The county, state and nation are in the middle of a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Our work and personal lives have been turned upside down. However, we will get through this together. And, it’s going to require special efforts by all of us. An example of this special effort was demonstrated over this past holiday weekend.
The county was given a mandate mid-day Saturday, the 23rd, to have 84 contract tracers trained by the end of the weekend. Our 7 county mid-Hudson region was given a mandate to have a total of 1,991 contact tracers trained by the end of the weekend. Previously, we were advised that employees would have until June 4th to be trained. CSEA Unit President Janet Canaday sent an email on Friday, the 22nd to all CSEA members about the requirement of being a contact tracer. What wasn’t known by Janet or anyone else at that time was that the training to be a contact tracer was going to be mandated for completion by the end of the weekend.
“Team Putnam” made up of CSEA members, PuMA management members, Management/Confidential employees, Town of Carmel employees, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, PILOT interns and local community volunteers who were all advised by Paul Eldridge’s emailed letter on Saturday of this requirement and of the urgent need to respond. Fortunately, enough of you responded and gave up a major portion of your holiday weekend to tackle the training. As a result, Putnam County realized the required number of trained contact tracers and the region was able to reopen under Phase 1 as of today.
I would like to sincerely express my gratitude to you for responding to this call to action so we could meet this mandated requirement of New York State.
BREWSTER, NY—A deliberate, phased-in approach to reopening began in other parts of the state. Now its Putnam and the Mid-Hudson region’s turn. Deaths from COVID-19 have continued to decline and contact tracer training is underway, so phase one has begun.
“We have been watching carefully around the State and we know what a safe re-opening looks like,” County Executive MaryEllen Odell said. “It is a delicate process. Getting the economy moving again is crucial, which is why Putnam County formed the ‘Reopen Putnam Safely Task Force.’ We must all do our part and not become complacent. Following the guidance will ensure the virus continues to decline. Large gatherings and crowds still need to be avoided, as we continue to practice social and physical distancing. The good news is that over the Memorial Day weekend, we saw residents at Putnam beaches showing restraint and being responsible. ”
The key is to remain diligent in practicing the tried-and-true public health practices of good hygiene, social distancing and now keeping gatherings to groups of less than ten people. By keeping groups small, contact tracing can be managed. According to the NYS reopening benchmarks, thirty contact tracers are needed per 100,000 residents. However, NYS reopening requirements for Putnam stipulated that the county identify 84 contact tracers in order to track and identify people who may become sick and advise them on how to avoid spreading the virus further.
Putnam County’s Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD, also emphasized the importance of continuing public health efforts, saying, “Everyone must remain strong and continue to practice social distancing, hand washing and wearing face coverings. With these practices we have flattened the curve. With these practices we can keep it flattened. Then we can continue to reopen and get everyone back to work. The key words are caution, patience and perseverance.”
In Putnam, as around the state, Phase One begins with the reopening of businesses where physical distancing can be most easily preserved. Construction, farms and landscaping businesses, manufacturing, and wholesale trade are some of the businesses that are getting the green light first. Retail establishments as well can open, limited to curbside or in-store pickup or drop off. If all proceeds with reason and restraint and hot spots are quickly identified through contact tracing and testing, progress will continue. If lapses occur, it will take some time for that to be reflected in the numbers of positive cases and hospitalizations.
Anonymous cellphone data shows that people across the country initially took very seriously the government’s advice to stay at home. Now with the warmer weather, the easing of restrictions in some areas, and nearly everyone tired of staying home, more people are venturing out more. This is all good for the economy. If public health practices can remain in place, then resurges can be contained, the economy will continue to revive itself. Putnam residents can continue to do their part, both for the health of the community and to support local businesses.
After a nine week pause, some businesses in the Mid-Hudson Region will reopen on Tuesday, including construction, manufacturing, retail (for curbside pickup only), wholesale trade and agriculture.
The seven-county region, which includes Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties, has shown a significant downward trend in the spread of coronavirus and met the seven metrics the state required to enter Phase 1 of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s four-phase reopening plan.
“The counties in this region have worked hard to get to this stage. We stayed home, stayed safe and flattened the curve, and now we are eager to get back to business,” Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said. “The businesses that will reopen will make safety their first priority. We want people working, and we also want to keep our communities safe.”
Main Street businesses will need guidance during the reopening and county officials will be there for them, Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County Executive, said.
“We were smart, we were vigilant, and, now, we begin a new chapter,” Molinaro said. “As we begin to reopen, we will keep supporting our businesses, families and farmers. As we keep making smart choices, we will protect lives while helping our community get back to life.”
All seven county executives who are part of the Mid-Hudson Regional Control Room that will monitor the metrics, welcomed the transition to Phase 1.
“While it is critical that we begin reopening the economy and getting people back to work, we will approach this first phase and each additional phase with ‘safety first, people always’ as our motto,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day.
The lessons learned over the past few months will now be put to good use, Steve Neuhaus, the Orange County Executive, said
“Our region is anxious to get back to work and we look forward to helping businesses as they restart our local economy,” Neuhaus said. “Practical social distancing and wearing masks will help us open all phases as soon as possible.”
A major part of the Phase 1 plan includes having contact tracers notify those who have been exposed to COVID-19. Contact tracers throughout the region will be trained this weekend and begin work on Tuesday. The region’s contact tracers include a mix of health department employees, other county employees, summer interns and volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps.
Phase 1 will last for two weeks while the number of COVID-19 cases in the Mid-Hudson region are closely monitored. If the downward trend reverses and the numbers increase, the state can put the region back on pause.
But if the epidemic continues to subside, the region will progress to Phase 2, which includes professional services, retail, administrative support and real estate. Phase 3 includes restaurants and food service and the last phase, Phase 4, includes arts, entertainment, recreation and education.
The state’s seven criteria for reopening included: a 14-day decline in net hospitalizations; a decline in death; fewer than 2 new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents; at least 30 percent availability of hospital beds; 30 percent availability of ICU beds; and an aggressive testing and contact tracing program.
Businesses seeking more information on the reopening guidelines should see the Forward New York Business Opening Lookup Toolkit at businessexpress.ny.gov/app/nyforward)