Monday, March 16, 2020 Special Edition

COVID-19 Update

As the nation, New York State, and local municipalities in Westchester County continue to prepare for and respond to the fluid realities of COVID-19, or Coronavirus, please know that your New Castle Town Board continues to secure the information, services and tools we need to safeguard the community as best we can for the upcoming days, weeks and potentially months. Although circumstances can change day to day and hour to hour, all of us – elected officials, Town staff, and first-responders – remain steadfast in our commitment to each of you. To that end, please review the following to familiarize yourself with the steps taken by the Governor, County Executive and Town board as well as to better understand the current realities of COVID-19 and its impact in New Castle and beyond. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with questions, concerns or suggestions at townboard@mynewcastle.org.

Ivy Pool, Town Supervisor
Jeremy Saland, Deputy Town Supervisor
Lisa Katz, Councilmember
Jason Lichtenthal, Councilmember
Lauren Levin, Councilmember

 

State of Emergency: New York State, Westchester County & Town of New Castle 

Governor Cuomo, in concert with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, announced unified Executive Orders in response to the lack of a cohesive plan to combat and prepare for COVID-19 on the part of the federal government. Similarly, both Westchester County and the Town of New Castle declared a State of Emergency as well. The purpose of these orders is to streamline certain administrative processes and create a standard approach to managing the multiple issues different levels of government face with their respective communities. While some of the orders may be redundant, please know that our local proclamation allows New Castle to maintain control over matters not covered by either Westchester County or New York State.

Among other critical regulations and guidelines, commencing Monday, March 16, 2020, Westchester County will close all schools for two weeks. Addressed further below, the school districts will implement their educational plans and continue to provide breakfast and lunch for those students who qualify for this service. The school districts will also assist parents who are first-responders and healthcare providers, with children in their schools, with childcare to allow those parents to continue working.
 

New Castle: Town Hall & Resident Services

New Castle Town Hall is closed to the public. All on-site, in-person meetings have been cancelled with the exception those of the Town and Planning Boards. These meetings will continue remotely and online as scheduled.

The Community Center, Arts Center and Chappaqua Performing Arts Center are all closed until April 13, 2020. All programs have been cancelled or rescheduled. 

Water and building inspections will be limited to exteriors only. More importantly, the delivery of water and electricity will not be impacted.

Town Hall services are available via phone. However, the preferred method of communication is email. The relevant emails for each department can be found on our website at www.mynewcastle.org

Pursuant to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order, Town staff is operating at 50% capacity with non-essential workers remaining home. Those who are working will maintain a staggered scheduled with half of our staff working in Town Hall on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and the other half on Tuesday and Thursday. This schedule will switch starting the week of March 23, 2020. 

Meals on Wheels Services will continue, and garbage pickup remains ongoing and on schedule. 
 

Closures: Restaurants, Bars & Other Businesses

Pursuant to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order, bars and restaurants will close as of 8 pm tonight. However, delivery and take out of food is permissible. Further, gyms, theaters and casinos will close effective 8 pm tonight.

For other remaining establishments and those events not canceled or postponed, gatherings of 50 or more people are not permitted. Governor Cuomo strongly advises that only essential business stay open after 8 pm tonight. These include grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and medical facilities. The Governor reserves the right to close these establishments as well should he believe it is necessary. 
 

School Districts: Meal Services & Childcare

Although the Town of New Castle does not exert control or supervision over school districts within the municipality, we maintain open communication with the various districts with ties to New Castle. These school districts include Bedford, Briarcliff, Byram Hills, Chappaqua, and Ossining.

During this time of closure, the school districts, not the Town of New Castle, will reach out to families regarding the education plans and policies. For example, the Chappaqua Central School District (CCSD) anticipates sharing information with their families regarding the start date for distance learning by Tuesday afternoon, March 17th.  Further, CCSD will reach out to students who are entitled to free/reduced lunch and arrange to continue these services.  Additionally, and of critical import, parents of CCSD students who work in the healthcare field or are first-responders should complete this survey so that the district can potentially assist you with childcare issues. You can contact Dr. Tony Sinanis, Assistant Superintendent for HR & Leadership, at tosinanis@ccsd.ws

Parents are encouraged to contact their respective school for further information.

 

State and County Parks: Fees Waived & Passive Use Encouraged

All New York State and Westchester County park fees are waived. As many residents have read, the great outdoors is the best place you can be during this crisis, because the virus disperses in places where it is not contained. That said, the County has provided guidance that local governments should restrict access to places where people congregate, and this includes playgrounds. Therefore, the Town of New Castle is restricting access to active parkland, such as playgrounds and ball fields. Passive recreation is encouraged, provided that residents maintain a six foot “social distance” from one another.
 

Assisting the Most Vulnerable: Citizen Assistance Registry 

Our New Castle Recreation and Parks Department, along with our New Castle Police Department, have updated the Town’s services to help our most vulnerable citizens with their critical needs.  The New Castle Citizen Assistance Registry will help the Town evaluate residents' needs and assist in planning a response in an emergency. 

Signing-up for the Citizen Assistance Registry does not guarantee that you will be provided services or be placed on a priority list for emergency response. However, your registration is the best way to alert the Town to any specific needs you may have for assistance in the event of an emergency. All of the personal information in the registry is completely confidential and will not be shared with the general public.  You can sign up for the Citizen Assistance Registry here: https://mynewcastle.org/registry.  You can also contact Bess Steiger, Senior Social Worker, at bsteiger@mynewcastle.org or 914-238-2093.

If you need immediate emergency assistance, please dial 911.

 

New Castle Police Department: An Update from Police Chief James Carroll

The New Castle Police Department (NCPD) is screening phone calls to better protect our officers and other first-responders against contracting COVID-19.  Officers with the NCPD will also ask screening questions in person when they respond for service.  We thank you in advance for your patience in providing answers to these inquiries.

Further, in an effort to practice suggested “social distancing,” the NCPD is will also attempt to avoid entering closed spaces (residences, buildings, etc.).  Should you need the NCPD to respond to your residence or place of business, they will likely ask you to step outside to speak with them. When possible, and in non-exigent circumstances, the NCPD will investigate and handle requests for police services by either phone or email.

In the event you have questions or concerns about COVID-19, please call 211. However, please call 911 in an emergency. Your safety is the top priority of the NCPD and other first-responders. 

 

Local Merchants & Restaurants: Open for Business

The Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce is compiling a list of restaurants that will be able to deliver and provide take out.  The list will also include merchants that can provide delivery and curbside pick-up for goods. To be included, local businesses are encouraged to email Dawn Danker-Rosen at DawnDDRPR@gmail.com. The Town will assist the Chamber in disseminating this information.

In addition, the Town is working with the Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce to plan online forums with New Castle merchants and business professionals to hear feedback on current challenges and discuss potential strategies to assist local businesses during this time of uncertainty.  More details to come. To learn more about this program, please reach out to Council Member Lauren Levin llevin@mynewcastle.org

 

COVID-19 Testing: Capability & Facilities

Starting next week, New York State expects to test approximately 7,000 people per day. Testing has ramped up significantly after 28 laboratories came online days ago. As of March 15th, over 7,000 people were tested for COVID-19. The State is awaiting approval from the FDA to allow for automated testing which can increase a laboratory’s ability to test from as little as 30 cases a day to as much as 1,000.

In addition to the drive-thru testing facility in New Rochelle, more sites will open shortly in Rockland, Long Island and Staten Island. This method of testing does not require you to exit your vehicle and can be completed within fifteen minutes or less.

 

The Statistics: Interpreting & Addressing the Numbers

All steps taken by New York State, Westchester County and New Castle are to “flatten the curve.” Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo does not believe we will be able to flatten the curve sufficiently and we will exceed the healthcare system’s capacity. Without enough assistance from the federal government, such as deploying the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary facilities, secure additional beds, etc., the states must mobilize and create backup medical facilities. To do so, New York State will organize the national guard and work with building unions and private developers to find existing facilities to adapt for medical purposes. This, however, does not address our need to staff hospitals and secure necessary medical equipment.

As of March 15, 2020, the following are the relevant COVID-19 statistics:

  • 3,820 confirmed cases in United States and 67 deaths.
  • 1,280 confirmed cases out of 7,026 people tested in New York State and seven deaths.
  • 220 confirmed cases out of 950 people tested in Westchester County and zero deaths. Currently there are no confirmed cases among New Castle residents.
  • 158 out of 950 (17%) people infected in New York State with the Coronavirus are hospitalized. 
  • Based on earlier statewide numbers, 65 of 137 infected persons were in the ICU and 46 were intubated.
  • New York State has 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU beds. 
  • Currently, 80% of the ICU beds, those that many COVID-19 patients will need, are in use.
  • There are 169,387 confirmed cases worldwide. Additionally, there have been 6,513 deaths, 77,257 recoveries and 85,617 pending cases.
  • Infection rates are between 40% to 70% of the population.

The above numbers tell a story, although without an ending yet written, that should give every person more than mere pause. If you take NYS’s 17% against whatever you believe the total affected population will be and compare that to the hospital capacity, then one can understand the gravity of the situation. Even if you were to use a far lesser infection rate and decrease the population that may be exposed, the “wave” of those needing hospitalization can overrun New York’s healthcare system. It is incumbent upon each one of us to follow best practices and “flatten the curve.” Simply, we all must do our part.
 

Other Important Information

We have been in communication with local EMS, volunteer ambulance, and volunteer fire departments in Ossining, Millwood, Mt. Kisco and Chappaqua to confirm and ensure they have they have the staffing necessary should any of the members contract COVID-19. Fortunately, as they have in the past when necessary, our first-responders can rely on mutual assistance from one another.

New York State Courts are closed other than for limited applications and criminal justice matters such as Family Offense proceedings for Orders of Protections, child protection and support proceedings, and arraignments. Further information is available at: http://www.nycourts.gov/whatsnew/pdf/Updated-Protocol-AttachmentA3.pdf

You are encouraged to cancel elective surgery as it will free up between 25%-30% of available hospital beds. Although cancellation is not mandatory, Governor Cuomo reserves the right to suspend these non-necessary procedures.

The Governor is discouraging non-essential travel between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., but presently there is no official ban on travel at this time. 

 

New Castle’s Number One Priority is You

Being concerned and anxious is a normal response. But a little fear, if it is based in fact and not misinformation, is a good thing. It encourages us to follow best practices – washing our hands, staying at home and keeping our distances even when enjoying the outdoors. Yes, things will get darker before the sun pushes through the clouds, but adversity reminds us how important we are to one another and that we, as a family in New Castle, will get through this together.

Supervisor Ivy Pool, Deputy Supervisor Jeremy Saland, Council Members Lisa Katz, Jason Lichtenthal and Lauren Levin, Town Administrator Jill Shapiro, and both Town staff and first-responders, have one priority – all of you. We have said it  before and will do so again. New Yorker’s are a tough bunch, and we, in New Castle, are the strongest of the lot. 

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