Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan was joined by County Sheriff Juan Figueroa this afternoon for a Facebook town hall.
The mood was noticeably more upbeat than a week ago, when Ryan was warning the county was about to run out of ICU beds and ventilators after experiencing a 50 percent increase in hospitalizations the previous weekend. That message was heard loud and clear, and supplies and staff were provided by the state and local hospitals over the week. Today, Ryan reported the county was all set for ICU beds and ventilators, and projected to be set through the end of April for ICU beds.
At the time, cases were doubling every five days. The county was projected to have 800 cases by April 12 and 1600 by April 17. The new projection is for 1675 cases by April 23. (Currently, April 14, the county has 745 confirmed cases.)
Now, the county is doing well enough to share some of its supplies with neighbors. Ryan said Ulster provided Greene and Columbia counties with hundreds of face shields and surgical gowns, with 25 test kits for Greene, and offered access to face shields to Dutchess County.
“This virus does not respect our arbitrary county borders, and neither can our response,” said Ryan. “To protect the health and safety of our area, we must aid our neighbors whenever possible.”
Ryan also mentioned that the mobile testing sites, especially the one at Tech City in the town of Ulster, is under capacity and could handle patients from neighboring counties. No appointment is needed, but you do need a prescription from your doctor. If you don’t have a doctor, you can call (845) 443-8888 and a county nurse will assist.
Here’s a look at how cases stack up in neighboring counties, by population:
Sheriff Figueroa provided some interesting information about how courts are adapting to the lockdown. Increasingly, rather than bringing someone who was arrested to a court, with a judge and opposing counsel in the same room, the accused are brought to the county jail and arraigned via video conferencing software, with the judge and respective attorneys at their homes or offices.
Visitation for prisoners was suspended last month and all staff are subject to temperature checks and made to wash their hands before entering the jail. So far, there haven’t been any confirmed COVID-19 cases at the jail.
During the Q&A portion of the town hall, several brought up the topic of visitors to parks not social distancing. Would offenders be fined and/or the parks closed?
Figueroa said a deputy patrolled the Ashokan Rail Trail, which is the most used county property, over the weekend. He said report was that there were some groups that were walking together, but they were generally families who have been spending the lockdown indoors together anyway, so social distancing “is not really a requirement.” Most others, who weren’t related, were maintaining social-distancing, said the sheriff. “Just because you see a parking lot full, doesn’t mean that the people aren’t practicing social distancing.”
He said residents who see others violating the rules should speak up- to the violators that is.
“It’s not just us in law enforcement or the county executive’s office; if you see people that need to be distant then say so. It’s your obligation because we’re trying to save lives.”
Figueroa also mentioned the other part of the NY PAUSE Act, relating to “non-essential” businesses continuing to operate (that is, businesses not on this list). In Saugerties last week, two warning letters were issued. Figueroa said the county would also begin with warnings before proceeding to fines, but it hasn’t started enforcement yet.