BALLSTON SPA — COVID-19 has caused the Saratoga County Fair to be canceled for the first time since the U.S. Civil War.
The fair’s board of directors on Friday afternoon announced its decision, which was based on the continuing health threat posed by the pandemic, the limitations on public gatherings imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the safety recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The event has typically been the first fair each summer in the Capital Region, and the 179th edition was to be held July 21 through July 26 this year. Instead, it will be held July 20 to 25, 2021.
The Saratoga County Fair is one of the oldest in the state, held first in 1841 and every year since then except one year during the war between the states.
It is operated by the nonprofit Saratoga County Agricultural Society. Planning for the 2020 fair had been underway by the board of directors since August.
Gov. Cuomo has not indicated when he will lift his shutdown orders that have placed much of the state’s economy in hibernation and banned virtually all events that attract people or cause them to congregate, but he has said the restart will come when it is safe to do so, not when people want it to.
Cuomo on Wednesday cited the Saratoga Race Course meet and the New York State Fair as summer events that almost certainly will have to be canceled or closed to the public this year, due to the large crowds they attract and the continuing danger from the virus.
The Saratoga County Fair drew 96,000 attendees last year.
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, and U.S. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, both offered statements critical of closing the track, while Adirondack Trust Company urged the governor to look for alternatives to closure.
Through the crisis, Cuomo has shown little inclination to change course based on the emotions of others, though, preferring instead to rely on factual data.
During his daily briefing Friday, Cuomo took a moment to mark what New Yorkers have accomplished by enduring a shutdown that’s kept them from socializing, traveling and entertaining themselves and thrown more than 1.65 million statewide into unemployment.
The early projections were that up to 100,000 New Yorkers would be stricken seriously enough to require hospitalization, but only a fraction of that many have so far. That trajectory was altered through the shutdown and smart behavior, Cuomo said.
But new hospitalizations are hovering stubbornly in the mid-900 range each day, he said, so there’s still much to be done. He said hospitals would have to gather a wealth of new data about each COVID patient and submit it to the state daily so state health officials can better understand who is still getting sick and how to keep them from getting sick.
This will include patients’ age, gender, home address, work address, means of commuting and underlying health conditions, as well as whether they are nursing home residents or an essential worker.
A reporter asked why the state hadn’t been doing this for the last two months, as the pandemic worsened and peaked.
Because the reporting will be a significant administrative burden for hospitals, Cuomo replied, one he didn’t want to impose on them while they were overwhelmed with the initial surge of COVID patients. Now, with the crisis easing, he’s going to require them to do the extra legwork and provide this demographic data to the state.
Reporters again peppered Cuomo and his top aides Friday with questions about nursing homes, where thousands of elderly residents statewide have died and where accurate data is in short supply for residents’ families, state regulators and the general public.
The state, many counties and most elder-care facilities will not release these data for the stated reason that doing so would compromise patient privacy.
Cuomo ordered that these facilities notify all residents’s families when one resident is confirmed ill with COVID. But there are complaints that some are not complying. And there is no easy way to verify compliance, since the data are being held secret.
The state Department of Health initially provided no data to the public, then began publishing online the total numbers of elder care deaths in each county and naming the facilities at which they died, but only facilities where five or more residents had died.
These online lists are based on data self-reported by the facilities; they are demonstrably incorrect and weeks out of date. Diamond Hill Nursing in Rensselaer County, for example, has had a dozen resident deaths, but the state list online Friday showed just one resident death in all of Rensselaer County and does not list Diamond Hill at all.
A reporter asked Cuomo about Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan, where the state lists 13 residents dead but the death toll is actually 50.
Cuomo and two aides each answered the question in rapid succession: There’s a misunderstanding about confirmed COVID deaths and probable COVID deaths; it’s an evolving situation; the state’s directions to nursing homes were vague so nursing homes’ responses have been vague; any facility that deliberately misleads the state in its reporting can have its license revoked; mistakes happen.
With 12 deaths, Diamond Hill is likely one of the hardest-hit facilities upstate. Rensselaer County officials in a post on the county’s Facebook page Friday said they are turning again to the state for help in addressing the situation. They want residents relocated from the private care facility to hospitals but can’t order it themselves because the state has jurisdiction over private adult care facilities.
Cuomo has maintained that nursing homes have to ask for help before the state provides help, though he has instructed state officials to investigate facilities for compliance.
Two other elder-care deaths were reported Friday in the greater Capital Region by county officials: One at Shaker Place in Colonie, bringing to four the number at that county-owned facility, and one at a non-disclosed adult care facility in southern Warren County, bringing to eight the elder-care deaths in that county.
In other COVID-19 related developments Friday:
- The state reported 289 deaths in the preceding 24 hours, bringing the cumulative death toll to 18,610. Three new deaths were reported in Rensselaer County and two in Albany County.
- The city of Albany announced one of its most cherished traditions would be virtual this year. The Tulip Festival will debut at noon Saturday, May 9, on the city’s YouTube page — Albany Events. The annual gathering in Washington Park draws throngs, which is not possible this year due to the virus.
- State Attorney General Letitia James warned Capital Region residents about a spate of telephone scam attempts by callers impersonating Albany and Troy police officers asking for financial information or purchase of gift cards to resolve bogus criminal charges. The scammers have been using caller ID spoofing to make it appear that the calls originated in police departments and are using the real names of actual area police officers.
- Victory Church will offer face masks, hand sanitizer and quarantine care packages to those in need in the Crossgates Mall parking lot near 110 Grill and Dave & Busters on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. or as long as supplies last. Recipients must stay in their vehicles.
- Pop-up mobile COVID-19 diagnostic testing in Schenectady is planned from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Hometown Health Centers, 1044 State St. No prescription is needed and there is no charge but attendees must be experiencing symptoms and should call 518-688-3420 for an appointment.
- More mobile diagnostic testing is planned around Schenectady over the coming week: 600 McClellan St. Monday and Friday, 725 Salina St. Tuesday, 1252 Albany St. Wednesday, and 1121 Forest Road Thursday. Hours are 9-1 and 2-5 daily. Rain location Tuesday through Thursday is 600 McClellan St.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced nearly $165 million in grants through the Cares Act to public housing authorities across New York. The money can be used to prevent, prepare for, or respond to a COVID-19 outbreak. Recipients include housing authorities in Albany, $924,084; Mechanicville, $77,447; Saratoga Springs, $133,583; Schenectady, $525,445; Rensselaer, $49,091; Gloversville, $127,549; Amsterdam, $144,401; Glens Falls, $23,946; and Hoosick, $13,904.
- The Fulton County Public Health Department asked anyone who was at the Advance Auto Parts store at 209 N. Comrie Ave. in Johnstown between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, April 26, to contact it immediately and to go into precautionary quarantine at home until May 11.
- Walmart said it has hired 4,576 additional employees in its New York stores as it reached its goal of adding 200,000 associated nationwide to deal with increased demand. Some of the employees will be temporary through the COVID-19 crisis, others will transition to permanent roles.