Monday Night COVID-19 Update – Ulster Has 1 ICU Bed Left, Columbia To Get More Tests

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, April 6.

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
130,689 cases confirmed (8,658 new)3
20,811 tests performed (18,531 new)

4,758 deaths (599 new)
30,203 hospitalizations (overall)
16,837 hospitalizations (current)
4,504 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 67
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Has New York State hit the apex? Case numbers are still increasing, but beginning to show signs of leveling off, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in Monday’s daily briefing. Deaths per day have held fairly steady for several days in a row. “While none of this is good news, the possible flattening of the curve is better than the increases that we have seen,” he said. “Total number of hospitalizations are down. The ICU admissions are down and the daily intubations are down. Those are all good signs and again would suggest a possible flattening of the curve.”

If New York’s outbreak is leveling off, it’s because of social distancing measures taken by people around the state in the past few weeks. Because of the timing of the way the virus spreads—incubating for an average of five days, and up to 14, before symptoms appear, then following a course of illness of two weeks or more—current hospitalization numbers reflect outbreak spread that was already “baked in” weeks ago. Over the next few weeks, New York’s numbers on cases, deaths, and hospitalizations will show the effectiveness of statewide social distancing efforts that are underway now.

Dire phrase of the day: “Temporary interment.” New York City morgues, both permanent and temporary, have not yet exceeded their capacity, but the city is beginning to lay plans for what happens when they do. Digging temporary graves until the victims of COVID-19 can be interred in their final resting places is one solution proposed, and City councilmember Mark Levine caused a furor on Twitter by suggesting that temporary interments might be held in city parks—a notion Levine later said was a “contingency plan,” and that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo were quick to dismiss. But mass temporary graves might be dug in the potter’s field on Hart Island, de Blasio told reporters. Last week, Reuters reported that city officials were surveying upstate cemeteries for temporary interment sites.

A new study out of the University of Texas found that even in counties with just a single confirmed case, the odds are greater than 50 percent that an epidemic of undetected transmission is already underway. Seventy percent of counties in the US are likely to have an epidemic, The New York Times notes. That’s probably not a surprise to readers in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, which have seen county case numbers rise from single digits into sustained growth over the past few weeks, but it might be a wake-up call for counties farther from outbreak centers that have yet to watch their case counts climb.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tested positive for COVID-19 10 days ago, is now in intensive care at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Another federal coronavirus aid bill is in the works that may deliver more direct payments into the hands of individuals, and more aid to small businesses and local governments. The “Phase 4” bill could be another trillion-dollar piece of legislation, MarketWatch reports.

Announced by New York State today:

-New York on PAUSE has been extended for at least another two weeks, through April 29.

-The maximum fine for violating the state’s social distancing protocol has been increased, from $500 to $1,000. Cuomo wants local governments to start enforcing the rules more vigorously.  “If we are plateauing, it is because social distancing is working. So we have to make sure the social distancing actually continues,” he said.

-Cuomo is asking for the USNS Comfort’s 1,000 hospital beds to be made available to COVID-19 patients. Like the FEMA temporary hospital at the Javits Center, the Comfort was intended to take non-COVID-19 patients so hospitals could focus on the outbreak, but both have been largely empty, NPR reports. The Javits Center began taking COVID-19 patients last week.

-Eight-hundred and two ventilators have been distributed downstate from hospitals elsewhere in New York, using the new statewide hospital coordination and equipment-sharing system. Most of the ventilators went to New York City and Long Island, but a few dozen each were sent to Westchester and Rockland counties. Cuomo is calling the new hospital network the “Surge and Flex” system, which sounds a bit Richard Simmons. (He’s back, by the way. The pandemic has lured Simmons out of semi-retirement: He is once again sweatin’ to the oldies, now on YouTube.)

-Cuomo has evidently backed off his threat to use the National Guard to redistribute ventilators from upstate hospitals and private institutions to downstate hot spots. The uproar from upstate was instantaneous, with everyone from Rensselaer County executive Steve McLaughlin to Congressman Antonio Delgado to the Daily Gazette editorial board speaking out. Cuomo announced Friday he would sign an executive order to initiate the plan, but by late Monday, the order had not been signed and Cuomo’s office would not immediately confirm whether he would do so, according to the Albany Times Union.

-The state has established the First Responders Fund to cover child care and other costs for healthcare workers and others on the front lines, with an initial donation of $10 million from Blackstone.

-New York is partnering with Headspace, a company that publishes meditation and mindfulness content online, to give free guided meditations and other peaceful content to New Yorkers.

-Temporary hospitals for COVID-19 patients at South Beach Psychiatric Center in Staten Island and Brooklyn Center are opening this week.

We are now representing case numbers visually instead of listing numbers for each county. State and county numbers are beginning to diverge widely from each other; we are working on a story about how counties are handling data. We will seek to be transparent about how we are using data, and provide links to both state and county data sources.

Below: A graph showing the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, drawn from New York State’s data. 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.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
County coronavirus page
County press release page

A mobile morgue has been shipped to Valhalla to deal with the increasing number of deaths in the county, which reached 211 on Monday. “It is not a pleasant topic to discuss,” Westchester County executive George Latimer said. “What it does do is it makes this real.”

The Westchester County Center is in the process of being turned into a temporary hospital, set to open sometime before Friday, April 17, Latimer said. The hospital is expected to have 120 beds to provide assistance to those who are seeking health care. Latimer said whether the beds will be used for COVID-19 patients or hospital overflow will be the decision of the New York State Department of Health, which will be in control of the facility.

An Eastchester paramedic told News 12 that calls related to COVID-19 make up 21 percent to 39 percent of his department’s daily call volume.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
County coronavirus page

The county will begin enforcing state orders banning gatherings and non-essential businesses operating with civil and criminal citations, including charges punishable by jail time. The county’s five town supervisors said the move was green-lighted by the Governor’s Office in a conference call. A tip line has been set up, and five calls about non-essential businesses operating have already come in. Clarkstown supervisor George Hoehmann said police planned to shut down a business by telling people to disperse and issuing warnings, though disorderly conduct or other misdemeanor charges could be filed if people don’t comply. The pledged enforcements come after several demands by county executive Ed Day for the state to clarify how to enforce the mandates.

The county reported Monday a total of 119 COVID-19-related deaths—nearly triple the total of just four days ago.

The Town of Ramapo, which contains several Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities, has banned ceremonies for the burning of chametz, leavened items not eaten during passover. The town, which traditionally hosts the ceremonies under the watchful eye of the fire department, cited the need to maintain social distancing measures.

All county-run parks will be closed starting 6am Tuesday. Barricades will be moved to trailheads and all scheduled events are canceled.

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

The peak of cases in the mid-Hudson Valley is expected to hit about a week after the peak in New York City, Orange County health commissioner Irina Gelman predicts.

Deaths due to COVID-19 in Orange County have nearly doubled since Friday, the Times Herald-Record reports. Between Sunday and Monday afternoon alone, 23 county residents died of the illness, bringing the death toll in the county to 76.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Dutchess Tourism is launching a new initiative called “Take Out Tuesdays” to support local restaurants during the pandemic, as well as inform county residents as to which eateries are still open with curbside pickup and delivery options.

Cousins Ale Works in Wappingers Falls has created a new brew to encourage social distancing. Brewmaster Aaron Browne describes the Citra Ass At Home as a smooth, light IPA with mango flavor and floral aromas, and little bitterness. The brewery is taking orders for curbside pickup starting Tuesday: Call (845) 632-1319 or message them on Facebook.

County executive Marc Molinaro will hold a virtual town hall at 3pm on Wednesday, April 8, on the county’s Facebook page. He’ll give an update on the situation in Dutchess County and discuss ongoing efforts to keep our community healthy.

PUTNAM COUNTY
County coronavirus page

There were no major updates out of Putnam County today. To read the news from the weekend, click here.

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

County executive Pat Ryan said that since Friday, Ulster County has seen a near 50 percent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The county presently has only one ICU bed available, and is on pace to exhaust all available beds and ventilators by the end of this week. “Based on our projections, we will run out of both beds and ventilators by week’s end,” Ryan said. “I’m proud that we have been successful in the production of our own PPE and in ramping up testing through our two mobile sites, but we still have urgent needs. With lives on the line, I won’t rest until we close these gaps.”

In the era of coronavirus, news readership is up, but newspaper revenues are down. Alden Global Capital, the infamously rapacious hedge fund that owns more than 50 daily newspapers across the county, including the Kingston Daily Freeman, laid off four NewsGuild union members last week, including two reporters. Shoutout to the Freeman’s Patricia Doxsey for speaking up about it: “Now we’re four reporters who cover a county the size of Rhode Island, as well as portions of neighboring counties. All you have to do is look at our papers to see the kind of work we’ve been doing.”

On Friday, Ryan put out a call seeking doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to assist in the County’s response to COVID-19. In the three days since, more than 70 people have responded. Those interested in becoming a medical response volunteer can fill out a short questionnaire on the county’s website.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
County coronavirus page

A sixth resident has died from COVID-19, according to the county.

Catskill Regional Medical Center thanked the community in a Facebook post for donations of food and supplies, and called for more donations of personal protective equipment and cleaning products. Those wishing to donate to the hospital can email wfors@ghvhs.org or call (845) 333-2362.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-82492

About 40 people gathered for a prayer vigil outside Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation in Philmont, where 17 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and two have died. People held signs to the residents’ windows as they passed, as many in the nursing home are bedridden. Residents in all three wings of the facility have been infected, but county officials still said they were unaware if any staff had tested positive.

The county is preparing to order test kits from a commercial supplier. The test kits will be on hand “relatively soon,” according to Health Department director Jack Mabb.

Columbia Memorial Health is looking for landlords or Airbnb hosts to temporarily donate rooms near its Hudson hospital so staff can take breaks between shifts. They are currently looking for 20 rooms. Any donations are tax deductible. Those willing to help are asked to call Barbara Klassen at (518) 828-8362.

Hudson police chief Ed Moore said there’s been confusion in enforcing Cuomo’s orders against public gatherings. His officers generally ask groups to disperse if they see them, but Moore said he asked city leaders to come up with some way of enforcing the law, suggesting it might be a citation under city code enforcement.

A new testing center on the University of Albany campus officially began testing this morning. Appointments are required, and the site is currently prioritizing individuals among the highest-risk populations. The site is located in the Colonial Quad parking lot, accessible from the main entrance to the college off Washington Avenue.

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

Guidance on how to protect yourself from coronavirus has been changing fast, but we’re pretty sure there’s a mistake in Delaware County’s latest advice. “New York is now recommending that anytime you go out for necessary trips into public you should wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself and others,” the county Board of Supervisors said in a recent release. As of Friday, the White House and CDC are recommending that all Americans wear cloth masks in public. But as far as we know, neither New York State nor the federal government have recommended that people wear gloves on all public errands. Some health experts think that handwashing is better, and wearing gloves might just lull people into a false sense of security: They don’t actually protect you unless you remember not to touch your face.

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

There were no major updates out of Greene County today. To read the news from the weekend, click here.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

Throughout Holy Week, April 5-11, the Middleburgh Reformed Church is ringing its bell at 7pm in a nightly pandemic call to prayer: 19 peals for COVID-19.

Mountain Eagle reporter Tim Knight’s podcast came out Sunday, with a look at the week’s outbreak news from Schoharie County all the way to Germany.

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