The novel coronavirus outbreak [COVID-19] has reached the Orange County area. As of Monday afternoon, Orange County has 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Since the first case was confirmed on March 12 at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in the City of Newburgh, municipalities, services, and businesses have taken extra precautions across Orange County.
Additional precautions are a result of the Governor’s Executive Order 202.1. This order is titled “Continuing temporary suspension and modification of laws related to the disaster emergency.” New York currently has the largest amount of confirmed cases in the nation. Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on March 7.
On Monday, Cuomo announced statewide lockdown restrictions. Restrictions were coordinated with New Jersey, and Connecticut. Gatherings of more than 50 people are no longer allowed, and gyms, movie theatres and casinos had shut down indefinitely at 8 p.m. on Monday. Restaurants will continue to offer takeout with delivery, and they are providing a waiver for carry-out alcohol. Grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies will remain open.
Schools across the state will be closed for the next two weeks. On April 1, Cuomo will consider further extending the closures or suspending the 180-day instructional requirement.
Orange County itself is also in a state of emergency. Its state of emergency has been extended towards April 15.
Hours later, the City of Newburgh declared its own state of emergency. The city’s activity center at 401 Washington Street is closed to the public. All weddings at city hall are canceled until further notice. All scheduled meetings of the architectural review commission, planning board, zoning board, and conservation advisory board are canceled until further notice. All committee meetings held in city buildings are canceled until further notice.
All city worksites and offices are closed to the public with the exception of the City of Newburgh Police and Fire Departments. Residents are encouraged to contact either location by phone prior to traveling in person to either location.
All city council work sessions and meetings will be held closed to the public. All sessions will be livestreamed, recorded and transcribed.
On Thursday, the council’s work session and official meeting will be held together.
“Spread the word so we can all prepare,” wrote Mayor Torrance Harvey in a Facebook post. “This unfortunate situation could potentially get worse before it gets better if we continue to be out among one another.”
Like the City of Newburgh, the Town of Newburgh announced updates on Monday. Town residents are asked to limit their trips to town hall unless it is absolutely necessary. Residents are asked to call ahead of time or to use email, fax, phone mail, or other options to conduct any town business.
Visits to the Supervisor’s Office will only be accepted with appointments at 845-564-4552. There will be no notary services at this time. Attendance at town hall meetings is now limited to 49.
Camp registration has been cancelled until further notice. All programs have been cancelled until further notice. Dial a Bus/ Senior Transport has been cancelled until further notice. For any questions, please call (845)-564-7815.
Visits to the personnel office are only accepted by appointment. For any questions please call (845)-566-7785. If you are paying a bill with a check, please use the mailbox at the entrance to town hall. It is suggested that one should attempt to make payments on-line despite the additional charge. Questions can be directed to (845)-564-4553.
FOIL requests should be done online or via mail. Dog license renewal can also be done online. For any questions, please call (845)-564-4554.
Please perform searches on-line for the assessor’s office, a charge may apply. Only one person at a time can be in the assessor’s office. Please call 845-564-4550 with questions. Please call the building and code department before visiting at 845 -564-4550.
The justice court was closed on Tuesday. Please call before visiting at 845-564-7161.
“News of a coronavirus case in Orange County places the town on high alert,” wrote Supervisor Gil Piaquadio via email. “Our safety office, police chief and myself continue to have conference calls with [the] Orange County Health Department for the latest updates and recommendations.”
Piaquadio said that town employees are allowed to stay home from work with their own vacation, sick, or personal time. The town has also taken measures to disinfect all contact areas of the town buildings twice a day.
The Town of New Windsor posted a press release addressing COVID-19 on Monday. All planning board and zoning board of appeals meetings, public hearings and workshops are canceled until further notice. Justice court appearances and hearings before Judge George Meyers and Judge Noreen Calderin are canceled until further notice. The court will notify you of an appearance date once concerns over COVID-19 pass.
All recreation programs and activities are canceled until further notice, including the town’s annual Easter Egg hunt. Anyone with town business is suggested to use telephone, email, online services, or mail to conduct business and avoid coming to town hall or the recreation offices. New Windsor offers online utility bill payments, court fines and fee payments, online FOIL requests, online mapping, and more.
New Windsor Police and New Windsor Ambulance have instituted health safety precautions to protect their members and provide uninterrupted service to our residents and the general public.
Supervisor George Meyers said over the phone last Friday that the town regularly sterilizes contact areas.
“We’re trying not to panic here,” said Meyers. “We’re trying to keep ourselves from panicking.” Meyers said that if a resident suspects they have COVID-19, they should find a way to be driven to the hospital on their own. “I cannot have the ambulance members out of service,” said Meyers. “I’m very concerned about the ambulance and the police.”
If residents can’t find transportation, a taxi will be called from them. If there are no other possible options, the ambulance core will take the resident to the hospital.
With restrictions across municipalities comes restrictions in the school district. The Newburgh Enlarged City School District will be closed until March 31. But, there is a possibility for longer school closures.
“The intention of this closure is to help mitigate the spread of the virus in our schools and wider communities,” wrote Superintendent Dr. Roberto Padilla in a letter posted on Monday.
Students in grades 3-12 have been given Chromebooks and free Verizon Hotspots to continue at home remote learning. The district is working on creating additional instructional materials for students to focus on from home. On Thursday, teachers will provide virtual office hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A meal distribution system started on Tuesday. Students will be provided “grab and go” breakfast and lunch bags from set locations at set times.
All Board of Education Committee meetings, extracurricular and athletic events have been canceled until further notice. All regularly scheduled board meetings will continue at their original set times and will be broadcasted via teleconference. As a result of the school district’s closure, the Newburgh Free Library will also be closed till March 31.
The virus outbreak has also resulted in other community services scrambling to find solutions. Meals on Wheels of Greater Newburgh sent out a letter to patrons outlining new measures to deal with the virus.
On March 9, the organization began giving disposable vinyl gloves to volunteers for meal delivery. On Monday, volunteers began the process of leaving meals outside of clients’ doors to protect both the volunteers and clients from exposure. A notification phone call is given when the food is delivered and at the door.
Non-perishable foods donated by patients of Dr. Lane McEwan have been assembled into bags along with other purchased non-perishables. These bags will be delivered by volunteers.
Clients received a St. Patrick’s Day meal of corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, baby carrots, rye rolls, and a special dessert from Torino Bakery on Tuesday. This meal is an effort to keep spirits high in these trying times.
Another vital community organization is the Newburgh Ministry. As a precaution, the organization’s hospitality drop in area has been closed to the public. Executive Director Colin Jarvis said that most of the people who utilize the area are elderly and other individuals at high risk of exposure. The ministry’s homeless services, and telephone work will continue to be offered.
County services have also been impacted by the virus outbreak. As of Tuesday, the Orange County DMV will now only go by appointments. Appointments will offer the commercial driver license permit, license renewal for licenses that will expire within one month, and the renewal of registration expiring within one month. Orange County car dealers can also make appointments. Appointments are only for county residents. There will be no original enhanced driver licenses or updates to them offered until further notice.
All meetings and activities for people over 60 have been canceled or postponed. Nursing homes and long-term care centers have been closed to visitors except for families dealing with end-of-life.
Government officials all over the nation have scrambled to respond to citizens looking for answers to the COVID-19 outbreak. Officials in New York State have been pushing for increased legislation to deal with the virus.
On Monday night, Orange County had a teleconference for the public addressing COVID-19 concerns and updates. The conference addressed the residential origins of the first COVID-19 patient in the county. Dr. Irina Gelman, Orange County Commissioner of Health, explained that revealing their details would be a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA]. In addition, the county hopes to avoid adding to mass panic.
After the first COVID-19 patient was confirmed at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, twenty-six hospital workers have been sidelined as a precaution. No employees have shown signs of illness but must remain away from work and on a fourteen day self quarantine due to possible exposure.
Those looking to get tested for coronavirus are strongly advised to call ahead of time before entering healthcare facilities like Cornerstone Healthcare.
Congressman Sean Maloney will be holding a telephone town hall on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. One can sign up at seanmaloney.house.gov/contact/telephone-town-hall-zip to be called.