COVID positivity rate down in Columbia

The COVID positivity rate has lessened in Columbia County. Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service

A U.S. district judge dismissed nine state security guards’ request Thursday for a temporary restraining order against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that goes into effect Monday for state health workers who directly work with patients.

Nine downstate members of the State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, the state Health Department and the state Public Health and Planning Council on Thursday with the request for the restraining order.

Judge Brenda Sannes of the U.S. District Court in the state’s Northern District dismissed the restraining order early Thursday evening. The decision was not immediately available.

The complainants will pursue their lawsuit and argue the Health Department’s Aug. 18 order mandating personnel employed with a general hospital or nursing home be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, or face termination, violates their 14th Amendment rights and discriminates against certain state workers.

“The mandate coerces plaintiffs as employees or affiliates of hospitals into accepting unwanted medical care in violation of their constitutional right to equal protection, privacy, bodily autonomy, personal liberty and due process,” according to the 21-page suit.

The department’s Public Health and Health Planning Council voted to approve the controversial mandate Aug. 26.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” Haley Viccaro, Hochul’s senior adviser for communications, said in a statement Thursday. “Nothing further to say at this time.”

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision also declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Union counsel is waiting for oral arguments to be scheduled. None were scheduled as of Thursday night, but union counsel expect an update in the coming days.

“We make a substantial argument in our complaint and the application for the restraining order that our clients are being treated differently than teachers,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Dennis Vacco, partner with Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP.

Vacco served as the state attorney general under Gov. George Pataki from 1995-1998.

New York teachers can test negative for the coronavirus each week if they refused a COVID vaccine, but do not face termination.

“While the state might argue that teachers are not in health care facilities where people are sick, our position is, in relation to COVID, teachers are in an environment where, inherently, there are fewer people that are vaccinated,” Vacco said of school-age children.

The vaccine has not been approved for children under age 12.

The guards live and work downstate, with eight from New York City and Long Island and the ninth from Orange County.

The union has about 20,000 active members, with roughly 2,000 who work as law enforcement officers outside state prison facilities.

About 200 of that group are subject to the vaccinate or termination mandate that goes into effect Monday, and work as guards in applicable state facilities such as SUNY hospitals or state Office of Mental Health psychiatric wards.

A judge recently blocked the vaccine mandate from taking effect for workers who have a religious exemption or are seeking one. The state plans to defend the mandate in court.

Hochul has said previously the state intentionally did not include a religious exemption in the mandate and has noted religious leaders worldwide have encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Check back for more details on this developing story.

Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

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(3) comments

scottmyers

Kimberly Kaplan

Director of Greene County Public Health 411 Main Street

Catskill, NY 12414

May 20, 2020

Re: Demand to enforce COVID-19 protective practices by County and Village police

Dear Ms. Kaplan:

This is a request, in your role as Director of Public Health, to provide instruction to the County Police regarding COVID-19 protective equipment and procedures, then ORDER that they wear protective protection, and then enforce the procedures.

Then, in your role as Director of Public Health, provide instruction for the Village of Catskill Police regarding COVID-19 protective equipment and procedures, then ORDER that they wear protective protection, and then enforce the procedures.

As you know binding State Executive Order from Governor Cuomo requires masks to protect from COVID-19.1

The COVID-19 statistics for Greene County are not good.2

In Greene County, 238 people tested positive for Corona Virus. 64 are active, and 15 died of the virus here in Greene County.

1,000s of New York City police have tested positive for COVID-19, over 29 have died.3

The behaviors of the Village of Catskill Police put me in danger by exposure to their staff without masks.

This is a request to respond in writing that you will instruct and order that County and Village police wear protective equipment and use COVID-19 safe protocols.

1 http://www.op.nysed.gov/COVID-19_EO

2 https://www.greenegovernment.com/response-to-the-2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-in-greene-

county-ny

3 https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home

I’ve worked since 9/11 to make Greene County safe for myself and family. So far I’ve failed. The COVID-19 response doesn’t seem adequate. The failure of the County and Village police to follow safe practices must change. As you know, management of this virus, absent an effective vaccine, requires safe distancing, face masks, and all other due caution.

Very truly yours,

Scott Myers

scottmyers

Kimberly Kaplan

Director of Greene County Public Health

411 Main Street

Catskill, NY 12414

August 4, 2021

Re: Demand to create competent, effective COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Dear Ms. Kaplan:

As I’ve written, Greene County’s response to COVID-19 is inadequate. I argue that your lack of a Masters in Public Health (“MPH”) matters. Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden defends your qualifications. But a professional degree tends to insulate the job from politics.

Three months ago, my sister’s husband died of COVID-19. My sister Jenny worked as an activities director at an upscale retirement facility. She decided to retire at 64 to prevent bringing the virus home to my father, who she cared for. A week later, she and her husband tested positive for COVID-19. Jerry died four days later.

The purpose of this letter is to demand an immediate campaign to vaccinate Greene County residents. Our 49% vaccination rate is pathetic. The national average is 70%. The benefits of herd immunity begin at 70%.

My criticism of your department began with a lawsuit to pause jail construction. I argued that the workers came from more infected places each day. The criticism continued on May 20, 2020, with a letter demanding that you order county deputies and village/town police to wear masks.

You failed to reply to either demand. You have no plans for a mask mandate. Your husband’s response is to arrest, charge and prosecute me. I think you get my point.

I look forward to your response.

Very truly yours,

Scott Myers

39 West Bridge Street

Catskill, NY 12414

scottmyers

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