COVID-19 Update – Prez Primary Back On, Columbia & Greene Want More Tests Before Re-opening

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, May 6.

NEW YORK STATE
321,192 cases confirmed (2,239 new)
1,028,899 tests performed (21,859 new)
19,645 deaths (230 new)
69,867 hospitalizations (overall)
9,603 hospitalizations (current)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 165
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Tuesday’s big news: The New York State Democratic presidential primary is on again. First delayed to June 23, then canceled by Democrats on the state Board of Elections who cited danger to the public, the state primary was ordered to be reinstated by a federal judge who ruled in a 30-page opinion that the decision violated the rights of candidates and “deprived Democratic voters of the opportunity to elect delegates who could push their point of view” at the party’s upcoming convention. The ruling was handed down in response to a lawsuit by candidate Andrew Yang. Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District has ordered Bernie Sanders, along with Yang and other former contenders for the nomination, to be restored to the ballot.

There’s been a lot of talk of “peaks” and “plateaus,” but as anyone who’s been watching the pandemic closely knows, the numbers look very different depending on what geography you’re talking about. New York City, and New York State as a whole, are on a downward trend. Nationwide, current data from the CDC looks like a plateau. But if you take the data for the New York City metropolitan area out of the picture, cases in the rest of the country are still on the rise.

A model the White House leans on for policy guidance has just undergone a major revision, and it’s gotten substantially grimmer in response to recent loosening of social distance guidelines nationwide. The University of Washington’s IMHE model, which has evolved dramatically along with the pandemic as it “learns” from the latest data, is now predicting 134,475 US deaths by August 4, more than double its estimate from early April. There are many models that attempt to predict how the pandemic will respond to conditions and policies, and they forecast a range of very different scenarios—which is fine, because the goal of creating a model isn’t to predict the future. As The Atlantic’s Zeynep Tufekci argued persuasively last month, models aren’t crystal balls, they’re used to weigh the potential impact of different policy decisions, and ideally, to avoid disastrous ones. The IMHE model has gotten a lot of attention from the press and policymakers, but it has also come under fire from epidemiologists for flawed assumptions, Vox writes.

President Donald Trump gave an exclusive interview to the New York Post in which he called federal aid for states that have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus “blue state bailouts,” and told the paper that “all the states that need help—they’re run by Democrats in every case.” In his Tuesday briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo lashed out at Trump on state pandemic aid. “It doesn’t pick Democrats or Republicans. It kills Americans,” Cuomo said.

States that have seen few virus cases are getting far more federal dollars per victim, the Associated Press reports. Per capita winners in the scramble for $150 billion in federal aid funds: Alaska, which is getting $3.4 million per positive test, and Hawaii and Wyoming, with roughly $2 million per positive test. By contrast, hard-hit New York and New Jersey are receiving about $24,000 and $27,000 per positive test, respectively. Calculating aid dollars by cases arguably isn’t the best metric of fairness—the impacts of the pandemic and widespread shutdowns go far beyond people who have tested positive for the disease—but it does seem deeply unfair that the bulk of the federal money so far has gone to places where death and suffering have not been widespread.

Hotspot in Central New York: More than 120 positive cases in Madison and Oneida counties have been traced to Green Empire Farms, a greenhouse complex that employs several hundred workers. The news comes on the same day as a grim statistic from a Midwestern meat processor: 58 percent of workers at a Tyson meat factory in Iowa have tested positive. Last week, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to force meat plants to stay open during the pandemic, despite multiple outbreaks and reports of worker deaths from COVID-19.

State Senator James Skoufis, recently recovered from COVID-19, issued a statement Tuesday. “It has been 14 days since I began showing coronavirus symptoms, including fever, headaches, shaking chills, and exhaustion,” Skoufis wrote. “The past two weeks are the sickest I have ever felt and serve as a reminder that, no matter one’s age or underlying health, COVID-19 is a virus that ought to be taken with the utmost seriousness.” Skoufis is 32.

On Monday evening, New York State released new data on nursing home deaths that were presumed to be from COVID-19 but where residents died before they could be tested for the virus. The new statistics add roughly 1,700 deaths to the state’s count of the virus’s toll on nursing homes. Still not included in the data: Nursing home residents who died after being transferred to a hospital. LoHud.com reported Tuesday that there is a lot of variation in how different states are handling the reporting of nursing home cases and deaths, to the extreme frustration of worried family members.

Announced by New York State on Tuesday:

  • In Tuesday’s briefing, Cuomo announced a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a “blueprint” for education at the K-12 and collegiate levels, and how best to use technology to support students and teachers in the “new normal.”
  • The state is holding a contest for a 30-second ad promoting mask wearing, apparently inspired by Cuomo’s daughter Mariah telling the governor that he’s not “effectively communicating” the importance of wearing masks in public places. In his daily briefing, Cuomo said that “99 percent of the people are doing it,” which suggests that he hasn’t been to the Freshtown in Margaretville lately. In any case, interested New Yorkers who want to try their hand at making a public service announcement should visit WearAMask.NY.gov to learn more, unless they’re Mariah’s boyfriend. “The boyfriend can try to put in, he can submit a possible ad for consideration. The boyfriend will lose, but he could submit an ad, because I’m still governor, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Cuomo said.
  • Cuomo devoted a chunk of Tuesday’s briefing to a philosophical question: How much is a human life worth? “A human life is priceless, period. Our reopening plan doesn’t have a tradeoff,” he said. But we do put a value on human lives, in making policy decisions. And there is an answer, as far as the federal government is concerned: About $10 million. NPR’s Planet Money had a good segment last month on why we put dollar values on human lives at all; why those values went way, way up in the 1980s; and why the idea of treating young people as more valuable than old people is a non-starter.
  • Cuomo has extended an executive order allowing out-of-state healthcare professionals to practice in New York.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
12,144 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

More inclusive state figures of COVID-19 deaths in senior facilities suggest 94 residents have died in nursing homes and adult care facilities throughout the county since the pandemic began, nearly triple what was stated in previous figures. The new numbers, released late Monday, include residents who were presumed to have died of COVID-19 but were never tested. The new figures still only include nursing home and adult care facility residents who died at the facilities themselves, not residents who were transferred to hospitals before dying.

County executive Ed Day announced an immediate hiring freeze for all Rockland County government positions on Tuesday. This measure is the latest step taken by Day to mitigate the fiscal damage caused by the pandemic. “Based on the estimates of our finance department, we could be facing as much as a $56.3 million deficit for the 2020 budget,” Day said.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
30,240 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

A day after county executive George Latimer said Westchester was “past the point of flattening the curve,” there was a sudden spike in hospitalizations of county residents. Since Monday, 51 people have been hospitalized with the coronavirus, bringing the total up to 716. Latimer said Tuesday the county would see over the next few days if the spike was an aberration or the beginning of a new trend. However, the slow, downward trend of active cases continued—there are now 5,584 active cases in Westchester, which is down from 5,791 on Monday.

Taking suggestions from county residents on its Facebook page, Westchester County adapted its daily county map to distinguish between active and total cases in each Westchester town. Many county residents have noted the previous reporting of cases on the map was misleading to the reality of the coronavirus situation in the county, where it only reported total cases.

LoHud interviewed food truck proprietors in the lower Hudson Valley to see how they were adapting to corona-world. Food trucks are allowed to operate during New York State on PAUSE, but with the canceling of outdoor events, the businesses were still struggling. Michelle and Angelo DiFeo of White Plains-based Westchester Burger Food Truck and Graziella’s Italian Kitchen on Wheels have banded together with other food trucks to travel to specific neighborhoods, where they take orders via text and deliver food to residents’ doorsteps.

ORANGE COUNTY
9,144 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Senator James Skoufis announced that he is “fully recovered” from COVID-19 and was leaving self-isolation Tuesday, 14 days after first showing symptoms of the virus, as per CDC guidelines. Skoufis said he experienced fever, headaches, chills, and exhaustion. “The past two weeks are the sickest I have ever felt and serve as a reminder that, no matter one’s age or underlying health, COVID-19 is a virus that ought to be taken with the utmost seriousness,” the 32-year-old state senator said.

The county updated its COVID-19 dashboard to indicate 354 deaths from the virus, up 11 from Monday. Thirty-four people have died from the coronavirus in Orange County so far in May.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
3,151 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Live sports aren’t exactly a major deal across the Hudson Valley, but the Hudson Valley Renegades, a Minor League baseball team, have been a staple in Poughkeepsie since 1994. But with the season in doubt, players and fans alike are left in limbo. The Poughkeepsie Journal checked in with the Renegades and the New York Boulders, who play in Pomona and were set to join the Independent Frontier League this year before that league canceled its season.

PUTNAM COUNTY
1,031 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

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

SULLIVAN COUNTY
984 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

The union representing some of the county’s employees has signed a memorandum of agreement with county manager Josh Potosek to settle a dispute over temporary layoffs made during the pandemic. The county temporarily laid off 78 employees, who will now continue to receive health insurance benefits and accrue time off.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said Tuesday that she is opposed to any summer camps opening in the state. The registered nurse said it would be impossible to keep social distancing standards at the camps. The decision is ultimately up to the state.

Cornell Cooperative Extension is partnering with Sullivan Allies Leading Together (SALT), local schools, and the Sullivan County government to distribute food to vulnerable populations throughout the county. SALT delivers more than 2,000 meals each week through the Sullivan Fresh Market-on-the-Move.

ULSTER COUNTY
1,357 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

A proposed Kingston law meant to educate tenants and landlords about the differing state and federal eviction moratoria during the pandemic will be introduced in the city’s Common Council Tuesday night. The law, authored by Ninth Ward Alderwoman Michele Hirsch, seeks information on whether landlords’ mortgages are federally backed. The federal eviction moratorium, which lasts until July 25, applies to these properties, while the state eviction moratorium, which lasts until June 20, applies to rentals with mortgages backed by private lenders. A notice will be sent out to all rental providers on the city’s Landlord Registry informing them about the differing lengths of the moritoria prior to the law being voted on by the full Common Council.

County executive Pat Ryan announced on Tuesday that Ulster County will join regional leaders to form a seven-county Hudson Valley Reopening Workgroup. The group will look to coordinate a regional approach to responsibly and deliberately reopen the local economy by sharing ideas, data, concerns, and best practices.

Ryan also announced that 21 of Ulster County’s 44 COVID-19 deaths were nursing home residents—16 at Ten Broeck Commons in Lake Katrine, and five at Wingate at Ulster in Highland. At a Facebook live town hall, Ryan said the county health department will reach out to all ulster senior living facilities to coordinate a COVID-19 response with testing and personal protective equipment.

The Ulster County SPCA began receiving animals from New York City whose owners have died or become severely ill with the coronavirus. The shelter received four cats and a guinea pig, five of 140 pets moved to upstate SPCAs because of the pandemic. The critters will be quarantined for 14 days, then offered for adoption.

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

Lawmakers in Greene and Columbia counties called on the state to supply them with more test kits Monday, urging no further steps be taken to reopen the economy before this happens. “For us to be able to qualify to reopen, we have to do more testing,” Columbia County Board of Supervisors chairman Matt Murell said. “We open as a region, it’s not done county by county. It’s based on the number of cases, the number of hospital beds, a number of factors.” One of Governor Cuomo’s criteria for a region to reopen is having the ability to test 30 out of every 1,000 residents per month.

After additional testing, 70 residents at The Grand at Barnwell—nearly one-third of its population—were confirmed to have COVID-19, the county Department of Health announced Tuesday. Twenty staff members have also tested positive.

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

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

GREENE COUNTY
166 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
45 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 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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