COVID-19 Update – State Passing Peak, 24 Deaths at Nursing Home

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 Monday, April 20.

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. 

We’re 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 STATE242,7
86 cases confirmed (6,054 new)

617,555  tests performed (21,023 new)
13,869 deaths (507 new)
55,723 hospitalizations (overall)
16,213 hospitalizations (current)
5,016 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 125
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

The highest point of New York State’s current outbreak is behind us, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in Sunday’s briefing. “The high point was a plateau, and we got up to a high point and then we just stayed at that level for a while,” Cuomo said. “If the data holds and if this trend holds, we are past the high point, and all indications at this point are that we are in a descent.”

New York State reported 507 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, down from 778 on Monday, April 13. With deaths lagging weeks behind infections, the current decline in fatalities in New York is reflecting social-distancing actions taken weeks ago. If social distancing is lifted too soon, Cuomo said, the numbers will go back up. “Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do,” he said.

Widespread availability of testing, both for active infections and for antibodies in those that have recovered, will be a necessary ingredient for reopening society. New York State has ramped up the tests used to diagnose active COVID-19 infections, and has developed an antibody test that Cuomo plans to roll out starting next week, but neither test is widely available to the general public on demand. Cuomo has repeatedly called on the federal government to step in and help regulate and scale up testing efforts.

The hope for antibody tests, when they become broadly available, is twofold: that they will show the true scope of the pandemic, and that they will identify people who can more safely go back to work. In Sunday’s briefing, Cuomo promised at least 2,000 antibody tests a day on a random sample of New Yorkers, and leaned hard on the promise of immunological testing for society. “We are going to do that in the most aggressive way in the nation,” he said. “We are going to sample people in this state, thousands of people in this state, across the state to find out if they shave the antibodies. That will tell us, for the first time, what percent of the population actually has had the coronavirus and is now at least short-term immune to the virus.”

The bad news on antibody tests: They’re not quite baked yet. In a rush to make testing available, the FDA gave the green light to about 90 companies to sell tests that have not yet been fully evaluated. Many are now yielding inaccurate results, The New York Times reported Sunday. One test, from Chinese manufacturer Anhui Deep Blue Medical Technology, has yielded only a 20 percent accuracy rate; a beleaguered ER in hard-hit Laredo, Texas spent $500,000 on a supply of the tests only to have them all seized by federal Homeland Security agents, The Texas Tribune reports.

With antibody tests not quite ready for prime time, there’s still a lot we don’t know about how many undetected infections there are out there. A recent Stanford study that relies on antibody testing suggests that the undetected rate might be a whopping 50 times that of the official confirmed case rate—which, if true, would be good news, because it would suggest that COVID-19 is much less deadly than we think. But critics of the study worry that false positives from antibody tests, and possible bias introduced by the recruitment of study participants on social media, might be skewing the results.

President Trump used revolutionary language on Friday to support people protesting policies he had endorsed earlier that day. Thousands of protestors gathered in Michigan, Texas, and California this week to protest stay-at-home orders. Most stayed in their cars, but many did not, and few wore face masks. Some protestors in Michigan carried guns, and conspiracy theories were rampant: A protest in Austin was organized by a commentator on InfoWars. “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” Trump tweeted Friday, followed by tweets to “LIBERATE” other states with stay-at-home orders signed by Democratic governors. Hours earlier, Trump had laid out a timetable recommending how states could reopen. The timetable recommended 14 days of declining new infections before beginning to slowly reopen state economies, and did not once include the word “LIBERATE.”

What does the next year hold for us all? New York Times health reporter Donald McNeil Jr., whose longform writing on the pandemic has been a bracing dose of reality amid the political sideshow, tackled the topic in a weekend feature called “The Coronavirus In America: The Year Ahead.” It’s tough medicine: In a section on the race to develop a vaccine, the world’s best hope for a return to normalcy, McNeil writes that even an estimated timeline of 12 to 18 months is optimistic. But the article also points toward potential avenues for progress in treatment and testing, and hints that along with wrenching societal change, the pandemic might also eventually pave the way toward greater American social equality.

On Friday, under pressure from patient advocates, New York State released a list of fatalities in nursing homes across the state. That list is incomplete, The City reports: Nursing homes aren’t reporting the deaths of residents who were transferred to hospitals, and not all of them are reporting presumed COVID-19 fatalities in those who had symptoms but died before they could be tested. The list only accounts for about one-third of nursing home fatalities in the state.

Modeling the upstate peak: A new pandemic model from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute forecasts coronavirus cases peaking in the Capital Region anywhere from early May to mid-June. Models differ widely from one another, and the assumptions they make about how people will behave in the future might not hold up, but it’s refreshing to see a researcher tackle the issue on a regional level. Creator Malik Magdon-Ismail notes that the high numbers coming from downstate are dominating statewide projections that might not be accurate upstate: “You really need to analyze local data to get local projections,” he said. “It would not be a very accurate thing to decide what should happen in Albany based on what’s happening in New York City.”

The pandemic is taking an especially rough toll on child custody agreements. From the Miami ER doctor who briefly lost custody of her four-year-old daughter to the Toronto divorced couple who moved back in with each other to coparent their nine-year-old son, separated parents everywhere are grappling with tough decisions, and because of widespread closures of family courts, they’re mostly on their own. “Every day, all day long—it’s the number one issue we’ve dealt with in our office over the last three weeks,” one Austin divorce lawyer told CNN.

Golf can now be played at private courses after the state clarified whether golf courses are “essential.” In short, they still are not, meaning caddies and most other employees cannot show up to work. However, people can still access the grounds to golf (or whatever else club members do on the courses) as long as they maintain social distancing. The clarification comes after state Sen. Daphne Jordan (R-Columbia County) advocated for the courses to reopen, arguing they provided physical activity and a diversion in an environment where social distancing was easy to maintain.

State senator Jim Seward, recently returned home from his battle with coronavirus at Albany Medical Center, was greeted with a car parade, AllOtsego.com reports.

Announced by New York State on Friday and over the weekend:

  • Antibody testing is rolling out, and diagnostic testing is ramping up. Once again, Cuomo is calling on the federal government to help scale and regulate testing, and to give more funding aid to states.
  • New York is ready to send 400 ventilators to Massachusetts if needed.
  • Cuomo, along with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, announced Saturday that marinas, boatyards, and marine manufacturers will be allowed to open for personal use as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed. Chartered watercraft services or rentals will not be allowed, and restaurant activity at these sites must be limited to takeout or delivery only, like anywhere else in the three states. The decision is a reversal from one made earlier this month that closed such facilities, citing social distancing concerns.
  • Cuomo announced Saturday that he plans to sign an executive order allowing couples to get marriage licenses remotely and allowing clerks to perform ceremonies over video, a practice that is banned under current law. “If that’s an avenue people want to go down, it will be available to them,” said Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. Many marriage bureaus have temporarily closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing New Yorkers from getting a marriage license during the current health emergency. The executive order temporarily suspends a provision of law that requires in-person visits.
  • New Yorkers whose income is so low that they don’t need to file federal taxes (below $12,000 for individual filers, or $24,000 for a married couple) won’t get federal coronavirus stimulus payments under the CARES Act unless they give the IRS their information. The state is rolling out an awareness campaign to let people know they need to take action to get their payments.

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
9,364 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

County executive Ed Day was joined by Bill Madden from SUEZ Water New York on Friday on a visit to Montefiore Nyack Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital to thank healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. SUEZ Water New York partnered with two family-owned businesses to provide 100 $20 gift cards to staff at each hospital. The gift cards were from two local restaurants, Mia’s Kitchen in Suffern and Munno’s Italian Deli in Pearl River.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
23,803 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

During a press conference held at the County’s medical supply warehouse on Friday, county executive George Latimer received the first 5,000 of a 40,000 donation of face shields from Con Edison for Westchester County healthcare workers who are treating coronavirus patients. The shields were manufactured in a converted Con Edison machine shop in the Bronx.

ORANGE COUNTY
6,379 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

State officials would not say if anyone at the Mid Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in New Hampton has tested positive for COVID-19 when asked by the Times Herald-Record, but did reveal that 193 patients and 283 employees had tested positive for the virus at 13 of the 25 state psychiatric hospitals. The Public Employees Federation sent a letter to state officials on March 30 complaining of “critically low supplies to no supplies of N95 respirators, face masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns, along with hand sanitizer.”

Twenty-four residents at Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation have died of the coronavirus, according to numbers on nursing home deaths released by the state Friday. A spokesman told the Times Herald-Record on April 9 there had been deaths at the facility but would not reveal how many residents died. The figure does not include any residents who may have died at hospital or elsewhere outside the facility.

Six Orange County residents, including Newburgh assistant fire chief Tim Dexter and Hamptonburgh town justice Richard Golden, tell their stories of surviving COVID-19 in a story by the Times Herald-Record published Saturday. “There are thousands of people dying, but there are hundreds of thousands of people recovering,” Matthew Lawrence of New Windsor said. “I think we just have to understand it more.”

DUTCHESS COUNTY
2,240 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Dutchess County’s hospitalization numbers are beginning to stabilize, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports, but testing delays are preventing a clear view of the pandemic locally. A county official told the paper that because Dutchess County is confirming cases before reporting them, there is a gap between state numbers and county numbers. As of Sunday, Dutchess County was reporting 28 deaths in the county, while New York State counted 49.

No mask, no dumping: If you’re planning on bringing trash to the Rhinebeck transfer station, be advised, they will not let you in unless you have a mask or bandana on. “I hope everyone understands and will comply,” town councilman Ed Roberts wrote on Facebook.

PUTNAM COUNTY
592 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

The US Chamber of Commerce has launched a small business fund to give $5,000 grants to businesses with between three and 20 employees. But to qualify, businesses must be located in zip codes in the bottom 80 percent of the country economically. The Highlands Current took a look at their territory on the Chamber’s website, and found that, alas, Cold Spring doesn’t qualify.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
537 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Forty-one new cases of COVID-19 at a county-owned nursing home were announced by the county health commissioner Friday. The 33 residents and eight staff members bring the total infected at the Care Center at Sunset Lake to 47. The employees have been self-isolating since getting their results, and the residents have been moved into an “isolation ward,” according to the county. Nursing students from SUNY Sullivan were being brought in to fill holes in staffing created by quarantines.

The county will hold a live Q&A session on Monday at 1pm, featuring legislature vice chair Mike Brooks, county manager Josh Potosek, public health director Nancy McGraw, and district attorney Meagan Galligan. Questions can be submitted by emailing ctownhall@co.sullivan.ny.us  or messaging the county’s Facebook page.

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

Project Resilience has delivered 50,000 meals to 7,000 households—or four percent of the county’s population—since its launch one month ago. The program, which relies on donations for funding, helps both residents and local businesses by paying restaurants to produce meals for residents in need, which are then delivered by volunteers to their homes. County executive Pat Ryan launched the program with the goal of raising $5 million. $2.2 million has been raised thus far.

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

An eleventh community member died of COVID-19 in the county, the local Department of Health announced Saturday. The county distinguishes between “community members” who have died, and a twelfth person from outside Columbia and Greene counties whose death was announced April 11. The non-community member’s death has not been included in the county’s running total.

Hudson, which really enjoys a good parade, has had three of them canceled or postponed since early April, according to the popular local blog Gossips of Rivertown. The June 13 Hudson Flag Day parade was canceled Saturday, while the Memorial Day Parade was canceled last Monday. The annual Pride Parade, which was scheduled for June 20, was postponed in early April until September 26.

County Department of Health emergency preparedness coordinator Chuck Kaiser said the county will get a better handle on how the virus is affecting the community after the expected arrival of 2,000 test kits this week. The first shipment was supposed to arrive last Thursday, but was delayed. In the interim, the county ordered an additional thousand tests. Columbia County, relying on test kits from the state, has only tested 882 residents to date.

Ambulance crews from the Greenport Rescue Squad—the designated COVID-19 transport team for Columbia Memorial Health, the only hospital in Columbia and Greene counties—must go through a one-hour decontamination process each time they transport a positive COVID-19 patient. The ambulances are aired out with fans, blasted with bleach, and zapped with ultraviolet radiation after each transport. When preparing to transport patients home or between hospitals, ambulance crews don biohazard suits with internal respirators, but during emergency runs to homes when they do not have time, the first responders wear face shields, N95 respirators, and surgical gowns. Ambulance crews are having to go through the disinfection process as often as three times per shift.

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

“After this virus is gone—and it will be gone—all that we love about Delaware County will remain.” Local filmmaker Jessica Vecchione released a short video on Friday, with help from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and a cast of local luminaries, urging everyone who loves the local landscape and the people who live in it to stay home and keep social distancing.

Local fire departments turned out on Friday in a show of support for frontline workers at Margaretville Memorial Hospital.

Delaware County is now counting four deaths due to COVID-19, two more than the count currently on the New York State coronavirus data page.

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

The first three deaths from the coronavirus in the county, which were announced via a down-page mention on the county’s COVID-19 webpage on Thursday night, were given further detail by the Catskill Daily Mail on Saturday. All three victims were hospitalized when they died, two in Albany and one at Columbia Memorial Health in Hudson. One was a hospice patient.

Two more people have since died of COVID-19 in the county, the local health department announced over the weekend. All five coronavirus deaths in Greene County have been announced since Thursday.

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

As of Friday, Schoharie County Public Health was counting 26 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. In a Facebook post, Public Health director Amy Gildemeister addressed the discrepancy between state and county numbers: “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. The NYS-DOH website continues to say that Schoharie County has 20 confirmed cases. We are not able to update that number to reflect the most current data that we have locally.”

The most recent edition of the Mountain Eagle’s weekly Schoharie County COVID-19 news podcast was released Sunday.

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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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