Hudson Valley COVID-19 Update – Friday Night, March 27

The thermometer section at a CVS in Greenport Thursday.

This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties co-produced with The River Newsroom. The following is from Friday night, March 27.

La Voz, a Spanish-language magazine covering Hispanic news and culture in the Hudson Valley, is translating these roundups and co-publishing them on its website. Read here. You can also listen to daily audio updates from “La Voz con Mariel Fiori” on Radio Kingston.

La Voz, una revista de cultura y noticias del Valle de Hudson en español, está traduciendo estos resúmenes y co-publicandolos en su página web. Leyendo aqui. También puede escuchar actualizaciones diarias por audio en el show “La Voz con Mariel Fiori” en Radio Kingston. 

The River is also collaborating with WGXC to announce these updates over the air. To listen, tune in to 90.7 FM at midnight, 5am, 7am, or 9am, or visit the audio archive online.

RESOURCES

We’ve moved our list of resources to a page on our website, which will be updated regularly. The list is not comprehensive, but if you know anything you’d like us to add, please email us.—Phillip Pantuso

NEW YORK STATE

44,635 cases confirmed (7,377 new)

145,753 tests performed (23,649 new)

519 deaths (134 new)

6,481 hospitalizations (or 6,844, according to the COVID Tracking Project)

1,583 ICU admissions

New York State coronavirus page

New York State official pressroom

Hotline: (888) 364-3065

President Donald Trump signed the $2 trillion federal aid bill today, hours after the House of Representatives approved it by voice vote. The legislation is the largest stimulus package in US history. The New York Times has a FAQ about what’s in the plan, which is unlikely to be the final piece of relief aid passed by the federal government before the pandemic subsides.

Did New York get screwed by the stimulus bill? That’s the actual headline of an article in City & State today, whose reporter Jeff Coltin concludes that it depends on how you do the math. Hospitals and the MTA are getting a badly needed chunk of direct aid, but the federal aid in the bill falls far short of what New York will need to cover its budget gap. The news outlet reports that more help for state and local governments may be in the works.

State Senator Jen Metzger, whose district encompasses much of the Catskills and western Hudson Valley, introduced a bill to connect people seeking employment with job opportunities on farms. The bill directs the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to create an online farm employment portal and to work with the Department of Labor, among other organizations, to publicize it.

Assemblyman Brian Miller of New York’s 101st District, which is so notoriously gerrymandered that Miller’s opponent in the 2018 election vowed to get rid of it if elected, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently hospitalized. Miller is the fourth state legislator to contract the virus. His district spans a 127-mile-long stretch of territory that runs through parts of Oneida, Herkimer, Otsego, Delaware, Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange counties.

A coalition of New York government watchdog groups endorsed moving the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 23. The coalition, which includes NYPIRG, Common Cause and the New York League of Women Voters, embraced the position taken by county election commissioners Wednesday. “Postponing the April primary will allow election administrators time to prepare for new challenges created by the outbreak such as responding to an increase in absentee ballot requests, hiring new poll workers who are not at high risk of contracting the virus, and informing the public of any poll site changes due to restrictions on the use of public spaces,” according to the coalition.

Trailways New York has suspended all service, effective Monday, March 30. In a statement posted on social media, the bus company said that there was no estimated date for resuming service, but that it hoped to be running again in April. Trailways urged riders to look for updates via social media every Tuesday and Friday, or to reach out to its customer care center at (800) 858-8555.

New York State’s grade on coronavirus data quality from the COVID Tracking Project, which is tracking data nationwide, went from a B to an A on Friday. We’re not sure what they’re doing differently, but good for New York.

Announced by the state today:

-The state’s first 1,000-bed temporary hospital at the Javits Center in New York City is complete.

-Temporary hospitals at three other sites, including the Westchester County Center, are under construction. Four more possible sites have been identified in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Governor Cuomo is calling on President Trump to approve the new sites so construction can proceed.

-Schools are closed statewide until at least April 15.

-To help consumers and small businesses, the state is ensuring that life insurance payments can be deferred for up to 90 days, and property and casualty insurance payments can be deferred for up to 60 days, without incurring penalties.

State guidance on “essential businesses” has been updated to clarify that all non-essential construction in the state must shut down. Here’s the new language on construction:

“All non-essential construction must shut down except emergency construction, (e.g. a project necessary to protect health and safety of the occupants, or to continue a project if it would be unsafe to allow it to remain undone until it is safe to shut the site).

Essential construction may continue and includes roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or healthcare facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters. At every site, if essential or emergency non-essential construction, this includes maintaining social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entry and exit.”

-After being called out by Deaf advocates for being one of three states not to offer American Sign Language interpretation of coronavirus briefings, New York State now has daily briefings broadcast in ASL.

-Cuomo has already called on all hospitals in the state to increase capacity by at least 50 percent, and up to 100 percent. On Friday, he promised that hospitals that increased by 100 percent would get the “gold star hospital award.” “I don’t know exactly what that means, but we’ll figure it out later,” the governor said.

-In his daily briefing, Cuomo called Westchester County “downstate,” so at least that’s settled.

-Cuomo addressed National Guard members deployed to help with the crisis, calling the pandemic “a moment that changes character” and urging them to help New York “kick coronavirus’s ass.” “This is not going to be a short deployment,” he said. “This is going to be weeks and weeks and weeks. This is going to be a long day and it’s going to be a hard day, and it’s going to be an ugly day, and it’s going to be a sad day. This is a rescue mission that you’re on—the mission is to save lives.”

We have begun calculating the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, rounded to the nearest whole number. County populations vary widely in this region, and we feel that reporting numbers proportionally is a better way to make comparisons between counties than using the number of confirmed cases. But it is important to note that we do not know how much difference between counties is being driven by insufficient testing. The reporting of cases is lagging far behind actual infections, and sick people who cannot get tested are not being reported.

A general note on New York State data: These numbers are changing rapidly. In our reporting, we are relying on the state’s daily counts, but those are frequently updated or contradicted by reports from local officials within hours. If our numbers don’t add up, it may be because local confirmed case counts have not yet been included in the state’s numbers, or because a case that was reported to local public health authorities is officially being included in the count for another county.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY

7,187 cases confirmed (1,243 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 74

County coronavirus page

On Friday, Westchester County issued a news release with video from a press briefing by county executive George Latimer. On the county website is a breakdown of cases by town. Ten people have died of COVID-19 in the county, according to data on the county website.

Yorktown town supervisor Matt Slater has contacted the Governor’s Office to pitch a mobile testing site at the FDR State Park. In his daily briefing, county executive George Latimer addressed the concept, saying the county did not have the resources for such a facility, but said he would advocate for the idea and was prepared to make the land available to the state.

Something positive has spiked in the Hudson Valley: pet adoption rates. Pet Rescue in Harrison reported the number of people applying to foster pets has increased ten-fold since the coronavirus hit the area. Interest has risen because people are stuck at home and often have been laid off, giving them time to adopt or foster animals. The isolation felt from being cut off from much of the world can also be ameliorated by a fuzzy friend.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
1,457 cases confirmed (260 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 45

County coronavirus page

A Rockland County release reported 1,694 positive cases in the county as of Friday.

Rockland County reported its eighth death, a 71-year-old with prior health issues who passed away Thursday night. Unlike neighboring Putnam and Westchester counties, or Ulster County farther north, Rockland has never given a town-by-town breakdown of confirmed cases. LoHud filed a Freedom of Information request on Friday for the information.

Rockland County is warning residents not to fall for fake test kit scams. “At this time, the FDA has NOT authorized any test that is available to purchase for testing yourself at home for COVID-19,” a release states. “If you are aware of fraudulent test kits for COVID-19, please report them by emailing FDA-COVID-19-Fraudulent-Products@fda.hhs.gov or call 1-888-INFO-FDA.”

ORANGE COUNTY
910 cases confirmed (159 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 24

County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

A woman died of COVID-19 on Friday, Orange County’s fourth death from the disease. The victim was over 80 and had underlying health issues, but no other information was released by the county because of privacy laws.

Construction at the Legoland theme park in Goshen, which still planned to open July 4, is ceasing immediately after Governor Cuomo barred all “non-essential” construction in the state, with a $10,000 fine for violators. “Essential” construction includes work on roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, healthcare facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters, though sites where workers cannot socially distance will also be shut. Single-employee jobs can stay open. The $500 million Legoland can continue on its construction of a new exit on Route 17 because it falls into the “essential” category.

The county’s Industrial Development Agency will offer no-interest loans of up to $10,000 to help businesses struggling with the economic fallout from the coronavirus, as well as offering the services of its staff. The $500,000 pot should be available in the next few weeks.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
225 cases confirmed (35 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 8

County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555

Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

At least six corrections officers at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville have tested positive for COVID-19, and 27 were in some form of quarantine as of Friday afternoon. One inmate was tested and received negative results. A union steward at the facility said they were not being provided facemasks and were not allowed to bring their own. Health experts fear an outbreak in the confines of the prison system, where the coronavirus would spread rapidly. New York City just released at least 200 prisoners from its jails, where the infection rate is seven times higher than the city as a whole, according to the Legal Aid Society.

Some fire departments in the county that respond to medical calls have stopped doing so if the caller reports COVID-19 symptoms. Ambulance squads, which respond to the majority of medical emergencies, take the potential COVID-19 calls, but must gear up with personal protective equipment (PPE) before arriving. Fire departments reported they were out of disinfectant wipes, especially important to firefighters even in normal times, as they use the wipes to clean possible carcinogens off their skin after fires.

Joining the growing list of public parks and trails that have been closed because people aren’t social distancing outdoors: Scenic Hudson’s Mount Beacon Park, closed to the public as of Friday. Earlier in the day, in an article about the growing controversy over the mobbing of public parks and trails, the Highlands Current reported that Scenic Hudson was looking for ways to ease overcrowding at the park without closing it entirely.

PUTNAM COUNTY
111 cases confirmed (17 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 11

County coronavirus page

In a press release on March 27, Putnam County announced there are now 106 positive cases in the county.

Putnam County legislator Nancy Montgomery has been after the county government since January to respond more forcefully to the threat of COVID-19, and now that the crisis has hit, she’s frustrated with how Odell and health commissioner Michael Nesheiwat are handling it. In an open letter to constituents, Montgomery says she’s been “systematically excluded” from communications about the response. The Highlands Current has more on what she wants from the county, including better digital broadcast of remote public meetings, the reinstatement of a part-time epidemiologist job that was cut from the 2020 county budget, more PPE for first responders, clarification on whether Putnam County has a drive-through testing site, and a faster process for applying for food stamps.

ULSTER COUNTY
98 cases confirmed (20 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 6

County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

According to a news release from Ulster County on Friday, there are currently 112 confirmed cases in the county.

Shandaken town supervisor Rob Stanley wants the state to put a halt to Airbnb rentals. It’s not normal for Shandaken in March to be full of out-of-towners, but that’s what’s happening, Stanley says. “There’s a car in every single driveway in the town,” he told the Daily Freeman.

Kingston police officers are making the call as to whether they should stay home if experiencing potential COVID-19 symptoms instead of using the department’s non-contact thermometer, according to the Daily Freeman. It has always been up to the officer’s discretion whether to call out sick, and their contracts give them unlimited sick time, the Kingston police chief says in the article.

Unemployment insurance is available for gig workers for the first time in the federal stimulus bill, which could aid many local musicians. Spectrum News interviewed Lara Hope & the Arktones, whose livelihoods were destroyed by the pandemic. Hope said she played about 200 shows per year and all her forthcoming gigs have been canceled. The band has begun performing shows on Facebook.

The Kingston Emergency Food Collaborative, a partnership of community groups formed to provide meals to families once Kingston City schools were closed, launched a food security hotline today in conjunction with the City of Kingston. Anyone in need of food within the Kingston City School District can call (888) 316-0879 at any time to be entered into a growing database to receive prepared food or grocery delivery, according to a press release posted by Ward 3 alderman Rennie Scott-Childress. The hotline is staffed by English and Spanish speakers, and will soon offer K’iche. Those interested in volunteering for the hotline and/or food delivery and preparation can sign up here.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
64 cases confirmed (11 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 8

County coronavirus page

A Sullivan County town hall session held on Facebook Live on Thursday was a success, county legislative chair Robert Doherty said, and the county is planning to hold more of them. “Legislature Vice Chair Mike Brooks, Sheriff Michael Schiff, County Manager Josh Potosek, and Public Health Director Nancy McGraw will again respond to citizens’ questions during a Facebook Live Q&A session Monday, March 30, at 1pm,” the county announced Friday. “Additional questions can be submitted via either email at sctownhall@co.sullivan.ny.us or private message to facebook.com/sullivancountygov by 11am March 30. They should be related to COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus) concerns and issues, and phrased respectfully and apolitically.” Another town hall session will be held at 1pm on Wednesday, April 1.

Video from Thursday’s town hall session has been posted on the Sullivan County coronavirus info page.

Also still on the county’s info page: A notice that “unnecessary travel is banned.” This is not true. The county has no authority to ban travel, and New York State has not issued a general travel ban for individuals.

The county announced a two-month extension for owners in tax foreclosure to buy back their properties.

Sullivan County has limited test sites available, the county announced on Facebook on Friday, but the Catskill Regional Medical Center has some tests available to people in high-risk groups. “You will need to call first, be screened, approved, and given a time and location,” the release stated. “Testing is free to all eligible New Yorkers as ordered by a health care provider or by calling the NYS COVID-19 hotline at (888) 364-3065.”

COLUMBIA COUNTY
20 cases confirmed (7 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 3
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

Four residents have tested positive for COVID-19 at Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont. All four are in isolation at the nursing home, according to the county Department of Health, which did not say when the four received test results but stated the facility reported their conditions were improving.

Local farmers report to The Register-Star that they are used to uncertainty in their line of work, but some are anxious that seasonal laborers who travel from abroad through the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker visa program will not come this year. Produce farmers are especially dependent on these workers, many of whom come from Mexico and Jamaica. On the other hand, dairy farms do not require many laborers and are seeing a boom in sales from hoarding. The dairy industry has been increasingly suffering through the years in the region, and farmers said they doubted the surge would last. Earlier this week, The River wrote about how farmers are adjusting operations to keep the food-supply chain moving.

The Columbia Paper, a weekly newspaper covering the county, has shut down its print publication, but will still publish articles online. “Washing hands more often helps ward off COVID-19 but it doesn’t pay the printer’s bill,” writes editor and publisher Parry Teasdale.

DELAWARE COUNTY
8 cases confirmed (1 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2

County coronavirus page

County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

Delaware County Public Health Services reported Friday that the first positive case detected in the county has now recovered, and is no longer in isolation. That raised a question for us: How is the county deciding when someone is well enough to be released from mandatory isolation? In New Rochelle, the Westchester County Board of Health is still keeping about 100 recovered patients in quarantine, LoHud.com reported Thursday, because they cannot meet the county’s mandate that they have two consecutive negative tests for the virus: some cannot access testing, and others are still showing positive results despite being symptom-free. We have asked Delaware County what its criteria are for allowing a recovered patient to be released from isolation, and we will share any response we receive.

GREENE COUNTY
6 cases (1 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 1

County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

Greene County announced on March 27 it now has 10 positive cases, located in Windham, Durham, Greenville, Hunter, Cairo, and Catskill. Forty-two individuals are self-monitoring for possible exposure.

Canna Park in Cairo was closed Friday after the Town Board voted to shut it last week because people were not practicing social distancing there. Town councilman Jason Watts blamed it on out-of-towners, saying “it really wasn’t even the locals.” All other significant municipal parks in the county remain open, though Coxsackie closed the playground areas at Riverside Park and McQuade Park.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY
3 cases confirmed (1 new)

Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 1

County coronavirus page

Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

The county confirmed its third case of COVID-19 today. No details were released about the patient, but they and all individuals who had been in close contact with them have been notified and are in precautionary quarantine.

The staff of the Schoharie Elementary School paraded down Schoharie’s Main Street in their cars, with balloons flying and horns honking, to wave to students who have been homebound for two weeks. WRBG CBS 6 News of Albany has video, and reports that it’s become something of a trend in the Capital Region.

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