As I noted in the COVID-19 eNewsletter on Tuesday, we have now entered our first full-week of shuttered non-essential businesses and distance learning, and it is remarkable how quickly many of us have adapted to social distancing and working from home. The “new normal” is not without its challenges, but this community is strong, generous, and flexible. When we come together in times of crisis, we demonstrate the true meaning of community. As members of your Town Board, we are truly grateful to serve this community, and we thank you for your patience, kindness, and perseverance.
More hospital beds are needed
Hospitalizations have occurred at a higher rate than initially anticipated. While models first projected NYS might need as many as 110,000 beds, we now believe that number is closer to 140,000. Similarly, the number of required ICU beds increased to 40,000.
With the apex estimated to be 21 days away, NYS is taking the steps to accommodate this potential surge in hospitalization. Governor Cuomo has taken many steps including increasing hospital capacity by up to 100%, building out temporary hospitals at the Westchester County Center and elsewhere with FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, utilizing the USNS Comfort, and potentially looking to dormitories down state as well as other facilities.
Right now, every hospital in NYS has enough protective equipment for the immediate and foreseeable future, but that may change in the weeks to come. The Governor is actively addressing this issue.
Acquiring ventilators remains a top priority
Governor Cuomo estimates New York State needs 30,000 ventilators. Right now, with those existing ventilators, the 7,000 purchased and 4,000 provided by the federal government, we have approximately 14,000 on hand. Further, NYS is exploring “splitting” to allow the sharing of one ventilator with two patients.
Federal government is helping but more required
The federal government is assisting in our efforts, but more is needed. While they have provided NYS with 4,000 ventilators, in lieu of static deployment the Governor is urging the federal government to help us with a rolling deployment methodology. Simply, NYS needs the resources and help from the entire country because our numbers are highest, and our apex will come first. As we manage the Coronavirus in NYS it very well may also spread across the country. At that point, the resources can be redirected. Governor Cuomo is asking for 15,000 ventilators and stated he would personally manage the redeployment and technical assistance from NYS.
While there may be an agreement between the House and Senate for aid and support to affected states, businesses, and individuals, the initial $2 trillion legislation proposed by the United State Senate would have provided NYS merely $3.8 billion and NYC $1.3 billion. The House’s proposal would have directed $17.8 billion to NYS. Governor Cuomo stressed that NYS’s budget shortfall is expected to be as great as $15 billion. The Governor reminded all of us and our representatives in Washington that just as New Yorkers supported those who suffered during and after Hurricanes Katrina, Maria and Harvey, among others, we now need the nation’s help too.
Managing your mental health & anxiety
We have stated it numerous times. Fear and anxiety are normal reactions to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, being alone, not at work, managing a household, and dealing with a variety of issues can make that stress unbearable no matter the facts. Not only do we care here in New Castle, but both Westchester and NYS have hotlines to call, free of charge, to provide you with a valuable support system of mental health professionals. In fact, 6,175 mental health professionals volunteered to assist.
- NYS hotline: 1-844-863-9314
There is no shame nor embarrassment. Please reach out if you need assistance. We all need a shoulder to lean on sometimes.
The Numbers: The apex may be three weeks out but some encouraging data
- 103,479 tests administered in NYS and 12,137 examinations since yesterday
- 20,337 tests administered in Westchester County and 2,371 examinations since yesterday
- 28% nationwide testing has occurred in NYS.
Any hospital can administer a test if you meet the protocols and show symptoms. According to Governor Cuomo, we are “hunting positives to isolate and reduce the spread.”
NYS is outpacing S. Korea and China in per capita testing. Westchester County is testing in greater numbers per capita than any other county in the United States.
- 30,811 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in NYS and 5,146 since Tuesday.
- 4,691 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Westchester County and 800 since Tuesday.
New Castle remains at 13 confirmed positive cases but know there is some lag time between confirmation and the sharing of the information. Equally important, do not assume that 13 is an accurate number as there are likely those who are asymptomatic or simply have not been tested. New Rochelle, Yonkers, Greenburgh, Mt. Vernon and White Plains lead Westchester in confirmed positives at 234, 201, 124, 89 and 74 respectively. The neighboring municipalities of Mt. Pleasant and Ossining report 65 and 47 respectively.
According to the Governor, Westchester has slowed its rate of increase due to closures and testing. However, the raw numbers are significant.
There are currently 3,805 hospitalizations in NYS and of these, 888 persons are in the ICU. These numbers reflect a 12% hospitalization of confirmed cases and 3% ICU rate of those hospitalized.
Most Impacted States and Worldwide Statistics
NYS leads the nation in confirmed Coronavirus cases and has suffered 285 deaths. Following NYS are:
- New Jersey with 3,675 confirmed cases and 44 deaths
- California with 2,644 confirmed cases and 52 deaths
- Washington State with 2,404 cases and 123 deaths
Worldwide there are:
- 435,006 confirmed positives cases, 19,625 deaths, 109,926 recoveries, and 305,455 pending cases.
NYS and NYC likely have the largest numbers because we welcome people from across the globe, our residents often travel or work abroad, NYC is a hub for international travel, and we have some areas that are dense in terms of population. That said, as Governor Cuomo correctly noted, “Closeness makes us vulnerable, but our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength. Our closeness is what makes us who we are [and] makes us special…[O]ur closeness is our New York humanity that exists nowhere else.”
Density Control is Working
Evidence suggest that density control is hopefully working:
- Sunday, March 22nd, hospitalization doubled every 2.0 days
- Monday, March 23rd, hospitalization doubled every 3.4 days
- Tuesday, March 24th, hospitalization doubled every 4.7 days
Know that it is too early to assume that things are getting better. The NYS Department of Health believes that we will reach our apex in 21 days, but we must continue social distancing, remain at home and limit density.
New York State still needs our help
On a statewide level, if you can manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns and masks, please contact Eric Gertler, Empire State Funding at 212.803.3100. If you have PPE to donate or sell NYS, please contact Simonida Subotic, Executive Chamber, at 646.522.8477.
If you can procure ventilators, please contact Rachel Baker, NYS Department of Health, at 518.281.5120.
Any psychologist or therapist willing to volunteer in the Mental Health Electronic Help Center can find additional information at the NYS Department of Health website.
If you are a retired health professional, please fill out this form to provide greatly needed services to those in need.
New Yorkers coming together as a united family
Governor Cuomo noted, “We will overcome and show these communities all over the country how to do it.” New York may be the first and hardest hit from COVID-19, but we are stronger together. If ever there was a doubt, since calling out to medical professionals, both retired even those still in school, the volunteer “Surge Healthcare Force” is 40,000 strong. From 2,265 physicians and 2,409 nurse practitioners to 938 physician assistants and 328 nurse anesthetists, the volunteerism and sense of urgency is demonstrative of our fortitude and unity.
New York State on PAUSE
Over the weekend, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the "New York State on PAUSE" executive order, which directed all non-essential businesses statewide to close in-office personnel functions effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22. ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES are not subject to the in-person restriction. The Governor’s Office has provided guidance on what qualified as essential services under the executive order, as well as how to request designation as an essential business. Learn more about this you can visit https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home. If you haven’t been to this website yet, or haven’t visited it lately, I encourage you to do so. It is an impressive hub for all kinds of valuable information for all that the State is doing to fight this virus. We have every right to be proud to be a New Yorker!
Stay Home. Stay Safe. Flatten the Curve.
The Town continues to receive reports regarding non-compliance of social distancing rules. Many of these reports are about our younger residents. They need to be reminded they aren’t invincible: In fact, 54% of New York State Coronavirus cases are ages 18-49. Yesterday, the Town Board received an email from a resident -- a doctor – who said “The illness itself, even without death, is extremely uncomfortable. People report being the sickest they have ever been. The fever, headaches, body pain and inability to breath can be extreme, and no one wants to be that sick, possibly for an extended time.” This message is extreme. It’s hard to hear; it’s hard for me to say. But I think it’s important that residents hear this loud and clear: if you are fortunate enough to be in good health, now is this time to stay home. Stay that way. Don’t risk getting or transmitting the virus.
To that end, rest-assured that the New Castle Police Department is actively looking for social distancing violations and addressing them. Please don’t hesitate to call the Police Department at (914) 238-4422 if you observe a violation you feel needs to be addressed.
How to Get the Help You Need:
Mental Health: The Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH), together with its partner agencies, will be offering guidance and support to Westchester County’s residents as they cope with the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It is projected that the health crisis precipitated by COVID-19 could have a lasting impact on the mental health of the citizens of Westchester. People may experience stress, fear, grief, depression and anxiety. DCMH will be implementing educational and supportive services through various forms of communication, including a dedicated telephone resource line, social media, taped video recordings, chat lines, printed materials and linkage to counseling. To access DCMH information, support and referral call the hotline at (914) 995-1900 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or text #914-461-7281.
FAQs: Westchester County has created an email address: COVID19faq@westchestergov.com, where residents can ask any questions related to the emergency, and can also request social services or other assistance as needed.
Social Services: Residents can contact Town of New Castle Senior Social Worker Bess Steiger at email@example.com or 238-2093, to access Town programs and services, and for assistance navigating the County and State services as well.
New Castle Citizens Assistance Registry: The Town has created a registry for potentially vulnerable residents who would like the Town to check in with them. Mynewcastle.org/registry.
New Castle Volunteer Match: The Town has created a Facebook group [https://www.facebook.com/groups/235308037530428/] to facilitate matches between people in the community with special skills, time, resources, etc., and residents who are looking for help.
How You Can Help:
We are fortunate to live in a generous and big-hearted community, with many talented and capable residents who are ready and willing to lend a hand to neighbors in need. We mentioned our volunteer match site. Here are some other ways you can help:
Enlist as a Volunteer with NYS! Governor Cuomo is calling on health care professionals, schools of public health or medicine and PPE products providers and manufacturers to come forward to support the state’s response. Again, please visit https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home to learn more.
Enlist as a Volunteer with Westchester County! The County has created a new email address -- ICANHELP@westchestergov.com – for people who want to donate or volunteer in any capacity.
Donate N95 Masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): We have set up a donation bin located inside the New Castle Police Department at Town Hall for residents to donate N95 masks and other PPE. And we urge you – if you do not work in a front-line capacity, please DONATE your masks and other PPE. Another collection option is to contact the Westchester County Emergency Operations Center to arrange a pick up: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meals on Wheels: The Town of New Castle is now looking for drivers for our Meals on Wheels program – Ike Kuzio email@example.com.
Blood Donations: The American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. Healthy individuals are needed to schedule an appointment to give in the days and weeks ahead to help patients counting on lifesaving blood throughout this pandemic. Blood shortages can impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer. Each Red Cross location implemented rigorous disinfectant and social distancing practices. If you are healthy and feeling well, please make an appointment to donate by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting www.RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). The two closest locations are in Hawthorne and Peekskill, with new locations added each week.
Support for our Local Businesses
Both Westchester County and the Town of New Castle are working on creating guidance for local business on available assistance programs and how to apply. As this information is finalized, we will share it with our Chamber of Commerce, the local business community, and residents.
The Town of New Castle is collaborating with the Chappaqua Millwood Chamber of Commerce to hold virtual meetings this week for our local merchants and business professionals to discuss opportunities for assistance and how the Town can help.
For more information, please reach out to Council Member Lauren Levin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier today Westchester County provided some valuable information and resources in a post on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/westchestergov/posts/10157886531037092.
County and Local Property Tax Collection
Residents have asked whether the changes to the IRS income tax filing and payment deadlines will have an impact on the Town’s collection of County and local property taxes. Our answer is: there are no changes (yet). The County is looking into this issue and considering what options may be available, such as delaying the tax collection date or reducing the fees and penalties associated with late payments for hardship cases. There are no decisions yet, and the Town is awaiting the County’s guidance on this matter. Please understand that our ability to provide essential services depends on tax collection.
COVID 19 Impact on the Town of New Castle Budget
Rest assured that the New Castle Town Board is deeply engaged in reviewing the Town’s budget and determining how revenues and expenditures may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last night at our Board meeting, we were joined by Town Comptroller Rob Deary who lead us in a review of the budget impact of COVID-19. Here are some highlights:
- The Town finances remain strong. We currently have $21,000,000 in the bank.
- We have enough cash to meet our obligations at this time.
- Variable sources of revenue will be affected by the economic downturn: Sales tax, mortgage tax, summer camps, parking permits, building permits, and tax penalties.
- In terms of expenditures: It is difficult to gauge the Town’s expenditure performance for the year at this point.
- Snow removal expenditures have been significantly below budget.
- Some potential areas for reduction in expenditures include Road Paving and Camps/Recreation Programs (if needed!)
To view the full presentation by Comptroller Deary, please visit:
Thank you to Rob for his quick work compiling this information and preparing a briefing for the Town Board. It is reassuring to have Rob’s steady hand and experience guiding our finances during these troubled times!
Town Board Passes Emergency Financial Measures to Address Impact of COVID-19
Last night the Town Board passed four emergency financial measures:
- Establishing Purchasing Limits: All Town purchases over $3000 are limited to essential items only, subject to Town Board approval, and with additional justification required to explain why the items are essential and necessary at this time.
- Limiting Overtime: No overtime will be approved except in the case of an emergency (e.g., snowstorm) and only with prior approval from the Town Administrator, with an exemption for the New Castle Police Department.
- Limiting New Hires: No "non-essential" employees will be hired will during the emergency. Essential employees are limited to filling existing vacancies. No new positions.
- Extending Parking Permits: The calendar year for parking permits will be extended by 1 month to provide some temporary relief to residents and to delay the start date in response to current work-from-home orders.
Façade Improvement Grant Program – On Hold
The Façade Improvement Grant Program is an initiative that the Town Board has been working on to offer direct financial assistance in the form of matching grants for downtown Chappaqua merchants to mitigate the impacts of the infrastructure and streetscape project, and to encourage further beautification and improvements to our downtown. I am tremendously proud of the work that this Board did over the past 2 months working together to create a program that will have a tremendous benefit to the downtown. That said, given the financial uncertainty of the current health crisis, as well as the fact that most local businesses are currently shuttered and worried more about rent and sales tax payments than façade improvements, I think that it is prudent to table this program approval until such a time as the emergency orders are lifted and we have a better sense of what immediate needs exist among our merchants and property owners. I still believe this program can and will benefit our community who were negatively impacted by the construction, and I look forward to reintroducing this later in 2020.
Public Hearing on Street Opening Permit
The Town Board has delayed our public hearing to address a Local Law to require applicants to obtain a permit to open the surface pavement or soil in any portion of the public right-of-way, public easement, park or other public place and establishes application and restoration requirements. This Local Law will help us hold utilities accountable for any work they perform to ensure that road conditions are returned to an acceptable standard upon completion. We delayed the hearing to incorporate changed from Con Edison, and will now hold the hearing on 3/31/2020.
Form Based Code – Review of Final Scope
The Town Board will meet on 3/31/2020 to review the final scope document for the Environmental Impact Assessment for the form based code (rezoning) for the Chappaqua Hamlet. Further information on this project can be found here: https://mynewcastle.org/rezoning.