Concern over reopening HITS [Horse Shows in the Sun] as restrictions based on the coronavirus are relaxed, has Village of Saugerties resident Tracy Puertas worried because the venue “has a lot of people coming in from states whose residents must quarantine themselves for 14 days, yet they seem to be shopping, buying food at restaurants and generally mingling with village residents. “They’ve been seen in town, they’ve been seen shopping,” said village resident Tracy Puertas. “They’ve been in town, probably for a week or two, so obviously they are not quarantining. I want to know how the board is going to address that.”
At the meeting of the village board on July 6, mayor William Murphy said HITS was under the town’s jurisdiction. The village has no control over it. “Fred [town supervisor Costello] and I have had many calls with the health department, and they are on it,” said Murphy. “They are inspecting it.”
Not all the people who appear to be from out of state are not necessarily so. “Some people have homes in multiple places, and they may register their trailers in Florida, but not live there.” He explained that the county health department was monitoring everybody that comes into HITS, asking where they are coming from and to show identification. They’re also taking temperatures, “and if they can’t prove they’ve been quarantined for 14 days prior to being here, they’re not allowed to enter.”
Murphy said he understood Puertas’s concern, but “you have to trust that the people in charge will follow the guidelines, and if not, that’s what the county health department is for.”
Murphy pointed out that governor Andrew Cuomo has set up an 800 number for people to report violations. When they responded to calls about local bars, regulators made sure they were now following the policy. “There’s a learning curve for everybody,” Murphy said. “We’re all trying our best, but to single out HITS, I don’t have the bandwidth to do that.”
Murphy said HITS owner Tom Struzzieri “was fanatic about it [taking precautions against the virus]. He wouldn’t even talk to me without a mask on.”
Trustee Terry Parisian supported Struzzieri’s actions. “As a governing body, USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] has strict protocols on quarantine for spectators and entrants in his shows, so when Tom found that the governor had quarantined certain states, you have to pre-register your name prior to an event,” said Parisian. “Tom had a list of all the participants, and he personally called every one that was from the quarantined states and told them to go to Chicago [where he has a track] and other areas. Struzzieri did everything by the book, and as we said, he has been very cautious about the safety of the riders and the people who come. There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that people don’t understand.”
Murphy said that keeping up with the regulations was difficult. As the virus progresses, the regulations keep changing. Despite the difficulties, “I think our community and our county has done a tremendous job.” He asserted that Ulster County has done very well at controlling the virus, compared to neighboring counties.
The mayor cited Ulster County’s meals program for needy residents – over 100,000 meals distributed. Struzzieri offered hundreds of meals at no cost, although the county was offering restaurants payment for food.
Puertas said she would agree with Murphy, but with mixed information. “They were open, they were shut down, so it would probably have been easier if a mailing had gone out or something, because the information was mixed,” she said.
Murphy reiterated that the difficulty is that the information keeps changing. At times, the information changes between the time the county issues an information memo and the time it is received and read. With all the rumors and changing information, “I don’t begrudge anyone having a concern, but if there is a problem, it will be quickly addressed and fixed,” said Murphy.