As NYS on PAUSE restrictions ease, Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster Counties join forces to keep the region safe in the wake of the coronavirus.
Reopening the Hudson Valley is no easy feat.
As the number of COVID-19 outbreaks begins to lessen and NYS on Pause restrictions ease, local officials face the difficult task of deciding how and when to revive businesses and economies across the region. Yet even though a number of counties – including Dutchess, Putnam, and Ulster – have been given the OK to resume elective outpatient treatments, New York State has not yet made an official announcement as to when each county will be able to reopen.
According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, this decision will happen on a regional basis and occur only when each county meets the requirements outlined in the state’s reopening plan.
To make the local reopening more efficient and effective, three mid-Hudson Valley counties are working in collaboration to develop a cohesive plan. Through a series of twice weekly online meetings, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan are advocating for their counties to be considered separately from the southern sector of the state, including Westchester County, which reports higher numbers of outbreaks.
According to an announcement from Dutchess County Government on May 1, the three counties took aggressive steps, including closing schools and disallowing gatherings, at the outset to combat the virus. Now, as new cases slow and hospital capacity stabilizes, their executives brainstorm a reopening plan that addresses operations and economic development.
“While Dutchess County Government remains laser-focused on public health and safety, we are also working aggressively to ensure a successful transition to full county government operations and reigniting our local economy,” says Dutchess County Executive Molinaro. “This will be a careful balancing act – enabling the acceleration of economic activity while carefully monitoring the health data to immediately respond to any spikes in infection or hospitalization numbers.”
In Dutchess County, Molinaro’s Restarting Dutchess campaign will drive the reawakening of the local economy and county operations. Under the guidance of four executive-level teams – comprised of county government leaders, members of the local legislature, and elected officials – the campaign will address local government, county government functions, economic development, and fiscal/financial sectors. The teams will meet regularly, with communication to the county’s 30 municipalities and to the state and federal government as needed.
Across the Hudson River in Ulster County, County Executive Pat Ryan has a similar plan. In his Ulster County Resilience Economic Initiative, which he announced on April 28, Ryan outlines three main points of focus: Recover, Reopen, and Realign. With an eye to immediate and long-term goals, the plan seeks to help businesses find their footing through mentorships and business model adjustments while aiding businesses and workers with loan applications.
“Now more than ever, Ulster County government must move at the speed of business,” Ulster County Executive Ryan notes. “As we continue to battle the public health risks of COVID-19, we must also move aggressively with all the tools at our disposal to ensure we are ready to safely reopen our businesses and get our economy going again.”
Meanwhile, in Orange County, County Executive Steven Neuhaus works to keep the public informed about COVID-19. On May 3, the Orange County Health Department launched a free app to provide residents with real-time information about outbreaks and resources in the region. The app is available on both Apple and Google Play.
“Now more than ever, technology is playing an important role to keep the public informed,” County Executive Neuhaus observes. “The county has been proactive about keeping residents informed during the pandemic, and this app provides us with another tool to disseminate information.”
With NYS on Pause currently extended until May 15, Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster County governments continue to work in collaboration in hopes that their mid-Hudson Valley sector will be considered separately from lower Hudson Valley counties. As of May 2, these are the number of Hudson Valley outbreaks by county.