GLENVILLE — Stakeholders in Schenectady County’s tourism industry said they were prepared for pent up demand for weddings and events of up to 150 people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a press event at Water’s Edge Lighthouse Monday, discussion of the governor’s new guidelines for weddings and events centered on thermal kiosks that would ‘welcome’ guests by taking their temperatures and other baseline details.
The new guidelines allow up to 150 people, or 50% of a venue’s capacity, to attend weddings and meetings.
All weddings must be approved by local health departments, and everyone on the premises must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before the wedding, or a rapid test within six hours.
Individuals planning weddings or catered events with more than 50 people must submit an application to a local health authority at least five days in advance if more than 50 people are expected to attend. An online wedding and event form to help event organizers was unveiled by Schenectady County Legislator Cathy Gatta and Discover Schenectady Executive Director Todd Garofano. It can be viewed at www.schenectadycounty.com/weddingsandcateredevents.
The attestation form asks for date and time of the event, contact information, and how organizers will handle COVID-19 testing. Upon successful completion, the organizer can print a confirmation form to maintain in case of a compliance audit.
Event organizers will also be responsible for checking temperatures and making sure attendees wear face masks upon entry.
Richard Ruzzo, managing partner of Shepherd Communication and Security of Albany, said the county and fellow technology integrators want to help organizers with their creation of thermal kiosks.
The kiosks allow guests to enter a venue quickly and efficiently, take temperatures and check for face-mask compliance, Ruzzo said.
The company would have a full-service team attend the event and integrate a system that would provide event managers with alerts, including if someone checks in at a high temperature, without a mask, or didn’t answer a COVID questionnaire, Ruzzo said.
“Whatever we can do to help with our hospitality partners, to open smoothly, to open efficiently, and to get folks in this room, because getting folks in this room is about job stability, it’s about economic momentum, and it’s about getting back to what we all know, as our normal way of life,” Ruzzo said.
The company has an ample supply of kiosks, which are about $2,500 each, Ruzzo said.
Because the client would be responsible for that added event cost, Shepherd Communication and Security is planning a rental program for event and hospitality partners of the county and Discover Schenectady, the nonprofit organization that promotes tourism in the country.
“We’re sensitive, we’re compassionate, and we’re focused on helping to reopen,” Ruzzo said, “and we believe that they will be impactful,” Ruzzo said, adding that he anticipated recovering the costs over time.
Garofano said the organization plans to offer an incentive program for assisting in paying for these types of items, as long as the event generates a minimum number of room nights.
There’s a huge pent up demand for all types of social events, the director added.
“We’ve heard from a number of folks who actually had weddings planned for the last year,” he said. “They went ahead and had their ceremony, but put off having the reception until it was safer and they can invite more guests and so on. Same on the meetings and events side as well.”
Joe Popolizio, general manager for Water’s Edge Lighthouse, said his first large-scale event will be in May.
In spite of an increase in bookings, Popolizio said, clients’ confidence levels in holding big events were a mixed bag.
“Some people feel comfortable at this point, some people want to wait a little bit longer. I think the confidence is gaining as the vaccination rate goes up, the cases for the virus go down,” he said.
Popolizio said staffing events of a larger scale would be more of a challenge for his company.
“Undoubtedly we’re gonna have to have more staff involved,” he said. “We’re going to have kind of contingency plans for anything that would pop up with positive tests or anything like that,” he said, adding that the technology piece with the thermal kiosk would be helpful in this area.
“It will actually reduce the need to have a physical person standing at the door, taking temperatures, maybe even asking questions.”
To that point, Ruzzo added that having a person at the door with a handheld thermometer was less accurate. The handheld device can be inaccurate from a range of four to six degrees, while the kiosks are .9 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Let technology drive the transactional things that we need to do – ask the questions, capture the temperature, get the face mask compliance,” Ruzzo said.