that I was amazed with frankly," Cuomo said Monday. "Remember where we were: we had 800 people die in one day. We had the worst situation in the United States of America. At one point we had the worst situation on the globe. And now we're reopening in less than 50 days. We went from an internationally terrible situation to where we’re talking about reopening today."
The Saratoga County Department of Public Health Services today confirmed the death of one more county resident from COVID-19 — a 69-year-old male from Halfmoon. Updated statistics:
• Confirmed cases of COVID-19: 481
• Deaths: 16
• Recovered cases: 418
• Active cases: 48
• Hospitalizations: 6
• Total tested: 11,577
As part of the Governor’s initiative for antibody sampling of essential workers, food delivery and restaurant workers will be offered the opportunity to receive free COVID-19 antibody testing conducted by the New York State Department of Health. The testing process takes approximately 15 minutes. No appointment is necessary.
Site hours: testing takes place 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. June 1 through Thursday, June 4 at SUNY Albany - SEFCU Arena (please enter via Western Avenue) - 1400 Washington Ave.
WILTON — Earlier this month U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik visited with President Donald Trump at Camp David, where she said the president talked extensively about the research and development that’s going into a COVID-19 vaccination, as well as the “reopening” of the country.
“The president is very supportive of the safe reopening of the economy, which he’s delegated it to the states, and that was the right decision,” said the Congresswoman during a visit to a Belmonte Builders construction site in Wilton on May 26. “I want to see it at the state level – the delegation to the County Public Health Offices. I think that’s the right call moving forward because they’re the most connected.”
Stefanik represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes parts of Saratoga.
As the community prepares for its potential Phase 2 reopening next week, Stefanik said she believes preparations are also underway should a rise in COVID-19 infections hit the region.
“In my communications with the county public health offices and the hospitals, we are watching the data very, very closely. Our (increased) testing capacity gives us a better understanding of the real data in upstate, because initially we were undertested in this region,” she said. “But certainly, there are plans and discussions going on if there is a second surge in the virus transmission. It’s part of the conversation about reopening schools - we have to reopen schools safely and there are ways to do that - but many of our students who are underserved either in the disabilities community, or who are unable to access online education, they have atrophied so much during this crisis. I feel very confident that those conversations are being professionally handled by the county public health offices.”
Stefanik’s visit coincided with a joint announcement that she and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko made. Tonko represents the 20th Congressional District, which like the 21st District also includes parts of Saratoga. The announcement heralded a $61,515 award from the Federal Communications Commission to improve telehealth for Saratoga Hospital Consortium in Saratoga Springs. The funding is intended for remote diagnosis and monitoring equipment and other telehealth equipment to treat patients with COVID-19 infection and to expand telehealth to other patients with symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
“Out of necessary efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19, telemedicine has quickly become the primary method of connection between a patient and their doctor,” Saratoga Hospital CEO and President Angelo Calbone said in a statement. “Unfortunately, anyone who doesn’t have access to internet services and equipment can’t participate. Sometimes, a video visit can’t provide enough clinical information about a patient’s current status for those with chronic or serious conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. This grant enables us to pilot a Facilitated Telemedicine program that will provide essential medical care to these underserved populations without having to leave their homes.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city may take several cost-cutting actions during its Tuesday, May 19 meeting as it looks for ways to fill an anticipated absence of revenue sources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan estimated the city may lose $14 to $16 million in revenue in 2020 - nearly one-third its $48.7 million operating budget. Furloughs, deferred raises, retirements, and layoffs are all on the table.
“In the face of the absence of federal assistance coupled with revenue losses – all of our revenues pretty much - jurisdictions across the state are moving ahead with layoffs and furloughs,” Madigan said, during the council’s last meeting, earlier this month. “It is critical that we significantly reduce our spending now.”
Furloughs are preferable to layoffs, Madigan said, as they would provide immediate expense reductions as well as allowing those furloughed the ability to collect state unemployment funding as well as maintain their city-provided benefits. While 33 city employees are “available” for retirement, however, at retirement they would be due compensatory time, sick time and overtime pay.
“Many of our employees have reduced duties during our stay-at-home period while the city still pays them as if they were working a 100% schedule,” she said. “The more people we furlough now – and it will be difficult - the fewer we will need to consider laying off later in the year.”
Through the first quarter of 2020, the city announced it had collected just over $9.1 million (or 57%) in property taxes, but by the March 31 reporting date had not received many larger revenue streams. Those include: sales tax figures (March collections are distributed to the city in April and May), VLT Aid (paid in June), Hotel Occupancy Tax (April), Water and Sewer Revenues (May 15 due date) as well as other sources paid later in the year. The city is annually paid NYRA Admissions Tax for hosting the summer meet, but that funding outcome is not known for 2020 should NYRA decide to run at Saratoga while not admitting ticket-paying fans.
Every county in every region of the state saw a large drop in local sales tax collections in April, according to a report announced by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on May 12. Social distancing protocols were established with the “New York State on PAUSE” initiative, which has shuttered non-essential businesses and offices since March 22.
Of all regions in the state, the greater Capital District had the most severe decline – down 28.8 percent and totaling $42.6 million - down from $59.9 million exactly one year earlier.
Saratoga County was down from $10 million to $7.4 million overall, and tax collections in Saratoga Springs specifically dropped from $900,000 in April 2019 to $700,000 in April 2020, according to the report, which rounds figures in millions of dollars.
To compensate for a potential $14 million to $16 million revenue shortfall in Saratoga Springs in 2020, the council is contemplating the use of approximately $4.5 million of the city’s unassigned and unrestricted fund balance, Madigan said, as well as “$1 million from the re-assignment of various assignments, $2.4 million in a budget note due to be paid back at the end of 2021, and $4 million in departmental expense reductions.” Those measures total $11.9 million, leaving a projected revenue shortfall of $2.1 to $4.1 million.
Earlier this month, the City Council approved a series of budget transfer resolutions to fund the last stage of renovations at City Hall, which has been closed since an August 2018 lightning strike caused substantial damage to the 19th century structure. Shortly after the closure of City Hall, the city relocated most of its operations to the Vanderbilt Avenue recreation facility.
Approximately $567,000 is required to complete the renovation of the building.
To that point, the City Council unanimously approved moving $167,000 from the building reserve fund, $151,000 that had been targeted for the Saratoga Arts building, and more than $188,000 of the $200,000 it had previously approved for Recreation Department Skate Park improvements at East Side Rec. Last week, the city announced the cancellation of Recreation Department summer events and camps.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s three Land Use Boards – the Planning Board, Design Review Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals have resumed their public meetings, which are currently held virtually via Zoom videoconferencing. They may be viewed by visiting the city of Saratoga Springs website at saratoga-springs.org.
This week, the DRC is expected to preside over architectural reviews regarding Station Lane Apartments - a new three-building, 39-unit apartment complex on the city’s west side, and Bethesda Episcopal – a mixed-use 4-story building at 26 Washington St.
Additionally, a popular Stewart’s Shop, which has operated at 402 Lake Avenue since 1990, is seeking an area variance that will redevelop/expand the current shop into a 4,130 square foot convenience store, with two gasoline fueling canopies. The improvements will “bring the building into closer aesthetic alignment with its surroundings,” according to documents filed with the city.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Robin Dalton surveyed the all-important region’s chart of metrics. There are seven metrics in all and once all seven are satisfied, Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County and the seven other counties that flank it may begin a phased reopening of their businesses.
Number of tests that will be conducted on residents: check. Contact tracers: check. Hospital beds and ICU beds available: check, and check.
“I think we’re getting close,” says the city’s Public Safety Commissioner, who alongside Fire Department Chief Joe Dolan and Chief Aaron Dyer, Police Chief Shane Crooks and Chief John Catone, Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Eileen Finneran, and Risk and Safety Manager Marilyn Rivers comprise the City of Saratoga Springs COVID-19 Task Force.
The group is, among other things, putting the finishing touches on safety guideline protocols and procedures for businesses in Saratoga Springs.
“I think it’s really important for businesses to think about a plan of what things will look like when they open,” she says. “Soup-to-nuts we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for businesses to reopen without having to seek out additional guidelines from anywhere else.” The list of protocols will be made available during the next few days, with copies distributed to city businesses and available for download on the city’s website.
“Recovery will look different in every business, because you have unique situations. You have to accommodate social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-sanitizers. Every business will look different,” Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said during a Facebook Live event forum hosted by Saratoga County on May 13.
Before it may start its phased re-opening however, the region as a whole must hit on all its metrics. The tallies change daily, but at this point in mid-May, it has not reached acceptable grades regarding declines in hospitalizations and patient deaths in hospitals.
The seven-metric standard for reopening were established based on guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of State, and other public health experts.
New York State is separated into 10 geographical regions each comprised of a half-dozen or so counties. Saratoga is located in an eight-county “Capital Region” sector which stretches from Columbia County to Warren County. This week, four of the ten regions announced they had met all seven metrics. They include: the Finger Lakes Region, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier and the North Country – which begins north and west of Warren County and stretches to the Canadian border.
NY ON PAUSE
Two months ago, an Executive Order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s put New York State on PAUSE. The plan went into effect March 22 and put social distancing measures in place, closed non-essential businesses, and limited public gatherings in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Those efforts to “flatten the curve” were successful. After peaking in late March and into early April, the charted rate of infections, hospitalizations and number of deaths slowly began to decline.
The governor’s daily public briefings have showcased the graphs and tracked the trends.
May 8: “We have the beast on the run. We haven’t killed the beast – but we’re ahead of it. The hospitalization rate is coming down, the death rate is coming down, so that’s all good news and I feel that – for the first time in this engagement – we are actually ahead of the virus. We have the virus on the run because we have been smart, because we have been disciplined.”
May 10: “We’re right about where we were March 19, when we went into the abyss of the COVID virus…from my point-of-view, we’re on the other side of the mountain. All the arrows are pointed in the right direction.””
May 11: “It’s an exciting new phase. We’re all anxious to get back to work. We want to do it smartly. We want to do it intelligently, but we want to do it. That’s what this week is going to be all about.”
AFTER REOPENING, STAYING OPEN
One key component after reopening is having a keen eye on potential rising infection rates, and a steady hand to slow that rise.
“Watch for infections,” Cuomo said. “The local region has a Control Room and a Circuit Breaker: If You see those dials going into the red zone – if you closely watch the dials you won’t have to turn the valve off – you would just have to slow the valve a little bit. You can’t overwhelm your hospitals. It depends upon how smart you are with your openings.”
The person in Saratoga charged with having that keen eye and steady hand is County Administrator Spencer Hellwig - who was named to Gov. Cuomo’s Regional Control Room team for the Capital District alongside leaders from other counties in the region. It is his responsibility to watch the dials and “slow the valve,” before the numbers spike to a point where everything must shut down.
“When you hit all seven metrics that doesn’t mean: OK, we’re done. Monitor every day. That’s the regional responsibility. Look at those numbers every day. See what’s happening with those numbers every day and respond to those numbers. That’s the responsibility of every county. That has to be watched every day and you have to calibrate your level of activity every day,” Cuomo said May 13. “If people get cavalier, cocky, if they get arrogant, we’ll be right back in the same situation.”
Striking the perfect balance of “reopening” the economy while maintaining the safety of public health is key. “That is the struggle, constantly weighing these two things,” Dalton says. “Both have to win. We can’t have a loser. The economy has to do well, and people have to stay alive and healthy.”
Businesses in each region will re-open in phases. Re-opening refers to non-essential businesses, essential businesses that are open will remain open. The breakdown of industries in each phase: Phase One - Construction, Manufacturing, Retail – Curbside Pickup, Wholesale Trade, Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting; Phase Two - Professional Services, Retail. Administrative Support, Real Estate / Rental & Leasing; Phase Three - Restaurants / Food Services; Phase Four - Arts / Entertainment / Recreation and Education. Regions aside, drive-In movies have been deemed able to reopen by the governor. Malta Drive-In, located on Route 9, is slated to open their season Friday, May 22 with new protocols and guidelines.
There is a recommended 14 day wait in between the opening of phases. “Fourteen days is a preliminary estimate,” Cuomo said May 12. “Why 14 days? You got infected, the virus manifests. If you get seriously ill, you end up in a hospital. That takes about 14 days. But, you can watch it all along. If those rates are staying low, can you accelerate the 14 days? Theoretically yes. If you’re testing isn’t moving (in a negative direction), then you could say: we’re in good shape, less accelerate.”
On May 12, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Preston Allen announced the creation of a reopening advisory group tasked with guiding the county’s reopening efforts. The group will focus on CDC guidelines in a phased-in approach for businesses and necessary health precautions related to the county and coordinate these efforts with the other seven counties that comprise the Capital District region.
The advisory group is made up of supervisors Jack Lawler, Ed Kinowski, Eric Connolly, Tom Richardson, Kevin Tollisen, Dan Pemrick, and Matt Veitch; Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo; County Public Health Services Director Cathi Duncan, Stewart’s Shops President Gary Dake, county Chamber President Todd Shimkus, and Charles V. Wait, President and CEO, Adirondack Trust Co.
“The County has selected this diverse group to navigate the complicated reopening process, Supervisor Preston Allen said in a statement. “While we all recognize that the economy must open back up soon, we cannot do this hastily or without regard for the serious public health concerns. This group will be thoughtful and pragmatic, with the best interests of county residents serving as a guiding principle.”
On May 12, Saratoga Springs extended its State of Emergency for another 30 days, until June 12. The order allows the city the ability of its emergency management committee to make decisions regarding how it responds to the virus in the city and is a critical component of following ICS (Incident Command Systems) forms, as well as ensuring FEMA guidelines are being followed.
“We’re doing this in a way so that we’re documenting every single thing we’re doing in the hope that we’re getting reimbursed after the fact, but it also gives us the freedom to react as a city, as opposed to whatever the state’s doing, if for some reason our numbers suddenly go up,“ Dalton said.
“I would implore people to follow the rules, because if we have a group of businesses that just open up out of their own self-interests, it is going to have a dramatically negative effect on our area,” Dalton says. “We all need to be working for the collective good.”
There are two different types of tests; a nasal swab test determines whether a person currently has the COVID-19 virus. An antibody test – which is a blood test – seeks to identify whether a person previously had the virus.
Currently, just two venues located in Saratoga County where testing is conducted – there are additional resources in Warren and Albany counties - and the criteria for testing in either case is for persons symptomatic or who have had exposure to a positive case.
Saratoga Hospital conducts the swab test at a tent located at the Alfred Z. Solomon Emergency Center on Myrtle Street. Appointment and referral from physician or local health department is required. Contact your doctor for assessment. Providers may call to set up appointment. Go to: www.saratogahospital.org/covid19.
Well Now Urgent Care on Route 9 in Clifton Park offers both tests. No appointment is needed. Testing is covered in full for patients that carry insurance as part of the CARES Act. For self-pay patients, testing costs $150 for the molecular (PCR) test and $100 for the antibody test, in addition to a charge for the base visit. Go to: wellnow.com/covid-19.