CANTON — Though Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State on PAUSE order has expired, New York’s state of emergency has been extended through June 7.
The town of Canton has also opted to extend its state of emergency for an additional 30 days. The town’s declaration was initially issued on March 18 by Town Supervisor Mary Ann Ashley, and this extension marks Canton’s third emergency continuation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To me it’s prudent and it’s another insurance policy in case we need it,” Ms. Ashley said of the state of emergency, which provides a kind of security for the town to potentially receive emergency aid. “I’m hoping we won’t have to do it again after another 30 days.”
During the county update portion of the town’s regular meeting Wednesday, St. Lawrence County Legislative Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, said the county decided to let its state of emergency declaration expire Friday with the expiration of the PAUSE order.
At this time, Ms. Ashley said, the Canton Municipal Building, 60 Main St., will remain closed until further notice, while town and village officials coordinate a municipal reopening plan with input from all departments in the coming weeks.
“The biggest challenge will be (reopening) our court system,” Ms. Ashley said. “When you have that many people on the docket, we need to make sure we’re protecting everybody — not only ourselves, but each other.”
Maintaining social distancing practices once in-person Town Court operations resume will be “complicated,” Town Justice Rosemary Philips said.
“Safety first — I’m not anxious to have 100 people parading through court,” she said, adding that she anticipates more remote correspondence to be permitted by the state court system, including pleas-by-mail in certain cases.
Currently, about 10 judges in the county are facilitating virtual arraignments on a rotating basis using Skype for Business, Town Court Clerk Marc Armstrong said.
Other proceedings have been pushed out until the end of June, Mr. Armstrong said, and like courts across New York, Canton Town Court is awaiting further reopening guidelines from the state.
The New York State Unified Court System this week approved the reopening of courts in 30 upstates counties, in regions that have met all seven criteria for phased reopenings outlined by the governor’s office.
North country courts — in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties — will be permitted to resume most in-person operations Wednesday, May 20.
The town still has about 500 free, 100%-cotton reusable masks, a supply distributed by the county within a larger, 1.5 million-mask stock manufactured by Hanes and provided to New York by the federal government.
Ms. Ashley said the town has already distributed about 1,500 of its 2,000 masks to various workplaces and individuals, and those in need of a mask are asked to contact Ms. Ashley, at 315-386-2962 or email@example.com, or the town clerk’s office, at 315-386-3735 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Arrangements can be made for no-contact delivery or pick-up at the municipal building.