By CLOEY CALLAHAN
The City of Newburgh and its surrounding areas, including New Windsor, were designated as a yellow zone on November 19 due its prominent increase in positive COVID-19 cases. In response to the designation, the City of Newburgh has enforced a mask mandate and are urging all residents and businesses to double down on efforts to keep the community safe and healthy.
Being in a yellow zone means there are certain restrictions to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Maximum attendance at non-residential gatherings is 25 people regardless of if it’s inside or outside, residential gatherings are limited to ten people, local businesses can remain open and must continue to adhere to safety regulations, indoor and outdoor dining is reduced to four people per table and schools must have a 20 percent weekly testing of individuals.
However, the Newburgh Enlarged City School District had already planned to go to completely remote learning on November 30, which was a decision announced on November 18.
In addition to the other restrictions, all indoor events previously scheduled are canceled until further notice. In an effort to make residents and businesses aware of being placed in a yellow zone, the City of Newburgh Police and Fire Departments will be visiting local businesses and densely populated areas distributing flyers in both English and Spanish.
One of the biggest efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the City of Newburgh is its mask ordinance, which was approved by the City Council during the council meeting on November, 23. The ordinance establishes a mandatory requirement for the use of face masks and face coverings on private and public property in the City when unable to maintain a distance of six feet. Most importantly, it does establish a penalty for any violation of the ordinance. Anyone who violates the ordinance may be subject to a fine in the amount of $250 for the first offense and $500 for any additional violations within a one-year period.
“The enforcement will be the City of Newburgh Police Department,” said Michelle Kelson from corporation counsel. “It will be enforced similar to any other code violation. There would be an issue of an appearance ticket or some other accusatory instrument and the violation would have to be heard in city court and there would have to be a conviction before the fine is imposed.”
The ordinance went into effect immediately after it was passed by the council. The exceptions for when someone isn’t required to wear a facemask include if people reside in the same household, if they are actively eating or drinking or seated at a restaurant, if they are driving alone, riding a bike or jogging in the road, engaged in a sport where they can’t tolerate a face covering, children under the age of five, anyone who is unable to medically tolerate a face mask as determined by a New York State licensed physician, and police officers, firefighters, ambulance personnel and other first responders when not practical because they are engaged in a public safety matter of a an emergency nature.
“The goal here is increased compliance,” said City Manager Joseph Donat. “We are going to be issuing warnings. Some would say the warning period for mask wearing has long since expired, but what we will be doing is not only issuing warnings to those in violation, but giving them a mask as well.”
The city will maintain a database of who has already received a warning and given a mask. They have ordered thousands of masks in order to provide for those who need them.
Even with the mandate and doubling down efforts, Newburgh and New Windsor are on track to enter an orange zone unless things turn around.
There are COVID-19 testing facilities at the Cornerstone Family Health Center, 147 Lake Street in Newburgh, and at Emergency One, 306 Windsor Highway in New Windsor.