BEST PARTNERS WITH NENY-COSH TO REEMPHASIZE
PROPER USE OF PPE
The Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST) will team up with the Northeast New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NENY-COSH) on Aug. 24-25 to provide one-on-one demonstrations on the proper use of personal protective equipment to the essential workers of the backstretch at Saratoga Race Course. The demonstrations will re-emphasize the continued best practices that have been in place at the racetrack since early March. Each worker in attendance will receive a PPE kit including a mask with filtering respirator, gloves, and hand sanitizer. The project was made possible with the help of a grant from the Hispanics in Philanthropy Essential Fund.
PPE has been supplied, free of charge, to the horsemen and the workers since the start of the pandemic. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) teamed up earlier this month to distribute 25,000 masks at Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park, bringing the total number of masks and gloves donated to the backstretch community to more than 200,000.
This initiative is the most recent in the ongoing effort to protect the workers from Covid-19. BEST has been working with the NYRA, NYTHA, and the New York division of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America since early March to address the issues created by the pandemic. The organizations formed a Task Force Mar. 10 and created the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Plan,” developing policies regarding testing, medical care, quarantine and the mandatory use of PPE, as well as setting up a communication network with the horsemen and the workers, and organizing distribution of PPE, medical supplies, food, and clothing for those in need.
“Since the start, we have been working hard to make sure the workers have everything they need, and this is an ongoing and collective effort,” BEST Executive Director Paul Ruchames said. “We are thrilled that, as of today, we have no active positives in our backstretch community. But we will continue to be vigilant. A key component in keeping the backstretch workers safe is education. NENY-COSH will review the facts about PPE with our workers – how to wear it, how to store, when to discard it.”
The Task Force expanded its Plan and exceeded New York State requirements when Saratoga Race Course opened in July, mandating that everyone working at the upstate track produce a negative Covid-19 test before being allowed on the grounds. This policy includes jockeys, valets, NYRA employees, trainers and their staff, outside vendors, and media. As is the policy at Belmont Park, everyone licensed and approved to be on the property are required to wear a mask, practice social distancing and submit to a daily temperature check.
Signs in English and Spanish are posted across the backstretch as a daily reminder to follow these protocols, and there is a hotline to call should anyone have concerns about Covid-19.
As a result of this diligence, there are currently zero positive cases of Covid-19 at Saratoga Race Course and downstate at Belmont Park.
“NYTHA is committed to improving the lives of the workforce on the backstretch, and our mission has never been more focused than during the fight against Covid-19,” NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum said. “We want to thank NENY-COSH for providing this valuable service to the workers, and the Gaming Commission, NYRA, BEST, and the Chaplaincy for their collaboration during difficult times. We are proud of the hard work and dedication that have gone into this effort, and of our horsemen and workers for their willingness to cooperate and comply.”
Added Ruchames, “Thanks to the partnership with NYRA and NYTHA and the guidance of the New York State Gaming Commission and the Governor’s Office, we have been able to contain Covid-19 at our racetracks. But we cannot let our guard down.”