Upstate Officials Differ On Restrictions For Downstate Travelers | WAMC

Upstate Officials Differ On Restrictions For Downstate Travelers

Apr 2, 2020

Upstate officials have different views on how to contain the spread of COVID-19, with some asking people with positive cases or coming from downstate areas to stay away.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors recently asked second-home owners and short-term renters who use services like Airbnb to stay home.

Warren County Board Chair Frank Thomas delivered the county’s message by video:

“If you are a short-term rental, please stop. Stop renting and stop advertising your rental. We love our second home owners and our visitors but at this time we are extremely concerned about overwhelming our capacity to address to spread of this virus. Everyone’s cooperation is needed. Please support our local businesses in this very difficult time,” said Thomas.

There are currently no laws or executive orders banning renters from traveling outside areas hard hit by COVID-19, but, as with Warren County, many local governments are asking visitors to check in with public health officials and self-isolate for 14 days.

Glens Falls Hospital, headquartered in Warren County, declined to comment on the board of supervisors’ request.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin issued a public health order last week. In addition to requesting travelers self-isolate, the action also prohibits landlords from renting or leasing to tenants from Westchester County, New York City, and Long Island until review and approval from the county health department.

McLaughlin defended the public health order during a daily coronavirus update on Tuesday.

“This, what we’re doing, is 100 percent logical. It’s 100 percent respectful of everybody. And those of you out there that say we’re blocking roads and we’re checking papers…c’mon. None of that is ever going to happen. We are just saying this is what you need to do to keep every single one of us safe. We never said you’re not allowed to come here," said McLaughlin.

Last week, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors also issued a health advisory for travelers, though did not place any restrictions on renters or second-home owners.

City of Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton said she would not ask anyone to stay away.

“We may have hospitals in neighboring counties or neighboring areas that overflow and are overwhelmed with patients. And we’re going to be ere to support anyone who is sick. We will help anyone who is sick. And we may need the same help in exchange. So I just want to remind everyone that this is the spirit in which our country operates in a country. We help everybody. We don’t only help the people who are local. We don’t ask for a license before we pull up with our ambulance. We help everyone,” said Dalton.

Saturday night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a 14-day travel advisory for New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. The action fell short of a mandatory quarantine idea floated by President Trump on Twitter only hours before.

The CDC guidance also came after some states took their own action, including requests by Vermont and Massachusetts that travelers self-quarantine for 14 days.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo questioned the legality of a mandatory quarantine, but did not criticize the CDC travel guidance, saying it was “nothing we haven’t been doing.”

Airbnb says it is issuing guidance to hosts and guests on local and statewide orders. 

Josh Meltzer, head of Northeast Policy for Airbnb, said in an email: “At this moment, we all need to work together to provide the resources first responders need to overcome this crisis, and short-term rentals are already playing a valuable role in doing just that.”

With New York City-area hospitals filling up with COVID-19 patients, Governor Cuomo has asked that the state’s private and public hospitals work as “one.” This week Albany Med accepted 14 transfer patients from the New York City area.

But that idea of moving patients has sparked concern from residents and some upstate officials.

In a since-deleted Facebook post, Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino shared the sentiment of Village of Mayfield Mayor Jamie Ward, saying “our hospitals and our hospital staffs are already overwhelmed, underpaid and lack the amount of surplus supplies as major hospitals.”

Giardino wrote that residents should contact their state representatives to ask that only routine hospitalizations, and not COVID-19 patients, be sent north.

Fear of patients being brought upstate was also raised on a telephone town hall Wednesday evening organized by 20th District Congressman Paul Tonko.

In response, Saratoga County Hospital President and CEO Dr. Angelo Calbone said there was no coordinated effort with Capital Region hospitals and the New York State Health Department to bring patients north at this time.

“If we’re asked to do it, we’ll do whatever we can do to help We see this is a broad, industry-wide responsibility to care for our community and the broad community,” said Calbone.