COVID-19 Update – 1% of NYers Infected, Cluster Emerges in Catskill

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 for Tuesday, April 13.

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
195,031 cases confirmed (6,337 new)
478,357 tests performed (16,756 new)
10,056 deaths (671 new)
42,712 hospitalizations (overall)
18,825 hospitalizations (current)
5,156 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 100
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

New York State hit a pandemic milestone on Monday: Confirmed cases in the state have reached one percent of the population, the highest in the world. New Jersey is next, with 0.7 percent of the population confirmed infected. No nation affected by the pandemic even approaches New York State’s level of infection, The Washington Post reports; cases in Spain have reached 0.36 percent of the population, and Italy’s rate is 0.26 percent. Though there is one possible challenger to New York’s first-place status: Iran. An Atlantic writer argued last month that we may never know the true infection rate in Iran, where COVID-19 ran rampant and solid information is in short supply.

Why is COVID-19 hitting New York so hard? One reason is because of factors unique to New York—City, that is. City & State has a thoughtful article on what led to New York City (and the downstate area as a whole) getting a “battering” by the pandemic. Density is one factor; while New York City isn’t much denser than San Francisco in terms of population divided across land area, the authors write, if you look at “population-weighted density,” which rises when people are concentrated in the densest census blocks, New York is far, far denser than any other US city. More dramatic still may be the impact of the timing of state action, which lagged behind Western states: Former CDC head Tom Frieden told City & State that if New York State and its largest city had acted just four days earlier, the scale of the pandemic might have been reduced by 80 percent. Two days later, he said, and cases and deaths would have doubled. Combine these factors with a lack of federal leadership, New York’s status as a global travel hub, extreme economic inequality in the state, and a large immigrant population that has reason to fear seeking health care or other forms of help, and you have the recipe for an explosive outbreak, City & State argues.

State legislators are considering three bills to alleviate the rent burden on tenants and small businesses. The first would completely cancel rent for 90 days and waive the portion of landlords’ mortgages they would lose, essentially shifting the financial burden to banks that back the mortgages. The next two bills require the tenant to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent before relief kicks in. One bill would reimburse landlords for their subsequent losses from a new fund the state hopes to fill from a future federal stimulus. The other would use emergency housing vouchers with a similar funding stream. Senator Jen Metzger, who cosponsored the rent-cancellation bill but now supports requiring tenants to pay 30 percent, said attention shifted after the passage of the CARES Act massively expanded unemployment insurance, lessening the financial burden on many renters. Tenant rights activists argue Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 90-day eviction moratorium will only lead to mass evictions when it expires, if no relief is given to tenants.

A group of large electricity ratepayers that includes colleges, hospitals, and manufacturers—and goes by the somewhat unsettling name of Multiple Intervenors—is asking the New York Public Service Commission to temporarily stop collecting fees used to fund clean energy and energy efficiency projects that are now on hold because of the pandemic, Politico reports. “The need for rate relief from energy costs for customers—residential, small non-residential, and large commercial and industrial—is immediate and significant, and worthy of the Commission’s urgent attention,” their petition states.

The United States Postal Service is warning that without help in weathering the pandemic, it will run out of cash by fall. So far, other than a $10 billion loan the Postal Service will have to pay back, none is forthcoming, although people are buying extra stamps in an effort to help the beleaguered agency. According to a report from The Washington Post on Saturday, President Donald Trump threatened to veto the recently passed coronavirus stimulus bill, the CARES Act, if it included any emergency funding for the Postal Service. According to an article in Vanity Fair on Monday, the Postal Service might be taking heavy collateral damage in the long-running feud between Trump and Jeff Bezos—owner of Amazon and The Washington Post. And given the likelihood that mail-in voting will play a larger-than-normal role in elections this year, a diminished Postal Service could also lead to lower voter totals in November, which historically has favored Republicans.

State senator Jim Seward has been discharged from Albany Medical Center after a two-week hospitalization with COVID-19. His wife Cindy was also infected, and has been recovering at home. In a statement issued Monday, Seward’s chief of staff Duncan Davie wrote that the Sewards were cheered and strengthened by well wishes from neighbors, constituents, friends, colleagues, local officials, and others. “Senator Seward is anticipating a full recovery and looking forward to resuming his duties on behalf of the people he feels privileged to represent,” Davie wrote.

Announced by New York State on Monday:

  • A multistate task force, convened by governors of seven Northeastern states, will be appointed to guide any plan to restart the regional economy. The task force will include executive chiefs of staff, health officials, and economic development officials from each state. Governor Cuomo announced the task force in a Monday press conference, joined over the phone by the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Rhode Island (with whom, presumably, fences have been mended after last month’s spat). Later in the day, the state announced that Massachusetts had joined up as well.
  • Hospitalizations have continued to plateau. Deaths announced Monday, although not quite as high as the daily numbers over the weekend, were still at 671, a number Cuomo called “horrific.”
  • Cuomo sounded off in Monday’s daily briefing about New Rochelle, where the state’s first case was found. Currently, the rate of confirmed cases in Westchester County is just over two percent of the population, more than double the statewide rate. Why did Westchester get so much worse than New York City? (It’s a question The River’s writers have pondered too; early on, we wondered if Westchester’s high numbers might reflect more access to testing.) Cuomo lays the blame on large gatherings. “Why New Rochelle?” he asked. “That’s what I was so concerned about early on. We didn’t know what we were looking at. Why New Rochelle: because in New Rochelle, one person or two people who were infected were in dense gatherings with hundreds of people, and it spread like wildfire.”
  • The good news, if there is any, Cuomo said, is that the numbers continue to show that although it might be painful personally and economically, social distancing works. “Those numbers say we can control the spread. Feel good about that,” he said.

Below: A graph showing the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, drawn from New York State’s data. Numbers are announced daily by the New York State Department of Health, based on cases found by midnight on the day before. 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
7,965 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Rockland County executive Ed Day and director of economic development and tourism Jeremy Schulman announced a second info session for Rockland businesses and nonprofits. The discussion will be livestreamed on a number of platforms on Wednesday, April 15 at 11:30am, and will focus on questions relating to the funding and assistance available to help businesses and nonprofits in Rockland begin to recover. The panel discussion will be followed by a 30-minute Q&A.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
19,786 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

In a Facebook post Friday, Westchester County executive George Latimer noted a huge racial disparity in COVID-19 deaths. Though African-Americans make up 17 percent of the county’s population, they are 37 percent of COVID-19 deaths. Whites make up 53 percent of the population, but only accounted for 17 percent of deaths.

Five-hundred and fifty-seven people have died in Westchester of COVID-19, according to the county, 168 more deaths than were reported Friday. However, Latimer said the number of people hospitalized had fallen since last week, suggesting the county was reaching the peak of infections.

The Westchester Hotel Association and Westchester County Tourism & Film will match guest room donations to local hospitals, for use by critical staff they designate to allow those workers to shorten commutes between long shifts and to reduce possible exposure for their families. So far, over 400 free room-nights have been committed for local healthcare workers’ use in the county. Over 20 Westchester hotels and motels have also agreed to offer additional rooms for healthcare providers and emergency responders at deeply discounted rates.

ORANGE COUNTY
5,182 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

The American Chinese United Care Alliance (AUCU) donated 10,000 surgical masks to the county for its fight against COVID-19. The ACUC donated an additional 5,000 surgical masks to both assemblyman Colin Schmitt and assemblyman Karl Brabenec, who have been working to fight COVID-19 in their districts.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
1,881 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

The philanthropy Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley announced $50,000 in grants to support nonprofit farms, food pantries, and other organizations supporting the mid-Hudson Valley food system.

County executive Marc Molinaro and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce will hold a “virtual contact breakfast” and telephone town hall for local business owners and leaders on Wednesday, April 15 at 8am. Molinaro will discuss how the county is working with its business community to react and respond during the COVID-19 pandemic, including proactive efforts to provide and collect information, resources, and guidance. Members of the business community can participate by calling (845) 765-7121; it will also be streamed live on the county’s and chamber’s Facebook pages.

Dutchess County historians are collecting stories, images, and other records of pandemic life to preserve for future generations via a Google Forms survey that anyone can fill out. “We are unquestionably living in a historical moment that will be of interest to future generations. As many historians know, eyewitness records of events are the most valuable and also the rarest type of source material,” writes county historian William Tatum III. Hat tip to the Highlands Current for including the effort in their running list of coronavirus news updates.

PUTNAM COUNTY
502 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Putnam County doesn’t have a dedicated test site, although it has had a series of one-day testing events. Philipstown supervisor Richard Shea is mad about it, and wants to know why county executive MaryEllen Odell isn’t doing more. “There needs to be some leadership at the top and that is not happening. How is Odell spending her days?” Shea writes in a letter to the Highlands Current. Shea isn’t the only local official writing spicy letters: In March, state legislator Nancy Montgomery wrote an open letter to constituents criticizing county leadership, and told the Current that the county’s lack of information-sharing was “reckless.”

SULLIVAN COUNTY
380 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

County leaders announced the creation of a “Mask Brigade” to help protect essential workers during a Monday Facebook town hall. Residents with sewing skills are encouraged to fabricate masks and drop them off at the entrance to the Government Center in Monticello, but the county can be contacted to pick them up by calling (845) 807-0925. The masks will not be used by medical workers or first responders but by workers in less hazardous environments. Instructions can be found on the Centers for Disease Control’s website.

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

The Kingston Common Council will consider a resolution extending the state’s 90-day moratorium on evictions an additional 30 days in the city. The resolution, which will be discussed in committee Wednesday, would also disallow evictions due to arrears incurred during the moratorium for 180 days after it ends.

Ulster County executive Pat Ryan launched the “Ulster County Community Champion” campaign, which will thank and acknowledge community members “who are stepping up and taking care of our community” during the pandemic. Ulster County residents can be nominated by filling out a form on the COVID-19 website.

Ulster County sheriff Juan Figueroa will join Ryan for a virtual town hall on Tuesday at 2pm. It will be streamed on Ryan’s Facebook page.

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

Though the county has received “many calls” about people violating social-distancing guidelines in parks and other recreational areas, the majority of complaints were unfounded, according to county officials. “People do need to get out and do things. A lot of these things that people are seeing are okay in the governor’s executive order,” sheriff David Bartlett said, though he cautioned the coronavirus was “no joke.”

Sheriff Bartlett also said there was a “gentleman’s agreement” between the sheriffs of Washington, Warren, Saratoga, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Greene, and Columbia counties to assist each others’ departments if they were struck by COVID-19.

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

The Delaware County Department of Public Works is asking residents to hold onto their recyclables until April 30. “We are continuing to process recycling, however we are working with a limited crew and more waste,” DPW writes. It encourages residents and visitors to hire a local trash hauler instead of taking trips to the facility themselves, in an effort to cut down on the amount of traffic at the site.

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

Seventeen residents and nine staff members at a Catskill nursing home tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and testing only stopped because the county ran out of test kits. An additional 1,000 kits were requested from the state—10 times the previous delivery—but as of Monday, it was unclear if the tests would be made available.

Greene County released a statement on its Facebook page Monday explaining the large spike in positive cases is in part due to an increase in access to testing for residents this past week. The county is now counting a total of 74 confirmed cases, many more than the state’s official count of 45.

With Schoharie County now reporting its first death from COVID-19, Greene is now the only county in our 11-county Hudson Valley and Catskills region that has not yet reported a death due to COVID-19.

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

On Monday, Schoharie County announced the first death of a county resident who had tested positive for COVID-19. “It is unknown at this time whether the official cause of death will be listed as COVID-19,” public health director Amy Gildemeister wrote in a press release. “Our sympathies go out to their family.”

The county also announced three new cases, and is now officially counting 20 confirmed cases, almost double the number counted by New York State. “Because Schoharie County residents sometimes receive testing and treatment at hospitals in nearby counties, the New York State COVID-19 dashboard may not reflect the current number of patients and deaths, as known by the local health department,” Gildemeister wrote.

Middleburgh Rotary has started a local business COVID-19 relief fund, aided by village mayor Matthew Avitabile, who has raised $30,000 in donations for the effort. Avitabile stepped down as mayor on Monday, handing over his seat to Trish Bergan. The village also has a new Facebook page for official announcements.

OF INTEREST?

The River has 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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