The first Saugerties resident who’s tested positive for COVID-19 was divulged by County Executive Pat Ryan on Tuesday, March 17.
According to Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr., the individual fell ill outside of Saugerties and is being treated for their symptoms outside of Ulster County. Further information, like the nature of the individual’s travel, their age and gender and whether they tested “presumptively” positive (meaning that they have only tested positive for once for the virus) or taken multiple tests to definitively confirm their illness, was not available, Costello said.
“So far, it is my understanding that this person is doing well and is being successfully cared for,” Costello wrote in a press release on Tuesday and reiterated in a later interview. “It has been determined by the local health authorities that this diagnosis has zero impact on the health risks to the greater Saugerties population. At this moment, Saugerties still does not have a single confirmed case of the coronavirus within our borders.”
Town Hall, Costello said, has been closed to the public since Monday — individuals in need of municipal services can be served by appointment, with town employees running paperwork out to their cars. At Wednesday, March 18’s town board meeting, Costello said, only agenda items will be discussed with no opportunity for public comment and none of the board’s typical updates on local events and goings-on: “We’re simply doing the business portion and that’s it.”
The board, Costello said, is considering conducting its next meeting remotely. All unessential committee and board meetings, including the planning board and the zoning board of appeals, are postponed indefinitely.
Likewise, the village government is postponing all meetings and has suspended all parking meters to implement free parking.
“Saugerties will almost definitely host a number of confirmed cases of the virus before this is over,” Costello wrote. “While this reality may be unsettling, our community’s first responders have anticipated and prepared to deal with the reality of multiple confirmed cases within our borders.”
Any mass gathering, or one that would draw over 200 people, must to be approved by the town or village board — Costello said that, until further notice, any request would be denied. All town justice court activity, Costello said, has been postponed and new court dates will be mailed out to those affected. Until further notice, the Kiwanis Ice Arena rink has been closed to the public, and a slew of events, including a gala for the Hope Rocks festival that was slated for March 14 at Diamond Mills, have been postponed.
“When this settles down I think that people are going to remember their priorities and I suspect they will have no trouble raising the money they need to raise,” said Costello. “This public health crisis is temporary, [the causes of mental illness and addiction that the festival raises awareness of have] not proven to be temporary.”
Each police cruiser and fire vehicle in the town, said Police Chief Joe Sinagra last week, has been outfitted with Tyvek suits, N-95 masks, goggles, biohazard bags and latex gloves in the event that emergency service workers suspect that they will come into contact with an infected individual.
“The Tyvek suit will come into play when and if there’s a medical call that we believe there’s a high probability for infection, if Diaz [Ambulance is overburdened with calls and] cannot respond and if we think it’s lifesaving,” said Costello. “If the police department gets a call that says that an adult male has respiratory trauma and Diaz can’t respond … they would come into [the individual’s house with that protective clothing and administer the AED.”
Local eateries, including the Village Pizza, Dallas Hot Wieners, Meltaway Bakery, Krause’s Chocolate, Black Eyed Susie’s, the Bluestone Coffee shop, Rock the Casbah and Slices will be offering takeout, delivery or curbside services.
“It’s no big deal,” said Connie Bailey, owner of the Hudson Valley Dessert Company, when asked whether the virus was devastating for her business. “Everyone is still trying to figure out how best to proceed. At this point, most folks are coming into the store for their goodies, keeping respectful distances. Gloved hands, lots of bleach, fingers crossed!”
Updated information on event cancellations and the local government’s response to this crisis will be made available at www.townofsaugerties.digitaltowpath.com. Free lunches and food are available for those in need at the Atonement Lutheran Church on Market Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon — thanks to a donation from Tom Struzzzieri of the Diamond Mills Hotel and Tavern, free meals will also be handed out at the Boys and Girls Club in the village on Friday, Tuesday and Friday of next week from 4-6 p.m.
“I don’t think we’re going to become overwhelmed — everyone has given this a lot of thought,” he said of the possible effect of the virus on the lives of residents. “Everyone has been super supportive of our effort to minimize people’s exposure at Town Hall.”