This week I heard a lot about people who are preparing to vote. As you all know by now, New Yorkers have three options for casting their vote: in-person voting on November 3rd, in-person early voting starting, and voting by absentee ballot. It is easy to remember that this year is a presidential election, but do you know who else will be on your ballot? Don’t wait until you have the ballot in front of you to do your research! You can visit www.vote411.org/ballot to learn about the candidates for Congress, the NYS Senate, your Assembly district, the NYS Supreme Court, the County District Attorney, the County Family Court Judge, and local races.
I know there have been a lot of questions about early in-person voting. There are 17 early voting locations across Westchester and you can cast your vote from whichever is most convenient for you. Is there a site near your job? Near your home? Near your favorite socially-distanced hangout spot? The most local location for Town of Ossining residents will be the Ossining Community Center at 95 Broadway. For a complete list of locations and hours, visit the Board of Elections website. Early voting starts on October 24.
If you plan on voting by absentee ballot, you can drop off your absentee ballot at any early voting location. You can also place your ballot in the mail or bring it directly to the Westchester Board of Elections office in White Plains. Absentee ballots come with multiple envelopes, need a stamp, and must be signed, so read the directions carefully. This is your vote and your voice, so when in doubt: ask. You can call or email the Westchester Board of Election with your questions.
Do you know your polling place? Some polling sites have moved due to COVID-19’s impact on emergency service locations. There is a national shortage of poll workers, who are typically seniors. With underlying conditions in mind, many chose not to apply this year, leaving positions open. You can apply to be a poll worker and earn $350 a day (remember, there are early voting days!). Visit the Board of Elections website and scroll to the “Poll Worker Application Form.”
This week, New York’s number of Coronavirus cases continued to rise. We are seeing clusters in portions of Brooklyn and some nearby counties as health guidelines are ignored or misunderstood. Even here in Westchester, we are seeing a slight uptick in positive case numbers. We know there is an overwhelming amount of information being shared. And we know it may seem like the guidance is changing. The best defense we have is masks. Wear your masks, wash your hands, and avoid touching your face. Please refer to the New York State website for updates on regulations and resources. New Yorkers without health insurance can apply through NY State of Health through the end of 2020 (you must apply within 60 days of losing coverage). All New Yorkers are eligible for free mental health services through the COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314. Information about paid sick leave, workers’ rights, rents/mortgages, and more are also listed on the New York State website.
We are also getting into the cold and flu season, adding additional complications to our already complicated public health landscape. Medical experts strongly recommend getting a flu shot to prevent what many are calling a “twindemic.” Flu shots are readily available at most local pharmacies and may even be free to you through your health insurance provider or employer. For Town and Village employees, we will be offering our annual free flu shots next week. We may not yet have a vaccine for COVID, but we do for the flu, so it is important to protect yourself in any way you can. At a time when our hospitals and medical professionals are already overwhelmed fighting the deadliest pandemic in recent memory, being proactive about the flu will truly save lives.
Last week, the New York State Department of Health launched the “COVID Alert NY” app in partnership with Google and Apple. The free app uses Bluetooth proximity-enabled technology to recognize other phones nearby. When a positive case is confirmed, phones that have been in close proximity will receive an alert. No personal information is shared. The app is voluntary, anonymous, and does not use location services, GPS, or geographical information. Knowing about a potential exposure allows you to self-quarantine immediately, get tested, and reduce the potential exposure risk to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others. You must be 18 or older to use the app. You can learn more through your phone’s App Store or by visiting https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-alert-ny.
Contact Tracing is underway to reach people who have been exposed to positive cases. If you see an incoming call from NYS Contact Tracing, please pick up the phone. The callers have been trained to provide you with information about testing and other resources – from eldercare and childcare options to information about local testing sites and food deliveries.
The Ossining Village Historian, Joyce Sharrock Cole and the Ossining Public Library have launched the Ossining Community History Collection Project: Ossining during COVID-19. Share your experiences through journal entries, short stories, poems, essays, pictures, or audio clips. Do you remember the first time you wore a mask? Did you make one? How did you spend your March quarantine? If you want to participate but writer’s block is getting in the way, the Village has created a question list to help you. Visit the Ossining COVID-19 Project Interactive webpage to learn more and share your quarantine, graduation, loss, survival, or other COVID-19 experience.
The Ossining Recreation & Parks Department is offering a FREE Community Academy: Youth & Local Leaders Unite program. The program includes workshops and group activities. It also provides an opportunity for our young community members to have a voice in future programming for Ossining Recreation & Parks. Workshops and activities will focus on leadership, building positive relationships in the community, and addressing risk factors affecting today’s youth. This program is open to Ossining youth, ages 13-18. Register through the Community Pass page.
Halloween is around the corner and our local institutions are getting excited. If you live in the Village of Briarcliff you may have read Village manager Phil Zegarelli’s list of fun (and safe!) activities being planned in his weekly email blast. He’s right, Halloween is not cancelled, so make sure you are familiar with easy ways to keep everyone safe.
The CDC has released a list of guidelines to help people prepare for a safe Halloween. This season is going to look different this year, but there are lots of ways to celebrate - whether you prefer to celebrate festive Halloween or spooky Halloween.
So many houses have embraced the Halloween fun that the decoration contest was extended until October 25th. Decorate your home (inside or out) with a friendly autumn theme to help make the season more festive. Then, share a picture of your hard work on the Ossining Families, Positively Ossining, or Ossining Moms Facebook pages with the caption #fallossining2020 to participate in the contest.
The Briarcliff Public Library is helping us get in the Halloween spirit with a special Halloween reading list. Check out their full collection of kid-friendly spooky fun on the Library Pinterest Page. Click on the book cover for a link to see the summary or place a hold. All the books shown in the collection are available for curbside pick-ups.
You have probably noticed some scarecrows around town. Some are channeling spooky Halloween while others are celebrating festive Halloween, but they all have a very relevant theme this year: essential workers. The Ossining Girl Scouts help us get into the spirit with this annual tradition. Each troop has their own scarecrow - how many have you spotted?
Now let’s get into some events!
Tomorrow, residents may bring confidential personal papers for shredding to the Ossining Community Center at 95 Broadway. Shredding personal documents serves a double purpose - to recycle paper as well as protect sensitive information against identity theft - the fastest growing crime in the nation. Residents can bring up to four file-sized (10”x12”x15”) boxes of confidential papers per household. Please remove all large binder clips and covers. Papers from businesses, institutions or commercial enterprises are not acceptable and will be rejected, as will any junk mail or newspapers.
Also on tomorrow, the annual Riverkeeper Sweep will take place along the Hudson River from Brooklyn to the Capitol District. Volunteers remove debris from the river’s edge and help keep our Hudson River beautiful. Visit the Riverkeeper Website to sign up as a volunteer. There are a few local spots you can participate in to help clean up along the Hudson and its tributaries in Ossining.
Beginning on October 19, the DEC will enforce the State’s ban on single-use plastic carryout bags. Originally scheduled for March, this ban was postponed until COVID-19 could be better understood. Many people used the pandemic to begin carrying their own bags or switch to delivered food. So remember to keep some extra canvas bags in your car or office as enforcement of the ban goes into effect. New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags annually - each for only about 12 minutes - and approximately 85% of this staggering total ends up in landfills, recycling machines, waterways, and streets.
Teatown is holding a family-friendly Halloween walk through the “enchanted forest.” Reserve your space now for times on October 23, 24, 30, or 31. Costumes are optional, but encouraged. Masks are mandatory. Tickets include refreshments, parking, and a visit with Teatown’s animal ambassadors.
As we enter the 8th month of the Coronavirus Crisis, large blood donation events have not been able to resume. This has left blood reserves at a critical low. If you are eligible to donate blood, please consider doing so. Schedule your appointment at NYBC.org to donate blood at the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corp at 8 Clinton Avenue on October 23. OVAC is following health and safety guidelines, so you know you are in good hands.
Sing Sing Kill Brewery is hosting a Mask-querade on October 30. In the spirit of Halloween and COVID, the contest prizes will be awarded to those with the best, coolest, or most creative masks. Whether they complement the costume or ARE the costume, showcase your best! If there are nose/mouth holes in your mask, a COVID-appropriate one must be worn underneath. This Halloween celebration is a tribute to “Masks of the Titans,” a taproom art exhibition by John “Twyg” Hyde. Visit the taproom between 8-10pm to chat with the artist, check out his 3D printed works and handcrafted Halloween costumes on display, and enter in the mask contest. Charlie Bennett of The Night Hobs will be performing provide some spooky tunes on the cello. SSKB, like all our local business, is operating under capacity restrictions due to COVID, so the taproom and sidewalk café will remain open during the Mask-querade to allow for social distancing.
With chilly weather approaching, you have probably taken a peek into your closet. If you have any jackets and coats that you plan to part with, consider donating them to the Ossining Padres Hispanos Winter Coat Drive. Donations can be dropped off at the St. Ann’s rectory. Need a coat, stop by and pick one out.
This should be an amazing time to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage. Make sure to get outside, enjoy our parks and public spaces, breathe the Hudson Valley air, and have a lovely and safe weekend.