Hudson Valley COVID-19 Update – Saturday, 3/14

The Other Hudson Valley is partnering with The River Newsroom to provide nightly updates on COVID-19 in our region. Due to reader demand, we are now including news from additional counties — Delaware, Sullivan and Schoharie. Below is the news from Saturday.

NEW YORK STATE

613 cases confirmed (192 new)

One of the symptoms of coronavirus: an early state budget? New York legislators are rushing to set their eternal differences aside and get it done before the April 1 deadline, City and State reports.

New coronavirus federal legislation might make that a lot tougher to accomplish.

In the wee hours of Saturday, the House rushed to pass a broad federal coronavirus relief bill. It heads to the Senate, which is expected to take it up on Monday. With infections on the rise, every hour counts.

Here’s the New York State budget dilemma: The federal legislation includes billions of dollars in Medicaid funding for New York State, via a boost in the percentage of the tab picked up by the federal government. The amount of extra funding states get will depend on how long the federal state of emergency lasts, the Buffalo News reports. But as Bill Hammond, director of health policy for the conservative-leaning Empire Center for Public Policy, noted on Twitter: the coronavirus relief package “comes with a catch: Cuomo has to give up his plan to shift Medicaid costs to local government.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is furious about it. In the federal bill-in-progress, “New York State gets the lowest rate of funding of any state in the country,” Cuomo said in a press briefing Saturday evening. “We’re actually tied for last.” In his briefing, Cuomo railed against the provision blocking cost-shifting, blamed Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nita Lowey personally for the snafu, and said that if the federal legislation passes as-is, Schumer can come to Albany and fix the budget himself.

On the other hand, some municipal leaders, who were vehemently opposed to the cost-shifting plan in the first place, were delighted. On Twitter, the New York State Association of Counties called the federal bill “a huge victory for New York counties and the people they serve.”

Cuomo has been holding coronavirus press briefings daily. Today, he held two. Between the two press briefings, 89 more cases were confirmed in the state, bringing today’s total from 524 to 613.

Cuomo stressed that as more testing is done, the number of confirmed cases will rise. “The more tests we do, the higher the number of positive cases we will see — so we need to keep that context in mind when we see these numbers continuing to go up,” he stated in an official announcement.

In today’s first briefing, Cuomo announced that health insurance companies would be required to waive all co-pays for telehealth visits. A second drive-through mobile testing site, following on the heels of a new site in New Rochelle that screened 263 people on its first day, will open next week in Long Island. The state aims to be testing 6,000 people a day by next week.

Today, Cuomo signed an executive order temporarily modifying election rules to allow candidates to qualify for June primary ballots with fewer signatures, and extending deadlines for absentee ballots. Cuomo also announced that he would sign executive orders unveiled yesterday, expanding access to unemployment and allowing schools to waive a requirement for 180 days of instruction without incurring a financial penalty, as long as they have been told to close by local officials or are under a countywide declaration of emergency.

The state’s 44,000 prison inmates will have their visitations majorly restricted starting Saturday at 5 p.m. until April 11. The restrictions include family reunion programs but not visits from lawyers. Inmates will be provided with five free postage stamps a week and one free phone call a week during the restrictions.

The first links between confirmed coronavirus infections and deaths of New York State residents were announced today. The first to be announced was a 82-year-old woman in Brooklyn who died Friday; the second, a man in his mid-sixties in the Rockland County village of Suffern who died earlier in the week and whose death had been under investigation by health officials. Both had other underlying health conditions.

Hudson Valley state legislators are pushing a slate of new pandemic-related bills, the Daily Freeman reports, from crackdowns on price gouging to benefits for first responders to a change in the New York State presidential primary date.

Two New York State Assembly members, Helene Weinstein and Charles Barron, have been diagnosed with coronavirus, according to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. The New York State Capitol is closed to visitors and being cleaned over the weekend.

The Archdiocese of New York announced that all Catholic masses in the archdiocese would be cancelled effective immediately.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY

178 cases confirmed (20 new)

A Yonkers CIty Hall employee working in the communications office tested positive for COVID-19, but Mayor Mike Spano said they hadn’t been in CIty Hall since March 6 and did not interact with the public. The communications office will be closed Monday for additional cleaning, but the rest of City Hall will be open.

Empire City Casino in Yonkers closed on Saturday for two weeks after an employee who worked on the property but lived in New Jersey died from the coronavirus Tuesday. The casino employs 1,200 people. No other casinos in the state have closed but are taking additional safety measures.

ROCKLAND COUNTY

12 cases confirmed (3 new)

The county health department warned residents they may have been exposed to the virus at a children’s clothing store in Monsey. Anyone who was at the Prince & Princess at 421 Route 59 from Thursday March 10 – Thursday March 12 during the hours of 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. was ordered to self-quarantine until March 26. The locations of the nine previously announced infections were also announced: seven were from Ramapo and two were from Clarkstown.

The county reported its first death: a Suffern resident in their mid-sixties with significant health issues. The NY Post cited sources saying the resident died earlier this week and was diagnosed posthumously.

ULSTER COUNTY

5 cases confirmed (0 new)

Ulster County’s comptroller warned COV-19 will likely have substantial impacts on the county’s tax base. Sales tax makes up 37 percent of the county’s revenues and the most profitable sectors of the county’s economy would most likely take significant downturns. Sales tax revenues, as well as property tax revenue, may experience significant and multi-year declines.

The Daily Freeman’s Patricia Doxsey talked to some local business owners who are watching customers disappear, and worried about it. “When there’s parking on Wall Street, you know something’s up,” Bop to Tottom owner Karen Clark Adin told her.

Belleayre Mountain plans to close Monday, March 16, but so far, is slated to reopen on Friday, March 20.

ORANGE COUNTY

6 cases confirmed (3 new)

Orange County reported three new COVID-19 cases Saturday. The county did not release any information about the cases, including where they lived, citing public health law.

Newburgh closed its Activity Center and cancelled all city and non-city programming there. City Hall will remain open.

DUTCHESS COUNTY

4 cases confirmed (1 new)

A fourth case was confirmed in the county Saturday. Dutchess County announced that the newest positive result was found in a member of the Bard College community. In a release on Bard’s website, the college announced that they were “reaching out directly to anyone who may have had direct contact with the employee” and asking them to voluntarily quarantine and contact the health department.

Editorial note: The language used in Bard’s release was that the college was asking potential contacts to “self-isolate,” which is not technically correct. There is widespread confusion about the difference between “isolation” and “quarantine,” but the CDC uses the word “quarantine” to describe the restriction of movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease, and “isolation” to describe the separation of sick people from those who are not sick. -LH

DELAWARE COUNTY

1 case confirmed

County officials declared a state of emergency today. In an emergency order, Board of Supervisors chair Tina Molé declared instruction in all schools in the district suspended effective Wednesday, March 18, through April 14 if not revoked sooner; school administrative offices may remain open. Senior Meal sites and Senior Transit run by the Office of the Aging are also shut down effective immediately.

Molé and other county leaders released a video statement on Facebook.

Bassett Healthcare Network, with hospitals in Cooperstown, Oneonta, Delhi, Sidney, Little Falls, and Cobleskill, announced a 24/7 coronavirus hotline on Friday: 607-547-5555. The hospital also published information about their new visitor response plan.

COLUMBIA COUNTY

0 cases confirmed

Columbia Memorial Health (CMHY) curtailed visits at its facilities Saturday, including barring any visitors under the age of 16, part of an effort by Capital Regional hospitals to address potential spread of the virus. CMH, which operates the only hospital in Columbia and Greene Counties, has tested less than 20 people for COVID-19 as of Friday. At the news conference announcing the restrictions, representatives from multiple Capital District hospitals dodged questions about how many test kits they had on hand.

CMH created a COVID-19 hotline for those experiencing symptoms or who believe they were exposed to the virus: 518-828-8249

GREENE COUNTY

0 cases confirmed

Greene County school superintendents will be meeting with the county Department of Health on Sunday to decide whether to close schools, Cairo-Durham announced. Not taking chances: Windham-Ashland-Jewett announced today that schools will be closed through March 29.

On Thursday, Hunter Mountain announced that the ski center would close starting Sunday, March 15. Today, Windham Mountain announced restrictions on capacity for Sunday, March 15 and declared that the ski center would close after Sunday.

PUTNAM COUNTY

0 cases confirmed

As of this post, Putnam County had not announced any confirmed cases. The county declared a state of emergency on Friday in an order that closed all county schools for at least five days.

The Highlands Current, a nonprofit news site serving western Putnam and southern Dutchess counties, is tracking local news updates daily on a page devoted to coronavirus news, and has another page for cancellations and closures.

SULLIVAN COUNTY

0 cases

The county declared a state of emergency Friday. All county offices will be minimally staffed and the county opened its Emergency Operations Center in White Lake.

All schools in the county were closed Saturday for three weeks by an emergency order issued by Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek, according to the Liberty Central School District. The closing is scheduled to last until April 3.

Visits at The Care Center at Sunset Lake in Liberty were suspended until further notice to protect its elderly residents.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY

0 cases

The county has not yet announced a state of emergency, although the Worcester Central School district announced Friday that county public health officials have ordered all schools in the county (and neighboring Otsego) to be closed for two weeks.

Village of Middleburgh board candidate Tim Knight announced that due to the library closing, the village election scheduled for Wednesday, March 18 will be moved to the Middleburgh town hall at 143 Railroad Ave. “These are scary, unpredictable times, but our commitment to democracy must not abate here or anywhere,” he wrote.

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