AKWESASNE –– Roughly 45 days after surrounding communities began to reopen from the COVID-19 outbreak, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe is preparing to begin to take the same step.
The Tribal Council on Friday adopted reopening guidelines for the Akwesasne community on the U.S. side of the international border, with the restrictions that have been in place since a state of emergency was declared March 16 being gradually lifted over the coming weeks.
“Over the last several months, Tribal Council’s priority has been focused on responding to COVID-19 and to continue to protect the overall health, safety and welfare of our community,” the Tribal Council said in a release announcing the decision. “Recovering from a global health pandemic is not a race, and our overabundance of caution is to avoid the painful lesson from reopening too soon. We will continue to take a cautious and gradual approach to lifting protective measures,” the council release said.
Any loosening of the restrictions may be ended at any time if there is a flare-up of COVID-19 cases either in Akwesasne or the broader region, the release said.
One of the restrictions changed under Friday’s decision was an expansion of the area to which people can travel without being required to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning to Akwesasne. Previously, those who traveled within a 50-mile radius of Akwesasne had not been required to self-quatantine; that area has now been expanded to 100 miles.
Other restrictions still remain in effect.
A curfew requiring all residents except those performing essential services requires people to remain at home from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Those hours are expected to be rolled back in phases over the coming weeks.
Businesses are required to close one hour before the curfew goes into effect.
Outdoor gathers are limited to 50 people or fewer, with social distancing to be maintained.
“Prolonged visits of several hours or more by guests to Akwesasne is not advisable at this time,” the announcement said.
The Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort is scheduled to reopen on Aug. 1.
Additional information about the reopening plan can be found at www.srmt-nsn.gov.
The Tribal Council thanked Akwesasne for their response to the restrictions and noted that the vast majority of residents had followed the safety precautions put in place –– which helped keep the infection rate in the community low.
“Niá:wen (thank you) to everyone for their patience and cooperation with the protective measures these past several months. Thanks to everyone for your willingness to go along with the EOC’s recommended safety measures and for helping us by reminding your friends and family to practice physical distancing and to wear masks. We are announcing the reopening guidelines, but we ask you to remain cautious as this global pandemic is still considered to be in the first wave,” the council said in its announcement.
“As much as we all want a return to the way it was before the global pandemic, we must develop and follow this new normal for our community. We are getting there in a manner that minimizes the risk of spreading the virus throughout the community. For that, we ask individuals to continue to practice social distancing, wash hands often, and follow mask directives,” the council said.
In other portions of Franklin County, the number of active COVID-19 cases remained the same on Saturday, although one person who had been identified as infected has since recovered, County Manager Donna Kissane said in her daily briefing email on Saturday. However, one new person has tested positive, keeping the number of active cases at three, she said.
The number of people in quarantine or isolation rose by one to 39.
A total of 9,298 tests had been administered as of Saturday.
The state reported 908 COVID-19 hospitalizations Saturday — the lowest since the pandemic ravaged the state in March.
The state reported 703 new COVID-19 cases, or 0.96%, of the 73,262 tests conducted Friday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a new executive order Saturday making any New York employee who voluntarily travels to high-risk states after June 25 ineligible for COVID-19 paid sick leave. State employees will not receive the paid sick leave if they travel to a high-risk coronavirus state for any nonessential purpose, including vacation.
“If we are going to maintain the progress we’ve seen, we need everyone to take personal responsibility — that’s why I’m issuing an executive order that says any New York employee who voluntarily travels to a high-risk state will not be eligible for the COVID protections we created under paid sick leave,” the governor said.
State employees will forgo paid sick leave benefits from New York’s COVID-19 paid sick leave law if they engage in nonessential travel to any state that has a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. The provision does not apply if the employee travels for work or at their employer’s request.
The provision included in Saturday’s executive order mirrors the law’s existing provision that makes New Yorkers ineligible for paid sick leave after traveling to any country the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designates as a level-two or -three travel health notice, according to the order.
“New Yorkers have controlled the spread of this unprecedented virus by being smart and disciplined, and our progress to date is illustrated by the current low numbers of new cases and hospitalizations,” Cuomo said.