Briefly noted in New Paltz (12/22/21)

Village/Town of New Paltz distributes free rapid COVID test kits

The Village and Town of New Paltz will hold a free COVID-19 rapid test kit distribution event at the New Paltz Community Center, located at 3 Veterans’ Drive in New Paltz, on Wednesday, December 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. The kits given will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The tests are self-administered at home. Due to a limited supply, health officials ask that the community be understanding and allow those most in need to receive the available kits first.

Ulster County is providing the test kits to communities to help curtail the spread of the virus. This event is not a testing clinic; please do not attend if you have COVID or symptoms of the virus. If you suspect exposure and/or have any symptoms of COVID, please contact the Ulster County Department of Health at (845) 340-3150.

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Recipients of the free COVID-19 rapid tests should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for administering the test. The maker of the QuickVue kits being provided has posted a tutorial on how to administer the test at https://vimeo.com/533752018.

Anyone who tests positive should immediately isolate themselves from others, regardless of vaccination status. Isolation includes retiring to a separate room in the house and avoiding contact with others in the household. If symptomatic, consult with a doctor about treatment and how to isolate people who need caregiving.

Report positive at-home test results to the Department of Health online at https://covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/hometest or by calling the Ulster County Recovery Service Center (RSC) at (845) 443-8888. (Negative test results do not need to be reported to the Department of Health.) Necessary information to report a positive test result includes: name of person tested, date of birth, e-mail address, phone number, physical address and date of test.

A photo image of the positive test result is required by the New York State Department of Health and should be taken within 24 hours of test administration. Once a positive test result is reported to the Department of Health, you will be contacted by a public health nurse for case investigation and documentation, which you can provide to your school or employer. Please be sure to answer phone calls from any unfamiliar numbers while waiting to hear from the Health Department.

To find out more about COVID and to schedule a vaccination appointment in Ulster County, go to https://covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/get-vaccinated.

Free COVID rapid test kits for Gardiner residents

Free COVID rapid test kits are available for Gardiner residents – one test kit per household – at the Gardiner Town Hall, located at 2340 Route 44/55, during normal hours on Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Town Hall will be closed December 23 and 24.

School Board urged to be cautious on vaccines

Two members of the public asked New Paltz School Board members at their December 15 meeting to think long and hard before supporting more extensive rules around vaccines and wearing of masks. Scientist Kimiko Link called this an opportunity to “affirm local values” by asserting a preference for such health rules to be written and enforced locally, rather than through what Link feels is an “overreach” of state-level authority “under the guise of emergency powers.” Noting that planned rules include eliminating parental consent for vaccines when children reach 14 years of age, mandatory coronavirus vaccination to attend public schools and the creation of a public database of the vaccinated, Link sees it as a problem that the full ingredient list of these vaccines is not available for review. “I’d like to be able to read the labels.”

Another comment was made by Tony Maresco, who warned that “lawsuits are coming,” in part because vaccine manufacturers are given immunity, while school districts and their board members are not. Maresco claimed to have “proof that will hold up in court” about how the definition of “cause of death” was altered in a way that inflated coronavirus death tolls, and that masks cause hypoxia, a deprivation of oxygen to the brain. A Reuters investigation from February of this year references articles published on the sites of the Mayo Clinic and American Lung Association, among others, debunking this idea. For healthy humans over two years of age, cloth face coverings are not found to cause any oxygen deprivation, nor do they result in dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. Masks should be cleaned regularly, and avoided during periods of intense physical activity that can result in the cloth getting wet.

— Terence P Ward

Annual New Paltz Eve celebration December 31

The Town of New Paltz’s Office for Community Wellness along with its community partners are sponsoring the eighth annual New Paltz Eve celebration on Friday, December 31 from noon to 5 p.m. Programs are a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual. All activities are free.

The fun starts at noon with a Fun Fest at the Community Center for ages six+. Enjoy putting pool tables, ping pong, cornhole and more from noon to 3 p.m.

The New Paltz Youth Program will host a scavenger hunt from 1 to 3 p.m. for teens and families with younger children. The center is located at 220 Main Street.

Holiday Craft Kits to Go will be offered at the Elting Library from noon to 4 p.m. for children ages 2 to 12. Story Magic with professional storyteller Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi will be offered in person from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Elting Library and via Zoom. The Library is located at 93 Main Street.

Jester Jim will perform a live virtual show with a juggler, beatboxer and comedian from 2 to 2:45 p.m. via Zoom. Visit https://newpaltzeve.org for a link.

In addition, anyone who attends any one of the events is also eligible for one free movie ticket to be used at their leisure at New Paltz Cinema. Supply is limited, so movie tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sponsors include the Department of Parks & Recreation, Elting Memorial Library, New Paltz Police Department, New Paltz Youth Program, Office for Community Wellness, Town of New Paltz and Ulster Prevention Council.

For more information, Zoom links and to sign up for free tickets, visit https://newpaltzeve.org. Updates for New Paltz Eve can also be found on the Facebook event page at www.facebook.com/events/1490388447999563.

Kindergarten registration in Highland

Kindergarten registration for the Highland School District will open on January 3 for the 2022/2023 school year. Parents and guardians are asked to contact the district registrar Elizabeth Salanitri at (845) 691-1032 with any questions or concerns. Parents can also come to Highland High School between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays to sign out a registration packet. Children eligible to register for kindergarten must be five years of age on or before December 1, 2022.

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Police academy switch rebuffed

Shifting training from the Police Academy in Ulster County to the one operated in Dutchess isn’t a recommendation from the Town of New Paltz’s Police Reinvention Commission members that is being warmly received by the chief. The differences between the academies are not as large as suggested,  Police Chief Robert Lucchesi asserted, and many new officers in the Town wouldn’t even be eligible because the program is structured differently.

This was discussed at the Police Commission meeting on December 16, as part of a systematic review of all the recommendations in the report produced by this group as part of requirements of an executive order signed by the last governor. The idea is to send newer officers to the academy across the river because the courses there will get them to “address implicit and explicit biases.” The impetus for and intent of Executive Order 203 was to address the intersection of police culture and training with racism. Reinvention Commission member Diana Armstead wrote that recommendation after reviewing the materials available online for both programs, and finding the local one to be “militaristic” compared to the Dutchess offerings.

Lucchesi offered several reasons why a full shift to the other academy wouldn’t be workable. In this county, officers enroll in a basic training program offered at SUNY Ulster, in which they learn enough to be eligible to apply for police jobs. The academy training is only available to those who have been hired, and the way it’s paid for is by having experienced officers from the same agencies serve as instructors. Over in Dutchess, the entire state-mandated curriculum is offered as a single program to “sworn” officers only, those who have raised their right hand before the town clerk as part of being hired for the job. As a result, someone who took the coursework at SUNY Ulster couldn’t just step into the Dutchess program.

Completely withdrawing from the Ulster program is also a non-starter for the chief, who characterized it as “abandoning” that academy. The chief was emphasizing the role of local officers as instructors and the impact such a withdrawal could have overall. Partial participation in Dutchess was not ruled out by the chief, who did not offer any details on how that might work given the differences in how the two programs are structured.

Armstead talked about the time it took to dig through an “outdated” website to find the particulars of the training in this county and the assessment that the instructors there are “locked in the old ways” that include a military-type hierarchy. While Armstead contrasted this with the program in Dutchess, Lucchesi said that the two were in fact similar in that drill sergeants are part of each. The curriculum is set at the state level, the chief also pointed out. Lucchesi agreed that moving away from that quasi-military approach is a good idea, but believes it’s a change that can’t be implemented locally.

— Terence P Ward

More rooms at the Hampton Inn

Conferences have fallen out of favor since the introduction of a sometimes-fatal airborne coronavirus in late 2019, and the owners of the Hampton Inn in New Paltz are going to be ditching a meeting space in favor of more hotel rooms instead. Approving the original site plan for this location was delayed by legal action, but Town of New Paltz Planning Board members were willing to amend it in this manner after hearing from consultants about the minimal impact it will have. Engineer Barry Medenbach detailed how, even when the hotel is full of guests, the water and sewer capacity have never been reached. Parking is also not a problem; representative Jay Modwadiya affirmed that the lot has never been full, observing that guests reserving multiple rooms often arrive in a single vehicle. The parking rules in this zone now call for a maximum number of spaces, rather than a minimum. It’s clear that Modwadiya expects that meeting spaces being unpopular will continue for some time to come.

— Terence P Ward