This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Sunday, March 15. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.
NEW YORK STATE
729 cases confirmed (69 new)
-Nonessential state staff in hotspot areas (Rockland, Westchester, New York City, Suffolk, and Nassau counties) have been ordered to work from home for two weeks.
-New York State courts will postpone all “non-essential” services, starting Monday at 5 p.m. All eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders will be suspended statewide. Felony matters in which the defendant is in custody will be conducted by video in jurisdictions that have the technology, Law.com reports.
-SUNY Empire State College president Jim Malatras will work with counties to develop contingency plans in preparation for massive school closings.
-The DMV will move to appointment only statewide, starting Monday.
-All downstate public schools (New York City, Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau counties) will close this week.
In an open letter to President Trump, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the nation’s hospital systems would fail unless drastic measures were immediately taken. The best hope, Cuomo wrote, is to use the Army Corps of Engineers to turn existing facilities—like military bases or college dorms—into temporary medical centers. Cuomo also suggested uniform federal standards for the closing of schools, business, and public events, and urged the FDA to allow more forms of COVID-19 testing.
“Our country as a whole has fewer than one million staffed hospital beds, fewer proportionately than China, South Korea or Italy,” Cuomo wrote. “We have had disagreements about your actions against New York, which we can pursue at another time. Today, let’s work together as Americans. Time is short.”
State officials are weighing whether to postpone New York’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 23.
On Sunday evening, the CDC announced new guidelines for the entire US that recommend the cancellation of all gatherings of more than 50 people, social distancing measures for gatherings of any size, and cancelling gatherings of more than 10 people for organizations that serve vulnerable populations.
196 cases confirmed (18 new)
60 Minutes did an in-depth segment today on New Rochelle, speaking with officials, healthcare providers, and regular citizens trying to live their lives at the center of a community outbreak. Tamar Weinberg, who is in voluntary quarantine after having been in contact with the county’s first identified coronavirus patient, has been stuck at home for a week with her three young children. “A little stir crazy, but thankfully I love them, so we’re good, we’re good there,” she told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley.
13 cases confirmed (0 new)
Note: Two additional cases were announced by county officials after state numbers were released, bringing the total to 15.
The county plans to declare a state of emergency on Monday, with details of the plan to be unveiled at 1 p.m. The announcement comes as the county is reporting two additional cases. The county health department also warned residents of two more potential exposures. Anyone who visited ASHAR School at 360 New Hempstead Road in New City on Friday, March 6, or the Virgin Mary and St. Pachomius Copic Orthodox Church at 3 Swim Club Road in Stony Point on Sunday, March 8, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. must self-quarantine until March 22.
5 cases confirmed (0 new)
Ulster County COVID-19 Hotline: 845-443-8888
More than 17,000 people participated in Ulster County executive Pat Ryan’s call-in town hall on the coronavirus. Ryan said during the event the county would be receiving 250 test kits Monday, far fewer than the 2,000 requested. He also reiterated the need for social responsibility to slow the spread of the ciru, saying he observed overcrowded bars and people not practicing social distancing over the weekend.
Ulster County’s five confirmed coronavirus patients are doing well and “recovering,” Ryan said in the call. The executive also said he was “frustrated and disappointed” by accounts of packed bars and restaurants in the county. Asked whether he would close down restaurants in Ulster County, he told a caller, “We hope we don’t have to go and take the most extreme measures.”
Patients in hospitals run by the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, which include the two Health Alliance hospital campuses in Kingston, will no longer be allowed to receive visitors, according to a release from the hospital network. Some exceptions will be made for children, laboring mothers, and “extenuating circumstances,” including end-of-life care. Patients seeking to visit the ER at the Broadway campus who feel they may have been exposed are asked to call prior to arrival: 845-331-3131 x2411.
7 cases confirmed (1 new)
Orange County Department of Health: 845-291-2330
Orange County executive Steven Neuhaus said that county government staffing reductions may be implemented as the pandemic worsens. He also hinted at an executive order to come from the governor or the county requiring all businesses to close.
Late on Sunday evening, Neuhaus announced that he had extended the state of emergency for Orange County for 30 days. As part of the new orders, all school classroom and extracurricular activities (public and private) are closed through March 27; all nursing homes and long-term care centers are closed to visitors, except for those families dealing with end of life; and all meetings and activities for people over 60 years of age will be restricted, canceled, or postponed. Key responding County departments were also granted emergency purchasing power.
7 cases confirmed (3 new)
Dutchess County COVID-19 Hotline: 845-486-3555
Dutchess County has a coronavirus page on the county website. Today, county officials posted an article about the importance of caring for mental health during the outbreak on the Dutchess County Government Facebook page, and urged residents who are feeling overwhelmed to call the county mental health helpline, which is separate from the coronavirus hotline. Text or call 845-485-9700 for 24/7 crisis services.
1 cases confirmed (0 new)
Bassett Healthcare Network Hotline: 607-547-5555
County officials declared a state of emergency on Saturday evening. 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 also released a video statement on Facebook on Saturday.
Patients in hospitals run by the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, which include the Margaretville Hospital, will no longer be allowed to receive visitors, according to a release from the hospital network. Some exceptions will be made for children, laboring mothers, and “extenuating circumstances,” including end-of-life care. Patients seeking to visit the ER at the Margaretville hospital who feel they may have been exposed are asked to call prior to arrival: 845-586-2631 x3251.
0 cases confirmed
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 Hotline: 518-828-8249
Several school districts cancelled classes next week after superintendents and health officials met Saturday. The closures vary from school district to school district. Classes at the Hudson Central School District are closed from Wednesday, March 18 until Friday, March 27. Classes at the Taconic Central School DIstrict are closed from Wednesday, March 18 until March 20. Classes at the Chatham Central School District are cancelled effective immediately until further notice. The New Lebanon Central School District cancelled classes from Wednesday, March 18 until Friday, March 27. The Ichabod Crane School District will close from Tuesday, March 17 until Friday, March 27, 2020. Germantown Central School DIstrict will be closed from Wednesday, March 18 until Friday, March 27.
Amtrak announced it was suspending service to most upstate New York stops, including Hudson’s, the state’s third-busiest. Amtrak will only provide service to Albany and Niagara Falls starting today. So far, Metro-North is operating on schedule, but ridership has plummeted.
The Hudson Area Library announced it will close its doors from Wednesday, March 18 until at least the end of the month. Patrons are encouraged to keep borrowed materials; late fees were suspended for the closure.
2 cases (2 new)
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 Hotline: 518-828-8249
Three people who contracted COVID-19 elsewhere are self-quarantining in their second homes in Greene County. County officials declined to identify where the three got the virus or where they had self-quarantined.
A State of Emergency was declared today in the county, effective at noon. Three emergency orders were also signed. The first cancels classes and extracurricular activities at public and private schools in the county and bars students from entering school buildings starting after classes Tuesday. The second closes all Senior Citizen Centers to the public, and the third makes the DMV appointment only. All three orders are effective for five days, but can be extended in five days increments during the state of emergency.
2 cases confirmed (2 new)
The Putnam County Department of Health announced Sunday that two cases had been confirmed in the county. The individuals are following quarantine at home and are being monitored, and contact tracing for people they may have been in contact with is underway, a release said.
Following on the heels of Friday’s declaration of emergency, which closed all public schools in the county for five days, county executive MaryEllen Odell signed three emergency orders declaring nursery schools and daycare centers closed, prohibiting gatherings of more than 20 people, and prohibiting buffet-style food. All three go into effect at midnight tonight.
0 cases confirmed
The county announced today on Facebook that meetings of the county legislature scheduled for Thursday, March 19, have been rescheduled to be held tomorrow, Monday, March 16. Both meetings will be broadcast live on the county website.
The Sullivan Times is looking into whether the CDC’s new guidelines will have an impact on local village elections scheduled for Wednesday, the digital news outlet announced on Facebook.
0 cases confirmed
Schoharie County has not yet declared a state of emergency, but several local school districts have announced that under guidance from the Schoharie County Department of Health, all schools in the district will be closed for two weeks.
Today, the Schoharie County Department of Health publicly recommended the cancellation of all non-essential in-person meetings, “including public governmental board meetings, church gatherings, sporting events, family gatherings, etc. While children are not in school, they should have limited contact with others, especially older individuals such as grandparents; this also includes not engaging in play dates, visits to movie theaters, non-essential shopping, etc.,” the release stated.
The River has begun publishing a weekly Sunday roundup of some of the best longform reporting, analysis, and feature writing on the coronavirus pandemic. Check out our first edition here.