COVID-19 Update – 9 Million Lose Insurance, Columbia’s 1,000 Test Kits Delayed

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 Friday, April 17.

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
222,284 cases confirmed (8,505 new)
550,579 tests performed (24,567 new)
12,192 deaths (606 new)
50,450 hospitalizations (overall)
17,735 hospitalizations (current)
5,091 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 114
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Is there hope for a drug to treat COVID-19? It’s too soon to say for sure, but there are promising initial results for remdesivir, an antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences that is currently in clinical trials at a number of hospitals. In a video discussion on research at the University of Chicago Medical Center, a copy of which was obtained by the health news site STAT, infectious disease specialist Kathleen Mullane described promising preliminary results to fellow researchers. In the study, most of the 113 critically ill patients receiving daily infusions of remdesivir recovered and were discharged from the hospital within a week; two died. The study has not yet been published, and the University of Chicago trial has no control group, which means any findings it generates are less solid than one in which some patients are assigned to receive placebo treatment. Still, it’s a spot of good news on the treatment front, and the medical world is looking to this and other remdesivir trials for evidence of a tool that might help tame the outbreak. Remdesivir was developed as a general antiviral and has shown to be effective in treating Ebola, but was never approved for this use after two other drugs were shown to be more effective.

About 9.2 million US workers have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance in the last four weeks, an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute concluded. Twenty-two million Americans have applied for unemployment in the last month.

Could the release of coronavirus have been a lab accident? US intelligence is looking into cables sent in 2018 by the US embassy in Beijing about “inadequate security” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where studies were being conducted on bat coronaviruses, Washington Post security columnist Josh Rogin reported on Tuesday. Shi Zenghli, the WIV scientist whose team was first to report that the outbreak was caused by a coronavirus of bat origin, has denied that the lab was the source of the outbreak. There isn’t any evidence that SARS-CoV-2 emerged from the Wuhan lab—but then again, there isn’t much solid evidence that it emerged from a Wuhan wet market either, and the Chinese government is clamping down on information.

Scientists and spies alike are in agreement that the outbreak is an accident of nature, not a deliberately engineered virus, NBC reports. But even so, if it was released because of the sloppy handling of research materials, Rogin argues, it’s important for the world to know. “The origin story is not just about blame. It’s crucial to understanding how the novel coronavirus pandemic started because that informs how to prevent the next one,” he writes.

Not good: The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, the main national source of pandemic help for businesses with fewer than 500 employees, is out of money after less than two weeks in existence. The program approved 1,661,397 loans from 4,975 lenders before hitting its $350 billion cap and slamming the door shut on new applicants, NBC News reports. Local banks are alerting their customers of the shutdown; a message posted on Ulster Savings Bank’s website reads: “The current SBA appropriation for PPP loans has been exhausted. However, we encourage you to be proactive and submit your application in anticipation of more appropriations in the future.”

The Department of Labor (DOL) released its weekly unemployment filing numbers Wednesday, which showed that nearly 400,000 more New Yorkers filed initial claims last week. Even before this, on the week ending April 4, the number of people on unemployment insurance when seasonally adjusted was at the highest point since the DOL began releasing seasonally adjusted numbers. The prior record was set in May 1975. The new unemployment rate won’t be available until May 1.

Congressman Antonio Delgado, who represents most of the Hudson Valley and Catskills region, joined with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Thursday in calling on Congress to include “robust” funding for rural communities in the next federal coronavirus aid package.

Christina Cuomo, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sister-in-law, has tested positive for COVID-19, two weeks after her husband, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, fell sick.

Richard Brodsky, a longtime Westchester politician who died last week after an illness consistent with the symptoms of COVID-19, tested negative for the virus, his wife said on Tuesday. Brodsky was a legendary figure in the New York State Assembly, serving from 1983 to 2010.

It’s boating season, but stay off the water: The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) told NewYorkUpstate.com in a statement on Wednesday that all recreational boat launches run by DEC, Canal Corp., or State Parks are closed to the public. The statement was intended to clarify an announcement made in a state briefing last week that all boat launches and marinas are closed to recreational vessels; apparently, the news outlet reports, people have been using them anyway, creating confusion about whether they are open or closed.

For their part, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which allows recreational boating and fishing in season on city-owned reservoirs upstate, issued a statement March 23 that all boating offices in the city watershed are closed until further notice, and boats are not being steam cleaned, a measure generally required during boating season to keep invasive species out of the reservoirs. Friends of the Upper Delaware River, an environmental and recreational access advocacy group, issued a general plea to members and the community last week to stay out of New York waters until it’s safe. “How we as anglers and recreational users of the area react and behave in this moment will be remembered long after this pandemic passes,” they wrote.

Announced by New York State on Thursday:

  • NYS on Pause is extended until at least May 15. New York is coordinating with six other Northeastern states on a regional plan to reopen the economy and society at large.
  • Before the regional economy can begin to open again, Governor Cuomo said, the infection rate needs to be brought down further. In a technical spiel about the novel coronavirus’s R0 factor (pronounced “R-nought”), Cuomo said that New York’s efforts to close businesses and mandate social distancing had brought the virus’s R0 factor down to 0.9 in the state, meaning that every person who contracts the virus infects, on average, a little less than one other person. An R0 of less than one means the outbreak is shrinking; an R0 of greater than one means it is growing. “Wuhan got down to 0.3. So we have to continue doing what we’re doing. I’d like to see that infection rate get down even more,” Cuomo said.
  • Cuomo is directing all New Yorkers statewide to wear masks while on public transportation, as well as when taking private transportation or riding in cars for hire. The directive expands on an executive order signed Wednesday that requires all New Yorkers over the age of two to wear masks or other face coverings in public places when unable to maintain social distancing, effective as of 8pm on Friday. In Thursday’s briefing, Cuomo said his office was getting “a lot of not-happy phone calls” about the new mask directive, but too bad, New York: You don’t get to breathe your germs all over the grocery store right now. “Remember it’s not just about you, right? I have rights, also. And my kids have rights. And your kids have rights,” he said.
  • With hospitalizations beginning to fall in the state, New York State is sending 100 ventilators to New Jersey. On Wednesday, Cuomo announced that New York would send 100 ventilators to Michigan and 50 to Maryland.

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
8,752 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Just as Governor Cuomo announced the extension of NYS on PAUSE, Rockland executive Ed Day, who has consistently advocated for stronger enforcement of Cuomo’s coronavirus-related executive orders, diverged from today’s announcement from the governor. “I would like to see a gradual restart of the local economy sooner rather than later, ideally in the beginning of May rather than mid-May,” Day said. Without specifying anticipated revenue losses, Day made clear that the COVID-19 shutdown threatens Rockland’s finances. “It is critical that we get the economy restarted as soon as our medical professionals say it is safe to do so.”

COVID-19 is transforming how paramedics respond in the field, LoHud.com reported Tuesday. “This is crazy times here,” Lt. Rich Greer of Rockland Paramedic Services told a reporter, describing how the pandemic is forcing him and his fellow paramedics to leave bodies for the funeral home to pick up and to bar family members from riding along in the ambulance. Over the past few weeks, the pace and severity of the calls has picked up in an obvious way, Greer said. “Abruptly, you say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really real.’”

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
21,828 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

Nearly 20 percent of the Town of Greenburgh’s Police force have tested positive for COVID-19, including Chief of Police Bryan Ryan. While some officers who were ill have returned to work, others are still out sick because the department has been dealing with the positive results in staggered periods for weeks. “We have been able to maintain our responsibility to the community despite the number of employees testing positive,” Greenburgh Police Lt. Kobie Powell said. “It’s not like all 20 tested positive at one time.”

A new COVID-19 testing center is being set up at the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center and will open up on Friday, April 17. Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard said that the site will operate as a mobile facility for those who do not have access to a car, allowing people to use the facility by walking through instead of pulling up in a car. Mount Vernon has the third-highest number of cases in the county.

A second site will open Friday in Yonkers, though it will only serve residents from the 10701 zip code, the area in the city with the majority of cases. The site, at St. John’s Riverside Hospital Parkcare Pavilion, will be appointment-only. These two new sites will bring the county’s total to four; two mobile sites are already operating in Valhalla and New Rochelle.

ORANGE COUNTY
5,888 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Patrol cars from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, along with vehicles from the Department of Public Works, Orange County Emergency Management Division, and Orange County District Attorney’s Office, circled Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation on Thursday with flashing lights and blaring sirens as a tribute to the staff’s hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county reported 17 more deaths today, bringing the total to 204, and county executive Steve Neuhaus said it was too early to think about reopening the local economy. “It’s nice to have a conversation about when we return to whatever that normal looks like, but we’re not there yet,” Molinaro said, adding that the county was still trying to acquire basic supplies like personal protective equipment. County leaders in the mid-Hudson Valley have said the region’s peak will come 1-3 weeks after New York City’s.

A retired senior investigator with the New York State Police is critically ill with COVID-19, and his family and friends are hoping a transfusion of plasma from recovered patients can help him. Danny Fernandez, a 25-year veteran of the New York State Police, was admitted to Orange Regional Medical Center in the Town of Wallkill on April 1. “He’s been on a ventilator for about 11 days,” said Yesenia Fernandez, his former wife of 20-plus years. “He’s fighting for his life.” She said they have put in a request with the American Red Cross for convalescent plasma for Fernandez. Early studies of convalescent plasma have shown promise that it can increase or maintain antibody levels, reducing viral load, and possibly treat severe COVID-19 cases. The FDA considers convalescent plasma as an “investigational product,” but on April 13 laid out guidance for studies and for approval for single-patient emergency use.

Stanley Curtis, a longtime music teacher at SUNY Orange, died of COVID-19 on April 10 at the age of 86. Curtis was a performer before he became a music teacher, singing in Europe while he was in the Army and appearing as a soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Syracuse Symphony.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
2,085 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 have been placed in nursing homes in Dutchess County under a mandate from the state Department of Health. However, it’s unclear how many patients have been placed and in which nursing homes. “There are nursing homes in Dutchess County who have been assigned COVID-19 patients and they are being treated in the isolation area of those facilities,” Colleen Pillus, spokesperson for the County Executive’s Office, said. Patients discharged to a nursing home would either be a resident of the facility originally or someone who needs rehab services or a longterm stay due to medical needs.

PUTNAM COUNTY
573 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

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

SULLIVAN COUNTY
437 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

In a press release Thursday, the Sullivan County legislature announced the unanimous passage of a resolution to cut more than $6 million from the county budget and lay off 77 county employees, effective May 2. “We also endeavored to minimize impacts on these workers as much as possible,” said county manager Josh Potosek. “We will maintain their health benefits, and due to the federally enhanced unemployment benefits, they will be assured of earning the same as they were when employed.” The legislators plan to revisit the cuts in mid-May and reevaluate.

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

Ulster County executive Pat Ryan and lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul held a small business town hall on Thursday to update residents on the county’s response to COVID-19 and support available for Ulster County small businesses. Ryan and Hochul took questions from the small business community ranging from mask requirements for essential workers to updates about applying for state and federal loan programs. Ulster County businesses are encouraged to reach out to the Ulster County Department of Economic Development and go to the Ulster County COVID-19 Virtual Center to view state and local resources for businesses.

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

The county had banked on receiving 1,000 test kits it had purchased from a commercial vendor Friday, but the shipment has been delayed a week. The county has been relying on test kits sent from the state, and has severely limited who can be tested due to constricted supplies. The county has 40 kits left out of the last batch of 100. The health department is still planning on testing 150 people they’ve already preregistered at a mobile site.

There is an ongoing need for personal protective equipment in the county; the Sheriff’s Office picked up a shipment in Guilderland from the state’s stockpile, but it was the first shipment received in two weeks. This gear, as well as small donations from Ulster and Dutchess counties, was split up by the county Emergency Management Office and distributed to medical and emergency services and to nursing homes, according to director of emergency management David Harrison Jr.

Governor Cuomo’s executive order mandating face coverings in public places where social distancing cannot be maintained goes into effect at 8pm on Friday. The county is seeking homemade masks for its nearly 900 employees. Those interested should contact Austerlitz town supervisor Robert Lagonia at rlagonia@austerlitzny.com.

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

The hot topic of downstate New Yorkers fleeing to their country homes came up at a Walton town board meeting this week, the Walton Reporter reports. Town council member Patty Wood asked the board to address the issue, saying that people who own homes in town have the right to be there. “There are a lot of people who don’t want downstaters in the Big M, and that’s not realistic,” Wood said. “They have every right to be here and we need to be aware of that as a community.”

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

Three people in the county have died of COVID-19, the county announced. All were senior citizens and had underlying health issues.

Greene County has ordered 1,000 test kits from a commercial vendor. It has run through 25 test kits donated by Ulster County on nursing home staff and residents, Greene County legislature chairman Patrick Linger said. The donation came after 26 people tested positive for COVID-19 at a nursing home in Catskill, and the county ran out of kits trying to ascertain the extent of the outbreak.

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

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

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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