Is the East End ‘Open for Business’ as Usual?

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Gurney’s Inn, long an iconic resort on Long Island’s eastern tip at Montauk (June 5, 2013) Credit: Doug Kuntz

Some East End resorts are planning to open soon. Contrary to some assertions that misinterpret Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders, resorts are NOT ‘essential businesses’.

Governor Cuomo’s economic recovery policy defines ‘essential infrastructure’ accommodation. This is distinct from seasonal resorts. Please see the following PDF link from the governor’s Empire State Development office, which explains in greater detail what the executive order means in terms of ‘essential business’ and gives guidelines about how essential businesses must operate: https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ESD_EssentialEmployerFAQ_033120.pdf

Item #6 of the document defines an essential business:

“6. An Essential Business is any business providing products or services that are required to maintain the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of New York State.” That could include accommodations that provide housing to healthcare workers, COVID-positive individuals who are quarantined, and other vital services.

Our East End resorts are not contributing to the “health, welfare and safety” of New Yorkers. In fact, our local resorts, while critical to our local economy, actually put a substantial burden on our local healthcare systems, even without the added stress of a pandemic, and clearly (and logically) fall squarely within the governor’s phased reopening approach. Hotels and restaurants are in Phase 3 of his plan.

According to Suffolk County’s website (5/10/2020) we are not yet even ready to start Phase 1, as we fulfill only 4 out of 7 reopening requirements.

https://dashboards.suffolkcountyny.gov/app/main#dashboards/5eb5950d3ab83817803ffe49?h=false&t=false&l=false&r=true&volatile=true

Here is some more information from Governor Cuomo:

On 4/28, Governor Cuomo was asked whether Saratoga Race Course could reopen. He referred to it as “an attractive nuisance” and stated that it would bring people into the region, hampering local COVID-19 mitigation efforts. According to CBS Channel 2, ‘The governor explained the concept of “attractive nuisance,” saying regions cannot begin opening up businesses that draw hundreds of people from other areas.’ A video of his statements appear in CBS’s link: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/04/28/coronavirus-covid-19-new-york-state-reopening-andrew-cuomo/

In order to open our resort economy in a responsible manner, what sorts of health and safety plans will be required to be implemented (following federal, state, county & town protocols) to protect staff, guests, first responders, and the community at large? Who has input in developing and vetting local plans? Will proposed and adopted plans be made public? Some considerations should include the following:

  1. When resorts do open, how will management know if a guest is positive? What sort of guest screening will the resort employ? Will temperatures be taken upon check-in, at the very least?(What happens if a guest tests positive at a resort? Will they be quarantined at that resort?)
  2. Frequently, seasonal resort staff live in dormitory-style housing (either on- or off-site) with multiple employees per bedroom, with no opportunity to isolate. Will staff be tested regularly? What happens when an employee tests positive? How and where will they be quarantined in that instance? Will there be a ‘duty to report’ for employees and employers?

 

Local resorts should not be allowed to reopen before a plan is in place that includes testing, contact tracing, and quarantine, especially for businesses that attract large numbers of people from outside our area, be they, guests or employees.

Good policy is driven by good data, and here we face another challenge. The way that COVID cases are reported out by our local hospital, for instance, uses a person’s permanent address as a reporting data point. If a resort guest or employee is hospitalized, it is not shown as a Montauk, or East Hampton statistic, but rather is added to the tally of whatever state and municipality is listed on the patient’s i.d. This makes it difficult to quantify the burden that is placed on local healthcare resources.

We cannot value our economic interests above the safety of our community. I know that our town officials are well-aware of the dedication of our local volunteer first responders. I don’t know if they are aware that a large number of those volunteers are high-risk for COVID disease; often, the most active members of our ambulance corps, for instance, are retirees. To put this group – and the rest of our community – at added risk due to a precipitous opening of our seasonal businesses would be unfortunate.

 

Jessica James (Montauk)

About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
This entry was posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, public health, Town Board, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Is the East End ‘Open for Business’ as Usual?

  1. Jessie—

    Nicely done! One point of clarification in the second to last paragraph. All NYS hospitals are reporting COVID data daily to the NYS Department of Health. If a patient tests positive in the ER or upon admission, the hospital provides that info to the DOH & the data are categorized not only by patient address but by hospital facility. As we discussed, I don’t know the protocol for individual doctor offices or non-hospital testing facilities to report their data to DOH. My guess is that as testing becomes more widespread, there will be reporting requirements as currently exist for other highly communicable diseases.

    In addition to forwarding your excellent analysis to the Town board, you may wish to forward to Fred Thiele. I have spoken with Fred a couple of times & he shares our concern regarding an anticipated influx of visitors to the South Fork as the weather continues to warm.

    Thanks for pulling together this document.

    Jay Levine

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