Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and this year we have a lot to be thankful for. Often in the darkest or scariest of times is when we realize just how much we have. I am thankful for a year of altruism in our community. I have seen neighbors reach out to neighbors, offering to brave grocery stores or help pick up medications. I have seen teachers and school administrators make lesson plans and then adapt them completely to better serve their students. I have seen essential workers continue to show up every day to help. This holiday is about celebrating the good in the world.
Earlier this year, we spent a lot of time discussing equity and the importance of recognizing patterns of injustice. Thanksgiving is an opportune time to further that conversation in our own households because the nature of the holiday and how it is celebrated has shifted so many times over the course of our history. This year, Thanksgiving is changing once again, but in a slightly different way. The commercialized “black-Friday-Eve” we have seen in recent years is adapting. The heaping platters of food and long tables lined by family members will be greatly reduced. Instead, we are celebrating with smaller meals, maybe a computer screen nearby to wave to our family members who are not with us, and the sincere hope we can all sit together again, safely and in health, next year.
I strongly urge all residents not to travel to other’s homes for Thanksgiving, and only celebrate this holiday with those in your immediate household. All medical experts agree – including the Centers for Disease Control as well as New York State Department of Health and Westchester County Department of Health. We all want our family members to stay safe and healthy for the holiday – we want to be able to celebrate with them for years to come. If we have to sacrifice our favorite traditions for one year, it is only to ensure that in the future we have better and more vibrant celebrations with all our loved ones. It is definitely challenging – I cannot remember the last time it was just my immediate family members around our Thanksgiving table, if ever – but we can all do our part this holiday season to keep ourselves, our family, friends, and loved ones safe.
Last week, portions of our community were designated a “Yellow Zone” due to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases being identified. I hosted a Facebook Live on Monday night to answer residents’ questions and streamed to Facebook live my announcements during our Tuesday Town Board with additional information. A Yellow Zone is a precautionary designation. We have been coordinating with County and State officials to make more tests, masks, and hand sanitizer available for our residents. We are also printing and distributing flyers, posting on social media, and sending eblasts to help get information to residents, and partnering with many stakeholder groups in the community to do the same. In a yellow zone, schools and nursing homes are required to test more often. If our numbers qualify us for an Orange or Red Zone, health guidelines will begin to impact our community more noticeably, including further restrictions on gatherings and businesses.
It is important that we all work together to keep COVID-19 from spreading further in our community. You can protect yourself by washing your hands often and avoiding touching your face. Always wear your mask outside your home, with the sides tight against your face and the top over your nose, and if anyone who does not live in your household does come to visit, make sure to wear it inside your home as well. And of course wear it in your workplace. Most importantly, please stay home if you feel sick.
New York State launched a site to help residents find testing sites. Our current sites have received a huge influx of requests for appointments. The County voicemail box was full early Tuesday morning. Lines at Open Door Family Medical Center were overloaded for hours. Please review the NYS Find a Testing Site Nearest You feature to make appointments as more tests become available in our area.
New York State is managing a COVID-19 exposure app, which can alert you if have been in proximity to someone who tests positive. The free app uses Bluetooth 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 efforts are continuing across the state. If you see an incoming call from NYS Contact Tracing, please pick up the phone. These callers have been trained to connect you with the services you need if you have been exposed to COVID-19. If you have not been contacted, but require services, Westchester County may be able to help. The county can provide free temporary housing if you cannot quarantine in your home. They can also arrange for food and medication deliveries, along with many other services. The County phone number for quarantining and COVID positive individuals and families is (866) 588-0195. This line is confidential.
Big holidays are not the only time we need to be careful about traveling. The New York State Health Department recommends staying close to home and only making essential trips. Please review the NYS Travel Advisory before and after a trip to make sure you are not contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
NYS has launched a program to help New Yorkers find state services and benefits. The Find Services Feature provides an easy-to-use starting point for community members in need of social services, including Paid Family Leave, tax relief, accessing addiction services, Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline, Mental Health Resources, Child Health Plus, COVID-19 resources for New Americans, NY State of Health (Official Healthcare Marketplace), Medicaid, and the NYS Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Hotline.
The Town and Village of Ossining are collaborating on a resource document with information about testing, PPE, and support services for residents. We have maintained this document since the spring, updating it when new guidance gets passed down from the Federal, State, or County government. If you have any questions about resources, please do not hesitate to contact us. We may have the answer you are looking for, and if not we can connect you with the people who do have that answer.
Westchester Medical Center has established a treatment program for those who have recovered from COVID-19 but are still experiencing additional symptoms. This Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program is available now at the WMC campus in Valhalla. There is an increase in evidence that a COVID-19 infection can result in lingering symptoms such as fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, headache, muscle weakness, and joint pain, as well as impact to the heart, lungs, brain, and blood cells. Some patients recovering from COVID-19 infection also continue to experience mental “fogginess,” confusion, anxiety, depression, and other psychological and emotional issues for months after initially becoming infected. Do not hesitate to get care if you are having ongoing symptoms. You can contact the WMCHealth Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program at 1-833-329-0095 or visit them online for more information and to request an evaluation.
Zoom, the video conferencing service many of us have relied on during this pandemic, expanded their service for Thanksgiving Day. The 40 minute limit has been removed, meaning you no longer need to pay for an account to have a full holiday with far-flung family members. It is comforting to see companies like Zoom make such generous decisions for this holiday.
I am impressed and inspired by the number of non-profits and organizations that are stepping up to make the holidays special for everyone. Thank you to everyone who is able to volunteer, donate, or otherwise support these acts of kindness.
The Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce is offering gift cards for free meals at food distribution locations in Ossining. The gift cards are available through the Chamber’s Virtuous Collective, which helps bridge the financial gap between local restaurant meal prices and residents with food insecurity. For more information or to donate to this program, go to the Virtuous Collective website.
The Ossining Girl Scouts are coordinating donation drop offs for the Ossining Food Pantry. The Pantry, which is open to both Briarcliff and Ossining residents, has been an important lifeline during the Coronavirus Crisis. Until December 3rd, drop off select items at Mike Risko Music School (144 Croton Ave, Ossining) or Logrea Dance Academy (2 Dale Ave, Ossining).
The Marine Corps Reserve is hosting their annual Toys for Tots collection. New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the Municipal Building by the Clerk’s Office. The office is on the first floor and our screener will greet you at the front door. See the list of suggested items below and stop by between 9am – 2:30 pm (M-F) to drop them off.
Also helping make the holidays special, Open Door Family Medical Center is hosting a Toy Drive too! Their goal this year is to collect 5000 new unwrapped toys and gift cards. The target age for toys ranges from newborn to 14 years and should be valued around $20. Check out their wish list below and help make the season magical for a local child.
The Hudson Valley Justice Center has announced the creation of a rental arrears fund to benefit immigrants facing eviction. If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call (914) 308-3490 ext. 4 to schedule an intake. These funds will only be available through December 2020. You can learn more at the HVJC website.
Briarcliff High School Students are participating in the 12th Annual Westchester Polar Plunge to support Special Olympics New York. They will not be running into the freezing waters of the Long Island Sound like last year, but everyone is invited to raise money from family and friends that sponsor you. Participate at home by taking a dip in a baby pool, soaking teammates with a supersoaker from six feet away, or take an ice bath or freezing shower. Send Special Olympics your photos/videos so they can post on their social media. In addition, Carvel in Chilmark Shopping Center has generously agreed to give a free ice cream cone to everyone who donates $30 or more (bring proof of donation)!
Westchester County will host a Ribbons of Remembrance Ceremony in honor of those lost to COVID-19. The virtual ceremony will take place on Thursday, December 3.
Westchester County is offering Black Friday deals. Get an extra 10% value FREE on golf gift cards purchased between Monday, November 16 and Thursday, December 31. Visit www.golf.westchestergov.com for more information.
The Ossining Police Department would like to remind you to always lock your car. Practice the 9pm routine before you leave your car for the night: take your valuables out of the car, close the overhead garage door, and lock the inner garage door if you have one. Never leave your keys or fob in the car. This #9PMROUTINE will help protect you from being a victim of theft. The Police Department is requesting that residents review any footage that may show the recent break-ins, if anything stands out call OPD at (914) 941-4099 and ask to speak with detectives.
If Thanksgiving leftovers spoil in your fridge every year, you can drop them off in our Food Scraps Bins at the Ossining Farmers Market or Cedar Lane Park. Food scraps take longer to break down and make trash collection more expensive and harmful to the environment. The Ossining Food Scraps program composts the food waste! Participation is free for all residents (Village of Ossining and Briarcliff included)! Learn more about the program at www.OssiningComposts.com.
Sing Sing Kill Brewery is hosting a crowler sale, buy 3 get one free. The Brewery is closed on Thanksgiving Day, so the deal is only available today. Find out more at the SSKB website.
Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT), which commemorates its 10th anniversary this year, is presenting a virtual event, Cheers To 10 Years, a celebration of the company’s decade of success in developing new work for the theater. The production will stream live on Saturday, December 12 at 8 pm. For more information, visit http://www.wctheater.org/.
If you plan to make your home a festive escape, snap a few pictures and enter the Holiday House Decorating Contest hosted by the Ossining Families, Positively Ossining, or Ossining Moms Facebook groups. Be sure to post your photos with the caption #winterossining2020 by December 21st.
As I wrap up this Update, I would like to remind everyone that this year has been especially hard on small businesses. The Ossining Chamber of Commerce is leading SHOP-EAT-BUY Ossining Month, encouraging all of us to support our local economy. 1 in 6 small businesses across the US have permanently closed since the start of the pandemic. Did you know that 45% of every dollar spent at a small business stays in your community, compared to only 14% of every dollar spent at chain stores? Support Ossining by supporting local businesses. This year, we are asking residents to challenge their friends and neighbors to Small Business Bingo. Explore your local options. Not many Towns can say they have such a wide variety of options, time-tested and greatly appreciated by the community. Challenge your friends to play along. We’ll be announcing more about this as the holiday shopping season unfolds.
Have a happy and healthy and safe Thanksgiving.