Dear Guilderland residents:
In its daily update today, the Albany County Department of Health (DOH) reported that there are 176 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the County, with 14 persons hospitalized. There are now 548 persons under mandatory quarantine and 234 persons in voluntary quarantine. It is my understanding that hospitals do not have enough testing and that these numbers, while suggesting a slowing of the spread of COVID-19, these numbers may not provide a sound basis for that suggestion.
I am not sure why “social distancing” has been used to describe the need for six foot separation among persons. To promote the separation’s sole purpose, it would seem more accurate to call it “physical distancing.” As we end another week of limiting human contacts, it is important to encourage socially safe interactions through phone calls, letter writing, and volunteering to deliver food and supplies to shut-ins. There has been a marked increase in persons who are coping with stress and anxiety. If you or someone you know of needs help, or just someone to talk with, please call the Albany County Mental Health Hotline at (518) 269-6634, every day from 8am to 5pm. If you are experiencing or are aware of a psychiatric emergency, you should immediately call the County’s Mobile Crisis Team at (518) 549–6500.
In attempting to assess COVID-19’s impact upon the Town’s widely diverse functions, I am visiting Town departments on a regular basis. I met yesterday with the Parks and Recreation Department about its facilities and programs. Town parks, open space, and trails are open every day from dawn to dusk under the Parks Department’s COVID-19 guidelines. The Albany Pine Bush Commission’s entire 20 mile trail system is also open.
As for programs, the Governor’s Executive Order 202.11, which extends the closure of schools until at least April 15th, also requires the cancellation of spring break programs, and has caused a “pause” in the Town’s summer recreation program. The department is holding off, for now, on promoting the summer program because it has sports, events, crafts, and other activities that would be impacted by regulations. The Town would rather wait for several weeks to avoid cancellations that would disappoint children. We remain confident that the summer program will be held and have this year’s brochures printed and ready for delivery by “back-pack” mail.
The Town is continuing to work (albeit remotely) with University at Albany's Master of Regional Planning program on a comprehensive pathway project in the Town. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the graduate school team provided an overview and solicited input from residents. The students are now separately working, using proper physical distancing, on several key aspects including identifying assets and potential connections, exploring and assessing opportunities, and seeking to advance the goal of developing a multi-use trail system linking neighborhoods to desired destinations.
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has advised that residents should be on the lookout for Ursus americanus, also known as the black bear. DEC notes that black bears are rarely seen by humans and highly desired by photographers. An apparent consequence of our staying in homes is that we are not scaring away bears and they are feeling more comfortable in public. At least some living things are enjoying a benefit from this crisis and maybe one of us can get a highly rare and desirable photo of this shy and elusive creature.
Thank you again for staying safe and calm, and expressing your support for Town employees.
Peter G. Barber