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ALBANY — During his Friday afternoon press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo specified that COVID-19 infection rates have fallen much more "dramatically" in regions of upstate New York than they have downstate, but stopped short of officially announcing portions of the state will reopen after May 15, when the governor's "NY on PAUSE" order expires.
“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," Cuomo said.
"We have the virus on the run because we have been smart, because we have been disciplined," he said.
"If you look at these numbers now, and factor them forward, the numbers in upstate New York have been dramatically different than downstate... and we’ll be talking about construction, manufacturing, reopening in upstate," Cuomo said. “We get to May 15, I’ll lay out the numbers – here are the numbers, and here is what the numbers say."
Cuomo added: "Downstate, I don’t think those numbers are going to change dramatically enough to make a difference in the next few days."
SARATOGA SPRINGS — First, the money. In 2019, $2.1 billion was wagered on 2,000 races at Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont, according to the New York Racing Association.
The Saratoga meet (40 days) delivered the largest return of gambled money - $147 million wagered at the track, and a $705 million all-source handle – meaning many more dollars were spent on Saratoga races at off-track betting sites across the globe, than were at the actual track. Other 2019 betting dollars: Belmont Spring & Summer – 48 days, $525 million all-source handle; Belmont Fall – 37 days, $275 million; Aqueduct – 25 days Fall, $205 million.
What they are saying about Saratoga:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: You can’t open an attraction that could bring people from across the state to that attraction and overwhelm a region. We have time to decide first of all, but I don’t think you can open Saratoga Race Course (slated July 16) and the State Fair (Syracuse – slated Aug. 21) unless we can open all large-scale attractions statewide. Density is not our friend...How do you do sit six feet apart at the racetrack?
New York Racing Association plans to open at Belmont first, then Saratoga - Closing to spectators and reducing employees and support staff to only those who are required under the rules of racing.
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, 113th Assembly District: move forward planning to hold this year’s race meet. Potential “opportunities including but not limited to social distancing, limited viewership, and personal protective equipment.”
Elsie Stefanik, 21st Congressional District: explore options for the racecourse to reopen for the meet with updated operations based on public health recommendations. Protect public health but also ensure the meet moves forward in a modified capacity to protect the public's health.
Board of Directors of the Adirondack Trust Company: give NYRA time to draw up careful plans—subject to state approval—that would allow a limited number of fans to attend racing consistent with safety protocols. Examples: limiting the number of seats and/or entry tickets sold, marking and monitoring designated viewing areas to ensure proper social distancing, plexiglass screens, mandatory temperature checks and masks, changes in backstretch housing and strong protections for workers, strictly enforced.
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced that portions of the state may be able to reopen on May 15 when the New York on PAUSE order expires.
The potential reopenings will occur in phases by "regions," and only if regions meet a series of benchmarks.
The measures that need to be in place refer to the monitoring capabilities of new infections, securing there is adequate capacity in the health care system to deal with potential new illnesses and hospitalizations, increased diagnostic testing, and having contact tracing in place to lessen the spread of the disease.
Saratoga County is incoporated into the Capital Region - an eight-county area also consisting of Warren, Washington, Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Columbia, and Greene counties.
The criteria to reopen is comprised of seven headings. The Capital Region currently meets five of those. Those five include: a 14-day decrease in hospital deaths or fewer than five deaths over a three-day average; less than 2 per 100,000 new hospitalizations over a three-day rolling average; having ample hospital beds available – 41 % of total beds and 44 % of ICU beds where a minimum of 30% is required for each, and exceeding the metric requirements for the number of contact tracers needed.
The regional shortcomings, as depicted in a slide presentation by the governor on Monday, are in two categories. Those are: showing a 14-day decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations, and having a minimum of 30 per 1,000 residents tested monthly. Both the categories are taken as a three-day average.
Using Saratoga County specifically as a reference point, the number of hospitalizations has remained below the 15 person threshold since mid-April, although the county falls short in the testing criteria - which would require approximately 700 Saratoga County residents be tested every three days. Recently the average number of residents being tested has been just under 500.
Still, it is important to note that Saratoga comprises just one of the eight counties in the Capital "Region" directive. Numbers from all counties must be collected an analyed, and the governor said Monday that regions believing they can start to reopen May 15 must first conduct their own analysis and ensure they meet the approriate criteria. "These are the facts they have to have in place to do it," Cuomo said. "Start now with the analysis; don’t wait until May 15."
The reopening would happen in stages.
Phase 1: Construction, Manufacturing and wholesale supply chain, Select Retail - curbside pickup.
Phase 2: Professional services, Finance and Insurance, Retail, Administrative Support, Real Estate/ Rental Leasing.
Phase 3: Restaurants/ Food Services, Hotels/Accomodations.
Phase 4: Arts/ Entertainment/ Recreation, Education.
The regional approach would require input from, and the coordination of a variety of people - elected officials and hospital officials, among them. Details regarding the formation of a regional group, or the composition of its members is not immediately known.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week announced the possibility of some regions of the state gradually “reopening” after May 15, although he warned that potential phased-approach would not include attractions that would cause a large number of visitors flooding in from other areas. “You can’t do anything in one region that would increase the visitors to that (reopened) region,” he said. As such, the waiting game is in full swing in the Spa City - just wishing and hoping and planning and dreaming, to paraphrase a Dusty Springfield song - regarding the anticipated waves of the COVID-19 virus and its effect on everything from the competition of thoroughbreds at the racecourse to the staging of concerts at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
In a letter posted on SPAC’s website, organization President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol writes: “We understand that your own future planning may be affected by public concerns around the spread of COVID-19. The health and safety of everyone in our SPAC family and the Community are of critical importance to us, and we are adhering to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as consulting continuously with local and state health authorities about the safest path forward for the coming months.”
The New York City Ballet, scheduled to stage their residency at SPAC mid-July, have cancelled their Spring Season 2020 performances at Lincoln Center, which was slated to run through May 29.
The Philadelphia Orchestra, whose homestand at SPAC is set to stage in August, have cancelled all their rehearsals, performances, and events through June.
The SPAC Jazz festival June 27-28, headlined by Nile Rodgers & Chic, and Kool & The Gang, is still on at this point, as are the majority of summer pop concerts presented by Live Nation, with few outright cancellations - June 7: Celtic Woman; June 13: Zac Brown Band, and Aug. 3: Dead & Company, among them.
Cancellations may come at any time. As it stands at this moment, the schedule of summer pop concerts at Saratoga Performing Arts is as follows:
June 6: The Lumineers - III: The World Tour
June 24: KIDZ BOP Live 2020 Tour
June 30: Steely Dan with Special Guest Steve Winwood
July 2: Tedeschi Trucks Band - Wheels Of Soul 2020
July 3: Lindsey Stirling
July 8: Alanis Morissette with Special Guest Garbage and also appearing Liz Phair
July 9: Bob Dylan, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, The Hot Club Of Cowtown
July 10, 11: Dave Matthews Band
July 12: Countryfest 2020 with Brantley Gilbert & More
July 21: Chicago with Rick Springfield
July 22: Nickelback: All The Right Reasons Tour
July 24: Matchbox Twenty 2020
July 25: The Black Crowes Present: Shake Your Money Maker
July 26: The Doobie Brothers - 50th Anniversary Tour
July 29: Rod Stewart
Aug. 1: Journey with Pretenders
Aug. 4: Disturbed: The Sickness 20th Anniversary Tour with Staind & Bad Wolves
Aug. 9: Foreigner: Juke Box Hero Tour 2020
Aug. 11: Incubus with 311
Aug. 18: Sammy Hagar & The Circle and Whitesnake with Special Guest Night Ranger
Aug. 23: Goo Goo Dolls: The Miracle Pill Summer Tour
Aug. 31: Daryl Hall & John Oates
Sept. 6: Maroon 5
Sept. 6: Meghan Trainor
Sept. 11: Backstreet Boys: DNA World Tour
Sept. 12: The Australian Pink Floyd Show - All That You Feel World Tour 2020
Visit spac.org for more details.
• Statewide, the number of total hospitalizations, intubations, new infection cases and deaths due to COVID-19 continue to stabilize or decline, although the number of new hospitalizations are flat about 1,000 per day, and the daily death count is still in the hundreds. Approximately 30,000 are tested for the virus daily across the state.
• In Saratoga County specifically, approximately 2% of the county’s 240,000 residents have been tested. Those tests have been conducted largely with people who are health care workers, or patients who have displayed signs of illness or have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. About 7.4% of those who have taken the test - roughly 350 people – have tested positive for the virus, as of mid-week.
• Reopening. A plan to reopen segments of the state is underway, and the plan is to re-open in phases, and in particular regions, not statewide. This will occur after May 15, which is the date until the state remain on “pause.” “I will extend them in many parts of the state, but in some parts of the state, some regions, you could make the case that we can UN-Pause. But we have to be smart about it,” Cuomo said.
Criteria for potential reopening includes using CDC guidelines - that is, regional hospitalization rates must be in decline for 14 days.
• In advance of reopening: Ensure an appropriate testing regimen, and put a tracing system in place. Tracing: identifies all who came into contact with infected person. Recommended: need at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people. Regions must also have plans for rooms available as “isolation facilities,” for infected residents who need to isolate, but cannot do so in their homes. Each region must appoint an oversight institution to monitor metrics.
• Rate of infection: In New York City, right now 1 person infects 0.8 people; that rate is a little higher upstate which is at 0.9 percent, i.e.- 1 person infects 0.9 percent (less than one person). “If we keep the infection rate at less than one person that is where the infection rate continues to drop. So, we have to stay there.”
Points to watch after reopening: If hospitals hit 70% capacity OR rate of transmission of virus hits 1.1 – those are danger signs. “You must have 30% of your hospital beds available, 30% of your ICU beds,” Cuomo said.
• Likely to reopen first is/are potentially regions in upstate New York.
• One caveat to reopening: NO attractions / openings that would draw a large number of visitors. “You can’t do anything in one region that would increase the visitors to that (reopened) region. It’s possible that you open something in Syracuse or you open something in the North Country where you now see license plates coming in from Connecticut and New Jersey, people from downstate, all coming to that area because they’ve been on lock-down and are now looking for an activity,” Cuomo said. “So that’s something we have to pay attention to. And all that is (conducted) in a multi-state context with our neighboring states and most relevant with downstate.” Identified downstate as: New York City, Long Island, Westchester.
• Gov. Cuomo also specifically discussed the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course. “You can’t open an attraction that could bring people from across the state to that attraction and overwhelm a region,” Cuomo said. “Saratoga Race Track – I don’t think you can open unless we can open (all large-scale attractions) statewide.”
Cuomo went on to say that a pent-up public demand to get out of the house would result in people from across the northeast region flocking to Saratoga. “Now, you could say, well, that’s great for the Saratoga Race Track – but density is not our friend...How do you do six feet apart at the racetrack?” He added that any such opening would require a statewide opening of various public attractions so as to reduce the density of people overwhelmingly flocking to just one region.
• On casinos: “You have to look at the industry and how they’re going to conduct their business. You’d have to do social distancing, you’d have to have monitoring. It’s going to be difficult in the context of a casino, but depending on the casino: not impossible. You’d have to look at it on an individual basis.”
• On schools: “We will have a decision by the end of this week what to do about schools.”
• The first phase of reopening will be in the Construction/ Manufacturing sector with low-risk. There will then be a monitoring of effects two weeks after reopening regarding the status of new infections, as that is typically the amount of time it takes for the illness to manifest.
How to monitor after reopening, three ways: diagnostic tests (positive or negative if you are infected); antibody tests (how many people had previously been infected); number of hospitalizations. If the monitoring process reveals no new problems, then a second phase, involving more essential lower-risk businesses may be opened in that region. The governor said he is open to dialogue regarding what kind of businesses those should be.
• Antibody testing continues. Antibody testing indicates who has had the virus. Percent positive average statewide: 14.9%. Capital Region specifically (which includes Saratoga): 2.1%. According to the survey, 25% of the NY City population has had the virus and have now recovered.
• According to a mapped depiction of the state broken into regions, the “Capital District” includes an eight-county region: Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Columbia, Greene, Albany, and Schenectady counties.
• Diagnostic testing statewide is about 30,000 per day.
• Antibody testing this week will be conducted on 3,000 health care workers and 1,000 transit workers, 1,000 NYPD and 1,000 NYFD.
• Gov. Cuomo this week requested the Board of Elections mail every New York voter a return postage paid application whereby residents may secure a voting ballot. “If you want to vote, we should send you a ballot so you can vote and don’t have to wait on line,” Cuomo said. Physical polls will still be open on Election Day.
• Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said a regional task force of 40 people from Saratoga County has been put together and meeting virtually to address protocols for an eventual safe reopening of businesses.
• Congressman Paul Tonko (D, NY-20) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R, NY-21) both voted in the House of Representatives in support of advancing a $484 billion interim emergency funding package that will provide vital assistance to small businesses and protect Americans with added aid to hospitals, healthcare workers and testing. The bill was passed by a vote of 388 – 5. The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act: Provides an additional $310 billion in PPP loans; Provides an additional $10 billion for Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) grants; Appropriates an additional $50 billion for the Disaster Loans Program Account; Allows agricultural enterprises with less than 500 employees to receive EIDL grants and loans; Provides an additional $75 billion for reimbursement to hospitals and healthcare providers to support the need for COVID-19 related expenses and lost revenue, and provides $25 billion for necessary expenses to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity for COVID-19 tests.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — An increasingly dangerous sign of the coronavirus lockdown has come to light in recent weeks in communities across the country where there is a marked increase of people delaying seeking care when they are sick or hurt.
The issue has grown from a reluctance of people willing to go to hospitals or urgent care facilities for fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Last week, the Washington Post reported on the international phenomenon of the pandemic producing a silent sub-epidemic of people who need care at hospitals but are frightened to go to the ER. Titled “Patients with heart attacks, strokes and even appendicitis vanish from hospitals,” the article described how people with everything from inflamed appendixes to those suffering chest pains and stroke symptoms were avoiding seeking medical treatment out of fear of physically seeking care, resulting in illness and mortality concerns among the medical community. This has also played out on the local stage.
“If you’re having a medical problem that concerns you and goes beyond what a physician in their office can manage then you should really come to the emergency department, or Urgent Care and let us take care of you. People should not wait until things can go very bad for them,” says Dr. Timothy Brooks, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Saratoga Hospital.
“Since this started, we’ve watched our volume drop off 40 to 50 %. The number of people who would normally come in by ambulance or by foot have disappeared. Our perception is that people are terrified about coming in because they have the belief they could catch COVID-19.
“This drop in volume really concerns us, because the disease progression that people have for all the other medical problems continues on, and what we’re seeing is people waiting far too long to come in. Instead of having a problem that might require a brief hospitalization, they are critically ill and end up on a ventilator in the ICU. And that’s happened multiple times,” says Dr. Brooks, who was born in Detroit, studied at medical school at the University of Michigan and relocated to Saratoga Springs in the late 1980s
Saratoga Hospital assures that precautions are in place to take care of all patients, and everyone admitted to the hospital is tested for COVID-19. “At the hospital and at Urgent Care – we have mechanisms in place to keep people separated and to take care of them safely. There’s not a single person in the building where we don’t know their status relative to being covid-positive or covid-negative. That way we can separate people out with COVID-19 infections,” Dr. Brooks says. “They are isolated on a separate floor and are taken care of by specific nurses, and other parts of the hospitals do not have those types of patients. Once a patient leaves our department, their room is completely sanitized with the appropriate cleaners and virus-cides.”
Inside the hospital, the work goes on. “The day has changed in the sense that when you approach patients who may be infectious it takes a little more time and preparation before you go into each room, as well as when you leave that room,” Dr. Brooks says. “I have to say I am so proud of the staff in this emergency department. Everybody stepped up to the line.”
Regardless of when an un-pausing or reopening occurs, Brooks says until a vaccine is introduced, he anticipates the virus will circulate among the population, and that the hospital is prepared to deal with ongoing public issues.
As for hospital occupancy, there is ample space for people to address issues both in the emergency room and the rest of the hospital. This week, Gov. Cuomo announced he will sign an Executive Order allowing some hospitals – Saratoga Hospital among them – to resume conducting elective surgeries, a practice which he had ordered halted in March as the virus was spreading across the state.
Saratoga Hospital currently describes three working criteria for beginning what is broadly termed “elective” surgery. The procedures are defined as: medically necessary, time-sensitive surgeries for patients with significant symptoms or serious illness, and a predicted negative health impact without the surgery.
“Cases that needed to be done and should be done, we’re in the process of bringing those back and getting them going. We’re still holding off on some areas that I would call discretionary – cosmetic plastic surgery is a good example,” says Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone. “People who are in pain, conditions that may worsen if we don’t get to them. This is work that needs to be done.”
Approximately 3,000 people work under the Saratoga Hospital banner. At the hospital, there are approximately 170 licensed beds.
“This has been a learn-as-you-go situation. We know how to run a hospital. We know how to respond to emergencies. This has been a new struggle challenge for all of us. I can tell you the staff here have been beyond remarkable, gearing up, understanding the new protocols. They’ve done a wonderful job,” Calbone says. “Frankly what has been a challenge has been the lack of testing materials, getting access to personal protective equipment for our staff and the bottleneck supply chain that emerged. That really threw a wrench into every institution’s ability to respond to this. But how our staff managed COVID in the building isn’t that different to how they managed every infectious disease. I think the entire industry was startled as to short supplies and access to supplies and how limited testing was at the time we needed it most. That’s what made this unusually challenging.
“We have had our heads down, seven days a week, making sure this hospital is well-positioned and capable of taking care of the community. Hospitals and health care providers are very used to taking care of infectious diseases – we know how to do that. And we’ve taken great strides making this a very safe environment. We’re confident and comfortable saying to our entire community: if you need to access health care, this is as safe of an environment as you will enter anywhere in the community. Being afraid to come in, isn’t a good reason to avoid care,” Calbone says.
“We get concerned when we see patients end up in our ER with conditions that have worsened and potentially even threatened their lives that could easily have been managed if they sought care – as they would have – three months ago. That’s a message we’re been trying to get out there.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A new six-story office building may soon be coming to Broadway.
This week, an application anticipated to be reviewed by the Saratoga Springs Planning Board calls for the site plan review of a proposed project at 269 Broadway which will see the construction of a six-story commercial and retail building for mixed-use, as well as an underground parking garage.
The building is slotted to stand on the west side of Broadway, between Broadway and Hamilton Street, just north of Saratoga Central Catholic High School.
The applicants – 269 Broadway LLC – are located at 85 Railroad Place, headquarters of Prime Group Holdings, which owns and manages over $2 billion of self-storage properties across the U.S. According to the Albany Business Review, the company currently employs 70 people downtown and the company’s founder and chief executive Bob Moser expects that number to expand by 50 to 100% with the development of a new
six-story corporate headquarters on Broadway.
The first floor of the building will consist of retail, with the second through sixth floors housing offices. A restaurant will be added to the second floor. At its tallest, the structure will rise to 70 feet in height.
There are currently 24 existing parking spaces on the otherwise vacant lot site where the building will be constructed. The application seeks to add an additional 47, creating a total of 71 spaces. Those spaces will be a part of a two-level underground parking garage accessible via Hamilton Street.
• The council during its Tuesday meeting unanimously approved by a 4-0 measure a 30-day extension of the city’s State of Emergency declaration, initially declared in March. That State of Emergency now goes through May 12. City Mayor Meg Kelly was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
• Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton updated the latest known status of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course, which is slated to begin July 16.
“My understanding is that NYRA is following the governor’s recommendations and they are preparing to be open and to run if they have the opportunity to do so - meaning the restrictions on mass gatherings and events will have to be lifted,” Dalton said. “If indeed that happens then they will be ready to run in July.”
Accounts commissioner John Franck added that there also is a possibility that the Saratoga meet may be staged with no fans present. “This is what I heard from various representatives and racing people; I guess the reason being there will still be gambling online, so there would still be revenues coming in to NYRA and the state. We just don’t know yet.”
Last year, the meet at Saratoga Race Course generated more than $700 million in all-sources handle for the first time in NYRA history at The Spa, despite losing one full racing day to a weather cancellation. The $705.3 million all-source handle bested 2018’s total by more than $46 million.
• Late Fees for City, County and Delinquent School Taxes: Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said the city had looked into the potential waiver of fees and penalties as they relate to tax bills. “Last week the late notices went out to anyone who was late paying their taxes and that really kicked off quite the firestorm,” Madigan said Tuesday, during a meeting of the City Council via Zoom. “Unfortunately, legal research shows that the city has no authority to waive these fees. The only person who can do so during the State of Emergency is the New York State governor.” The New York Conference of Mayors legal team reports that local governments do not have unilateral authority to extend the interest-free period with respect to the payment of property taxes, she added.
Regarding other types of fees or late payments that are established via local law - such as water, sewer, garbage - local governments do have the ability to extend or modify late penalties and payments dates by promulgating an emergency order that suspends the relevant local law.
• Funds: Given anticipated revenue losses due to the COVID-19 emergency, Madigan asked each department to submit by April 29 suggestions on where to potentially cut or trim non-mandatory expenditures.
All city employees - full-time and part-time – had been paid full wages through April 17. “As of April 18, part-time employees have been furloughed, unless their departments deem them essential and they are actually working,” Madigan said. A temporary hiring freeze went into effect April 10. Until that order is rescinded, new hires may only be made on an emergency basis.
Options under consideration include payroll reductions, layoffs, securing loans, and using the city’s cash fund balance, the latter of which is already underway, according to Madigan.
• Land Use Board meetings will resume this week and will be held virtually with board members and applicants and may be viewed via live stream on the city’s website. Consult the city website for dates and times for meetings of the Planning Board, Design Review Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals.
ALBANY — There has been a noticeable shift among lawmakers during the past 10 days that points to a scheme of an eventual reopening plan for New York that may take the shape of a region-by-region easing of restrictions, as opposed to the state reopening in its entirety, all at the same time.
“There are regional economies within the state. Let’s talk about reopening economies in a regional context. Coordinated regionally. And that’s what we’re going to be doing,” state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week, naming Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in charge of overseeing the Western New York region public health and reopening strategy, and former Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy as special advisor on public health and reopening in the Finger Lakes region.
Nearly two months since New York registered its first COVID-19 case, and three months since the first case in the U.S. was discovered, Cuomo surveyed the daily charted number of infections, hospitalizations and intubations in New York City - where more than 10,000 residents have died as a result of the virus – and cautiously explained “the numbers would suggest we are seeing a descent…the question is how long and how steep the descent? Nobody knows.” That descent will play a major role into when the state reopens.
Governors in each state will decide when to re-open, and President Donald Trump has recommended in advance of a phased-in approach to reopening there should be, among other things, a decline in COVID-19 cases for 14 days.
Regionally, however, the percentage of the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has been steady, or rising. A three-day sample in Saratoga County from April 15-17 indicates of 267 people tested, 17 (or about 6.4%) tested positive, while more recent tests of April 19-21 sample shows 13 of 175, or about 7.5% tested positive. Overall, as of April 21 in Saratoga County where about 3,500 people have been tested, 7.6% percent of those tested positive. Albany County shows a 9.8% overall rate, Warren and Washington counties each are over 11%, and Schenectady County is over 12%. And indications are that those percentage numbers have not fallen in any of the counties.
On April 17 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researcher Malik Magdon-Ismail discussed a new model showcasing the pandemic impact in smaller cities. The model indicated that with 75% of the population in the Capital Region in New York remaining at home, the COVID-19 pandemic will peak locally in about four weeks, in late May.
“How do you educate yourself on reopening? Testing,” said Cuomo, who explained he had a “productive” meeting with Trump at the White House April 21, and one of the results of that meeting is the expectation that the number of tests in New York State will as much as double in the near future - from approximately 20,000 to 40,000 per day.
“Make the decisions on the facts, not on political pressure. We make a bad move, it’s going to set us back,” said Cuomo, adding that it is vital to also understand the consequences of opening one region at a time, so as to not flood that region with unanticipated problems, presumably meaning an influx of people coming from areas still on “pause.”
“We can’t make a bad decision and we can’t be stupid about it. This is a marathon, not a sprint. More people will die if we’re not smart,” he said.
As Cuomo spoke inside the State Capitol, a rally organized by the group “ReOpen New York State” was staged outside on Wednesday to protest the New York on Pause coronavirus plan. While protest organizers told people planning to attend the rally to respect social distancing, most were crowded on the sidewalk and in the road, and many were not wearing masks, according to WRGB.
At the same time and of a different view, a letter signed by Saratoga Unites, Saratoga DSA, Saratoga Progressive Action and more than a dozen other area organizations and individuals was issued in support for efforts taken by New York state leadership with the current stay at home orders. The letter states, in part: “It is natural to feel like we need to ‘do something,’ and we encourage people to focus on support for healthcare and essential workers, the unemployed, and the small businesses which are all so vital to the Capital District.”
Cuomo said he anticipates “a rolling curve” of infections. That is, that different test-positive hotspots will flare up at different times. “New York City had the first curve and then they project higher curves in other states and in other parts of our state,” the governor said. “Buffalo will have a later curve, Albany will have a later curve, and we’re watching the curves in different parts of the state. Our strategy is: we deploy to wherever the curve is highest.”
ANTIBODY TESTING UNDERWAY
A weeklong statewide antibody testing survey that will randomly sample 3,000 people began April 19 in a handful of upstate communities, Saratoga and Schenectady among them.
The antibody test – which is different than the tests which currently identify the virus - will tell whether a person had previously had COVID-19. The state is hopeful this large-scale antibody testing will help determine the percentage of the population that is now immune to the virus, allowing more individuals to safely return to work. The finger-stick blood samples will be tested at the Wadsworth Center, which is located in Albany.
The “random” designation is particularly important. The other tests conducted – the ones which tell whether a person currently has the virus - are mostly conducted with people showing symptoms of illness, or those potentially exposed to it.
Preliminary data of the antibody tests - randomly conducted in grocery stores and box stores in 19 counties, 40 localities overall - showed 13.9% overall tested positive for antibodies – that is 13.9% of people randomly tested across the state have, at some point, had the virus.
Upstate New York specifically where one-third of the antibody tests were conducted, only 3.6% of those had tested positive for antibodies.
This is compared to 11.7% in Westchester/Rockland, 16.7% Long Island, and 21.2% NYC.
In Schenectady, where the information regarding the random testing was not made public, those showing up to be tested included “several county legislators” according to the Gazette. In Saratoga County, where the information was made public by Saratoga County on its Facebook page, many more people turned out than were anticipated.
“It should not have been posted on Facebook – both for randomizing purposes, but also a (Price Chopper) manager told me at one point there were nearly 300 people in there just to get tested,” said Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston, who visited the Price Chopper store in Malta where the testing took place. “That 300 is in addition to the people who were just shopping. My understanding is those (tests) are going to take place, but not in the same spot and they’re not going to be announced. My hope is no one puts it on the county website or Facebook page. That shouldn’t happen (again). I’m not going to say that it won’t – but, that’s our goal.”
While different parts of the state may open at different times, Cuomo said regardless of where reopenings occur, schools and businesses will be open at the same time in that particular region.
There is no specific committee charged with specifying reopenings. A region-by-region determination will be addressed via discussions in a collaborative effort between state and local governments. Cuomo did not specify whether a “local” government make-up would consist of county, city, town, and/or village officials.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Maura Pulver stood behind the counter of the Five Points Market & Deli, which she has owned the past eight years. The east side eatery has served the neighborhood for more than a century.
Last week, one of the neighbors reached out to Pulver to express some concerns.
“One of our regulars - she has three elementary school age kids – she said she and her husband were concerned about kids perhaps not getting meals,” Pulver explained.
Maura Pulver poses inside Five Points Market & Deli with a pair of handmade signs that will be fixed to a table on weekends offering “free lunch, for anyone who needs it,” while supplies on the table last. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos.
With New York State on “PAUSE” and the closure of schools extended through at least May 15, the woman, Jenn McMahon, was brainstorming an idea for weekends that would complement breakfast and lunch availability for students provided via the Saratoga Springs School District.
“She was thinking about that kid, just riding by on their bike, who maybe didn’t get breakfast this morning,” Pulver said. “I thought, oh my God, I love that; Let’s make it happen.”
The fruition of the idea was to set some sandwiches upon a table outside the store during weekends providing a free lunch for anyone who needs it.
“So I asked her kids to make the signs for it and this past Sunday was our first day of doing it. I put them out there - sandwiches, a nice little package. Some cold cuts, some peanut butter & jelly, some cheese, an apple and potato chips, and some baked cookies,” Pulver said. “There were about 15 of them and by 1 o’clock they were all gone. Jenn ants to do it every Saturday and Sunday, from 11 to 1, and she said: ‘We’re just very fortunate right now that we can help out, and I can probably pay for a month’s worth.’”
Area residents either out for a walk or perusing social media where images of the table fixed with bright blue and yellow hand-made signs topped by an offering of small brown lunch bags went viral were moved by the gesture.
“Let me tell you what happened: when the neighbors heard about it, they came by and took pictures of the table and since Sunday people have been handing me money to have it continue,” Pulver said. “Now we’re thinking about maybe adding another day, or maybe increasing the numbers. We want to keep it going for as long as we can.”