At 8 pm on Sunday evening, March 22, 2020, the State of New York began its official “pause” of most commercial and public activities in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Under the Governor’s executive order, all non-essential businesses are to close, and all state residents are to remain in their homes. Click here for a list of “essential businesses.”
Under the New York “pause” order, residents can leave their homes for emergencies, to seek medical aid, and to shop for food and other necessities, as well as to exercise. New Yorkers are urged the recreate locally and not drive a great distance to hike. This effectively means that our great state parks in the Adirondacks and Catskills are closing down to all but local use.
These are serious times. On March 1st, we all received news of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in New York, a single infection in Westchester County. Three weeks later, on March 22nd, confirmed cases in New York State topped 15,000, with more than half the cases in New York City. Today there are 20,000 cases reported. There have been over 150 deaths in New York State.
Outside of The City, Nassau County now has the 2nd most documented cases with over 1,900, and COVID-19 has spread to 50 of New York’s 62 counties. Upstate, we see alarming growth of confirmed cases in Albany County with 123 cases and Saratoga County with 41 (and these are dated numbers as of Sunday March 22nd). Both of these counties have shown rapid growth.
Click here for more information on COVID-19 in the Adirondacks and North Country. NCPR has a good coronavirus blog and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has good updates about what’s happening in the Adirondacks and North Country.
This past weekend, there was a complicated rescue on Mount Marcy that involved more than a dozen Forest Rangers. During these extraordinary times, public safety personnel should not be diverted to rescuing hikers.
Yes, even as people are told to stay at home and shelter in place, you can go outside for a walk or hike, but hike locally. There are any number of state parks, public trails, and wildlife refuges across New York that offer outdoor recreational opportunities, but do not drive for hours to hike a High Peak or other mountains in the Adirondacks or Catskills.
By driving a long distance, you take considerable risk of helping to spread COVID-19. Local folks should continue to use the Forest Preserve while adhering to social distancing protocols.
Further, Adirondack and North Country health systems, like health systems all across the U.S., are struggling to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider this report from North Country Public Radio:
Late Sunday, Warren County officials issued a strongly-worded warning that their first line of defense against COVID-19 is being largely suspended because of lack of testing supplies.
“Our reality has changed and we are no longer able to utilize testing to diagnose everyone with symptoms or to fully monitor and contain COVID19 activity in our community,” officials said in a public statement to the community.
A similar situation now exists in most North Country counties, meaning the relatively low number of confirmed cases likely does not reflect the actual spread of the coronavirus.
Warren County officials acknowledged the lack of testing and community monitoring poses serious public health concerns going forward: “The process has worked up until now. We have saved lives. But we must now shift our mindsets.”
As we’ve been hearing from Albany and Washington, it now appears the best – and perhaps only – line of defence against a crushing wave of people sick with COVID-19 is isolation and social distancing.
“In absence of available testing, treatment and vaccine,” the Warren County dispatch reads, “this now becomes about each person taking responsibility to protect the health and safety of others and themselves, following recommendations from the CDC, NYSDOH, Local Public Health Department, and healthcare providers.”
These are unprecedented times in which we find ourselves. Please do not travel long distances to hike and recreate outside while the New York “pause” order is in effect.
Stay safe, and be smart.