By Gwendolyn Craig
While there have been no known cases of coronavirus in the Adirondacks yet, tourism, education, businesses and more are feeling the impacts of new statewide policies aimed at protecting the public’s health.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press conference on Monday that as of 8 p.m. casinos, gyms, wineries, theaters, bars and restaurants will be closed statewide. Take-out food orders, and even alcoholic beverages, will be allowed. Gatherings of more than 50 people will also be banned.
All schools will be closed by Wednesday, too, the governor announced. The closure will last at least two weeks and will be re-evaluated.
Cuomo is also asking all municipalities to reduce their work force attendance by 50% or more, and have all non-essential employees work from home. That directive includes state government.
The new policies come after Cuomo announced that New York, as of noon on Monday, had 950 positive cases of coronavirus, the illness sweeping the globe that has killed more than 6,500 people so far. New York has the most cases of any state in the United States, with most of them concentrated in New York City and Westchester counties.
Cuomo is still expecting lawmakers to pass the state’s budget by April 1. That’s despite two members of the state Assembly—Ways and Means Chair Helene Weinstein and Assemblyman Charles Barron, both of Brooklyn—testing positive for coronavirus. Both houses sent out press releases on Monday saying they would not convene in chambers until at least Wednesday.
What it all means for the Adirondacks-related proposals in the budget is unclear, especially as state officials work out new projected revenues for the earlier proposed $178 billion budget. Cuomo said he has asked the state controller to re-estimate revenues considering “the world has changed 180-degrees, three times.”
“My best guess is our revenue forecast was outrageously high compared to what is going on,” Cuomo said, referring to the economic effects of the coronavirus. “How high, who knows?”
Cuomo did say he would continue to push for the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, which would go to a public vote in November. He also expects the state Legislature to address marijuana legalization and bail reform.
“We’re doing our job like everybody else,” Cuomo said. He continued to stress that lawmakers signed on to a job that requires them to work, even in times of war.
The state has also convened its “Incident Management Team” to assist “incident command personnel and emergency managers in ensuring a prompt, efficient and organized response to complex incidents,” like the coronavirus outbreak, according to a spokesman for the governor. The team includes a number of forest rangers from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and personnel from 20 other state agencies.
The governor’s office did not say whether any of the 45 forest rangers from the Adirondacks were specifically part of the Incident Management Team, but often when rangers become tied up in one area of the state, other rangers may be called in for mutual aid.
The Incident Management Team is yet another one of the many responsibilities the state’s 141 forest rangers have, including responding to search and rescue incidents and providing education to the public.
And while many may retreat into the Adirondacks to escape the confines of home, some of the late-winter and early-spring tourist destinations are closed.
The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism announced on Friday that it has “paused all outward paid advertising that actively solicits immediate planning of travel to the Adirondacks.”
“During this time, ROOST’s role will be to compile as much information as possible to share with the public, but will always defer to departments of public health in regards to recommendations about closures and safe health practices,” according to a news release.
A growing list of cancellations and closures impacting communities in the Adirondacks, is posted on the office’s website.
Whiteface Mountain, Gore Mountain, Mount Van Hoevenberg and Belleayre Mountain Ski Resort were all closed to the public as of Sunday, according to a news release from the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.
Lake Placid Olympic sites including the Olympic Jumping Complex, Olympic Sports Complex, the Olympic Oval and the Olympic Center are also closed.
The Adirondack Mountain Club also has temporarily closed its lodges and the High Peaks Information Center as of Monday. The closures include the Adirondack Loj, Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake and Heart Lake Cabins in Lake Placid. Keene Valley locations are also closed including the Johns Brook Lodge, Grace Camp and Camp Peggy O’Brien and the Johns Brook Lean-tos.
Hiking at these locations is still allowed, and restrooms at the back porch of the High Peaks Information Center will still be open, according to a news release. Rental equipment will not be available.
The club also recently canceled its May destination trip to Japan due to the coronavirus.
Cuomo announced Monday that all fees for state, county and local parks are waived so residents may enjoy the outdoors. And of course, the Adirondack mountains are always there to help cure nearly any malady, including cabin fever.