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City Looks at Potential Layoffs, Furloughs and Expense Cuts on Tuesday Night
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.
City Land Use Boards Resume: Stewart’s Shop, New Apartment Complex on Agenda
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.
Tick Tock: Preparing to Enter Phase 1
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.
Gov. Cuomo Friday: We’ll be Talking about Construction, Manufacturing, Reopening in Upstate
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 Race Course: To Open, Or Not To Open - Here’s What They’re Saying
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.
Can Saratoga Reopen May 15? Here's What Has to Happen
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.
Summer at SPAC: Wishin’ & Hopin’
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.
COVID-19 Regional Roundup This Week
• 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 Hospital Providing A Safe Environment for Elective Procedures, All Who Seek Medical Care
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.”
New Office Building Proposed
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.