COVID-19 Update – Majority of U.S. Cases Sprang From N.Y., Antibody Tests Available in Region

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, May 8.

NEW YORK STATE
327,649 cases confirmed (3,671 new)
1,089,916 tests performed (33,995 new)
20,828 deaths (951 new) *see explanation for spike below
71,152 hospitalizations (overall)
8,665 hospitalizations (current)
2,976 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 168
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

The COVID-19 fire now raging across the US was mostly ignited by sparks from New York, according to a recent study that used travel histories, disease models, and small random mutations in the virus that act as a genetic “signature” to do detective work on where the virus went, and when. One scientist told The New York Times that New York acted like “Grand Central Station” for the virus. Based on his research, Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, says that roughly 60 to 65 percent of the viruses sequenced in the US can be traced to New York, and were brought there by travelers from Europe; the rest mainly spread from Washington State, and were brought by travelers from China.

A dramatic one-day spike in deaths on Wednesday evening was the result of the state reconciling data from nursing homes, not a massive 24-hour rise in fatalities, according to an explanation posted on the New York State Department of Health’s coronavirus data page. A link on the state site leads to a table with the updated figures on deaths of confirmed COVID-19-positive residents at nursing homes and adult care facilities, as well as “presumed” COVID-19 deaths at those same facilities. Not included in the data: Nursing home residents who were brought to hospitals and died there.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement with Zoom to beef up security and user protections for the service, which has been plagued recently with “Zoombombing” attacks by trolls dropping racist, anti-Semitic, and pornographic content on unsuspecting classrooms, political town halls, and other groups of Zoomers. Zoom has agreed to enhance its encryption protocols, stop sharing user data with Facebook, and work on enabling users to report violations of the service’s acceptable use policy, among other steps. Zoom recently acquired an encryption and security startup called Keybase, CNBC reported Thursday, a step that brings more expertise on privacy, security, and user protections in-house at the rapidly growing company.

Most court proceedings are still on hold because of the pandemic, but in the next few weeks, New York’s state court system will make an exception for filings under the Child Victims Act, a law passed in January of 2019 that gives child sexual abuse victims a one-year window to bring lawsuits against their abusers in situations where the state statute of limitations had already expired. The one-year window expires in August, and the pandemic court shutdowns have intensified the time pressure on litigants. The New York Law Journal, which reported the move to open courts to CVA filings, writes that there is still much confusion over whether the one-year window will be extended. Victim advocates expect a powerful group of institutional opponents to the CVA to challenge any effort to extend the window, lawyer James Marsh told the legal paper: “‘They are going to litigate every comma,’ he said, arguing the uncertainty could become a ‘field day’ for defendants looking to escape liability.”

New York State’s requirement that regions have broad testing in place before reopening—30 tests per 1,000 residents per month, Cuomo said Monday—is going to be tough for rural counties to meet, the Albany Times Union reports. “Rural residents usually have to drive up to an hour away for tests because counties such as Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, and Washington have no testing sites. Other counties like Essex, Montgomery, Saratoga, and Schoharie only have in-county hospitals or doctors available to symptomatic patients, where a copay is often required. Columbia County will have its first free testing on Friday for its residents, but it will only administer 100 tests; and those kits were purchased by a county resident who wanted to save others from having to drive to Albany, Kingston or Poughkeepsie.”

Senator James Seward wrote to several state Senate committees demanding an investigation into the state Department of Labor over its handling of unemployment claims during the pandemic. Residents have reported calling the department’s unemployment line hundreds of times over the course of weeks without anyone picking up. Seward also called for an audit of the department’s failures by the state comptroller, including its sending of unemployment paperwork—which included social security numbers—to the wrong people.

Another 3.2 million new unemployment claims were filed last week, bringing the total since mid-March to 33 million. One-fifth of the American labor force has filed for unemployment in that time.

Announced by New York State on Thursday:

  • A state moratorium on evictions of both residential and commercial tenants will be extended until August 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday. The state is also moving to ban late fees for missed rent payments during the moratorium, and to require landlords to let renters use their security deposits to cover rent payments. Cuomo’s rent policy has come under fire from tenant advocates who say that the moratorium will only delay evictions, not prevent them, and who fear that the expiration of the moratorium will see a wave of evictions across the state. “I hope it gives families a deep breath. Nothing can happen until August 20 and then we’ll figure out between now and August 20 what the situation is,” Cuomo said. In the meantime, some state legislators are working on tougher tenant protection legislation.
  • More antibody research results are in, and Thursday’s numbers revealed another surprising result: Healthcare workers are infected at lower rates than the public at large. The state tested about 27,000 healthcare workers, and found that in three outbreak hotspots—Westchester County, New York City, and Long Island—the rate who tested positive for antibodies to the novel coronavirus was lower than that of the general population in the area. The difference was smallest in Long Island, where 11.1 percent of healthcare workers surveyed had antibodies, compared to 11.4 percent of the general population. Larger differences were found in Westchester, with 6.8 percent of healthcare workers and 13.8 percent of the general population testing positive, and in New York City, with 12.2 percent of healthcare workers and 19.9 percent of the general population testing positive. Cuomo said the results highlight the importance of making sure healthcare workers have access to proper PPE, and show that masks and hand sanitation work to protect against infection.
  • The Nourish New York initiative, launched Monday to get New York State farm products that have been tied up in logistics to food banks in dire need of food, is underway. The initiative so far is getting products from 2,100 upstate farms to 50 food banks and soup kitchens, and serving about 20,000 households, Cuomo said Thursday.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
12,280 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

The number of people hospitalized in the county continued to fall Thursday, with 181 people at hospitals confirmed or presumed to have COVID-19. The number was 342 on April 8, when the county started releasing data on hospitalizations.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
30,708 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

County executive George Latimer was joined by religious leaders on Thursday in Greenburgh to kick off a new program to distribute masks to religious communities in need. Masks will be donated to three major houses of worship in the Fairview section of Greenburgh for distribution to their congregants.

There will be a blood drive on Friday, May 22, from 10:30am until 3:30pm at St. Augustine Church in Larchmont. The Red Cross is urging those healthy to donate in order to ensure hospital patients have a steady supply of available blood.

ORANGE COUNTY
9,328 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

The county’s Department of Public Works collaborated with the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to load 6,100 pounds of fresh and non-perishable food for the Easter Seals Project Discovery in Port Jervis.

Starting Monday, May 11, the Rite Aid at 701 Route 211 East in Wallkill will offer free nasal self-swab testing for COVID-19 at its pharmacy drive-through. Rite Aid will be able to handle between 50-100 self-swab tests per day at the location. Starting Sunday, anyone age 18 or older, with or without symptoms, may schedule an appointment online. Participants should receive results in two to three days, and results will be reported to the county health department.

Cornerstone Family Healthcare now offers antibody testing for COVID-19 to determine if someone has had an immune response to the virus. The testing is available to anyone who has been diagnosed with or had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, for whom it has been at least 21 days since they developed symptoms. Cornerstone recommends antibody testing for anyone who had COVID-19 and is interested in plasma donation, essential and frontline workers, people who need a test to return to work, and people who had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within the past three months who were not tested.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
3,233 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Spectrum News NY1 is calling Fishkill Correctional Facility “the frontline of coronavirus in New York prisons,” after an investigation into the growing numbers of infected inmates and staffers at the prison—and a few freshly dug graves on the grounds, photographed by a source who sent pictures to the TV station. So far, 85 Fishkill inmates have tested positive, more than any other prison in the state, and five have died. Making matters worse, NY1 reports, COVID-19-positive inmates are being transferred to Fishkill from other prisons and jails, despite state guidelines that claim transfers stopped at the beginning of the pandemic “except for medical or exigent circumstances.” Inmates who test positive at Fishkill are being kept in solitary confinement. “It’s inhumane. Shows a gross lack of sensitivity to their plight,” former Fishkill inmate Anthony Dixon told the station. “It’s something they would not have even done to an animal if the animal was sick and was about ready to die.”

The county legislature will vote on whether to allocate up to $100,000 to local emergency food nonprofits after the proposal was advanced by committee in a unanimous vote. The legislature’s Democratic caucus, which created the proposal, emphasized the need for the money to go to feeding school children during the summer, when the free school lunch program is only operational in four of the county’s communities. Organizations such as Meals on Wheels and Dutchess Outreach were reporting triple the need for food while the county program Dutchess Responds was set to run out of funds by late June without major donations, according to the caucus. The county legislature will vote on the proposal Monday.

In an effort to streamline information and reduce confusion, Dutchess County’s COVID-19 Community Impact Dashboard will reflect new source data for several key data points, including deaths, starting May 8. The dashboard will use data from the state Department of Health to report the total number of confirmed cases, tests completed, and total deaths. This follows a large influx of fatality data received this week, primarily reported by local hospitals, that significantly increased the total number of COVID-19 related deaths.

Poughkeepsie City superintendent Eric Rosser said the district could fill a deficit created in part by the pandemic by laying off 40 district employees during a school board meeting Wednesday. The district faces a $3 million gap due to BOCES going $1.5 million over budget with spending on students with special needs, and an expected $1.5 million state aid cut. The school board laid off one employee, the supervisor of transportation, at the meeting.

During his COVID-19 virtual town hall on Thursday, county executive Marc Molinaro discussed the opening of local summer children’s camp programs this year, with the goal of enabling camps to open by July 1. The Department of Behavioral & Community Health is developing guidance to assist summer camp programs with health and safety plans. Programs will be required to submit these plans with their permit applications. Summer day camps provide childcare options for many working parents and will be an important part in reopening the economy come summer.

Starting Monday, May 11, the Rite Aid at 709 Main Street in Poughkeepsie will offer free nasal self-swab testing for COVID-19 at its pharmacy drive through. Rite Aid will be able to handle between 50-100 tests per day at the location. Starting Sunday, anyone age 18 or older, with or without symptoms, can schedule an appointment online. Participants should receive results in two to three days, and results will be reported to the county health department.

PUTNAM COUNTY
1,066 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

The Putnam Daily Voice has a town-by-town breakdown of the county’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. There are currently 13 COVID-19 patients at Putnam Hospital, the paper reports.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
1,021 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

A bevy of Sullivan County business owners, arts leaders, and other residents who are big in local tourism have released an ad encouraging visitors who love the area to share their favorite things about Sullivan County on social media with a hashtag campaign, #MySullivanCatskills and #SullivanCatskills.

Thompson supervisor William Rieber released a statement advising residents concerned about the region’s summer camps to contact state, not local, officials, as municipal and county governments do not have the power to cancel camp under New York’s state of emergency. “Should the [state Department of Health] ultimately decide to allow summer camps to operate, they should do so only with a clear and enforceable plan to protect the campers and staff, our year-round and seasonal residents, and protect our limited resources at Catskill Regional Medical Center,” he wrote. The state has not issued guidance either way on the camps question.

ULSTER COUNTY
1,416 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

During his Facebook live briefing on Thursday, county executive Pat Ryan announced that nonlethal opioid overdoses in Ulster County have increased by one-third over this time last year. However, the rate of overdose fatalities has not increased and is consistent the past two years.

Ryan also announced during the same briefing that HealthAlliance is now offering voluntary COVID-19 antibody testing to first responders at its Broadway Campus. Interested first responders can call (845) 303-2730 from 8:30am until 6pm Monday through Friday, and 9am until 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, to schedule appointments.

The county had to dip into its rainy day fund last year after spending outpaced revenues, The Daily Freeman reports. The depleted reserves leaves the county in worse position to make up the anticipated budget shortfall in 2020 due to the pandemic, which could be as high as $30 to 40 million, according to county finance commissioner Burt Gulnick.

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

With the region salivating over reopening, two Hudson super-citizens have proposed ways to do it safely in the city. Former alderman John Friendman’s plan turns Warren Street, the city’s retail thoroughfare, into a pedestrian mall, while letting retailers sell their wares on the sidewalk. Future Hudson founder Peter Spear also suggests closing Warren Street to vehicular traffic or extending sidewalks by narrowing roads, and recommends closing one block in each ward to vehicular traffic so residents can be outside while practicing safe social distancing.

Hudson Fourth Ward supervisor Michael Chamedies penned an outline of who he believes should be prioritized for testing as the county continues to contend with a severely limited number of test kits. County leaders have been requesting test kits from the state with increasing frustration, and a shipment of test kits bought from a private vendor has been held up for more than two weeks. Only about three percent of residents have been tested. Chadedies studied best practices for testing from communities around the US, and his suggestions are generally in line with state guidance, but he makes note of farm workers—who often live in close quarters—and people without primary care physicians—who face more barriers in getting tested—as two groups who should receive priority.

A seventeenth county resident died of COVID-19, the county announced Thursday. There are now 200 active cases in Columbia County, after state testing revealed a large cluster of infections at the Barnwell Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. County health director Jack Mabb also told CBS 6 that there were now 28 staff members who had tested positive; the last county press release stated only that “more than” 20 staff members had tested positive.

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

The Ark Bowl & BBQ in Arkville will shut down for two weeks after being informed that someone who was recently in the building tested positive for COVID-19. The venue has been open for takeout and delivery.

GREENE COUNTY
198 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

Last week saw cases in Schoharie County grow by 10 in just six days, a large increase for a very small county with a low infection rate. Schoharie County Public Health director Amy Gildemeister told the Times Journal that she’s keeping a close eye on the numbers, and that people need to keep making an effort on mask-wearing and social distancing. “It’s very concerning to me. If we go up by 10 again, we may put our early reopening in jeopardy,” she said.

Local Americana band Rusticator, who were slated to play at Green Wolf Brewing Company in Middleburgh this weekend, are doing a live show on Facebook instead. Tune in on Saturday at 7pm to hear some local fiddling and foot-stomping.

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.

Support TOHV to unlock more content!

patreon

Leave a Reply