Tuesday Night COVID-19 Update – Kingston HS Gym To Be Field Hospital, A Crisis in NY Jails

Kingston High School’s Kate Walton Field House under construction in September 2017.

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
138,863 cases confirmed (8,174 new)
340,058 tests performed (19,247 new)
5,489 deaths (731 new)
32,083 hospitalizations (overall)
17,493 hospitalizations (current)
4,593 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 71
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

A grim milestone: 53-year-old Michael Tyson was the first inmate on Rikers Island to die after testing positive for COVID-19 while in custody. Tyson was imprisoned on a parole violation. On Friday, he sued New York State for release along with 100 other Rikers inmates. On Sunday, he was dead. Within New York’s coronavirus crisis, prisons and jails are a crisis unto themselves, and while inmates and correctional officers don’t tend to see eye to eye on how to deal with it, they are all facing the risk of infection.

The prison outbreak problem isn’t getting a lot of airtime in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily press briefings, but media outlets are digging deeper. On Tuesday, City & State spoke with Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, who called Rikers “the epicenter of the epicenter.” Slate interviewed Rikers Island’s senior director of geriatrics and complex care services, Rachael Bedard, who describes Rikers and other jails and prisons as “the world’s worst cruise ship crossed with the world’s worst nursing home, plus violence.” And New York magazine’s Intelligencer had a heartbreaking report on how inmates are dealing with life at Rikers. “It’s like The Walking Dead in here,” one said. “We’re all trying to survive right now.”

“Despicable.” That’s what the Albany Times Union is calling upstate Congressional representative Elise Stefanik and other pols who are making political hay out of stoking upstate/downstate conflict and rallying opposition against Cuomo’s effort to move ventilators from upstate hospitals to the hardest-hit hospitals in the New York City metro area. They called it “poisonous parochialism,” too, which has a ring to it. “We are all one New York,” the paper’s opinion desk writes.

After dropping below its peak for two days, New York announced 731 deaths on Tuesday, the highest one-day toll yet. However, the daily number of new hospitalizations has plateaued over the last three days. Deaths will peak significantly after new cases and new hospitalizations, and Cuomo voiced hope that the flattening of hospitalizations meant deaths would plateau in the coming days. New Jersey and Connecticut also saw deaths jump to the highest one-day total to date, with the tri-state region recording more than 1,000 deaths.

Several New York City-area lawmakers, including New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams, are urging Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to temporarily house up to 30,000 homeless people in hotel rooms to help clamp down on coronavirus infections. Many currently stay in shelters, where social distancing is impossible.

Farmers aren’t eligible for SBA loans under the CARES Act. Congressman Antonio Delgado is mad about it; well, as mad as he gets. “We are trying to understand how we got here,” Delgado told the Register-Star. “Where was the breakdown? Because from our vantage point, they would have been included.”

Announced by New York State on Tuesday:

-Cuomo has signed a much-anticipated executive order allowing the state to redistribute ventilators so hospitals with the greatest need will have them. In a previous briefing, Cuomo talked about bringing in the National Guard to help with that effort, a proposition that was interpreted by some upstate lawmakers as a threat. Tuesday’s executive order doesn’t mention the National Guard. “DOH may shift any such items not currently needed, or needed in the short term future by a healthcare facility, to be transferred to a facility in urgent need of such inventory,” the order reads.

-The state will invest in private companies to bring rapid testing to scale. If you have a business that can manufacture tests, contact Empire State Development at (212) 803-3100 or COVID19supplies@esd.ny.gov.

-The state Department of Health has developed an antibody test that can detect whether someone has recovered from COVID-19. It’s not perfect, but it might help some people return to a more normal life. MarketWatch has more on that.

-Cuomo has written a letter to New York’s Congressional delegation about the next coronavirus aid bill. It’s long and a little bit technical, but the gist is: The previous aid bill didn’t cut it. “The federal legislation unnecessarily made a bad situation worse for our state government,” Cuomo writes. A key issue: Federal Medicaid funding won’t cover costs for people enrolled under the Medicaid expansion ushered in by the Affordable Care Act.

-The state has negotiated temporary relief for about 300,000 student loan borrowers not covered by the CARES Act.

-New York State and New York City will begin collecting and releasing data on the race of COVID-19 patients, Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa and mayor de Blasio said Tuesday. States and cities that are releasing race data have found that COVID-19 is disproportionately killing Black people.

-Today’s death toll of 731 was the highest single-day toll so far, a spike after a few days of relatively flat numbers. But Cuomo and his advisers are still characterising the current state of the outbreak as reaching a plateau, as hospitalization rates continue to flatten out somewhat.

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.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
County coronavirus page

Governor Cuomo said he understood tradition, but that “now was not the time” for large crowds, when asked about Orthodox Jewish funeral ceremonies at his daily briefing. The issue had caused friction last week after the funeral of a rabbi injured in the Monsey Hanukkah machete attack. County executive Ed Day lambasted town officials for not controlling the crowd at the funeral; town police said the crowd did not top 50 and these gatherings were considered essential.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
County coronavirus page
County press release page

Westchester County executive George Latimer said the number of COVID-19 hospital patients in the county remains manageable with the current number of hospital beds. There are 3,000 available hospital beds in the county, with the opportunity to add 1,500 more.

Danny Riemer, a 37-year-old New Rochelle resident who has recovered from COVID-19, told NBC News that he and his wife feel “blessed” to be able to donate plasma to help other patients. The news outlet ran a story Tuesday about the growing effort to collect plasma from recovered victims for treatment, and the race among doctors to learn how to put it into practice.

Latimer joined Feeding Westchester vice president for development Matt Honeycutt on Zoom to discuss efforts to provide food for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Honeycutt explained that food banks are not experiencing shortages, but rather a slow down in the production of goods along the supply chain, limiting consumers’ options for certain foods.

Latimer is calling on Westchester residents to say “thank you” to first responders who “put their lives on the line each day to protect us.” Parents and kids can create artwork, post a picture or record a short video using the hashtags #MyWestchester and #WCThankyou across social media. Latimer shared a video to his YouTube channel thanking first responders himself.

Yorktown residents can now be fined $1,000 for littering after an executive order was signed by town supervisor Matt Slater seeking to cut down on discarded face masks and latex gloves. “It’s about social responsibility. It’s not like they’re throwing out candy wrappers,” he said.

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

Seventeen more people have died of COVID-19 in the county since yesterday, county executive Steve Neuhaus announced Tuesday, bringing the local toll to 93.

Neuhaus said parks in Orange County remain open, despite neighboring counties and states closing their parks to enforce social distancing. “I intend to keep our parks open; I understand a lot of people need to get outside and I’ve been seeing a lot of people social distancing in these parks, so as long as we can continue to do that, our parks can stay open,” said Neuhaus.

A part-time Tuxedo police officer was let go after posting a comment on Facebook about bombing Kiryas Joel. “Drop a daisy cutter right on KJ!” the post read. The village, which has a large population of Satmar Hasids, has the largest number of coronavirus cases in Orange County.

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

Poughkeepsie City councilmember Chris Petsas introduced a non-binding resolution Monday calling on the state to improve the capacity at unemployment call centers. Many of his constituents have been unable to file for unemployment, Petsas said, adding he had called the unemployment line more than 600 times without being able to file. His experience was not outside the norm, as people across the state reported calling hundreds of times over the course of weeks without being able to get through. The newly passed state budget added 700 employees to the call centers, and the state Department of Labor expanded from four to 50 servers and announced it is partnering with Google to improve the website.

PUTNAM COUNTY
County coronavirus page

The Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) nurses tested 96 Putnam residents for COVID-19 today, going through the latest batch of tests issued by the state Department of Health in 24 hours. This is the fourth batch of state tests the county has received, and, like the previous batches, it was utilized at the county’s pop-up mobile testing site. Residents with symptoms can also be tested by the state health department and other private healthcare providers and are directed to fill out an online assessment or call (888) 364-3065.

Flags were lowered to half staff on Tuesday as the county announced a fifteenth death and the number of confirmed cases reached 402.

The county is also dedicating a row of flags at Lake Gleneida in Carmel to healthcare workers and first responders. The flags will be raised from now until Memorial Day, when they will be joined by the traditional flags honoring veterans.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
County coronavirus page

Three residents and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at the Care Center at Sunset Lake, a county-owned nursing home in Liberty, health director Nancy McGraw announced Tuesday night. Another employee who tested positive, the county’s first confirmed case, has since recovered. The three residents were quarantining at the facility, and the employees were at their homes. The facility was closed to visitors March 13.

All county parks are closed as of noon on Wednesday, Sullivan County announced Tuesday. “Barricades will be placed at county park parking lots and trailheads notifying the public of the closures, and the sheriff’s office and local police will regularly patrol for and ticket any violators,” a release said. Included in the closure: Lake Superior State Park in Bethel, Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park in Kenoza Lake, Minisink Battleground Park in Barryville, D&H Canal Linear Park in Wurtsboro and Summitville, and Livingston Manor Covered Bridge Park.

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

The Kingston High School gym will be converted into a 100-bed field hospital as part of Ulster County’s mission to quadruple its hospital bed capacity, according to a press release from the county executive’s office. The Kate Walton Field House, equidistant from the two HealthAlliance hospital campuses, will house recovering patients not in need of acute medical care, if the need arises. It will function through the month of April, by which time a second temporary hospital will be completed in a portion of a vacant building on the former IBM campus that will potentially hold hundreds of beds.

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble said people violating social distancing rules could be fined up to $1,000 in the city. Governor Cuomo yesterday doubled the maximum fine for not following these guidelines, which Noble cited when announcing the enforcement in his daily update. Yesterday, Rockland County announced it would enforce the guidelines with civil and criminal citations.

Though the Woodstock Film Festival has canceled its spring programming, it is offering a growing number of online features, including Q&As between directors and festival curators and Facebook live events with filmmakers. The festival itself is still scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.

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

A fourth resident has died of COVID-19, the county announced Tuesday. Four people are hospitalized with the disease, one of whom is in intensive care.

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson issued his seventh emergency order Tuesday, which, like his previous six short-term orders, mostly extends provisions put in place when Johnson declared a State of Emergency March 16. However, the order’s text referred to two of the governor’s emergency orders, saying they were “of particular concern to the people of Hudson.” The orders referred to the banning of gatherings and the closing of restaurants and bars.

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

On Monday, we were skeptical of a press release from Delaware County that claimed that “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.” We have not seen any advice from state or federal officials recommending gloves to the general public. We wrote Delaware County Planning director Shelly Johnson-Bennett, and she retracted the statement: “This is being corrected.  When I wrote that about gloves and a mask I did not mean N95 but some form of face covering. I saw the glove recommendation on a media release on a network station when they interviewed a doctor, not the official Governor’s release or the CDC release so I will correct that as well,” she wrote.

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

Fire companies from Greene and Columbia counties paraded their trucks in a show of support for healthcare workers at Columbia Medical Center on Monday.

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

Assemblyman Chris Tague, a Schoharie resident and former dairy farmer, is calling on federal and state governments to pass a bill that would reimburse farmers at market rates for losses related to the outbreak.

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