Coronavirus Update – Monday Night

A new mobile COVID-19 test site opening in Ellenville Monday.

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 Monday night, March 30.

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.

NEW YORK STATE

66,497 cases confirmed (6,984 new)
186,468 tests performed (14,098 new)
1,218 deaths (253 new)13,721 hospitalizations (overall)
9,517 hospitalizations (current)
2,352 ICU admissions
4,204 discharged from hospital (632 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 34
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Upstate and downstate, Republicans and Democrats, New Yorkers and the rest of the country, all need to share a common fight. That was the main message of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, which devoted more time than ever to the idea of unity in a pandemic that has inflamed existing social and political divisions. “We just had a great meeting where we brought the healthcare system from across the state of New York together to come up with one coordinated plan,” Cuomo said. “No one can ever remember the way we have deployed and coordinated like this. Why? Because this is a statewide battle.” The virus doesn’t discriminate, Cuomo said, concluding with a plea to set divisions aside: “Let’s show a commonality and a mutuality and a unity that this country has not seen in decades, because the Lord knows we need it today more than ever before.”

Cuomo, who has been the object of nationwide swooning for his pandemic leadership and his tough-talking, fast-moving, data-heavy daily briefings, is beginning to get more pushback as the state budget deadline nears. A complaint rising in volume among progressive-minded lawmakers and advocates: Why is Cuomo still looking to slash Medicaid funding now, of all times? On Friday, a Brooklyn state senator told the Daily News that the Medicaid cuts Cuomo is seeking, planned out long before the pandemic struck the state, are “cruel and inhumane.” On Monday, left-leaning magazine The Nation declared that “Cuomo Helped Get New York Into This Mess,” quoting a Bronx pediatric nurse’s jaundiced view of Cuomo’s recent efforts to increase hospital capacity on short notice: “Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly stated, over and over again, that New York has excess capacity of hospital beds, that it’s too expensive and not needed and we need to reduce spending,” Sean Petty said. “If this budget goes through in April, next year’s health and hospitals budget is going to be devastating.” And this afternoon, The River published a feature about a program that many elderly and disabled New Yorkers rely on for home health care, which would shrink if Medicaid is slashed.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island staged a walkout Monday to protest the company’s response to the pandemic, saying that Amazon needs to do more to make sure that workplaces are clean, there is enough room for social distancing, and workers have enough protective equipment. Amazon has announced one positive case at the facility, but workers claim that at least 10 of their number have been sickened. Workers at Whole Foods and Instacart also went on strike Monday to protest unsafe conditions.

There’s a field hospital being built out of tents in Central Park, and it’s eerily reminiscent of scenes from old Civil War photos. The hospital is being set up by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian aid organization run by Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, and by FEMA.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort moored in New York City early Monday. The ship comes with 1,100 medical personnel and will take on non-coronavirus patients from the city’s hospitals to free up beds and allow the facilities to focus on COVID-19.

Answering questions with the ship moored behind him, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said the ship would take 750 patients starting Tuesday morning, with a possible capacity to take 1,000. However, he said New York City would need the equivalent of 60 USNS Comforts to handle the peak of hospitalizations. The Jacob Javits Center was also expected to start taking 3,000 non-coronavirus patients today. de Blasio said hotels and other buildings would next be converted into hospitals to take non-coronavirus patients and less severe COVID-19 cases, with the end goal of turning existing hospitals into giant ICUs. Patients on the USNS Comfort will be treated for free during the crisis, according to a Navy representative at the press conference.

At the briefing, Mayor de Blasio also said that by far his primary concern was acquiring more ventilators by April 5, when the city may run out. His next greatest concern was getting more ICU medical personnel, followed by getting more personal protection equipment such as masks. de Blasio urged New York City to prepare for a long haul. “To date, I still fear that the worst is not going to be April, but actually the beginning of May,” he said. “But no projection is perfect…I guarantee you April is going to be exceedingly tough.”

Predicting the apex of the outbreak, when cases and hospitalizations reach their highest point, is indeed an imperfect science, and no model can predict with 100 percent accuracy. But data modelers at the University of Washington have developed an interactive model that incorporates each day’s new data. As of Monday, the model predicted an apex of April 9 in New York State, with needs far outstripping hospital capacity statewide, and more than 15,000 deaths in the state by early August. But as a feature in Wired notes, the true extent of the outbreak might be far worse: The University of Washington model assumes that social distancing measures will soon be nationwide, will basically reach Wuhan levels of social standstill, and will continue throughout the outbreak.

Given what we’ve seen so far of the US response, that’s a big assumption. As New York Times health reporter Donald McNeil Jr. wrote about a week ago: “If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt.” That may be true, but it’s not possible—and the more we cut corners on social distancing, the longer the outbreak will go on.

Do gun shops count as “essential business”? New York State senator Robert Ortt of the 62nd District has been pushing for their inclusion on the state essential business list, and at the few shops that remained open after New York on PAUSE went into effect Sunday night, there has been a huge rush on sales. On Monday, the Trump administration settled the question—maybe—by declaring gun shops essential businesses nationwide. According to a report by the Associated Press, the federal ruling is “guidance,” not a mandate for states and cities.

On Monday, New York State attorney general Tish James, along with a coalition of 20 other attorneys general from around the nation, called on the federal government to lift restrictions on mifepristone, the drug prescribed to induce medical abortions. FDA rules currently require women seeking medical abortions to receive the drug at a clinic, medical office, or hospital, in the presence of a healthcare provider. “Forcing women to travel at a time when many states and the federal government are urging people to stay home to curb the spread of the coronavirus is not only shortsighted, but also puts women across the country in harm’s way,” James said in a statement. At least five states have sought to ban abortion entirely as a non-essential procedure during the pandemic, a stance that is being challenged in court.

State senator Jim Seward and his wife, Cindy, have both tested positive for COVID-19. Seward, who has also been undergoing cancer treatment and plans to step down at the end of his term, represents the 51st District, which covers all of Schoharie, Otsego, and Cortland counties and parts of Tompkins, Herkimer, Chenango, Cayuga, Delaware, and Ulster counties. He is the first New York State senator to test positive for the virus; four Assembly members so far have contracted COVID-19. According to a statement released by Seward’s office, he is being treated at Albany Medical Center, and is expected to be released to recover at home with his wife. Both are expected to recover, the statement said.

Both the Assembly and the Senate are hastening to pass a bill that will allow remote voting in the state legislature, so they can get a little more social distance from their possibly infected colleagues and staff while they finish the state budget.

Announced by New York State today:

-Cuomo held a system-wide meeting with hospitals Monday morning to coordinate a statewide response. A New York State “command center” for all hospitals, public and private, will be up and running by Tuesday so hospitals can share information and coordinate care and supplies.

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
9,326 cases confirmed (807 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 96
County coronavirus page

Lawrence Garbuz, New York’s “Patient Zero,” is home from the hospital, the New York Law Journal reports.

Nine people died from COVID-19 in the county over the weekend, county executive Geoarge Latimer said Monday. One of them was Scott Elijah, the pastor of Bethany AME Church in Yonkers. He was in his early 60s and worked for the New York City Transit Authority. “As days go by, these numbers will stop being numbers and they’ll start to be the face of friends, of relatives, and it could be one of us,” Latimer said.

Yonkers now has more than 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the most in the county. There are currently 221 people in Westchester hospitalized with COVID-19.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
2,511 cases confirmed (302 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 77
County coronavirus page

Rockland County released a town-by-town breakdown of confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday  after initially resisting calls to do so. The breakdown shows Ramapo with more than 900 cases, a disproportionate share—it has 42 percent of the county’s population, but 63.5 percent of its confirmed cases. The county announced 10 people died of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing its toll to 18.

County executive Ed Day called for a temporary hospital in Suffern to deal with a sudden rise in cases in the county, saying the Eugene Levy Field House on the Rockland Community College was a possible location. “Rockland was originally included in the governor’s plans [for]  temporary hospitals and we’re asking that he revisit the plan as quickly as possible. We are nearing a point where local capacity could soon be overwhelmed,” Day said. A temporary hospital at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan is set to take on non-COVID-19 patients to free up space at city hospitals, and hospitals are also planned in Westchester County and in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island.

ORANGE COUNTY
1,435 cases confirmed (188 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 37
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

As of 2pm, Orange County reported its total number of positive cases to be 1,432.

Parking for the Hudson Highlands State Park has been significantly reduced to decrease density and enable social distancing, the state announced today. The park includes popular hiking spots Mount Beacon and Breakneck Ridge.

Meals on Wheels of Greater Newburgh suspended deliveries for the weeks of April 6 and April 13 due to the coronavirus. A volunteer told Mid-Hudson News that the organization delivered a week’s worth of meals and two grocery bags filled with non-perishable foods Monday to last the recipients through the stoppage.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
392 cases confirmed (72 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 13
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

A 61-year old man died Sunday at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, the third COVID-19-related death in the county, according to a press release. The man was not on the health department’s radar and tested positive after being admitted for an unrelated condition.

Dutchess County’s case numbers are spiking in the wake of new testing centers opening up and local testing access increasing, according to a report from the Poughkeepsie Journal. County executive Marc Molinaro said that the spike meant the county now has more accurate data, which is a good thing. “We have known for several weeks the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 was likely just a fraction of the cases in our community, but we needed wider testing to get a true picture of how many Dutchess County residents had the virus,” Molinaro said.

Brenda Bassett, wife of Rhinebeck mayor Gary Bassett, has tested positive for COVID-19, and both Bassetts are self-quarantining, the mayor said in a statement posted to the village website. “It is heartbreaking to see the usually bustling streets of Rhinebeck so quiet. But, it is proof that our community is coming together to follow the social distancing guidelines set by health officials. I am so proud of you all because you are, quite literally, saving lives,” the mayor wrote.

PUTNAM COUNTY
167 cases confirmed (23 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 17
County coronavirus page

There were no major updates out of Putnam County today. To read yesterday’s news, click here.

ULSTER COUNTY
190 cases confirmed (44 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 11
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

In a press release on March 30, Ulster County reported the county total of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now 207.

The county’s second mobile test site opened early Monday at the Ellenville Regional Hospital. The site is open to anyone who needs to be tested, regardless of whether or not they live in Ulster County. Those wanting to be tested must still call their primary physician, or, if a county resident, the Ulster County COVID-19 hotline at (845) 443-8888. Ellenville Regional is planning to double its bed capacity to help meet the county’s overall goal of quadrupling its bed capacity.

The Woodstock Animal Sanctuary donated hundreds of pieces of personal protective equipment to Mobile Life Support Services, the ambulance squad in Kingston. The sanctuary had PPE as part of its animal rescue work, and donated 200 surgical masks, 20 N95 masks, 150 isolation gowns, and 600 gloves, among other items. The sanctuary itself has closed to visitors and anticipates losing $26,000 in revenue over the next two months.

Dr. Michael Doyle, executive director and chief medical officer of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, will join Ulster County executive Pat Ryan at Ryan’s regular COVID-19 virtual town hall on Wednesday at 2pm. The town hall will be livestreamed on Ryan’s official Facebook page.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
101 cases confirmed (13 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 13
County coronavirus page

Sullivan County reported its first death from COVID-19, though it did not say when the person died they died or release any other information.

The county also released a “COVID-19 Dashboard” tracking the number of cases, the remaining hospital beds and ventilators, and mandatory quarantine numbers. There are still six available ventilators in the county, and all medical facilities have less than a week’s worth of PPE, according to the dashboard.

As of March 30, Sullivan County reported the total number of positive cases of COVID-19 is now 106.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
26 cases confirmed (3 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 4
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

As of 3pm, Columbia County reported the total number of positive cases is now 36.

County health director Jack Mabb said he was concerned about remarks from Governor Cuomo that upstate hospitals would eventually have to take downstate COVID-19 patients. “My job is to be concerned about Columbia County residents, and if somebody needs a ventilator and all the ventilators are full at the local hospital…I’d have to say I’m concerned about that,” he said during an interview on WGXC. Columbia Memorial Health, the only hospital in Columbia and Greene counties, generally has 6 or 7 ICU beds, but that number is expected to double, chief medical officer Clifford Belden said last week.

Two community funds have been established to provide direct grants to nonprofits and small local businesses affected by the pandemic, assemblywoman Didi Barrett announced Monday. The first, the Columbia County COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, was established by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and will provide “flexible resources to nonprofit organizations to meet the needs of individuals and families who are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.” The Columbia County Business Continuity Fund was established by the foundation and the Columbia Economic Development Group and will provide cash grants from $1,000 to $5,000 to local businesses to cover costs related to fixed operational costs, like retaining employees.

DELAWARE COUNTY
11 cases confirmed (3 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

In a press release on March 30, Delaware County reported the total number of positive cases is now 12.

GREENE COUNTY
10 cases (3 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249
As of March 30, Greene County reported the total number of positive cases is now 20.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY
6 cases confirmed (1 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

The county is up to six confirmed cases as of Monday, according to both state data and the Schoharie County Department of Health. According to a release from SUNY Cobleskill, three of them are students at the university who live off campus.

County health director Amy Gildemeister briefed the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Monday morning in a teleconference, warning the heads of town and county government that the true extent of the outbreak was much greater than the case numbers suggest. “There is more disease in the community than we know about,” she said. Testing is currently being reserved for healthcare providers and people who are very sick. “We have people we know are symptomatic…and those people are not necessarily able to get tested right now.” Gildemeister said that when the outbreak peaks in the county, the number of beds needed would exceed local hospital capacity. The Mountain Eagle reported on the meeting in a Facebook post.

OF INTEREST?

While Governor Cuomo garners praise for his public response to the pandemic, he’s taking criticism for backing a proposal to slash $2.5 billion out of the state’s Medicaid budget over the next few years in order to balance the budget. That would affect many programs funded through Medicaid, including the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance, which allows elderly and disabled New Yorkers to hire and train home health aides of their choosing. On Monday afternoon, The River published a feature about the rush to redesign Medicaid and how the CDPA program might change if it’s cut.

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