COVID-19 Update – 3% of HV Residents Have Antibodies, Active Cases in Columbia Continue to Rise

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, May 4.

NEW YORK STATE
316,415 cases confirmed (3,438 new)
985,911 tests performed (26,840 new)
19,189 deaths (280 new)
68,736 hospitalizations (overall)
9,786 hospitalizations (current)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 163
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

The state wrapped up its antibody study, concluding from testing 15,000 people at grocery stores and community centers across the state that 12.3 percent of New Yorkers have antibodies to the virus. New York City had the highest numbers, with 19.9 percent having antibodies, followed by Rockland and Westchester with 13.8 percent testing positive. The rest of the Hudson Valley had three percent test positive, lower than Long Island or even Western New York, but higher than areas further upstate. It is not known whether having antibodies makes people immune to reinfection, either temporarily or permanently, but scientists hope that having an immune response to the virus will confer some protective effect. There are still many questions about the accuracy of antibody tests themselves, and about their value—whether to individuals looking to make decisions about their own health, or to policymakers seeking to use them to understand the extent of the pandemic and guide policy for the reopening of businesses and society.

More Americans died of COVID-19 in April than during 15 years of the Vietnam War, The Washington Post noted in a weekend feature on the month now in the rear-view mirror. April was a month of rough stories; the paper tells a few of them, including 50-year-old Shani Evans, who refused a ventilator in terror and went home to tough out COVID-19 alone, and her doctor Pete Paganussi, who starts every shift in the Jefferson Medical Center ER by reading the nurses the 91st Psalm. “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”

New York State may be past the peak of the first wave, but nationwide, the US had its deadliest day yet on Friday, May 1, according to data on COVID-19 deaths published by the World Health Organization.

Executive power during a declared emergency is heady stuff. In the past two months, with broad powers conferred by disaster and the state legislature mostly idle, governor Andrew Cuomo has issued more than 25 executive orders and changed 262 laws, the Albany Times Union reports. Some state legislators are beginning to chafe at the governor’s unbridled display of power. Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, a Democrat from Saratoga County, told the paper: “By all measure, we are past that moment of crisis and we’re turning to some form of normalcy. It is time, in my opinion, to go back to the normal policy-making process.”

The Buffalo News reports that after nearly two months of taking a back seat to Cuomo, the state legislature is beginning to reassert itself. Led by legislators in New York City, where the pandemic has struck hardest, the state Senate and Assembly are weighing more than 60 proposed COVID-19-related bills, ranging from paid leave for bereavement to consumer debt relief. Also being discussed: New taxes on millionaires and stock transfers to ease massive cuts to the state budget. Now that the legislators can vote remotely, there’s no need for the legislative session to end prematurely, said Senate deputy majority leader Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens.

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

  • The state Department of Financial Services is requiring health insurers to cover mental health care at no cost to essential workers on the front lines. In an emergency regulation, the department lists workers covered by the declaration: grocery store workers, first responders, healthcare providers, teachers, janitors, trash collectors, bank tellers, childcare workers, clergy, and more. Not included: news reporters, although the news media was explicitly deemed “essential” in March.
  • New York State is down to about 1,000 new COVID-19 hospitalizations a day, a number reduced from a high of around 1,300, but still a significant burden on hospitals. In an effort to further lower new hospitalizations, the state is making an effort to collect more targeted information about where new cases are coming from, Cuomo said in Friday’s briefing.
  • All schools and colleges in New York State will be closed for the rest of the academic year
  • New York has entered into a multistate pact to develop a regional supply chain for personal protective equipment, medical equipment, and testing supplies, Cuomo announced in Sunday’s briefing. The seven states in the agreement, whose governors announced in April that they would work together on reopening plans, are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
12,025 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Urban Electric Power, a battery-manufacturing facility located in Pearl River, partially transformed its manufacturing line to produce hand sanitizer for the tri-state area. The gel-based sanitizer is 70 percent ABV and FDA approved. Those in need can purchase direct from Urban Electric Power’s website for delivery, or place an order through the company’s email, info@urbanelectricpower.com, to schedule curbside pickup.

Rockland County executive Ed Day cautioned that the county could be heading toward a “financial tsunami” as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. “This may make the recession of 2008, where we plummeted into a massive deficit and suffered the worst fiscal collapse in the history of our county, look like child’s play,” Day said.

Early reports from Rockland County parks, which were opened to the public Friday after being closed April 7, suggested people were observing social-distancing guidelines and wearing masks, according to a spokesman for the county executive. Clarkstown town supervisor George Hoehmann said there had been no complaints as of Saturday morning at Rockland Lake State Park, which opened this weekend after a two-week closure.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
29,884 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

Westchester County executive George Latimer said the county was almost “halfway down the slope” as active cases and hospitalizations continued to decline. There were 6,756 active cases as of Friday, down from a high of 11,000. About nine percent of the county’s entire population has been tested, with nearly 30,000 results coming back positive. The death toll in the county was 1,086 as of Sunday.

Latimer received a donation of 50,000 protective masks for Westchester County’s frontline workers from the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association (GNYADA). The donations are part of a larger donation by the GNYADA to 12 different counties in New York State.

A walk-up COVID-19 testing site will open Monday in New Rochelle, where the known community spread of the virus was identified in early March. A testing site has operated at Glen Island Park since March, but it was only accessible by car. The new test site will be located adjacent to Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital, which will operate the site.

The Department of Economic Development Crisis Advisory team has identified a series of resources to help business owners remain viable during and after the pandemic. On the Economic Development Catalyst website, there is a new page called Events, on which virtual events and recordings of events are posted on the topics that the recent Business Survey identified as most needed by the business community. Future webinars will cover topics such as, “analyzing your cash flow,” “how to retain and win new customers,” and “social media tactics that will work now.”

ORANGE COUNTY
8,967 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Local meat producers are seeing a huge surge in demand as customers stock up in an effort to avoid supermarkets where social distancing is difficult and supply of meat is limited. “The demand has far, far exceeded supply,” said Tunis Sweetman Jr. of Sweetman’s Farm, in Warwick. Sweetman said supplies that normally would last two to three weeks are now sold out in about two days.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
3,086 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

On Friday, county executive Marc Molinaro announced “Restarting Dutchess,” a multi-pronged initiative to appropriately reopen the county’s economic and governmental operations. The initiative creates four executive-level teams to guide it, which are made possible by partnerships between county government leaders, members of the Dutchess County Legislature, and several countywide elected officials.

PUTNAM COUNTY
1,013 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

The county health department will run a drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic on Tuesday, May 5, from 11am until 1:30pm. To get tested, you must be an essential worker who has had direct contact with the public or who works at an essential organization within the county, and has a history of COVID-19 symptoms, current symptoms, or has been in close contact with a positive case. To schedule an appointment, take the survey on the department’s website, after which you will be called to receive an appointment time.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
951 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

County Public Health Services announced a COVID-19 testing site in South Fallsburg for Monday, May 4, from 8:30am until 4pm. Anyone who has completed the pre-registration process will be tested; no walk-ins will be accepted, but if there is enough of a demand, another testing clinic will be scheduled. The tests will be administered at the parking lot next to Brian Ingber Park and Landau’s supermarket, at the corner of Griff Court and Railroad Plaza Extension in South Fallsburg.

Legislature vice chair Mike Brooks, county manager Josh Potosek, and Public Health director Nancy McGraw will be joined by Health and Family Services commissioner Stephanie Brown to answer citizens’ questions during a Facebook Live Q&A session on Monday, May 4, at 1pm.

Speaking to county legislators on Wednesday, Sullivan County clerk Russell Reeves warned of the impact of staffing cuts to the county clerk’s office, which have reduced his staff from 14 to four. “The ramifications of these cuts will all but paralyze the local economy of Sullivan County,” he said. Reeves told the Sullivan County Democrat that “the office will continue the best we can, but things will have to come to a screeching halt.”

ULSTER COUNTY
1,341 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

Nonprofits in Kingston have until Wednesday to submit letters of intent to receive funding for COVID-19 recovery projects. About $440,000 was made available to the city through the federal CARES Act in the form of additional Community Development Block Grants funding. The city is not required to go through the traditional application process when distributing the funds, and nonprofits are encouraged to email Brenna Robinson at brobinson@kingston-ny.gov. The proposals must be “for projects, programs, or services that will help our community fight this pandemic and recover quickly,” according to the Office of Kingston mayor Steve Noble. The beneficiaries of the proposal must primarily be low- to moderate-income city residents.

Five more people died of COVID-19 in the county over the weekend, according to county figures.

Ulster County businesses received almost $120 million in the first round of the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program, Ulster County executive Pat Ryan announced Saturday in a press release.

The Pine Bush High School’s production of “Mamma Mia,” postponed because of the pandemic, is finding a new audience on YouTube. Cast members recorded audio and video of a rendition of the title song from their homes, which was then edited together. Though students still hope to perform the full musical live, with 5,000 views, the video is reaching a far wider audience.

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

A drive-through testing site will open for one day at the Columbia-Greene Community College campus in Greenport on Friday. The site will use 100 test kits out of a batch of 1,000 bought from a private vendor; the rest of the kits have been distributed to Columbia Memorial Health clinics, nursing homes, and first responders, or will be used at subsequent pop-up clinics, according to the county health department. The site is by-appointment only, and priority will be given to those with symptoms. To be considered for a test, visit the Columbia County Department of Health website and fill out the form. The batch of 1,000 tests kits, one of two ordered by the county, was made possible by private donations.

A fourteenth county resident has died of COVID-19, the Department of Health announced Sunday. The number of active cases in the county continues its upward trend. There are now 199, down two cases from the all-time high on Saturday, but significantly higher than just a week ago, when active cases stood at 152, according to county data compiled by IMBY.

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

Like their peers across the nation, local dairy farmers in Delaware County are having a tough time with the volatile milk market caused by the pandemic. The Daily Star talked to Barb Hanselman of Del-Rose Farm in Bloomville, who said in 38 years of business, 2020 was shaping up to be the worst year yet. One local bright spot: Clark Dairy Farms in Delhi, which recently opened a creamery to pasteurize and bottle its own milk, just in time for the pandemic to strike. The force behind the new creamery is 25-year-old Kyle Clark, a fifth-generation farmer who co-owns the farm with his father, Thomas. So far, he’s optimistic about the venture, which has enabled the farm to brand its own products and sell directly to consumers. “We’re in the second month of processing for our local customers and we’re producing about 1,000 gallons a week,” he told the Daily Star. “That’s a lot better than we thought we’d be doing. All our restaurant clients pretty much stopped buying milk, so it’s scary, but we’re doing really well and selling more than we thought we’d be. I couldn’t imagine a better community to start a small business in.”

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

Greene County will distribute cloth masks to the public on Monday, May 4, from 10am to noon at Windham Wastewater Treatment plant on South Street, Hunter town offices on Route 23A, and Village of Coxsackie offices on Mansion Street. The county will distribute more masks on Tuesday, May 5, from 1 to 3pm at the parking lot at the corner of Water and Bridge Streets in Catskill and the mental-health parking lot off Mountain Avenue in Cairo.

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

All Schoharie County offices will remain closed to the general public, through May 15, according to an announcement from county Board of Supervisors chair Bill Federice.

Despite the state’s mask requirements for the general public, which went into effect April 15, many upstate New Yorkers are still not wearing masks when out in public places. In a lengthy Facebook post on Sunday, Middleburgh’s Valley Market defended its policy of letting customers shop with no masks. “When it comes to customers, we cannot make someone put one on, we can ask, but we cannot make them, that is not legal,” they wrote. “We can ask them to social distance and to be cognizant of others, but again, we cannot make someone wear a mask. On top of that, we will not kick a customer out of the store for not wearing a mask. Everyone has the right to shop, eat, feed their families, stay healthy etc. and we won’t be the ones to shut anyone out.”

OF INTEREST?

The River and The Other Hudson Valley are 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.

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.

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