PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. - Daycare centers in Putnam County will be permitted to reopen today (March 18), pursuant to Gov. Cuomo’s executive order. The order runs counter to County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s position.
Odell said she stands firm in the position that the executive order she issued to close licensed public daycare centers on Monday, March 16, for five days was the most responsible move to contain the spread of coronavirus.
“After consulting with our health commissioner and his staff, who are the professionals on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, we determined that closing daycare centers and pre-kindergarten programs were the best way to protect the community,” Odell said. “After all, we had closed the public and private schools for the same five-day period, at the request of school administrators who looked to us for guidance. How could we try to protect children from kindergarten through 12th grade but neglect our youngest children? These children will go home to parents and grandparents who may be vulnerable to this virus.”
Last week, Mahopac Schools Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo came to the county seeking guidance whether it was better for schools to stay open or to close. Odell said they turned to County Commissioner of Health, Dr. Michael J. Nesheiwat and his staff for advice, and they recommended closing the schools. Odell then declared a state of emergency, which enabled her to issue an emergency order closing all public and private schools in the county for five days. The next logical step was to close daycare centers.
The county emergency order was put into place on Sunday, March 15, in response to a flood of calls from daycare providers and families searching for guidance.
“Prior to the state emergency declaration, and in an effort to ensure social distancing, our county made a bold decision to provide clear direction to our daycares, just as we did for our schools,” Nesheiwat said. "Without implementing social distancing in all aspects of community settings, we create more challenges for the mitigation of COVID-19. By the end of the day with the announcement of the first lab-confirmed cases, this decision was applauded as proactive and responsible, given the circumstances."
But the order Cuomo signed on Monday, which closes schools statewide for two weeks starting Wednesday, March 18, omitted daycare centers and required districts to come up with plans to show that first responders and healthcare workers would have access to childcare during school closures. His order supersedes local authority.
“We have to send a clear message to the public about what they should do,” said Legislator Amy Sayegh, chair of the Legislature’s Health Committee. “If on the one hand, we are telling them to stay home and keep their school-aged children home, how can we then tell them to drop their little ones at daycare?”
Residents who have any questions about whether their business should be opened or closed in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections should direct their questions to the governor’s office.