Opal Jessica Bogdan
SARATOGA SPRINGS — As some individuals embraced Covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions placed over the community, tensions in families and couples living at home can worsen to create an un-safe environment as time goes on.
Those dealing with domestic violence are under duress as many survivors are locked down with their abusers. Maggie Fronk is the executive director of Wellspring, a social service dedicated to support survivors and engage the community to end relationship and sexual abuse. As tension, stress and abuse situations escalate with the abuser and victim staying home 24/7, Fronk shared ways to create a safe home situation.
“Everyone’s situation is different. I think everyone who is in that situation knows their circumstances best, but I’d really like them to know that they are not alone,” Front said.
Parents who may discover rising tensions and diminishing patience are recommended to take a step back. Fronk said spreading love is important for parents who experience added stress from schooling their kids at home. Taking a break from the rules, and giving love to their children and themselves allows individuals to take a step back and breathe.
“It’s important to know that this is a new normal…I think none of us can strive for the level of performance we had before. It’s important to maintain some routines and also to relax them if we need to,” Fronk said.
The want and need to know what’s happening out in the world can add stress. Fronk said setting times to disengage from phones and computers is important to take a step back.
“Just to do something in the moment. It may be starting a new routine, going for a walk outside, playing a family game or cooking something different. Like having dessert first at dinner,” Fronk said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of this, so we have to build in those moment that refresh and renew us.”
Although life may be different when it comes to navigating an abusive situation during COVID-19, Wellspring still offers their services. Supportive services such as advocacy and case management, crisis intervention and financial empowerment are different areas Wellspring can help in. For individuals who are dealing with relationship abuse, Fronk recommended calling their hotline to chat with an advocate.
“Sometimes, all people need is some support. Our hotline is not just for crises, it’s for information if you want to explore what’s happening at home or to discover if a [situation] is domestic violence,” Fronk said. “I don’t believe a lot of people think to call unless there is physical abuse, but there are all kinds of power and control.”
Emotional control and social-isolation are some of ways an abuser might hold control over their victim. Survivors who had abusers in jail gain another level of fear and complications as those inmates were released in New York and other states. Even as stress levels rise, Fronk said calling in can alleviate stress and help an individual navigate their situation.
However, Fronk pointed out that with children studying from home, calling in might not be easily available for parents. In response to this, Wellspring created a web-based chat line. The web-chat can be accessed at Wellspringcares.org, and allows individuals to “talk” to an advocate. The chat is available during the workday, but hours are also offered from 9 p.m. to midnight. Fronk said the chat line helps individuals who are not able to place phone
calls or communicate better through typing.
“That’s after when kids have gone to bed where you could just be on your computer and getting the support you need,” Fronk said. “With all of our services, you can find out what we can help you with.”
Self-isolation creates social-isolation, placing a pause on relationships outside the home environment. As those relationships grow distant, Fronk said individuals who know of someone in an abusive situation are welcomed to call in. Wellspring services are confidential and free of charge.
Knowing if and when to leave an abusive relationship changes based on each situation. However, Fronk recommended simply calling their hotline can help individuals.
“Many people don’t reach out for help because they don’t know everything that’s available. You don’t have to be thinking about leaving to call us. You can just want to explore what your options are so you have a plan A and a plan B,” Fronk said.
Wellspring also helps individuals with basic needs such as food and housing. Fronk said Wellspring offers rent subsidized housing for those dealing with abuse. Individuals can also get help dealing with courts to get safety, including gaining an order of protection.
Most importantly, however, is that Wellspring allows individuals to explore their rights and options for assistance if it’s wanted.
“I want people to know that you’re not alone in this. There is help out there. I think people are afraid to call because they think it will start something where they will have to leave and they’re not ready to leave. We can just help you where you are to figure out how to get through this and know what supports there are. You don’t have to be in a crisis to call us,” Fronk said.
Wellspring hotline can be reached at 518-584-8188.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Social distancing and self-isolation have become the norm in today’s world, but what happens when your entire job is based around social contact and stimulation?
Direct support professionals at Saratoga Bridges have been working since COVID-19 has struck the community, working hands-on with individuals living in houses or supportive apartments. Saratoga Bridges provides professional services to people with developmental disabilities. The non-profit ensures individuals are able to realize their goals, hopes and dreams and help accomplish them.
Sloan Russell is an assistant residential manager at Saratoga Bridges. For Russell’s daily duties, he helps six individuals take care of their daily needs. The needs vary each day and Russell helps with any banking duties, weekly shopping and even administers medication.
“I help with everything that they need done in order to exist as a regular person in society,” Russell said. “Typically, our jobs are to help them feel more a part of the society that they’re in, but it’s reverse psychology here. Normally we’re trying to bring them into society…to let them feel more a part of daily life and interact with people outside of what they’re used to. Now, we have to keep ourselves distanced.”
Sloan Russell social distancing with Tina.
Russell works in a behavior house, meaning different situations and trigger points can impact one resident differently than others. He works a steady schedule with three women and three men in his house, helping with anything they need. Russell even helps with individual’s meal plans. Some individuals are tube fed, which staff are trained and certified for, while others have special diets including a ground diet and low acid diets.
Despite his daily duties, Russell’s day begins before he steps foot into the house, going through a screening before he enters the home. The screening process includes a check of temperature and heart rate, oxygen status and a standard questionnaire. The goal is to monitor as many things as possible, from vital signs to personal experiences on how they’re feeling for the day.
One of the hardest tasks Russell and other direct support professionals have taken on is explaining the virus. Although he goes through daily screening, not every resident understands what COVID-19 is all about.
“It takes a lot of explaining and a lot of just careful planning with all the staff on how we handle it. You have to ease everyone into it. Tell them everyone else is doing it and it’s not just them,” Russell said. “Everyone is their own person, so how we explain to them is case by case.”
Direct support professional Dawnmarie Costantino said consistency as well as repetitiveness helps individuals understand the virus. Using the same type of sentence throughout the entire staff can help reinforce proper behavior.
“It’s interesting because you have different forms of communication with the individuals in one home. Some of them do tactile manual signs, others are completely verbal, and others just do ASL. Then you have folks that are nonverbal who utilize gestures or physical movements for you to understand how they are feeling,” Costantino said. “It’s already a challenge so when we’re in a situation like this, reassuring them, letting them know why we are here and keeping everything consistent and concise will help them stay in a better face and be willing to participate in activities that are being offered at home.”
Russell reflected the same thoughts, adding some individuals are verbal, open to current events and consistently on social media while others are the opposite. He said those individuals that don’t understand what’s going on think they are being kept at home on purpose.
“It’s tough. You feel for them because you can’t explain everything to them.
They look at you and ask why you’re wearing a mask around them, or constantly washing our hands. They want to know what’s going on with that and why extra activities taking place,” Russell said.
The extra activity Russell is referring to doesn’t only include proper PPE and screening procedures, but the “day-hab” classes as well. Prior to social restrictions, individuals in Saratoga Bridges would participate in a day program, or day-hab. Pamela Polacsek, assistant director of communications, said the day program has since moved to the individual’s houses or apartments.
“Because of the virus, all of our day staff are going and working in the houses during the day. The individuals who would normally be in a day program setting or at work are now at home,” Polacsek said.
The day-hab would normally partake in Wilton, Clifton Park, and off of Exit 13. At those locations, Polascek said an upwards of 450 individuals would get transported to partake in the day-hab.
Costantino would teach day-hab classes to 13 individuals from different agencies. Now, Costantino teaches a group of five in their own home. Just as Russell goes through the initial screening each morning, Costantino does the same. She now see’s her classroom individuals earlier in the day, allowing her to get a better idea on how everyone is feeling that morning.
She starts each day with an activity schedule, so the five individuals always know what to expect. They start with daily communication, talking about the day of the week and month.
“We talk about the things are good for them cognitively to remember. It’s very good for people to continue remembering where they are in their day or their months. Everyday we do the same thing to help them with structure and we see end results, helping them with their own cognitive abilities,” Costantino said.
After the daily communication, Costantino will focus on different activates each day. Activities including a math group, music exercise activities and preparing meals are some of the few. In her math class, Costantino teaches the typical school layout but adjusts the level for each individual.
“Not everyone gets the same thing out of it, but everyone gets something. I try to engage them in a lot of music. It’s really good for you to feel music and move to music. It lets people forget about what’s bothering them and their worries because they’re engaged in something with such a great energy,” Costantino said.
Having a set routine helps some individuals out who prefer having a schedule ahead of time. Costantino said when the individuals have a routine, they know what they’re looking forward to and can help with forgetfulness. She said some individuals may start forgetting earlier than others, but being able to remind them of the daily schedule helps their mental health. Bringing day-hab to their homes is something new to the residents as well, and having a schedule helps them differentiate between class and regular home hours.
Russell said his individuals have responded well since COVID-19 struck. Although they are coping, Russell noticed they missed going outside the most. He said outings with his house have always been a big deal, going to play basketball or to a department store. They are trying to incorporate sensory rides, using a van to keep individuals six-feet apart.
“We go out and do a ride through the neighborhood or go out by lake. We drive around so they can see scenery and look at nature. The biggest thing is trying to keep everyone isolated from outside contact as much as possible right now. It’s a reversal of typically what we do,” Russell said.
Polacsek felt direct support professionals often get overlooked when someone defines an essential worker. In response to that, she created the hash-tag WeAreEssential to call attention to direct support professionals.
“Our field, a lot of times, gets overlooked as far as the essential work they do to enhance, improve and empower other peoples lives. It’s truly very inspiring…their commitment and devotion and flexibility throughout this whole virus,” Polacsek said.
Saratoga Bridges supports 132 people in their residential program, having 19 houses and 10 supportive apartments through the county. Of those individuals, Polacsek said 150 work in the community.
“A lot of our individuals have worked in grocery stores for years, and they’re working hard because the current hours to go into work. They’re providing support to the community as well. They’re certainly able to support the community that’s supporting them,” Polacsek said.
Russell feels that direct support professionals often get forgotten because people don’t understand the way these individuals live and their daily routines. He said the hash-tag wasn’t created for the work they’re doing during COVID-19, but rather the daily routines before and after COVID-19 they will continue to do.
“People don’t think there is actually staff out there helping and aiding. That there are individuals in these homes, where if we don’t come in or are not able to help these guys, they wouldn’t be able to live in these independent homes and enjoy life as it is. Some have no clue, they just think that these guys are autonomous. That they’re just out there living their best life not knowing how they live it,” Russell said.
Just as he goes through a screening to protect the individuals in his home, he does the same when he goes home to his family. Russell can work a 12 or 16-hour shift and feels at the end of the day, all essential workers are in the same situations.
“I’m trying to get other people to recognize what exactly a front line worker is, there are so many different aspects of being a front line worker. At the end of the day, all of us essential workers are all in the same boat. We all have to still work, so the chances of cross contamination between your job and your personal life is at an all-time high,” Russell said.
While Russell hopes to shed some light on his daily job for the community, Costantino said she noticed the work residential staff do. Since stepping outside her classroom, she noticed how careful the staff works with the individuals, ensuring every room in the house is sanitary. She noticed individual’s bedrooms were personalized as well.
“I have to say I’m really amazed about how much more work my residential coworkers do that I wasn’t aware of before. There are a lot more involved that I didn’t know,” Costantino said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Darling Donuts, a shop dedicated towards creating unique donuts, was set to open this month, but COVID-19 restrictions has pushed the store towards a new opening date.
Owner of Darling Donuts, Natascha Pearl-Mansman, set her new opening date at 441 Broadway to early June. Due to COVID-19 restrictions placed over the community, renovations have slowed the opening for her new store.
“Construction has been dramatically slowed. Part of the issue was some of the supply warehouses that we were getting the materials from were closed,” Pearl-Mansman said. “Little by little things are happening. This process…in the best of times takes longer than you hope it would, and in the worst of times it seems to drag on forever.”
Despite the slow progress, Pearl-Mansman said electrical work has finally finished and plumbing would start this week. After renovations are finished, Darling Donuts would wait for inspections once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
“Its really just a waiting game,” Pearl-Mansman said.
Darling Donuts started in 2018 after Pearl-Mansman had her first child. After experiencing difficulties in the past with pregnancy, Pearl-Mansman said she didn’t feel right putting her child in daycare.
“I decided not to go back to my regular job right away. The thought of putting her in daycare and working fulltime-after everything I went through just to have her in the first place-it was just too hard,” Pearl-Mansman said.
She began to spend more time at home with her new daughter, attempting to still earn an income to pay for loans she had. She took to her roots as an avid baker and started to bake cupcakes and cookies.
“There is a ton of people in this area that make [baked goods] and I didn’t want to feel like I would be competition against a ton of people early on just to get my name out there. I wanted to make something that was going to be different from everybody else,” Pearl-Mansman said.
The idea for Darling Donuts was inspired after visiting her sister in Brooklyn years prior. While there, Pearl-Mansman and her sister visited Doughnut Plant, a shop making different kinds of gourmet donuts. After experiencing not only the taste, but the feel and smell of the atmosphere Pearl-Mansman knew she needed to create something similar for Saratoga.
After testing her own recipes on family and friends, she decided to venture in a serious route and developed a business plan. New York only allows homemade food to be sold at farmers markets, and she realized she needed a proper kitchen to sell her donuts.
Pearl-Mansman found a commercial kitchen to rent and started to bake orders in summer 2018. She purchased her location on Broadway in November of 2019, partnering with Glenn Severance to expand Darling Donuts.
“Once I [started], things took off and started to get crazy. I increased my production as much as I could, with the equipment that I had in the kitchen that I was working in. A year and a half in, I realized it was time to move to the next step,” Pearl-Mansman said.
Pearl-Mansman creates all her donuts from scratch. Using brioche style dough, which creates a yeast raised donut. The brioche style gives Pearl-Mansman a neutral base that allows her to get creative with her donut flavors.
“I have really simply natural recipes and there is actually no sugar in the dough itself, just enough to get the yeast to rise. All of the flavor comes from the glazes and the toppings. And all the glazes and the toppings are made with real fruit and real nuts. Even the cake glazes that I do, such as funfetti, has actual cake that’s in the glaze,” Pearl-Mansman said.
Along with sweet donuts she creates, savory donuts are also listed on the menu. She creates an everything-bagel donut, which has a savory cream cheese glaze, everything-seasoning and a bagel chip on top. She also creates a pizza donut, which starts with a san-marzano tomato base topped with fresh mozzarella and pesto.
“The biggest compliment that I get from people is that it really tastes like you say it will. My donuts taste like what I say it will because that’s what I used to make them,” Pearl-Mansman said.
Until renovations on her Broadway store have finished, Pearl-Mansman will not be producing any donuts. The commercial kitchen Pearl-Mansman has been using belongs in a religious institution, which has since closed. However, once the Broadway shop finished, they will explore to-go and delivery options if the restrictions are not lifted.
“I like showing my children that if you work really hard and if you follow your dreams, that pretty much anything is possible. I never would have thought when I was writing my business plan that I’d be opening a store on Broadway. Things happen as long as you work hard and you are dedicated, then things fall into place,” Pearl-Mansman said. “There will be donuts.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Showing and preparing homes for the housing market are two of the main challenges Roohan Realty has faced since COVID-19 struck the community.
Currently, real estate is listed as essential in New York, with specific precautions put in place. Residential and commercial showings can be done virtually and social-distancing protocols are being followed for any home inspection of appraisal.
Owner of Roohan Realty, Tom Roohan, defined Saratoga’s housing market as unique, stating virtual video tours doesn’t always work for the company. Roohan said no property in Saratoga is the same, and can vary from a stick-built bungalow to dental offices and multi-family homes.
“[COVID-19] has created new challenges because this is what I call a contact sport,” Roohan said.
Typically when a client is looking for a home, they want to visit the home to walk around the rooms, and see if the furniture they have will fit. To follow proper social-distancing protocols, Roohan said no realtor would be present during a home showing.
“We have some houses that are vacant. Under the right conditions and with everyone being smart, people are able to get into those houses and see them,” Roohan said.
Since the home is vacant, and has been typically vacant for a while, the realtor will arrive first to open the home and turn on any lights, while wearing gloves and a mask. The prospective buyer can then enter the house and not have to touch anything because the realtor opened everything up. The same approach is being taken with any home inspection of appraisal.
“You’re practicing safe social distancing. You have a mask on, you have gloves on, so there is no contact even close,” Roohan said. “Of course there has been less activity because there are so many houses that we can’t go into.”
Those homes Roohan is referring to are occupied homes. If two people are living in the home, they might be uncomfortable with others coming in there to view it. Typically, homes have been unoccupied for a period of time before a prospective buyer comes in.
Although Roohan Realty has been operating with less activity, Roohan believes there is going to be an amount of pent up demand after everything opens again.
“There are people that want to put their homes on the market, but it’s a more challenging time and it depends on access to the house,” Roohan said. “Things are still happening. They’re not as robust as we’re used to for April in Saratoga Springs, but we’re doing the best we can.”
According to the National Association of Realtors, U.S. mortgage rates hit an all-time low in early March, dropping to a 3.29 percent. One year ago, mortgage rates averaged in the mid-4 percent range.
Roohan mention they recently sold an office building, two family home and a single family home that were all vacant. He added that he, along with any realtor, is accessible by phone or email.
To help with the possible demand after COVID-19 is over, Roohan said preparing your home for sale is the best thing homeowners can do. He mentioned one realtor, who hopes to list a house on May 1, said the homeowner is currently de-cluttering and painting the home.
“They’re busy doing the type of things we typically ask people to do to prepare their house for sale, so that the house might look the best. Each situation is unique. Safety and flattening the curve are the two most important things that everyone is concerned about,” Roohan said. “It’s a trying time but everyone will get through it. We’ll come out smarter on the other end.”
Tips and Tricks for Yard Work
by Opal Jessica Bogdan
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Taking the opportunity to venture outside and do yard work is a great way to split up monotony and allows everyone to enjoy the spring weather.
Not only does yard work double as a great exercise, but parents with children at home can use it as a learning opportunity. Mike Devine, landscape designer at Branches Landscape, recommended starting a compost bin or pile.
“People are stuck home, unfortunately, and looking to make the most of their time. A lot of us are homeschooling our children as well, so compost can have two purposes: to have a nice activity and to get the kids involved with some science,” Devine said.
To create a compost pile, Devine said a little space in the corner of a backyard is all that is needed.
The two major components of a compost pile are carbon and nitrogen. Devine said the ratio is three to one, carbon to nitrogen. A plethora of items have carbon in them, but leaves are the biggest things most people have an abundance of. Other items such as kitchen scraps can be used in the compost, such as coffee grounds, eggshells and any leftover vegetables.
Devine said there are varying degrees to a compost pile, ranging from a corner in the backyard to barrels or bins holding it. Placing the compost pile in a bin can help rotate the compost easier. Rotating helps drain any water pockets.
“If you do it correctly and don’t throw any ‘garbage’ into the compost, wild animals are never an issue,” Devine said.
Another tip Devine mentioned included cleaning areas that are normally skipped over, such a wood lines. He said going through and picking up fallen branches and raking leaves is a great way to reclaim that area as part of the landscape.
Branches Landscape is currently open. Devine said a small part of their business, property maintenance management, has been considered essential. Anything outside of spring cleanups and mowing lawn has been closed.
Creating a garden is another way to help spend time outside. Devine said gardens can be as little as 9-square-foot area on the patio of back deck. If this is the first garden, Devine recommended peas as an easy growing crop.
“Peas are a cool season crop that you could get the seeds at any hardware store. You can actually plant them now and not have to wait until Memorial Day for other more popular crops like tomatoes and what not. They need a little bit of cultivated ground and some sort of vertical support for them to grow up on. Watch out they grow quick,” Devine said.
Indoor gardening is another learning opportunity for children at home. Devine said starting squash, although they can grow large in size later on, can keep kids entertained as they watch their plant grow.
“Stick them in a window or under a grow light. Experiment and play around,” Devine said.
Drive-Through Garden Center
by Opal Jessica Bogdan
Saratoga Hewitt’s Garden Center. Photo by Jaclyn Cotter-Older.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Hewitt’s Garden Center will now offer a drive-through during COVID-19 for homeowner’s lawn and garden needs.
This past weekend, Hewitts in Saratoga opened their drive-through to offer customers a different way to purchase all their lawn care and garden products.
“It was really great, Jaclyn Cotter-Older, manager, said. “We are one of the only garden centers open in the area, so everyone was excited to get their flowers and their plants.”
The drive through will be opened weather permitting. Cotter-Older said once a car arrives for the drive-through, they bring out a menu to your car. While waiting in the pickup line, customers can pick out what products they want and pull through the drive-through to pickup the items. Cotter-Older said most of the menu consists of flowers, vegetables and the nursery stock the store offers up-front.
“We want to do this because we are hoping to have the business as last year, if not better. But with COVID- 19 we can’t have that many people in the store,” Cotter-Older said.
Amid COVID-19 restrictions, the store only allows a maximum of 20 people in their greenhouse. The garden center also offers curbside pickup.
“The curb side pickup is mostly for lawn care and fertilizers,” Cotter-Older said.
She added their website has every product listed, so customers can get an idea about what products they want before arriving to the garden center. Customers can order and pay online or through the phone.
“It’s just another option to still get what you want and not have to leave the comfort of your car,” Cotter-Older said.
All seven of Hewitt’s Garden Center locations will offer the drive-through weather permitting. The store also offers a lifetime guarantee on purchased trees and plants.
by Lorraine Hopes
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Hopes.
Self-distancing becomes difficult when produce runs out at home and a trip to the grocery store must be made. However, multiple trips as often as once a week is not recommended during COVID-19. Home growing vegetables is a great way to avoid travelling during this time once the fresh produce runs out at home.
Why buy lettuce when you can grow your own?
There are many advantages to growing your own lettuce. Growing lettuce is easy and can also be a great science project to do with your kids. Not only will it give you something fun to do while we are stuck home, in a month or so you will be blessed with a multitude of healthy fresh lettuce leaves, and have the satisfaction that you grew them yourself. No more trips to the grocery store for lettuce.
Here are some tips on growing your own lettuce:
Getting seeds, pot/container, spray bottle, and soil. - If you do not have the necessary planting items there are still seeds and planting supplies out there. Do a Google search for lettuce seeds and see what seed stores come up to order from. You can order online so you do not have to go out.
Any leaf lettuce varieties are good like black seeded simpson, grand rapids, mesclun, salad bowl mixes, and micro-greens.
Once you gather the materials, fill your clean pot/container with new soil and water. The soil needs to be moist. Sprinkle lettuce seeds on soil and cover with 1/8” to 1/4” soil, do not tamp down. Cover pot/container with plastic wrap and place in a south-facing window.
Check your soil everyday. Use a spray bottle to mist/water every morning or whenever the soil looks dry.
Your lettuce should sprout in 7 to 14 days, remove plastic wrap then and continue to water. Most lettuces will reach maturity in 45 to 55 days but you can pick them when they are small too.
To keep your lettuce growing all the time you can plant another container a week or two after the first has sprouted.
Have fun and bon appétit!
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Hospitals have become the epicenter of COVID-19 around the world, and while most feelings concerning COVID-19 include fear and anxiety with the unknown, two women at the center of it all boiled their experience thus far with COVID-19 down to one word: heartwarming.
Dr. Jacqueline Smith, hospitalist, is a member of Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Inpatient Medicine at Saratoga Hospital. She works with Clinical Coordinator Christina (Chrissy) Citarella, BSN, RN. Citarella is a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse working with inpatients. Both women have worked countless hours since COVID-19 hit the community in early March.
On January 20, 2020 a 35-year-old man returned to his home in Washington state after recently travelling to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. That date marks the first recorded case of the virus in the United States. News across the states travelled fast, and Citarella said the first change she noticed in her usual daily routine was the unknown surrounding the virus at the time.
“Initially, when we started hearing about the COVID patients—that the hospital would potentially be seeing these patients—we had a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty, and the staff just wanting to know what was our plan, what are we doing here,” Citarella said.
Both Citarella and Smith said they started self-isolation early on due to their jobs in the healthcare industry. Citarella said she wanted to keep herself, family, and co-workers safe and took to extreme social distancing as the best approach.
In her own personal life, Smith said she experienced the same initial changes the rest of the world had, and started to self-isolate weeks before the rest of the community on principle, because she was working in the hospital.
“I considered myself high risk and took every precaution possible to avoid being with other people,” Smith said.
In her professional life, Smith said COVID-19 is a daily-changing thing. Since beginning to work with patients who had the disease, everything changed in the way they practiced. Daily conversations involving personal protective equipment (PPE) have happened regularly since.
“We have constant conversations about PPE and how to keep ourselves safe. We’ve seen a ton of innovation, which is so heartwarming, in terms of different ideas for PPE. It’s been very useful. So every day is a brand new experience, really,” Smith said.
Angelo Calbone, President and CEO of Saratoga Hospital, shared his perspective concerning the hospital and how the institution has worked as a collective with other hospitals. Calbone said they coordinate through an early morning call with all the institutions throughout the region as a daily check-in. During that call, they compare notes, share approaches and learnings, and get a sense of what each institution is experiencing and how they’re managing it.
“For the first time in my career, the entire region is functioning, in some ways, as a single health system and not really as competitors. It’s been a satisfying, but unique, experience that I think is helping prepare all the institutions, including Saratoga, really to be in the best position,” Calbone said. “As a collective, we have discussed and implemented changes, such as checking temperatures at all of our doors and timing the curtailment of visitors…we did that in somewhat of a coordinated fashion. We shared how we’re each using our protective equipment for our staff, testing the science and keeping an eye toward what makes our staff safest.”
While the virus forces the community apart, Smith said she was profoundly struck by the mixed emotions COVID-19 brought with it. She said working with a disease that is known as scary—and not yet over—creates questions concerning the unknowns of the virus. However, along with that feeling of fear and sadness the virus creates, Smith countered, “People truly need us, so that is rewarding.”
Calbone has seen that rewarding sense reflected in hospital workers. He couldn’t think of an adjective strong enough to describe the extent to which Saratoga Hospital staff have invested their commitment to patients. He said the time and energy spent in having good plans in place appears to be paying off well, and the staff has left him in awe.
“Their focus, calmness, and ability to take this work on while keeping their heads up has just been…we always knew we had a great staff but really seeing them work through this has been just impressive,” Calbone said.
Smith reflected the same ideas as she mentioned her own amazement with not only the nursing staff, but with other staff, such as the kitchen and cleaning crews. She described everyone as being high quality, caring, and willing to help with whatever anyone needs, creating an amazing atmosphere at work.
A key part in that atmosphere is the interaction both Smith and Citarella have with patients. Smith described her interactions as heartwarming, stating patients appreciate them in return and feel concerned about the staff, which she said is highly unusual.
“It’s a comfort to me. As much as we care, they’re caring as well,” Citarella said.
Smith said, “It also feels very heartwarming to me, caring about those patients. I want to cheer when someone leaves the hospital—I’m just so happy for them.”
Saratoga County reported its first COVID-19 case on March 7, 2020. On March 27, 2020, Saratoga County reported its first COVID-19 death. Despite the span of increasing reported cases over the last month, Calbone said social distancing is key to helping stop the spread. As of April 7, 2020, the Saratoga County Office of Emergency Services reported 167 confirmed cases in the county.
“Social distancing and staying at home are the very best things the public can do right now. Our impression is that it’s working and having a positive impact. It hasn’t stopped this, but we do think we are seeing signs that the rate of growth is slowing, which allows all the regional hospitals to better manage the influx. We appreciate what the community is doing, we can tell, and we think it’s working,” Calbone said.
THE UNKNOWN & THE UNCERTAINTY
After reporting the county’s first case one month ago, both Smith and Citarella noticed fear isn’t playing a large part in the virus anymore. They said they no longer see fear in patient’s or co-worker’s eyes as they work with the virus.
“This is very scary, but I have to say, the staff has done an absolutely phenomenal job being extremely professional and calm. I don’t see fear in people’s eyes. I think everyone just wants to help and that is pretty amazing,” Citarella said.
Both women said they feel very safe while working at the hospital, but that feeling changes as soon as they step out of that environment. Citarella is living at her home with her husband, practicing social distancing even inside the home. Besides an occasional trip to the grocery store, Citarella said she keeps to herself.
“I feel very safe [at work]. Being out in the grocery store—it’s the unknown and the uncertainty there,” Citarella said.
Smith said she currently lives by herself, so while it’s easy to self-isolate, the biggest challenge she faces is venturing out to get groceries.
“I have not been to a grocery store in probably a month, and I’ve managed to order things online, but I can’t do that anymore. They’re just not available. I’m going to have to go to a grocery store. I’ve put it off for three weeks now,” Smith said. “I’m becoming a really creative cook,” Smith finished with a laugh.
But it’s no laughing matter for those who travel to the grocery store. From being exposed safely to COVID-19 on a daily basis, Smith doesn’t feel that she should be in a grocery store but simply has no other choice. To keep the safe feeling they have inside the hospital when they are out in public places, such as grocery stores, both women said social distancing is key in uncontrolled environments.
“What influences people to do the right thing? [By not social distancing] people are not choosing the right thing. Why do they do that…I don’t know,” Smith said.
Calbone reflected those same feelings about the safe environment the hospital generates. He said a combination of limited building access, proper hand washing hygiene, and masking has all contributed to create that protected environment.
“We have long-established protocols and products here on how we disinfect and isolate areas. The public can’t access this building anymore. General visitors can’t come anymore. Other businesses and locations can’t necessarily make that work. If they don’t want the public accessing their space, they can’t do business. Whereas, we can keep our staff here taking care of patients, restrict a lot of traffic, and still do what we need to do,” Calbone said.
Calbone encouraged the public to continue proper social distancing and recommended masks should be used as well in public places. He said the masks provide more protection when it’s on someone who is sick. If everyone in public spaces uses masks, it can create a more comfortable sense, similar to the atmosphere the hospital holds.
At the end of the day, Calbone said personal health comes first. While practicing social distancing, proper hand washing, and self-isolating all contribute toward limiting the spread of COVID-19, people still need to pay attention to their health.
“If people need healthcare, they should not be afraid to access healthcare. The emergency room is open; we can still manage almost any case here in the organization. We would hate for people who need care to be staying away, allowing their conditions to worsen because they somehow think they shouldn’t or can’t access the hospital. We know that perception probably exists, but that really isn’t the case,” Calbone said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — As first responders rush into homes and areas they have no idea could contain COVID-19, Kennedy Property Management (KPM) Restoration is disinfecting firehouses to help keep them safe.
Each week, owner James Kennedy works with three different crews to head out to disinfect local firehouses at no cost. Kennedy said the company is covering all of Saratoga, Mechanicville, Ballston-Spa, North Greenfield, Glens Falls, Corinth and Schuylerville.
“We’re doing as much as we can to give back to the community. We wanted to give back to our community and our small little town,” Kennedy said.
KPM uses a fogging product in addition to hospital grade sanitizing and disinfectant. Kennedy said as soon as the crew arrives at the firehouse, they first wipe everything down. They then use a fogging disinfection system, which distributes aerosol disinfection using a fogging machine. The crew then finishes by wiping everything down again.
“Every week we’re going to do that for them for a little bit,” Kennedy said.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Kennedy said he received a shipment worth $75,000 of materials they are now using for firehouses as well as reported COVID-19 cases they are called to clean.
Kennedy said the company’s main focus is water restoration and mold remediation, but said it felt good to give back to the community in this way.
“It feels good that I’m giving back,” Kennedy said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Online classes for anyone willing to learn more about mindset and coping with COVID-19 will be offered starting next week by ECS Psychological Services.
Erin Christopher-Sisk, founder of ECS Psychological Services, and her team will offer multiple online videos and Q&A sessions to provide the opportunity to ask direct questions to clinicians.
“You’re going to have a live interactive opportunity to ask a trained mental health professional some questions,” Dana Jacobs, clinical supervisor and director of military programs, said. “We’re really excited to have the opportunity to offer some of these classes.”
Jacobs has worked as a clinical supervisor for the past few years and will conduct a psychological education online class that focuses on the power of positive thinking during COVID-19. The class will focus on how people can shift their perspective to focus on a different mindset.
“Right now, a lot of people are focusing on ‘I’m stuck at home’ vs. ‘I have the opportunity to be safe in my home’ and ‘I have a chance to connect with people in a different way,’” Jacobs said.
She added rather than focusing on this awful thing that’s going on and how it’s not creating some positive things, focus towards creating positive things based on this situation.
Kelly Tobin, one of ECS psychologists on staff, will offer another class, which focuses primarily on how much fear is playing a role and how well people are coping with it right now.
“Essentially she’s going to be helping people to learn and discuss how they can identify when our threats are fear based vs. reality based. It could be things that are coming from our past that really might be informing how we’re viewing current situation and not necessarily the reality of the current situation,” Jacobs said.
She added that Tobin also will teach guided imagery, some deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to prevent panic in fear based anxiety.
In addition to these interactive classes, Jacobs said a Facebook Live Q&A would be hosted as well. The classes will be offered at no cost as Jacobs said ECS didn’t want the cost to be a barrier to helping out the community in any way they could.
“Right now when we’re struggling in lots of different ways, not least of which is financial. Just being able to offer these classes for free is exciting. That way if you have insurance, great, and if you don’t that’s okay too,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs added that more pop-up classes could be offered in the future based on interest.
“Quite honestly we’re just hearing from the population that we already work with and the population that’s reaching out to us. Our philosophy at our practice has always been to meet the needs of the community, so were more than happy to open up other classes based upon interest,” Jacobs said. “What are people needing right now, what do they want to know and we’re willing to come up with some materials to help them through that.”
Specific dates and times have not been selected for the classes yet, but Jacobs said more information can be found online on ECS website as well as their social media sites.
The online platform ECS will use is still being discussed, but ECS does have HIPPA compliant video platforms visits for adults and children they may use.
ECS operates out of multiple locations. Their Church Street location is easy to reach from Ballston Spa, Greenfield, Wilton, Corinth, Amsterdam, Clifton Park and other areas south and west of Saratoga Springs. Their Lake Avenue office is the home of our Therapeutic Farm and offers, group counseling, therapy cats and dogs along with access to our beautiful gardens and walking trails. It is at this location that they partner with Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga, Inc. to offer Equine Assisted Learning.
FREE LIVE Q&A WITH LICENSED THERAPIST
Wednesday, April 22 | 1-1:30 p.m.
Live Q&A session to address coping tips, concerns surrounding COVID-19, protecting our mental health and more. Please join from your computer, tablet or smartphone:
You can also dial in using your phone: +1 (646) 749-3122
Access Code: 948-417-461
FREE INFORMATION GROUP SESSION
Thursday, April 23 | 1 - 2 p.m.
Free online session to learn and discuss how to identify when our threats are fear- or reality-based. Participants will also learn how to use guided imagery, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation to prevent panic. Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
You can also dial in using your phone: +1 (646) 749-3122
Access Code: 771-013-013
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — This past week, Sundaes Best donated chocolate to nurses and doctors at the Wilton Medical Arts and Urgent Care who work on the front lines dealing with COVID-19.
Katie Camarro, owner of Sundaes Best Hot Fudge Sauce, delivered the sweet bags early Friday morning and hopes to also deliver bags of Chocolate Farmer dip and pretzels to each hospital department this week.
Camarro works with her husband, Jeff Shinaman, as owners of the store. The store will celebrate 20 years of business next November 2021. Their products are available in hundreds of stores across the country
For over 40 years, Jeff Shinaman’s mother has been making their homemade hot fudge. Once family and friends tasted the fudge, Katie and Jeff were encouraged to jar the sauce and sell it. After two years of consideration, they discovered the van seen in the label and logo, and purchased it. They have been making chocolate ever since.
“Remember...no matter how tough the world becomes we must never run out of sweetness,” Katie Camarro wrote.
SARATOGA SRPINGS — What started with four women wanting to feel helpful in their community amid COVID-19 turned into the group called Front Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) Saratoga.
FLAG Saratoga is a group dedicated towards raising donations for the Saratoga Hospital, who in returns purchases meals from local restaurants and eateries. All food purchases will provide shift meals for those working on the front lines of COVID-19. Co-founders Lisa Munter, Becky Kern, Nadine Burke and Andrea Macy developed the idea together after hearing about a similar group in New Jersey.
Burke noticed her friend in New Jersey create a FLAG in her area, and felt the Saratoga community needed a similar idea.
“I know there are so many giving generous people who want to help the workers at Saratoga Hospital,” Burke said. “We also have amazing restaurants and eateries who I know are hurting right now with the closures and restrictions. That’s really how it started.”
Burke was inspired even more after learning the amount of stress front line workers at the hospital and clinic were going through. After passing the idea through a couple of friends who jumped on board, the group was born. Kern said the four women previously knew each other as friends, mothers and involved citizens. FLAG Saratoga was launched on April 4 and within 48 hours raised $6,500 for meals.
“What we’re asking people to do right now is just to help us raise money. The way it works is that we are linking directly to the Saratoga Hospital foundation page so everything is already set up for them to take donations directly,” Kern said.
When Macy joined FLAG, said she took the initiative to reach out to the hospital to ask if they were willing to participate and if saw FLAG as something that could help their organization. Macy said they openly embraced the idea and felt appreciative. At the time, the hospital was receiving calls from individuals and families asking if they could provide a meal and donate it to different worker shifts.
“I think they appreciated having a centralized function to be able to mobilize this operation and give it some structure…I think that’s the best thing about this,” Macy said. “You feel so helpless but you want to be helpful, so this give people a mechanisms in which to do that and participate.”
Macy said once a donation is made to the hospital, they would reach out to participating restaurants and eateries to set up meals by shift count. Constantly re-organizing on a daily basis, hospital workers understand what their needs are from a shift and personnel standpoint and can base orders on such. The restaurant then directly delivers the meals.
“I feel helpful. It’s really gratifying to be able to give back and to give a mechanism to help people do that as well,” Macy said.
While Macy spoke with the hospital, Munter reached out to Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce to discover what restaurants were still offering take-out and would be able to participate.
“Part of what I do is to be helpful to others…I feel like my mantra through this is to be a light and to show up for others,” Munter said. “I always think about being a light and I’m so inspired by our community and the people in it. It was a dark night last night and we could see the moon. I thought if I was like an airplane looking down at Saratoga County tonight, we would be like a Fourth a July display as there are so many lights in this dark time that come together.”
Burke said the initial $6,500 donations could potentially provide 1,000 meals depending on how much is doled out and what size meals. She and the FLAG women hope to continue collecting donations for the foreseeable future. Focused on the funding, Burke said in the next few weeks they would ask if the hospital needs other materials and see if FLAG Saratoga can help support those needs as well.
“We really don’t know yet how long our hospitals and community is going to be in this situation,” Burke said.
Donations can be made on their Facebook group or directly on the hospitals page.
“I think my favorite part is that it’s connecting me so directly to these three other really powerful, smart women and it’s taking us sort of out of our own stuff and daily routine with kids home and cooking. All the stuff that we still have and everybody has but it’s given us a collective purpose and doing good for the community is awesome,” Kern said.