Coronavirus (COVID-19) Thirty-Fourth Update

Monday, April 13, 2020
Dear Guilderland residents:
 
In its daily update today, the Albany County Department of Health (DOH) reported that there are 475 confirmed cases with 38 persons hospitalized and 16 adults in the intensive care unit (ICU).  There were two deaths yesterday from COVID-19 which brings the County’s death toll to 14. There are now 638 persons under mandatory quarantine and 74 persons in precautionary quarantine. 
 
County Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen said that the number of 475 confirmed cases was cumulative and that 216 persons had since recovered.  Dr. Whalen also stated that 1,235 residents have been released from mandatory quarantine. The County had not previously released these numbers. Dr. Whalen emphasized that, while the virus was particularly deadly for seniors with pre-existing conditions, young persons had died.   
 
In his daily press conference, Governor Cuomo announced that the rates of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths from COVID-19 continued to decline in the state but noted that the daily death rate remained tragically high and there are nearly 2000 daily admissions.  The Governor stated that the “worst is over” and that the spread of the virus is under control. The Governor announced that the next step was a regional economic plan designed by experts including revised “essential businesses,” incremental reopening steps, vigorous testing, treatment protocols, and enforced health precautions.  The Governor concluded that the continued success remains staying the course by maintaining a minimum six-foot separation and keeping non-essential businesses closed.   
 
As you might guess, after sixteen Executive Orders as of today, containing about an estimated 238 well-intentioned separate directives, there is some amount of ambiguity or just new thinking as conditions have changed over the past month.  Such was the fate of golf courses and playgrounds whose use was encouraged and then abruptly prohibited last Thursday (https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026). 
 
That’s also true for the Building Department which, for weeks, sought to decipher which construction services were “essential” under broadly written exceptions in the directive, among which was permitting construction activities to “continue on a project if it would be unsafe to allow to remain undone until it is safe to shut the site.”  Other exceptions included road and bridge construction, and job sites with a single worker.
 
Chief Building Inspector Jackie Coons consulted with fellow inspectors, reviewed the NYS Building and Fire Code and Property Maintenance Code, and spoke with the Empire State Development, the enforcer of last Thursday’s directive, to develop a consistent meaning among inspectors on what was “unsafe” and what was “safe.”  At the same time, Jackie responded to complaints from concerned citizens who shared their own interpretations on what was allowed and asked her to take action. With the goal of consistent enforcement, Town inspectors visited and revisited job sites at homes and businesses to explain the new restrictions and review steps for compliance.  There are about 50 active building permits with more than 80% involving house improvements. The same directive which stopped the imminent opening of the Town’s golf course also contains new guidelines (and revised interpretations) for what are essential construction activities but no help or guidance on what is meant by “unsafe” or “safe.”  I thank Jackie for her consistent leadership during this difficult period, and her deft handling of constantly changing rules.    
 
Thank you for staying safe and calm.
 
Peter G. Barber
Town Supervisor