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 Saturday night, March 28.
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.
NEW YORK STATE
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 27
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
Today’s most confusing coronavirus news item: Speaking to reporters while en route to the Norfolk Naval Station, President Donald Trump floated the idea of a quarantine for New York, New Jersey, and part of Connecticut. Governor Andrew Cuomo went on CNN and called the idea “a declaration of war on states,” adding, “I don’t think it is plausible. I don’t think it is legal.” In an apparent reversal, Trump later announced on Twitter that he wants the CDC to issue a “strong travel advisory” for the region.
Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo announced Friday that the Rhode Island National Guard will go door to door in coastal communities to see if New Yorkers are following quarantine guidelines. The move comes one day after Raimondo announced that all New Yorkers would be required to quarantine for 14 days if arriving in the state. To enforce this, state police will begin to pull over drivers with New York plates and collect destination addresses, phone numbers, and names of family members if the driver reported they were going somewhere in the state. The National Guard will then check these addresses to see if New Yorkers are following quarantine. The Providence Journal reported late Saturday on the beginnings of the action in Westerly, finding police responding to reports of New Yorkers called in by locals and waving over cars with New York Plates on Interstate 95. In an interview with CNN, Cuomo said he thought the move was illegal. “I’m going to sue Rhode Island, because that clearly is unconstitutional,” he said.
Some lessons from Italy, via the Harvard Business Review: Quarantines around hotspots might cause more outbreak spread than they prevent. “The selective approach might have inadvertently facilitated the spread of the virus,” the authors write. “When the degree announcing the closing of northern Italy became public, it touched off a massive exodus to southern Italy, undoubtedly spreading the virus to regions where it had not been present.”
We missed this in The Washington Post on Thursday, but there’s a good column by a public-health expert who studies exposure advising people not to freak out too much about touching mail, groceries, and packaging. The risk of disease transmission from surfaces is real, but it’s much lower than being in close proximity to sick people, and there are some easy things you can do to minimize it, writes Joseph Allen of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “If you take basic precautions, including washing your hands frequently, the danger from accepting a package from a delivery driver or from takeout from a local restaurant or from buying groceries is de minimis. That’s a scientific way of saying, ‘The risks are small, and manageable.’”
What if coronavirus testing was as fast as a home pregnancy test? That might happen soon. Abbott Laboratories has created an FDA-approved COVID-19 test that can give a positive result in five minutes and a negative one in fewer than 15, a development that is being hailed as a game changer for rapid testing. The test is a “molecular” test, meaning that it looks for active infection, and cannot tell whether or not someone has already recovered from COVID-19. The test runs on Abbott’s ID NOW platform, which can be used in doctor’s offices as well as hospitals, and samples are read by a portable machine about the size of a toaster, Vox reports. The company is vowing to start shipping tests to healthcare providers next week, and says it can deliver 50,000 tests a day by April 1.
The movement to get plasma treatment to COVID-19 patients using the blood of patients who have recovered is gaining traction, The Atlantic reports. In the article, a Mayo Clinic doctor likens the current state of the research on plasma to “craft brewing”—what we need, he says, is a big national brewery.
We missed this item released in new state guidance on Friday: A slight relaxation of strict no-visitors policies that have banned partners and doulas from delivery rooms. All hospitals in New York State must allow visiting by one designated support person for each hospitalized child or person giving birth.
-The New York presidential primary will be moved from April 28 to June 23, the date of congressional and legislative primaries in the state. Cuomo didn’t address the issue of village elections in his daily briefing, but presumably that means the March village elections that have already been postponed until Primary Day will also be moved to June 23.
-The state’s due date for personal and corporate tax filing has been moved to July 15, lining up with a federal tax date postponement.
-The Wadsworth Lab, run by the state Department of Health, is working with other labs on antibody testing, which would allow people who have recovered from COVID-19 to be screened for immunity. No such test is currently widely available to the public, although residents of Colorado’s San Miguel County are currently being screened for immunity under a pilot project developed by the owners of a biomedical company who live in Telluride.
-Three new sites for adding large numbers of emergency beds have been identified, and one of them is in our own backyard. The sites are South Beach Psychiatric Center in Staten Island, Westchester Square in the Bronx, and HealthAlliance’s Mary’s Avenue hospital campus in Kingston. Combined, they will add 695 beds to state capacity. “We’re trying to have facilities all around the geographic location that’s experiencing the increase,” Cuomo said.
-The state has begun taking steps to having facilities entirely devoted to COVID-19 patients, and will have at least 600 beds in specialized facilities. South Beach Psychiatric Facility and Westchester Square will both be COVID-19 hospitals, as well as SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn.
-The 1,000-bed temporary hospital at the Javits Center in New York City is expected to open Monday.
-Empire State Development has approved $7.5 million in funding to 70 nonprofit partners to help with small business and community economic development disaster assistance. There are links on a state news release to lists of the organizations involved.
-Deaths in New York State due to COVID-19 have risen to 728, with more than 200 since Friday. In discussing the increasingly dire numbers, Cuomo said: “The longer you are on a ventilator, the less chance you’re coming off that ventilator. That has always been true. You’re having more and more people now who are on ventilators for a longer and longer period of time, and those are the people we’re losing.”
-The apex of the outbreak in New York is still to come, Cuomo noted, urging New Yorkers to plan ahead. ”Don’t be reactive, be proactive. Don’t wait to find out what the virus is going to do to you. Anticipate what is going to happen and plan for the step ahead.”
-We’re not sure where Cuomo is getting hours a day to talk to his mother (hi, Matilda!), but good for him. “Even in a terrible circumstance, if you look hard enough you can find a few rays of light, and people are doing it and I think we all should,” he said.
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.
7,875 cases confirmed (688 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 81
One hundred New Rochelle residents under quarantine since March 2 will be able to leave their homes after the state clarified its quarantine policy. The CDC has two different policies for when a quarantine is over: The sickened person must have developed symptoms at least seven days ago and been symptom-free for at least three days, or the person must receive at least one negative COVID-19 test. A limited number of test kits made New York City switch to the symptoms method, but other parts of the state have stuck with the test policy. The Westchester County Board of Health stated it was afraid of legal repercussions from using the symptoms method when voting down a measure to lift the quarantine earlier this week. Many of the 100 residents had been symptom-free for weeks.
A White Plains Catholic school mourned the loss of an alumnus who died Friday from COVID-19. Archbishop Stepinac High School announced the student graduated in 2007, making him one of the younger victims of COVID-19.
1,896 cases confirmed (439 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 58
The principal of an Airmont Yeshiva demanded Rockland County executive Ed Day apologize for what he said were “slanderous and libelous” claims that the school had still been in session during the statewide ban. The demand came after Day announced the county Department of Health had not issued fines to the school, Central UTA of Monsey. Ramapo police chief Brad Weidel also said officers responding to the school saw only adults wearing personal protective equipment distributing school books and lunches as cars pulled up, which is legal under the ban. The Health Department issued violations after Day wrote numerous posts on social media saying the school was operating and castigating the morality of students’ parents and the school administration.
Putnam County executive MaryEllen Odell has called on the state to approve a testing site at the Palladium Center in Carmel. She said the situation was “critical” as many of the county’s 99,000 residents are elderly and there is no centralized testing facility.
1,101 cases confirmed (191 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 29
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330
A woman over the age of 50 because the fifth person in the county to die of COVID-19, the county announced Saturday.
The county has begun releasing a town-by-town breakdown of coronavirus cases. As of the latest update yesterday, the municipality with by far the most confirmed cases was Palm Tree, better known as Kiryas Joel, with 234 cases among its 26,000 residents, or one out of every 111 people. One out of every 282 people is confirmed to have COVID-19 in New York City. Palm Tree was followed by the City of Newburgh with 62 cases and Warwick with 60 cases.
262 cases confirmed (37 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 9
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700
Adams Fairacre Farms, which has stores in Wappingers Falls, Poughkeepsie, and the Town of New Windsor, as well as Kingston in Ulster County, is opening an hour early, at 7am, for “senior hour” to accommodate the elderly before the general population shops. COVID-19’s symptoms are generally more severe and its mortality higher as age increases, though it can kill the young: a man in his early 30s passed away from the virus Friday in White Plains.
County executive Mark Molinaro will hold a second live telephone town hall on April 2 starting at 5:30pm. All residents will receive automated phone calls at their homes and can simply pick up to listen in or ask questions using the menu prompts. The town hall is expected to run until 7pm.
The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, an environmental organization founded by the late Pete Seeger, announced it will lay off half its staff to avoid closing after private donations plunged and its revenue sources were cut off. The Sloop Clearwater was dealing with financial issues before the pandemic.
131 cases confirmed (20 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 13
The Village of Cold Spring’s mayor and town board all voiced support for shutting down short-term rentals in the community because they fear people leaving New York City will spread the coronavirus. “Under these circumstances I’m not comfortable having families move in from New York City or wherever,” mayor Dave Merandy said during a March 24 in-person town board meeting. A town board member noted short-term rentals were not listed as an “essential business” under Governor Cuomo’s order. Short-term rentals are restricted by village zoning to certain areas, but the zoning has never been enforced.
128 cases confirmed (30 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 7
A Kingston hospital will more than triple its bed capacity to treat COVID-19 patients in the mid-Hudson Valley, according to Governor Cuomo and Ulster County executive Pat Ryan. HealthAlliance Hospital’s Mary’s Avenue campus closed areas of its facility, formerly Benedictine Hospital, after it became part of HealthAlliance; these areas are being reopened and retrofitted to accommodate expected patients. HealthAlliance currently has roughly 100 beds, mostly in its second Kingston facility, but the Mary’s Avenue Campus is expected to hold 235 beds. A “good number” of rooms will be available within two weeks, Ryan said. “We know that we have a wave coming, and we are pushing hard to get ahead of that wave,” he stated in a press release.
Many county grocery stores have designated the first hour of the day for shoppers more susceptible to the coronavirus. The first opening hour at Emmanuel’s Market, Sunflower Natural Foods, and Tops is dedicated to seniors, while the first hour at Hannaford’s, Price Chopper, and Mother Earth’s Storehouse are reserved for seniors and people with compromised immune systems, according to the Daily Freeman.
72 cases confirmed (8 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 10
We feel vindicated: An email to Sullivan County Public Health Services asking why the county was advising people erroneously of a travel ban, and also directing callers to their county health-info line to the wrong New York State coronavirus hotline number, got a helpful reply by the county’s communications director, former Sullivan County Democrat reporter Dan Hust. “You spotted inaccurate information on both our website and phone line. I have fixed the travel ‘ban’ info (based on a misunderstanding of the NYS on Pause regulations). I will shortly be following up with our team to get the phone message changed (I don’t have direct access to it),” Hust wrote. “These were honest mistakes made in the rush of getting constantly evolving information to people.” Honestly, we can relate.
22 cases confirmed (2 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 4
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249
The county Department of Health announced a death from COVID-19. The individual was elderly and other health issues contributed to their death. It was not clear if the announcement was referring to a man who died from suspected COVID-19 on Sunday, or if it was the county’s second death. Four people are hospitalized with the virus, according to the county.
8 cases confirmed (0 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555
Delaware County announced a new case on Saturday, bringing its total to seven. In its daily announcements, Delaware County is not including three cases that were “transferred to the county where the individuals are actually residing.”
On Friday, Delaware County announced that the first case in the county, which was reported on March 12, has recovered and is no longer isolated. Many COVID-19 patients in New Rochelle who were sickened early in the outbreak, and have since recovered, have been unable until Saturday to be cleared for release from isolation because they could not meet a requirement for testing-based clearance. Asked by email how Delaware County was determining when patients should be released, Public Health Services director Amanda Walsh said that the county was relying on state Department of Health advice that recommends counties use the CDC’s “non-test-based strategy guidance,” which requires at least three days since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medication, improvement in respiratory symptoms, and at least seven days since the onset of symptoms. “We are waiting for updated guidance from NYSDOH on release from isolation if there is limited or no availability to retest,” Walsh wrote.
7 cases confirmed (1 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 1
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249
The Greene County Public Health Department has cleared three people who tested positive for COVID-19 and given them “discharged” status.
5 cases confirmed (2 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555
The Schoharie County Department of Public Health is not tolerating any gossip on its Facebook page about whether the county’s five cases are due to panic flights from New York City. “A side note. The five cases that we have are NOT a direct result of people from the city coming into the region in an attempt to escape the outbreak in the NYC metro region. Please refrain from negative speculation of that kind,” read a Saturday post announcing the county’s two new cases. “P.S. I will be deleting that kind of negativity.”
On Saturday morning, The River published a story about the death of critic and curator Maurice Berger, who was the first person to die of COVID-19 in Columbia County. The county did not count Berger in its official statistics, nor did it count a separate individual who had been hospitalized. The lack of clarity reflects issues around the availability of testing, Roger Hannigan Gilson writes. An earlier version of the story ran on The Other Hudson Valley, which Gilson is the proprietor of.