Dear Guilderland residents:
In its daily update today, the Albany County Department of Health reported that there are, on a cumulative basis, 739 confirmed cases with 31 persons now hospitalized and seven persons in the intensive care unit. One person passed away yesterday which brings the County’s death toll from COVID-19 to 30. There are now 772 persons under mandatory quarantine and 54 persons in precautionary quarantine. The County also noted that 1,825 people have completed quarantine, including 401 who tested positive and have recovered. The County’s website (https://legacy.livestories.com/s/v2/covid-19-dashboard-albany-county-ny/dabd57f3-5285-4666-97fc-53c5bf4b8560/) provides demographic data in the County about COVID-19’s impacts. John Hopkins University has national data broken down by county at: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map.
At his press conference, Governor Cuomo reported that, for several consecutive days, the State’s number of deaths, hospitalizations, and intubations showed a decline which also indicates that the State was on the downside of the COVID-19 curve. The Governor also announced the results of an antibody study involving 3,000 supermarket shoppers which showed that State-wide 13.9% of the population was positive for COVID-19 and that Upstate the rate was 3.6%. The Governor said that this preliminary data supported a regional approach to reopening the economy but that the fact that persons can travel throughout the State was also an important factor in this decision.
Today, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple delivered 8,600 washable cotton face masks (five masks per sealed package) to the Town for distribution to essential businesses. I thank Sheriff Apple for this very generous and timely delivery. We started delivering them to Town staff and local businesses where workers have continued to provide services to residents during this pandemic. EMS and Police are also making the masks available to vulnerable persons. In the next few days, we will let you know if there are any remaining masks available for pick-up at designated places for residents who do not have access to masks.
Among the Governor’s 22 Executive Orders (https://www.governor.ny.gov/executive-orders) was a directive, the longest of about 287 directives so far, which would allow remote conferencing for marriage license applications and marriage ceremonies. As I have repeatedly stated, I understand that the goal of these directives is to allow essential businesses and government functions to continue during this pandemic. But, every so often, a directive leaves us here a bit puzzled. Here’s the directive:
Any issuance of a marriage license application, marriage license, or witnessing or solemnizing of the marriage ceremony, that is required under New York State law is authorized to be performed utilizing audio-video technology provided that the following conditions are met: The couple seeking the marriage services, must present valid photo ID to verify identity whenever required by law the (sic) during the video conference, not merely transmit it prior to or after; the video conference must allow for direct interaction between the couple and the town or city clerk, the witness or the person to solemnize the marriage (e.g. no pre-recorded videos of the person signing or engaged in the marriage ceremony); the couple must affirmatively represent that he or she is physically situated in the jurisdiction where the marriage is legally allowed to occur, within the State of New York; the couple must transmit by fax or electronic means a legible copy of the signed document directly to the town or city clerk, the witnesses, the person to solemnize the marriage on the same date it was signed; the town or city clerk, witness or person who solemnizes the marriage may sign the transmitted copy of the document and transmit the same back to the person responsible for the document by law; to the extent practicable, all parties will use their best efforts to ensure the document is transmitted in the most confidential manner and information will not be released to any third party not associated with the marriage license and marriage ceremony; and the electronic signed copy of the marriage license application or marriage license will become the official document for purposes of Domestic Relations Law. Local town and city clerks may provide guidance related to how marriage licensure applications and issuance will be implemented in their jurisdictions.
Now, that is very good news for eager couples whose wedding plans have been delayed by the pandemic’s restrictions. This audio-visual option might be useful when applying for the marriage license but I’d be curious if any couple will actually hold a remote marriage ceremony. I am also not sure about the directive’s concluding statement which allows Town Clerk Lynne Buchanan to “provide guidance.” In the end, it might just be easier for couples to contact the Town’s Marriage Officer Heather Weinhold (https://www.townofguilderland.org/town-clerks-office/pages/marriage-officer-listing) who knows how to perform in-person marriage ceremonies during the pandemic by maintaining physical separation and other health guidelines. She has continued to perform outdoor wedding ceremonies in the Town Hall’s beautiful courtyard, including this afternoon with abundant sunshine, safely distant witnesses, and a very happy couple.
Thank you for staying safe and calm.
Peter G. Barber