By Gwendolyn Craig
You can’t have your cake and eat it too, was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s basic message to upstate New York and the Adirondacks on Friday during his daily press conference on the state’s coronavirus response.
Addressing his latest executive orders closing golf courses, some parks and boat launches, Cuomo said the state has to act as one during the pandemic.
But upstate county executives, he said, want some of these things open for their residents. With people “dying to get outside the house,” Cuomo said, opening something in one place could be like opening the floodgates.
“You open your beaches, but I don’t open my beaches, my people are all going to go to your beach,” Cuomo said. “I get a lot of calls from people in the Adirondacks. They don’t want a lot of people coming from downstate to the Adirondacks, and flooding their community right now. So what one does affects everything.”
The governor’s feedback comes as a number of Adirondack Park lawmakers and residents expressed concern that many popular boat launches and marinas are closed to the public.
“To limit the community spread of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the coronavirus), use of all DEC, Canal Corp. and State Parks-owned boat launches is temporarily suspended for recreational boaters,” according to a statement from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.
The suspension continues at least through May 15, along with a number of other closures the governor has ordered through what the state calls, “New York State on PAUSE.”
Empire State Development, the agency acting as the gatekeeper for entities deemed essential or nonessential, said the intent of the executive order is to keep public marinas and boat launches free for essential vessels, like state police boats. Private marinas are closed.
DEC and the Parks Department have stood by their statement that their launches are closed, but the guidance on other public launches remains murky. Empire State Development referred to the DEC and Parks Department’s joint statement, but did not have further clarification of other launches as of Friday afternoon.
The boat launch issue is just one example of how approaches to the virus may differ among various agencies or locations.
For weeks now a number of county boards in the Adirondacks have asked even tax-paying, seasonal homeowners to stay away, concerned that they might bring the coronavirus to their rural communities that don’t have the capacity to handle the pandemic.
Warren County has taken a different approach from the rest. It has asked second home owners not to advertise and rent out their homes, but it has not asked residents to stay away.
Instead, the Warren County Health Department has asked seasonal residents and folks coming from New York City to check in with the department.
Director Ginelle Jones said so far about 75 seasonal residents have contacted the health department.
“Sometimes they feel their neighbors aren’t as happy they have come back, and we’re able to be a friendly ambassador for the county, encouraging them to call and providing education outreach and a plan should somebody get sick,” Jones said. “We are very appreciative of the people who have reached out, and we would encourage anyone else to reach out.”
The health department’s number is (518) 761-6580.
The county has also taken the lead as a test site for COVID-19. The outdoor drive-through location is off of the Northway at the Warren County office building complex, and services people from Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Hamilton and Essex counites.
Glens Falls Hospital staff members are manning the site, and have the capability of conducting 72 tests a day. So far, they’re doing much less than that. On the 14th, staff conducted 48 tests, up from the first clinic with 16.