Carmel Officials Mobilized Quickly to Respond to COVID-19

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By Sherrie Dulworth

The banner near Lake Gleneida in Carmel hailing the sacrifices made by frontline healthcare workers. The town responded quickly last month to prepare for a challenging time.

The Town of Carmel has a long heritage of quick response. A bronze statue on the shores of Lake Gleneida commemorates an April night in 1777 when 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles through Putnam County to warn of an impending British attack on neighboring Danbury, Conn.

On Mar. 16, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued executive orders directing state and  local governments to respond to the coronavirus crisis, Carmel officials took swift action. Councilman Frank Lombardi was asked to be the liaison for the town in dealing with the county, state and other local governments and school districts to develop a plan to comply with the governor’s executive orders and to keep the public informed. Lombardi, together with Town Supervisor Ken Schmitt and the entire Town Board, moved into action.

There was the need to reduce the workforce by 50 percent at that point and allow nonessential employees to work from home. Carmel has about 130 municipal employees.

“We reduced the physical presence of the number of employees and others entering Town Hall,” Lombardi explained.

A front lobby security guard stemmed the flow of visitors coming into Town Hall offices and six-foot physical distancing boundaries were established in spaces for necessary meetings. The town acquired additional hand sanitizers, along with wipes and gloves for employees.

When the public calls Town Hall, voicemail messages go

Councilman Frank Lombari. the liaison for the Town of Carmel in dealing with the COVID-19 response.

directly into e-mail for the town employees so they can respond while they work remotely.

“The town government is still functioning and doing the people’s work,” Lombardi said.

Carmel took some notable advance preparations, using lessons learned in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Officials worked with the town comptroller to ensure they track additional expenses responding to COVID-19 for line items such as supplies or overtime for police officers.

“Anticipating possible FEMA reimbursement, we learned it would be easier to document these expenses as we incur them rather than having to go back and reconstruct them after the fact,” Lombardi said.

He and Schmitt implemented a social media campaign to keep the public informed.

“The people of the Town of Carmel are very generous and help their neighbors out,” he said. “We’ve been posting messages (on the town’s website) reminding them to check on senior neighbors who might need something.”

Carmel, which has about 34,000 residents, has also taken measures to enforce social distancing.

“We had reports of kids congregating on the basketball courts, so we closed the courts and removed the hoops,” Lombardi said. “We feel bad, but it is important that they should not be participating in close contact sports.”

That doesn’t mean that residents can’t get outside and exercise. Multiple people walk on the paved 7.5-mile Putnam Bike Trail where they are able to maintain the recommended social distance.

As of Apr. 9, the Town of Carmel reported 169 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. The county has had 456 cases.

Along with the statue of the young and heroic Ludington, who responded in a time of crisis, other tributes within the town pay homage to lives lost and those who have responded, then and now. At Town Hall, the American flag flies at half-mast next to the 9/11 memorial, and the shoreline fence next to Lake Gleneida has a large banner with “God Bless America.” Just below it reads an additional message: “Thank You to Our First Responders and Healthcare Workers.”

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