COVID-19 Update: First Social Distancing Arrests, Cuomo Making Employers Supply Masks

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 for Monday, April 12.

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
188,694 cases confirmed (8,236 new)
461,601 tests performed (20,621 new)
9,385 deaths (758 new)
42,594 hospitalizations (overall)
18.707 hospitalizations (current)
5,198 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 97
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Happy Easter, New York. Musicians played in a nearly empty St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday, in an effort to keep joy in a holiday that normally packs the pews.

To police or not to police? That’s a burning question in New York State and across the nation, as police departments large and small grapple with the question of how to enforce social distancing rules. New York State’s maximum fine for violating social distancing regulations was recently increased from $500 to $1,000, and some police departments are cracking down on violators. Others feel that education is a more effective public-health strategy. In a situation where making any arrest has the potential to expose both police and community members to the virus, it’s a tough call. CNN has a national story on the issue, and NYC Streetsblog reported on a video that went viral, showing NYPD officers taking down a man on a subway platform that was too crowded with essential workers to allow for social distancing.

The MTA intensified the screening of its employees as the number of deaths at the agency grew to 50. A “temperature brigade” will test workers at 22 locations and anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees will be sent home. So far, 1,900 MTA employees have tested positive for the virus.

For several days, New York’s rate of increase in hospitalizations has been slowing; each day adds more patients to the overall burden on the system, but the growth in that number of beds occupied has slowed to a crawl. In Sunday’s press briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the numbers were suggesting a “plateau” in the outbreak, rather than a sharp apex. “You’re not seeing a great decline in the numbers, but you’re seeing a flattening,” Cuomo said.

Despite signs that the pace of the outbreak is slowing in New York, deaths in the state have continued to be high over the weekend: 777 new deaths on Friday, 783 on Saturday, 758 on Sunday. Epidemiologists call mortality from COVID-19 a “lagging indicator”: because deaths tend to follow weeks after infection and hospitalization, that statistic will be the last to improve, even after the numbers for new cases and hospitalizations begin to look more promising.

Aerial photographs of Hart Island taken recently show the scale of the pandemic: According to a CNN report, the potter’s field used for temporary interments and burials of New York City residents who died unclaimed by family members is now hosting as many burials in a day as it typically does in a week. The city is no longer using Rikers Island inmates to dig graves, Melinda Hunt of the nonprofit Hart Island Project told CNN, speaking of the island as a place of beauty and dignity. “It’s a bird sanctuary. It’s a very, very peaceful location. And the fact there aren’t individual monuments is part of the spiritual power of the place, knowing that over a million New Yorkers have been buried there,” Hunt said.

Announced by New York State over the weekend:

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
7,721 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Rockland County executive Ed Day and county health commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert announced two new Commissioner’s Standing Quarantine Orders on Friday. The orders tighten quarantine regulations for those infected with COVID-19 and those who have come in contact with a sick person, as well as inform healthcare and other essential personnel when they may return to work to help prevent staff shortages that would negatively impact the operation of healthcare facilities and essential businesses. The orders direct persons in either precautionary or mandatory quarantine to directly travel to or remain quarantined at their residence (or other place as ordered by the Rockland County Department of Health) and explain how long the person, depending on symptoms, must remain quarantined at home. If the guidelines are not followed, residents may be fined up to $2,000 per day.

Eight people were arrested outside a synagogue Thursday, the first criminal citations for violating social distancing orders in the county. Ramapo police responded to Monsey’s Congregation Shaarei Chesed after they received a complaint about a crowd outside. The eight were released with appearance tickets. After a week of county executive Day demanding guidance from the state about enforcing the executive orders, the five town leaders announced last week they had been greenlighted by the state to civilly and criminally cite violators.

Two hundred people have died of COVID-19 in Rockland as of Friday, according to the last available county data. More than 500 people are currently hospitalized.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
19,313 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

Sixty-five inmates at the Westchestcher County Jail have been released early to slow the spread of the coronavirus at the facility, which has infected dozens of prisoners and corrections workers. About half of those released were in jail for violating probation, and all had release dates before June 27.

A coalition of 40 law enforcement agencies is circulating a petition calling for hazard pay for first responders. The petition, initiated by the Affiliated Police Associations of Westchester, does not have a specific proposal but looks to build support for the concept, hoping the federal government will address it in a future economic stimulus plan. Yonkers police Det. Keith Olsen, who leads the coalition, said 50 police had tested positive in his city, and on Saturday, two days after the petition was started, Det. William Sullivan of the department died from the virus. The petition has nearly 18,000 signatures.

Peekskill resident Daniel Hall is accused of slashing the tires of 22 healthcare workers’ cars outside of New York Presbyterian Hospital in Cortlandt on Thursday night. Hall, 29, was arrested on Friday with the help of Peekskill police. He was charged with second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree auto stripping and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (after a small amount of PCP was found on him when being taken into custody), all felonies. “We were shocked to hear of this incident, especially at this time when our employees are working tirelessly and courageously through this crisis,” the Cortlandt Manor hospital said in an emailed statement. The hospital will pay for the damages, officials said.

ORANGE COUNTY
5,027 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Small businesses across the country are flooding the phone lines of the Small Business Administration in hopes of getting help for keeping their businesses afloat through the pandemic. Recently, a cupcake maker in New Windsor was one of them. Antonio Frontera waited two and a half hours on hold only to be told that his loan application was pending, the Times Herald Record reports. “We were doing so well until this happened,” he told the paper.

Also in the Times Herald-Record: Some hospitals are doing better than others at managing frontline staff. A story in Friday’s paper quoted local union rep Greg Speller of 1199 SEIU praising Orange Regional Medical Center for doing a good job of communicating with staff. Speller also called out Westchester Medical Center, a larger network that manages several hospitals in the Hudson Valley along with the Health Alliance hospitals in Kingston and Margaretville, as “falling short” on network-wide communication with workers on the front lines.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
1,838 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Anthony Molinaro, county executive Marc Molinaro’s father, died Friday of COVID-19. In an  unrehearsed show of humanity, the elected official told viewers at his Wednesday town hall that his father was on a ventilator at Westchester Medical Center. Anthony Molinaro, a Yonkers native, worked for telephone companies and was a shop steward for the Communications Workers of America, as well as coaching youth basketball and baseball. He was 67 and had no underlying health problems, Molinaro said.

Molinaro and Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley interim president and CEO Nevill Smythe announced Friday that the Dutchess Responds Fund has initiated a rolling application process to support nonprofits that have been providing critical support to the community as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “We are grateful to the nonprofit organizations who have already shouldered the burden of responding to the needs of our community and are proud to join Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley in offering these grants to support their efforts,” Molinaro said.

PUTNAM COUNTY
497 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

The county legislature approved $221,144 for the purchase of medical supplies and disinfectants for medical personnel and first responders. The county expects 75 percent of the sum to be reimbursed by the federal government. Legislator Nancy Montgomery advocated that no disinfectants go to the Putnam County Golf Course and instead be offered to county-supported social service programs.

Putnam County and the United Way of Westchester and Putnam will have free groceries available for pickup for county residents from 11am to 12:30pm on Thursday, April 16 in the parking lot of the county’s Donald B. Smith Campus in Carmel. Residents can register online or call 2-1-1. Delivery is available for seniors or those who are immunocompromised.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
358 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Sullivan County will host two more virtual Town Halls on Facebook in the coming week: at 1pm on Monday, April 13, and 1pm on Thursday, April 16. Questions can be submitted via email atsctownhall@co.sullivan.ny.us or private message to facebook.com/sullivancountygov.

In a press release on Sunday, Sullivan County legislators also announced some changes to county services and upcoming public meetings, and wrote that “effective immediately, riders of the Move Sullivan public transportation service will need to cover their mouths and noses with a mask, bandanna, scarf or other covering while aboard.”

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

Though people seeking to be tested for COVID-19 must have a physician’s prescription, they no longer need to make an appointment to be seen at the testing sites in the county, according to Kingston mayor Steve Noble.

Ulster County executive Pat Ryan will be joined by Sheriff Juan Figueroa for yet another virtual town hall hosted on the county’s Facebook page on Tuesday, April 14 at 2pm.

Local farmers are adapting fast to the pandemic, the Daily Freeman reports. Farmers in the Rondout Valley are collaborating on new platforms, investigating ways to get food directly to consumers, and generally rethinking the supply chain.

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

Three more people died of COVID-19 since Friday in the county: two residents and a person from outside the Twin Counties who passed away in Hudson, according to the county Department of Health. One of the deaths was a resident at Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont, the fourth from COVID-19 at the facility. Twenty-two residents had tested positive as of Friday.

The county released a town-by-town breakdown of COVID-19 cases for the first time Friday, with health director Jack Mabb promising to release updated figures every Friday. The Town of Claverack, which includes the Village of Philmont and the Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, had the most cases with 24, though all but two were at the nursing home. Ghent had the second-highest number of cases with 14, followed by the City of Hudson with 10.

During a live virtual town hall, Mabb said several people had left mandatory quarantine, but “there were people who turned them in.” In one of these instances, the Sheriff’s Office went to the violator’s home and “served them papers saying they had to stay put.” Sheriff David Bartlett has been appointed the point person in the county for enforcing New York State on PAUSE, and said enforcement thus far was mostly about educating violators. The last two complaints passed to him by the state involved a park and a hair salon.

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

As of Sunday, Delaware County is reporting a total of three deaths from COVID-19 in the county. Data published Sunday, April 12 on New York State’s website shows only one. According to Delaware County Public Health, the most recent death in the county occurred on Thursday, April 9.

The nonprofit MARK Project announced Sunday that it is working with local restaurants on a “Feeding The Front Lines” project to get meals to workers at Margaretville Memorial Hospital and the Mountainside nursing home. “Our goal is to deliver approximately 100 lovingly prepared lunches and dinners to workers at the Hospital and Mountainside, while supporting the bottom line of our area restaurants,” MARK wrote in a Facebook post.

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

The New York Times reported that the first four positive cases of COVID-19 in Greene County were all residents of New York City who traveled upstate to flee the hot-zone of positive cases that’s taken hold in the city. County administrator Shaun Groden said about 30 percent of the county’s residences are second homes, most of which appear to be occupied now. Groden and other county leaders have emphasized how the county has no hospital, highlighting that fact in an official statement warning New Yorkers and people from Westchester to stay away. “If I was in New York City and I had a place up here, I’d be here,” he said. “But I’m not going to come here with some false sense of security that once you get upstate, you’ll be taken care of. It’s just the opposite.”

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

As of Friday, the Schoharie County Department of Health was counting 17 confirmed cases, with two new cases added to the count on Friday. New York State’s count for Schohari has been level at 12 since Monday, April 6. Asked about the discrepancy by a reader on Facebook, county health director Amy Gildemeister replied, “Our numbers are correct. I don’t know why theirs are lagging.”

The Schoharie County Department of Health also posted a long message on Facebook explaining its decision not to identify the locations of confirmed cases at the town level. Many of the more populated counties in the region are reporting more detailed information about cases, but Schoharie health officials feel that revealing town-level information would lead to identification of individuals, create a false sense of security in towns where no cases have been confirmed, and punish businesses in towns that have had cases. Gildemeister is also worried about stigma against people who have been sick. “Other counties have reported individuals being denied services or not being allowed back to work after they recover from COVID-19,” she wrote. “There have even been reports of threats to the individual.”

OF INTEREST?

On Friday, The River published a guide on where, how, and when to get tested for the coronavirus in each county in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. You can read it here.

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