Auburn Community Hospital is one of many medical facilities in New York preparing for an influx of patients if, as projections suggest, the state's coronavirus outbreak peaks within the next few weeks.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed hospitals to increase the number of beds by at least 50%. Beyond the order, he's encouraging them to double capacity to care for COVID-19 patients.
Cuomo is pushing for the expanded capacity as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases soars in New York. So far, 25,665 people have tested positive for COVID-19.
Initial projections suggested that COVID-19 cases in New York would peak in late April or early May. Now, Cuomo believes it will occur in two to three weeks. He also revealed that New York could need as many as 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 beds in intensive care units.
For Auburn and other hospitals, there's a short period of time to prepare for more patients.
"You're talking about a very significant logistical operational movement to increase that number of hospital beds and do everything that you need to do related to the increased hospital beds," said Cuomo, who added that availability of beds, staffing and equipment are the most important elements of the expansion.
Matthew Chadderdon, vice president of marketing and public affairs at Auburn Community Hospital, said the hospital has an internal task force that meets daily — sometimes hourly — to discuss preparations for COVID-19 cases. The hospital is working to comply with Cuomo's order by purchasing more beds.
Auburn, which is a 99-bed hospital, will add at least 50 beds. The hospital is working with its planning department, architects and emergency preparedness team to complete the expansion.
With the high demand for personal protective equipment and ventilators, Auburn is competing for devices and supplies like other hospitals. It's working with Cayuga County to place orders for gloves, gowns, masks and other equipment. Those supplies arrive on a rolling basis and are distributed to the hospital and health care providers.
The hospital does have some ventilators, but Chadderdon acknowledged that more will be needed.
Because hospitals could be overwhelmed if there is a large number of COVID-19 cases, Cuomo directed local governments to identify potential sites for temporary hospitals. The temporary sites could be used to ensure hospital beds remain open for COVID-19 patients, especially those that require placement in intensive care units.
ACH has been involved in searching for sites that could be used as temporary medical facilities. Inside the hospital, Chadderdon said they're trying to keep the emergency room "as available as possible" so that people with serious illnesses can receive treatment.
"The idea is that the hospital is prepared for any surge in COVID-19," Chadderdon said.
Also on Tuesday, the Cayuga County Health Department said that critically ill people, first responders and health care workers are a priority for COVID-19 testing.
It's a measure taken by several agencies across the country. Due to a limited supply of tests nationwide, some municipalities have established guidelines on who should be tested.
So far, 96 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Cayuga County. The health department is awaiting results for 56 people. Anyone who has been tested for the coronavirus is asked to self-isolate until the results are known.
Thirty people are in mandatory quarantine throughout Cayuga County, according to a news release.
No new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the county. As of Tuesday, three people have tested positive for the virus — a man in his 30s, a woman in her 30s and a woman in her 20s. They remain in mandatory isolation are being monitored by the Cayuga County Health Department.
With an increased number of tests, the health department said it's experiencing a delay in receiving results from the laboratory. It can take up to a week to receive results.
The health department reiterated its message to Cayuga County residents that they should stay home and practice self-care. Self-care includes monitoring any symptoms, washing your hands frequently and social distancing from others.
If you feel ill and can manage your symptoms at home, stay home. If your symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare provider. Many providers can evaluate patients over the phone or by using telehealth services.
For the essential workforce, don't report to work if you're sick.
A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York in its lawsuit challenging the village of Union Springs' ability to enforce local gambling and building ordinances.
In a 50-page decision released Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd rejected the village's motion to dismiss a 2014 Cayuga Nation lawsuit that had argued the tribe had sovereign immunity with respect to its operation of the Lakeside Entertainment electronic gaming center.
Lakeside has been operating for several years under an injunction while the lawsuit has been pending. The site has been temporarily closed since Wednesday due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The decision comes amid mounting tensions in Union Springs and the Seneca County town of Seneca Falls over the authority of the recently established Cayuga Nation police force. Union Springs attorneys had recently asked Hurd to rule quickly in the gaming ordinance lawsuit because of violence that has erupted on sites in Seneca Falls between Cayuga Nation police and nation citizens who do not support the federally recognized Cayuga government led by Clint Halftown.
In Tuesday's ruling, Hurd said the Cayuga Nation can operate its gaming center because it is authorized to do so under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That act, with oversight from the National Indian Gaming Commission. The village's 1958 Games of Chance Ordinance "cannot lawfully serve as a basis for denying the Nation a certificate of Occupancy to Lakeside Entertainment," Hurd wrote. "Federal law prohibits defendants from taking any steps to restrict, interfere with, punish, prosecute, or otherwise penalize actions taken by the Nation, its officers, its employees, or its other representatives in furtherance of Class II gaming activities at the property."
A key part of the village's argument was the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York. The highest court ruled then that American Indian nations could not buy up parcels of land on the open market and automatically make them sovereign land. The Cayuga Nation closed its Union Springs game hall in response to that decision, but later worked with the National Indian Gaming Commission to renew its license under the federal Indian gaming act and reopened in 2013.
Village attorney Chad Hayden said the village disagrees with Hurd's interpretations, and plans to appeal the decision.
Cayuga Nation hailed the court's decision.
"This is a great victory for our Nation, who were made promises more than 200 years ago and have justifiably relied on those promises. The Judge ruled in favor of the Cayuga Nation on each and every one of our legal arguments,” Halftown said a press release. “This is yet another affirmance of our sovereignty."
Halftown said Lakeside will reopen in Union Springs "as soon as we determine it is safe to do so and without ongoing interference from the Village."
A Brutus man shot and killed an Auburn woman before committing suicide, according to the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office.
Members of the sheriff's office were dispatched at 10:25 a.m. Tuesday to a home at 15 Middle Lane in the town of Brutus. There was a report that two people had been found dead inside the residence.
A preliminary investigation found that James R. Burnett, 42, shot and killed Kalene E. Sanderson, 26, of 40 Park Ave., Auburn. The sheriff's office said it appears Burnett, who lived in the Brutus residence, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Burnett and Sanderson were in a relationship, according to the sheriff's office. The apparent murder-suicide is being considered a domestic-related incident.
The investigation is ongoing. Other agencies are involved, including the Cayuga County District Attorney's Office, Cayuga County E-911 and the Cayuga County Coroner's Office.
Anyone with information should contact Detective Blanchard at (315) 253-3902. Anonymous tips can be left at cayugasheriff.com.
New York county election commissioners are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to consider postponing the state's Democratic presidential primary due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Democratic presidential primary is scheduled for April 28. For now, early voting will begin April 18 — not long after Cuomo believes the COVID-19 outbreak could peak in New York.
One concern relayed by the New York State Elections Commissioners' Association is the availability of polling inspectors. Poll workers tend to be older and are at risk of serious illness if they contract the coronavirus. Fielding inspectors, the commissioners' group argued, is "dangerous and may be impossible."
The availability of polling places could be a challenge for election boards. Some polling sites may not be usable because the buildings are closed.
The elections commissioners' association suggested moving the presidential primary to June 23 — the same date as the congressional, state and local primary in New York.
"Postponing until June will not only give us time to plan, but will ease the burdens on host counties budgets that are devastated by the COVID-19 crisis," the group wrote in its statement.
There are also five special elections in New York scheduled for April 28. The races include the special election to fill the vacant 50th state Senate District seat. Portions of Cayuga and Onondaga counties are in the district.
The Onondaga County Board of Elections endorsed the statewide group's recommendations and asked the state to either cancel the special election or move it to June 23. Katie Lacey, the Democratic elections commissioner in Cayuga County, said she and Cherl Heary, the county's Republican election commissioner, support the recommendations.
For now, Cuomo hasn't addressed whether he thinks the presidential primary and special elections should be moved. Other state leaders have come out in support of moving the primary. Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said Tuesday that the primary should be moved to June.
The state election commissioners' organization also asked Cuomo and legislative leaders to allow absentee voting when states of emergency are declared due to pandemics. And the group wants local election boards to have more flexibility to consolidate polling places and election districts.
"While we hope the COVID-19 crisis will be better by June, it is quite likely we will have limited numbers of polling places and inspectors even then," the association wrote. "We need this flexibility to adjust to circumstances on the ground in our jurisdictions that may be changing right up until the June 23 election."