COVID-19 Update – Westchester’s Curve Flattens, CMH Furloughs 125 Workers

A worker in a biohazard suit at a testing site at Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie.

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 Wednesday, April 22.

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
251,690 cases confirmed (4,178 new)
649,325 tests performed (15,464 new)
14,828 deaths (481 new)
57,103 hospitalizations (overall)
16,076 hospitalizations (current)
5,016 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 129
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump met face to face on Tuesday (presumably, at least six feet apart; we haven’t seen any photos of the summit). Cuomo called the meeting “productive,” telling MSNBC: “The big issue was testing as everybody knows that’s going to be the next step as we go forward.” The governor has repeatedly called on the Trump administration to assist with testing and to use federal authority to coordinate the complex international manufacturing and logistics efforts involved.

After announcing on Twitter late Monday evening that he would “suspend immigration” entirely via executive order because of the pandemic, Trump has issued a temporary halt to issuing green cards, but has backed off of plans to suspend guest worker programs after an outcry from the business community, The New York Times reports.

Even with New York City including suspected deaths from the coronavirus in its total, which added more than 3,700 fatalities to a revised count last week, the city may be missing thousands of deaths. Disaster fatality counts are usually compiled by finding everyone who was known to have died from the disaster, but a second method involves taking the total number of people who died during and after the disaster from any cause and comparing it to how many people would have normally died during this time period. This “excess deaths” method catches people who died indirectly from the disaster, which can be important in catastrophes where getting individual counts is difficult and many people die during the disaster’s aftermath. This method was famously used to calculate the death toll for Hurricane Maria in 2017. While the official death toll was 64, the “excess deaths” method revealed an additional 4,645 people died during this time, many as a result of the collapse of Puerto Rico’s electricity infrastructure. In New York State, counties generally only count a death if the person has tested positive for COVID-19, though many people suspected to have died of the virus could not receive tests. When New York City added these suspected deaths, its toll rose by about 50 percent. Still, in separate analyses, The Economist and The New York Times used the excess deaths method to calculate additional deaths during the outbreak and compared them to the revised NYC count. The Economist found 118 more deaths from March 14 to April 3 than in the count, while The New York Times found 4,000 more deaths during a broader period, from March 11 to April 18. These excess deaths could have been from COVID-19, or could be related, such as people with other health issues who died because they were unable to receive treatment due to the strain on medical systems.

A recent larger study on use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat male COVID-19 patients in veterans’ hospitals found that it had no benefit; in fact, the death rate among patients who were given the drug was more than double those who got more standard treatment. The drug was touted by Trump as a potential treatment for COVID-19, based on a French study that reported encouraging results but had significant limitations, but many doctors have been skeptical of its benefits. Further trials are underway.

A few weeks into homeschooling efforts, some parents just can’t keep up, especially in households where all of the adults are working. The Associated Press took a sympathetic look this week at families where homeschooling just isn’t working out. “We don’t have the luxury right now to not be working. Some people aren’t working at all and they can make time to do this stuff, but that for us is just not an option,” said one Pennsylvania mother.

Announced by New York State on Tuesday:

  • Hospitals in areas not at high risk for an imminent COVID-19 surge will be allowed to resume elective surgeries, in an effort to ease the financial burden on hospitals that are not seeing waves of COVID-19 patients. “You have many hospitals that are very quiet. Some hospitals are actually laying off people, believe it or not, in the middle of this because they have no patients,” Cuomo said. [Ed. note: For more on that, see the Columbia County section, below.]
  • The New York State Department of Health will issue guidelines for resuming elective surgeries. To be eligible, hospitals must be located in counties where overall capacity is more than 25 percent for the county, and there have been fewer than 10 hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the past 10 days; those requirements apply also to individual hospitals. Patients must also test negative for COVID-19 before undergoing elective surgery. No elective surgeries will be allowed in Bronx, Queens, Rockland, Nassau, Clinton, Yates, Westchester, Albany, Richmond, Schuyler, Kings, Suffolk, New York, Dutchess, Sullivan, Ulster, Erie, Orange, or Rensselaer counties for the time being.
  • In response to a reporter’s question about frustrations with the state unemployment system, Cuomo said that there were now 1,000 people working to take unemployment calls. “The bad news is, there were so many unemployment claims that it has collapsed the unemployment department’s system, their website system, their phone system,” Cuomo said. “The good news is this: You’re going to get the same benefit anyway. It’s not like it’s costing you money. Right? I know it’s frustrating, but once you qualify, the qualification is retroactive, so you’re going to get the same benefit.”
  • The USNS Comfort is being sent home from New York Harbor, Cuomo announced in a special Tuesday evening briefing. Need for the hospital ship never reached the worst projections, but 179 patients were treated on board. “I believe Comfort not only brought comfort but also saved lives,” Cuomo said.
  • New York will take a regional approach to reopening, the governor said in Tuesday’s daily briefing. “We’ve always talked about the economy of the state in terms of different regions; Manhattan is not Buffalo. Let’s use that same regional template when we talk about reopening.” On the topic, Gannett reporter Jon Campbell chimed in on Twitter: “He’s using the same regions as the Regional Economic Development Councils, a pet project of his.” The REDC scheme divides the state into 10 economic development zones. Hudson Valley and Catskills counties fall into four of them: Mid-Hudson, Capital Region, Mohawk Valley, and Southern Tier. It is unclear how a regional approach to reopening within New York State would work with the seven-state pact to coordinate economic reopening in the Northeast, announced last week.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
9,568 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Three members of the same family succumbed to the coronavirus this month: Charles Bullock, 80, his wife, Lois Bullock, also 80, and their daughter, Chandra Lori Bullock-Ogburn, aged 60. Charles was formerly the chief of the Central Nyack Fire Department, and the Piermont Fire Department and police held a parade Tuesday to mark the Bullocks’ granddaughter’s birthday, passing by the family home.

Rockland County’s COVID-19 death toll rose by five percent between Monday and Tuesday, and overall cases increased by one percent. There have been a total of 401 deaths in the county since the outbreak began. There are also now six zip codes in the county in which the percentage of the population who have tested positive for COVID-19 is at or above three percent. Overall, of the tests administered in Rockland to this point, 42 percent have come back positive, compared to nearby counties: Westchester (33 percent), Orange (34 percent), and Putnam (27 percent).

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
24,656 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

Westchester County executive George Latimer said the county is “seeing a flattening of the curve” as the number of hospitalizations continued to drop and the number of active cases dipped below 10,000 for the first time in 10 days.

Latimer received permission from Governor Cuomo through the modification of an existing executive order to go forward with his plan to waive late fees for county residents and businesses for their property taxes. “I am concerned about the financial pressures that the residents of this county are under,” Latimer said. “We can, we should, and now, we are, offering them some financial relief by waiving the late payments for the county taxes now due.” The executive order allows for Latimer to accept less than 60 percent of the taxes due on May 25 from towns and cities, as long as the municipalities waive residents’ fees for the late payment of property taxes up to July 15, 2020. To have the fee waived, the resident or business must certify economic hardship caused by COVID-19.

More than 100 Yonkers city employees, including 27 police officers, are out of work due to COVID-19 or because they are under quarantine, according to mayor Mike Spano.

ORANGE COUNTY
6,561 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Two more residents at Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation died from COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the total there to 24, but at least half of them were short-term residents, meaning they had been moved to the nursing home from hospitals, according to Valley View administrator Laurence LaDue. Valley View is the second-largest nursing home in a five-county area.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
2,331 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Fishkill Correctional Facility has the highest number of COVID-19 cases of all the New York State prisons, according to state numbers released Monday: 46, though 10 have recovered. However, only 350 tests have been administered among the state system’s 47,000 inmates. Nearly 800 corrections workers have tested positive.

The Dutchess Responds Fund distributed a second round of grants, totaling $34,000, to local nonprofit organizations assisting with the pandemic response, county executive Marc Molinaro and Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley interim president and CEO Nevill Smythe announced Tuesday. This follows the initial round of grants, announced earlier this month, which awarded more than $50,000 in funds.

PUTNAM COUNTY
605 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

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

SULLIVAN COUNTY
555 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

In response to community feedback, the county’s COVID-19 statistics dashboard now includes a map that “generally displays” where county residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 live. On the map, the county provides ranges of positive cases in each town instead of specific case counts “to protect privacy for the low number of residents who have tested positive in many of the county’s zip codes,” it wrote in a Facebook post announcing the map.

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

Plans for a new testing facility were announced by county executive Pat Ryan on Tuesday. The site will be the third in the county and will be located in midtown Kingston, which has a large Latino population, to respond to the virus’ disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities. The Ulster County Human Rights Commission is also developing a plan to “work with these communities to better ensure equity and access to information, treatment, and other resources,” according to the county executive’s office.

Small businesses in Kingston impacted by the shutdown are eligible for microloans of up to $7,500 through the Kingston Local Development Corporation. No payment will be due for six months and there are no application or processing fees. The application can be found on the Kingston city website.

A Ulster County Legislature committee endorsed spending $137,000 to upgrade a vacant county-owned building into a COVID-19 recovery center Tuesday, though two legislators dissented, arguing the county was already facing a giant budget gap and that the building would not likely be needed. The money would be spent on running utilities to the building. Legislature minority leader Ken Ronk argued it was important to get the building sale-ready regardless of whether it would be used for coronavirus patients. The full legislature must still vote to spend the money.

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

Columbia Memorial Health (CMH), the only hospital in Columbia and Greene counties, temporarily furloughed 125 employees Tuesday. CMH president Jay Callahan said the hospital’s revenue had been cut in half by the cancelation of elective surgeries by state executive order and by people avoiding the hospital for noncoronavirus maladies. At the same time, the cost of personal protective equipment skyrocketed. The employees will continue to receive health insurance. An interim stimulus bill that includes $75 billion in funding for hospitals is working its way through Congress, but it is unclear how this will affect the furloughs.

Columbia County is in the midst of a second opioid overdose spike since the beginning of the New York on PAUSE order. In all, Columbia County has seen 19 overdoses since March 1. The county reports the uptick is likely connected to the cancelation or postponement of events, holidays, and closing of schools and many workplaces. “This incredible reduction in human physical contact that is saving the public’s health is also putting those in active addiction and those in recovery at risk,” a Columbia County Department of Health press release said Tuesday.

State Senator Daphne Jordan wrote Governor Cuomo on Tuesday asking him to reopen the Lebanon Valley Speedway so racers could “test and tune their cars at this beloved outdoor raceway,” according to a press release. The letter, cowritten by assemblyman Jake Ashby, is part of the pair’s push to open New York on a regional basis. The speedway would not be open to spectators.

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

A recently released Cornell study ranked New York State counties by how vulnerable they are to a localized COVID-19 outbreak, based on factors like age, living arrangements, and rates of underlying health conditions. Delaware County was ranked sixth overall for demographic vulnerability, based on the county’s proportion of elderly and disabled residents, multigenerational households, and people living in group quarters. “While the Metro NYC area has borne the brunt of NYS’s crisis, the parts of the state that are likely to be most vulnerable are in rural upstate, particularly in the Adirondack and Chautauqua-Allegheny regions,” the study’s authors wrote.

Members of the public are being encouraged to attend a Delaware County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Wednesday, April 22 at 1pm via Zoom.

SUNY Delhi is hosting a free “Dairy Drive Thru” for Delaware County residents on Thursday, April 23, from 3 to 6pm. Drive to the main SUNY Delhi entrance, follow the signs, stay in your car, and you will be handed a bag of free dairy products.

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

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

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 pandemic is changing many aspects of society, perhaps none more than how we interact with people. The rise of video-conferencing apps has enabled workplaces to operate remotely, friends and families to see each other’s digital visages, and politicians to inform and hear from their constituents. But many of these apps were never designed for such widespread use, and there have been increasing reports of security flaws. The River’s latest feature breaks the news of two virtual town halls held by Rockland County Congressional candidates Mondaire Jones and Evelyn Farkas last week, which were “Zoombombed” by online trolls who entered the unsecured channels and broadcast racist comments and child pornography.

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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