COVID-19 update: ShopRite forges on as workers in Westchester test positive

Chester. The Chester ShopRite offers special hours for senior citizens. Follow guidelines to keep the supermarket workers we depend on safe. Joann Fabric offers free face mask materials. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is asking hikers to stay away while Mohonk Preserve closes. Measures are being taken to make filing for unemployment easier. The attorney general has launched a hotline for reporting coronavirus hate crimes.

24 Mar 2020 | 02:17

A community lifeline faces challenges

Four ShopRite supermarkets in hard-hit Westchester County report they each have an associate with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The supermarkets are in New Rochelle, Thornwood, Tuckahoe, and Bedford Hills. The Chester ShopRite said Tuesday it has no reported cases.

Supermarket employees are on the front line of our nationwide crisis, reporting for work every day at great risk to themselves to stock shelves, ring up sales, make deliveries, and do all of the other vital work everyone depends on to keep their families fed.

"You should know that ShopRite is prepared and we have implemented the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended protocol to reduce the spread of the virus," said yesterday's announcement on the Facebook pages for the affected Westchester stores.

The associates who tested positive are no longer in the workplace, they said. Colleagues who may have been in close contact with them for a prolonged period of time are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

"In addition to following CDC protocols, we have implemented our own enhanced sanitation process including all workspaces used by the associate and common areas," said the affected stores. "As we strive to remain open to provide you with the essential food supplies you need, and for the safety of our customers and associates we urge everyone:· If you are sick, please refrain from coming to the store;· cover your coughs and sneezes; wash your hands regularly and do not touch your face;· practice social distancing, wherever possible.The containment of the Coronavirus is a shared responsibility. We are proud of the amazing dedication our associates are demonstrating and we thank them for their service to our customers."

Joe Colalillo, the chair and CEO of Wakefern Food Corporation, the cooperative of families that own and operate ShopRite, said in a post: "We want to thank all of our associates for their hard work during these extraordinary times. In recognition of their dedication, we have instituted a temporary wage premium and enhanced sick and leave benefits. Thank you for the trust you’ve placed in us. We hope and pray that you and your family remain safe and well."

Chester ShopRite offers special hours for seniors

The ShopRite of Chester says its associates "are going above and beyond in the face of the COVID-19 emergency. To show our support, we have implemented an emergency sick pay and compensation Program, that includes a $2 per hour increase in their wages at ShopRite of Chester."

The Chester ShopRite has also reserved special hours for shoppers age 60 and over: from 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., seven days a week. Older people are more at risk from coronavirus infection.

As of March 22, the Chester ShopRite set the following hours, seven days a week: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; deli, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and pharmacy, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday.

Chester shoppers are posting words of appreciation and encouragement.

"To all your employees THANK YOU during this crazy time," writes Michele Danilak in a representative post. "I understand it's not always easy but the employees at Chester Shoprite are always so nice and helpful. God Bless you all."

Joann Fabric offers free face mask materials

Joann Fabric (joann.com/make-to-give-response) is encouraging sewers to support the nation's medical personnel by making face masks. Their website offers an instructional video.

The store in Middletown is temporarily closed, but will be open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. for curbside delivery of free materials ordered online, including pre-cut masks.

Stay off the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is asking hikers to stay off the trail.

This is the month through-hikers typically start their journey in Georgia if they plan to make the 2,200-mile journey to Maine by October. The trail passes through many points in the tristate area, including Mount Peter and Greenwood Lake in New York, High Point State Park in New Jersey, and the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania.

"In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of a dangerous virus, many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces," said Sandra Marra, conservancy president and CEO. "On the A.T., however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned."

She said a simple half-day hike can spread COVID-19. Hikers "may have eaten lunch at a picnic table, taken a break in a shelter, used a privy, or shared a map or food with someone unknowingly infected with COVID-19 and carried this highly contagious virus back to their communities at the end of the day."

In addition, the rural communities adjacent to the trail "may not have the healthcare resources to help a sick hiker or volunteer or manage a COVID-19 outbreak," she said.

"We cannot close the trail," she said. "We cannot physically bar access to trailheads or connecting trails. We can and do, however, urge everyone to please stay away from the Appalachian Trail until further notice."

The nonprofit Mohonk Preserve in New York's Shawangunk Mountains shut down its preserve to all visitors this week.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says its trails are still open but is discouraging visitors. Hikers who encounter crowds that prevent them from practicing social distancing -- staying six feet apart from others at all times -- are advised to go to another trailhead or return home.

"The best advice to slow the spread of the coronavirus is to stay home," its website says.

Unemployment capabilities to increase

On Monday, NYS Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R-New Windsor) sent a letter to the governor and labor commissioner requesting an increase in unemployment filing capabilities. Since then he has spoken with Commissioner Roberta Reardon and Gov. Cuomo’s office on the steps being taken to increase assistance to New Yorkers affected by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“I am grateful to Commissioner Reardon and Governor Cuomo for swiftly responding to my letter requesting increased phone and online capacity for unemployment filing," he said. "The COVID-19 crisis has overwhelmed the states current capabilities and countless constituents have reached out with issues attempting to file for unemployment. The good news is the Department of Labor is working around the clock to onboard more capabilities to respond to the current need.”

Schmitt reported these key updates:

Anyone who qualifies for benefits will receive them in full even if if they face a delay in filing.

The system handled over 1.7 million calls last week, when the average is 50,000. The state is now increasing server and bandwidth capacity for the website. And more staff will be hired, including staff from other agencies and retired staffers.

People who have never received or applied for unemployment benefits should start the process online (labor.ny.gov/home) before calling, Schmitt said.

"Directly calling prolongs the process and delays assistance to others," Schmitt said. "Try calling or filing online later in the day. The phone and online system is overwhelmed more significantly during morning hours.

“I will continue to work with the Commissioner and Governor to ensure the state has all the resources it needs to meet the needs of my constituents.”

Hotline to report coronavirus hate crimes

Attorney General Letitia James launched a hotline where New Yorkers can report coronavirus hate crimes and bias-based incidents.

Those experiencing hate crimes and bias incidences may report them to the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau at civil.rights@ag.ny.gov, or by calling 1-800-771-7755.

The hotline comes in the wake of rising reports of harassment and assaults, as well as rhetoric against Asian Americans amidst the pandemic.

“As we face an unprecedented and uncertain time for New York, the United States, and the world, we must reiterate the fact that this pandemic does not give anyone an excuse to be racist, xenophobic, or biased,” said James. “No one should live in fear for their life because of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. I encourage all victims of discriminatory actions stemming from this pandemic to contact my office. We will continue to work with local law enforcement to combat hate in all its insidious forms.”

Tristate tallies:
Here follows the number of positive cases in the tristate area and beyond as of March 24:
New York State: 25,665
Orange County, N.Y: 498
Sullivan County, N.Y. 23
Pennsylvania: 644
Pike County, Pa.: 4
Wayne County, Pa.: 4
Monroe County, Pa.: 45
New Jersey: 3,675
USA: 50,206
The number of positive cases is highest in states that have administered the most tests. The number of tests administered in the three states, according to the COVID Tracking Project, are as follows:
New York State: 61,401
Pennsylvania: 5,443
New Jersey: 2,290