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Of the 26 dozen eggs sent out, 12 dozen were hatched at the 4-H training center, a learning facility in Ballston Spa. Photos provided.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — While schools across the state closed their doors and people self-isolated in their homes, 26 dozen chicken eggs wanted to break out of their “home” and hatch during COVID-19.
The fertilized eggs were sent out to participating elementary schools in Saratoga County as a part of the 4-H outreach program. The program allows classrooms to experience the 21-day development of a chicken egg. Brieanna Hughes, program coordinator for Saratoga County 4-H animal science, said a surprising amount of eggs still hatched despite being moved from schools.
The eggs were due to hatch on March 18, the week most schools announced their closings. Hughes said she reached out to schools that prior weekend to ask if teachers were willing to take the eggs home, or offered to pick them up and bring them to their facility to hatch.
“Because a lot of teachers were being told they couldn’t go into their schools so I didn’t want anyone to be burdened with this,” Hughes said.
Despite school closings, only 12 dozen eggs were collected from schools and hatched at the training center in Ballston Spa. Of the 26 dozen eggs sent out, over 75 percent hatched which Hughes was surprised by.
Hughes said the hatch rate was by chance, and added that she expected a lower hatch rate simply from moving the chicken eggs. Transportation of the eggs is not recommended due to drastic temperature changes. However, the unstable period for the eggs is earlier in the development as well as the day of hatching if a small movement occurs.
“We almost got them at the ideal time. It isn’t ideal to move them at all, but it was pretty cool to have such a good hatch rate,” Hughes said. “What that means is that the school did a really good job taking care of the eggs for the first 18 days and then we were able to finish that out.”
Seeing the eggs develop for the 21 days allows students to learn about the development and embryology. Hughes said in the beginning, the program attains the fertilized eggs and provides the schools with incubators and equipment. 4-H hosts a small teacher training where they pick up all the needed materials and bring them to their classroom. Not having a set curriculum, schools are at liberty to teach what they want.
“But our program is incubation and embryology so that is what they’re learning about, the development of an organism. They get to candle the eggs and actually see the changes in the embryo. They can see the first veins coming and an eye during the forming of the head,” Hughes said.
Once the eggs are hatched, teachers are at liberty to keep them or give them pack to the program.
“A lot of teachers have friends that want chickens, but we want to make sure there is a resource so we also provide someone to take them,” Hughes said.
She added that these eggs were a part of the first rotation for the hatching program. The second session was anticipated to start at the end of April, but Hughes said they’re waiting to see how the self-distancing plays out. The participating schools for this sessions included Schuylerville, Arongen Elementary in the Shenendehowa school district and Greenberg Child Care Center.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — They stood several feet apart from one another at a noisy intersection where Broadway meets Lake Avenue on a Tuesday morning that marked Day 18 of the city’s declaration as a state of emergency.
Three months into her new job, the city’s Public Safety Commissioner took her turn at the portable lectern stationed in front of a City Hall under renovation, but where the tools of its reconstruction have been muted.
“This is not the time for sleep-overs, play-dates, or dinner parties,” instructed commissioner Robin Dalton.
One of the essential keys of trying to keep people healthy is social distancing – that is: remaining six feet from all other people when in public, and refraining from nonessential gatherings – be it socially, recreationally, or otherwise. Saratoga Springs is taking up Gov. Andrew Cuomo's guidelines - “These are not helpful hints, these are legal provisions” – and implementing those provisions.
“As a city we will be enforcing those through warnings, ticketing and fines if needed, because your actions are that important and our health and safety depends on them,” Dalton said. “The longer people break the rules, the longer we are going to be in this situation. How we come out the other side depends on you – the public…we’re going to need the help of every resident in our city to help slow the spread of coronavirus.”
The gathering included city Mayor Meg Kelly, Police Chief Shane Crooks, Fire Chief Joe Dolan, and Saratoga Hospital President Angelo Calbone – the latter of whom explained that the hospital had 10 COVID-19 cases in the building, and that they possessed sufficient Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE’s, to take care of patients and staff at this time. On Thursday, April 2, The Saratoga County Department of Public Health announced county-wide that there were 139 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saratoga County with 19 of those individuals hospitalized at this time.
Saratoga Hospital has also joined the "statewide hospital system" as proposed by Gov. Cuomo, following the Covid-19 outbreak. "To that end, we are comforted to know that if Saratoga Springs needs it, help will be there from other New York providers," Mayor Kelly said on April 3. The same afternoon, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, NY-21, released a statement to say she was "very concerned about Gov. Cuomo’s announcement regarding his plan to sign an executive order to shift ventilators from Upstate to Downstate New York." Stefanik's district includes a portion of the city of Saratoga Springs, as well as municipalities east, west and north of the city.
“The North Country comprises the largest number of seniors of any Congressional District in New York State, the most vulnerable age group to COVID-19. Our critical needs and vulnerabilities must be considered....our rural hospitals are already very limited in resources and we must ensure Upstate New York’s needs for testing supplies and ventilators are fully met."
Mayor Kelly said the city’s parks are still safe for people to go to - as long as social distancing measures are observed. “We want to keep separated right now, and the last thing we want to do is close parks.” One day later, on Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced, due to city residents repeated violation of distancing rules, playgrounds in New York City will be closed to the public, although open space areas will remain open.Local authorities in Saratoga Springs re-iterated on Thursday that while the playgrounds and basketball courts where high-density congregation may occur are closed, the parks remain open.
During his daily briefing from the State Capitol in Albany, Gov. Cuomo warned that rules of social distancing will be in place for a while. “We’re still going up the mountain, and that’s where the battle will be in 14 to 21 days, depending on who you believe. That’s the apex,” the governor said. “We still have to come down the other side of the mountain (before everything re-opens).”
During a mid-week teleconference with the press, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who represents the 21st District, said she is concerned about non-essential travel. “We want to mitigate non-essential travel from anywhere in the state. We have rural hospitals that are already in challenging positions. If the numbers continue to go up or surge, our rural hospitals are not in the same position as some of the hospitals downstate, in terms of bed-count.”
While the renovation of City Hall has stopped, for the time being, the building of the multi-story parking garage adjacent to the Saratoga Springs City Center has received approval, with some restrictions, to continue with its construction, building for the time when visitors will once again flock to the city and engage in its multitude of events, conferences, and happenings.
Site-specific COVID-19 procedures will be met during the building process and the continuation of the Flat Rock Parking Structure is vital for the city’s ability to recover from the damages of the pandemic, City Center Executive Director Ryan McMahon said in a statement. “The Saratoga Springs City Center Authority’s action is in keeping with guidelines issued by Empire State Development (ESD) and is an essential infrastructure project.”
Financially, the city is bracing for a multi-million dollar loss in revenue due to the pandemic and the resultant closing of all but “essential” businesses, the potential cancellation of major public events, and the stifling of tourism.
At this time, the city is considering a scenario of a $7.8 million loss of revenue for the first half of 2020, and potentially a total 2020 year-end revenue shortfall of $16 million, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan estimated in March. With a 2020 General Operating Budget projecting total 2020 revenues of approximately $48.7 million, the scenario equates to a 33% shortfall in 2020 revenue to what was previously anticipated.
“We are proceeding with caution regarding how to address this loss-of-revenue scenario. Both over- and under-estimating our response has consequences,” Commissioner Madigan said in a statement. “Given the city’s good financial position and excellent community partnerships, we have many options, including cash-on-hand, healthy reserves, borrowing, various bonding tools, and shared services…It is too soon to determine what combination of these efforts will fit our needs. But it is not too soon to state that all options will be considered very carefully.”
The potential finance losses may be tempered somewhat should the city receive state for hosting a VLT casino. Earlier this year, the city, along with other state municipalities, was warned it might lose approximately $2.35 million in that aid. On March 31, the city received the hopeful news that the aid may be restored. Madigan said the restoration of that VLT Impact Aid in the 2020-2021 State Budget would be a very positive outcome, particularly as the city works through COVID-19 related fiscal uncertainties.
“We are very hopeful that the city will be receiving its VLT aid based on the budget bill that was published today,” said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, via phone late Tuesday afternoon. “The bill was published and is now aging for us to vote on it, and the cut that the governor had proposed in his Executive Budget has been removed. So, we are hopeful that the legislature will soon be voting on that bill and the aid will be available to the city.”
However, Woerner echoed Madigan’s sentiments regarding the restoration of that $2.35 million to Saratoga Springs. “You know, it’s not done until it’s done,” she said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – “Ultimately, I think we’re going to be talking about things as being either pre-Corona, or post-Corona,” says Elliott Masie, disengaging from a Zoom video conference with a screen depicting representatives from 60 different companies across the nation who had gathered to discuss where they are and what they are doing “in these times.”
“I think this will change everything. And I don’t think it’s all bad; I don’t think it’s all good,” he says. “There’s a lot we haven’t figured out yet. But there are some things that are going to be absolutely different.”
Masie has hosted and curated learning & development seminars, labs, and conferences for several decades. He’s pulled in experts from across the country and put up interviews with them since before the age of Podcasts and Ted Talks, in the formative years of the Internet. He leads a learning consortium of more than 150 global organizations cooperating on the evolution of learning strategies - a lot of it from the Saratoga Springs think tank The Masie Center, with a focus on how organizations can support learning and knowledge within the workforce.
On this day, the faces of dozens of representatives from a myriad of companies simultaneously stare back from his screen. One represents a financial service company with 60,000 employees, another a fast food service company that employs 1 million workers.
“Many of them are having to lay people off, and others are working from home, so I try to be the Rabbi – to mediate, and to have conversations with them about what’s changing,” Masie says. “We’ve never had a situation like this before.”
The moment it became clear the virus was coming to the U.S., Masie says he decided to use the Masie Center - its people, resources, reputation and networks - to host regular video support conversations to link colleagues and support the people who are in charge of the workforce learning all around the country.
Working from home and learning from home. What works? What doesn’t work?
“It’s hard. If you have your partner, or kids or dogs. Maybe you don’t have the Internet at home. People may not have all the tools they need to work at home. To employers, I would say: in the old days, meaning a few years ago, when businesses shut down, they just shut down and people went home. We’re now doing something that’s miraculous, but there’s no model for doing that,” Masie says.
”I was on the phone with someone who has 47,000 people working for them and the first thing they realized is that 9-to-5 isn’t a relative term. Meaning somebody may need to take care of their kids, because daycare’s not working. So, they’ve moved from thinking about the 9-to-5 to just get done what you can done.”
Communities in upstate New York began looking at things like high-speed Internet capabilities with an eye trained upon a future time when employees could be capable of working from their homes. In 2010, then-President Barack Obama signed legislation instructing each federal agency to come up with policies to promote telecommuting. At the time of the Telework Enhancement Act, approximately 5 percent of the federal work force was engaged in some level of teleworking, with slightly more than 100,000 employees teleworking at least once a week. A 2016 Gallup Survey reported the number of employees who worked remotely in some capacity was up to 43%. For those who haven’t, now would seem a good time to heed the advice from those who have.
“Have a dedicated in-home workspace and do your best to keep it holy,” explains Michael Eck, a longtime beloved Capital Region fixture in the art and music world. A self-employed freelancer for nearly 30 years, Eck telecommutes every day to the West Coast. Currently he works for Two Old Hippies Stringed Instruments in Bend, OR.
“Get up in the morning at the same time you would for your morning drive and do your morning routine,” Eck says. “Get dressed. In actual clothes. And put on your shoes. You’re going to work. Have breakfast. Be at the desk by your regular time and do the work. Make sure to eat lunch and take a brief afternoon walk so it feels like a regular day. Lather, rinse, repeat.”
Working from home with kids at home is an entirely new experience for those not accustomed to it, writes Kristen Hare, who has broken down her suggestions for working parents at home into categories respective of the children’s ages - from babies and toddlers to middle schoolers and teens. The piece may be viewed at Poynter.org.
“Just because workers’ laptops are now nearby on their kitchen tables doesn’t mean managers can expect their workforce to be available 24/7,” points out Alison Green in her article “You Don’t Have to Work All the Time Now,” which may be read at slate.com. “People feel like they’re expected to be working every minute of the day—in ways they generally wouldn’t be expected to do when they’re in the office... Remote workers aren’t on a chain gang; they’ve just temporarily relocated their workspace.”
For people new to working at home, Masie recommends being mindful of your time not only to produce good quality work, but to avoid burning out.
“We’re people under stress. And if people are under stress, their ability to learn, for accuracy, and their ability to 100% focus goes down. So, things that might have taken a half-hour at work, now might take two hours,” Masie says. “You do need to monitor your stress level. And you may need to tell people to stop working, meaning they’re working 14 hours a day just because there is no going home. That’s not the deal and that’s not healthy.”
He also recommends limiting your news-watching time. “I tell people to find one hour a day where if you want to, need to, or choose to, to go get the news. Don’t do that all day long. I love news, talking about it, thinking about it - but it’s not really updating, in a sense. You talk to someone who went through Katrina, they’re not floating through the river with a transistor radio on. So, I think there’s a psychological balance that’s needed.”
At home, one may not have the informal “water cooler” moments to talk with co-workers. Masie says in a social-distancing world, he’s created a time to socially interact with others, albeit it using technological means.
“Every morning at 7:15, Ira and I have a cup of coffee and a toasted bagel. He lives on one side of town and I live on the other,” Masie says, with a laugh. “And we carry on the same kind of conversations we’ve always had.
“Some things will never be the same and sadly a lot of people who have spent their life building a career, might have it disrupted, in some cases transformed, or in the worse-case ended by a tragic moment in history. So, you go back to Kubler-Ross there are some death and dying elements that people have to go through to find some peace. Luckily I can’t think of a better place that I would like to be than Saratoga.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS —Saratoga Hospital has established a COVID-19 Response Team that includes representatives of all disciplines of the hospital, from the main campus and all outpatient offices and facilities. Team members are in constant communication with each other and other area hospitals, as well as state and county health officials.
The best sources of information about COVID-19 plans at Saratoga Hospital are SaratogaHospital.org and the Saratoga Hospital Facebook page. These are updated constantly with their most current policies, including:
Visitation Guidelines: To minimize risks for their patients and staff, no visitors are allowed in the building at this time, with a limited number of exceptions dependent on appropriate screening. This policy also applies to their urgent care and emergent care facilities.
Elective Procedures: Effective Monday, March 23, most elective procedures have been postponed, as recommended by the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Bell and Sharman Lisieski are leading the postponement protocols.
Self-Care Resources: Many in the community are understandably anxious with the arrival of COVID-19 in our corner of the world. The hospital has included some community resources to help you and your loved ones reduce stress and manage anxiety.
Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include: Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones; Changes in sleep or eating patterns; Difficulty sleeping or concentrating; Worsening of chronic health problems; Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.
Things you can do to support yourself:
• Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
• Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
• Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
• Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
“As we all take measures to protect our physical health, we also need to protect our emotional health,” writes psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb, whose article “Dear Therapist’s Guide to Staying Sane During a Pandemic,” was recently published in The Atlantic. “Everyone copes with horrible situations differently. For some, humor is a balm. It’s BOTH/AND: It’s horrible AND we can allow our souls to breathe.” The article may be read online at: theatlantic.com.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued the following statement as part of a COVID-19 Announcement on March 21: Mental health is a vital part of public health. To that end, I am calling on psychologists, therapists and other mental health professionals to pitch in and volunteer their services to help with New York’s Coronavirus response. To sign up, go to: health.ny.gov/assistance.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The 2010 census indicated the city of Saratoga Springs had a population of 26,586. Those population numbers are estimated to be higher, now, a decade later.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that the census takes place every 10 year and responses matter in helping determine how many dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year, as well as how many seats in Congress each state gets.
The U.S. has counted its population every 10 years since 1790.
Door-to-door campaigns inspiring residents to fill out 2020 Census forms have been halted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the U.S. Census Bureau has extended the national deadline for the count by two weeks, until mid-August.
Through March 22, the most recent date of available figures, less than one-fourth, or 22.5% of Saratoga Springs households responded online, by mail, or by phone to the 2020 Census. That percentage is just under 20% for Saratoga County as a whole. The city and county 2010 self-response rates were each at approximately 70 percent in 2010.
For more information and to respond to the census, visit: 2020census.gov
SARATOGA COUNTY —While COVID-19 impacts the community, local hospitals and nonprofits are searching for item donations to continue their cause of serving the community.
Saratoga Hospital is looking for gloves, masks and protective eyewear. Respirator Masks, surgical gowns and ventilators are also a part of the products needed.
The Franklin Community Center in Saratoga is asking for donations of juice, peanut butter, canned fruit, tuna and pasta/egg noodles. There is a food donation bin located in the front of the building.
The Wilton Food Pantry is searching for canned fruit and personal care items. Peter Maynard, director of the food pantry, said donating a monetary amount is highly recommended because pantries can buy food from the Regional Food Bank at lower prices than the consumers can. The donations also allow the pantry to control inventory better, but no food donations will be turned down.
The Wilton Food bank along with Schuylerville Area Food and Emergency Relief (SAFER) Food pantry will take orders before clients arrive at the pantry. Participants are encouraged to order online or call-in before arriving. Drop-ins will be serviced as well but as asked to wait outside while their food order is prepared.
SARATOGA SPRINGS —Keeping ourselves and each other safe from COVID-19, some of these local businesses will be offering promotions to keep people socially distant where people can “pick-up” or have these items which are important to our daily lives delivered, instead of visiting the establishment.
The purpose of the event is to allow all Saratoga County restaurant and business owners and consumers one central location to promote current specials, promotions, delivery and pickup options.
Every industry will be touched by the coronavirus crisis, in some form, but perhaps none more immediately than bars and restaurants. We still need to eat during this time, and restaurants need the business more than ever. While some have made the difficult decision to close the doors for a period of time, others are modifying menus, instituting online/phone ordering along with providing new delivery options in addition to curbside pickup.
The list of participating restaurants can be found at saratoga.org/tourism/take-out-week; the page will be updated frequently.