COVID-19 Update – Kingston May Severely Cut Services Sept. 1, State Halts Columbia From Closing Camps

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
335,395 cases confirmed (2,273 new)
1,182,998 tests performed (29,230 new)
21,478 deaths (207 new)
72,715 hospitalizations (overall)
7,262 hospitalizations (current)Conf
irmed cases per 10,000 residents: 172
New York State coronavirus pageNew Y
ork State official pressroom

Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Science is hard: A Yale epidemiologist claims he was misquoted this week in a New York Times story about New York’s role in the national outbreak that made waves around the world (including in this news roundup). The scientist, Nathan Grubaugh, took to Twitter on Friday to protest the oversimplification of his study, a piece of genetic detective work which found that most coronavirus genomes sampled in the US fall into two main groups, one related to outbreaks in China and Washington State, and a larger one related to the outbreaks in New York and Europe. That message got boiled down in the wider media narrative to a story that pinned most of the blame for spread on New Yorkers, and that’s not at all what Grubaugh claims. “I was misquoted in the NYT for having said that ‘infections spreading from New York account for 60 to 65 percent of the cases across the country.’ I DID NOT SAY THAT,” Grubaugh said in a Twitter thread, seasoned with technical finesse and a dash of all-caps outrage. “Did a lot of domestic SARS-CoV-2 spread come from NY? Yes. But not all of it is directly from NY (other stops along the way) and there was also spread from other locations. In no way does this tell us what percent of cases are directly tied to the outbreak in New York,” he wrote. So far, The New York Times is standing by their story, bylined by two seasoned science writers, but Grubaugh claims he spoke with the editor of the story and that the paper is working on a correction.

Two months into the pandemic, and there’s still no coherent national plan for testing and tracing. “The United States is mired in one of the most immiserating peacetime moments in its history,” The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer writes. There’s really only one good way out, he argues: painstakingly testing, tracking, tracing, and isolating the potentially infected, a monumental logistical effort that social distancing was supposed to buy us time to set up. “To an almost astonishing degree, the US has no national plan for achieving this goal.”

Some regions of New York State might be ready to reopen May 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been saying all week, and as the end date of NY State on PAUSE gets nearer, the plans have been getting more specific. “We have a clear uniform set of criteria. It’s the same all across the state, it’s all science-based, it’s all data-based and we’ll look at those numbers, we’ll look at those data points to see where it’s safe to open,” Cuomo said in Sunday’s briefing. In order to move to Phase One of the reopening process, which will allow construction and manufacturing activity to resume, a region will have to meet seven criteria, drawn from CDC guidelines issued in April. The criteria involve benchmarks for falling hospitalization and death rates, at least 30 percent vacancy in hospitals and ICUs, at least 30 diagnostic tests available per 1,000 residents per month, and at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents.

On Friday, Cuomo signed an executive order extending the statewide emergency declaration through June 6, sparking immediate confusion in the press (and even Cuomo’s own team) about whether NY State on PAUSE was being extended. Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa issued a statement saying that NYS on PAUSE is still on track to expire May 15, unless extended again. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi, who was among the confused, apologized on Twitter for leading reporters astray.

Though House Democrats are moving toward passing another economic stimulus bill, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett and other Trump administration officials reiterated Sunday that they do not believe a fourth stimulus package to address the coronavirus impact is needed.

Over the weekend, it became clear that the virus has reached people very close to the seat of power in the White House. A personal valet for President Donald Trump has tested positive, as has Katie Miller, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence and the wife of Trump advisor Stephen Miller. Pence is voluntarily self-isolating, the Associated Press reported Sunday night. At least 11 Secret Service members have tested positive, and another 60 are in self-quarantine, Yahoo News reported.

New York State has reversed course on a controversial nursing home policy that required homes to take back COVID-19-positive residents who had been released from hospitals. Criticism of the policy has been steadily mounting statewide, along with the fatalities in New York nursing homes. Nursing home staff in New York State will now also be required to be tested twice a week.

Children infected with COVID-19 don’t often become seriously ill, but a few of them do—and when they do, the course of the disease can look very different than it does in adults. Three young children in New York State have died of an inflammatory syndrome linked to COVID-19 infection, and 73 more have been sickened. The syndrome, described by doctors as similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock, is rare, and even less well understood than typical COVID-19 infection in an adult. The children who have been afflicted by the syndrome don’t have the typical respiratory symptoms that have been associated with most COVID-19 cases; they suffer from fever, abdominal pain, rashes, and inflammation of coronary arteries and other blood vessels. On Friday, Cuomo announced that the state Department of Health is investigating the illness; on Saturday, the governor announced that New York is helping the CDC develop national criteria for identifying and treating COVID-19 illness in children, and announced a partnership with the NY Genome Center and Rockefeller University to conduct a genome and RNA sequencing study to shed light on the phenomenon.

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

ROCKLAND COUNTY
12,451 cases confirmedActiv
e cases: Not available on county data dashboard
County coronavirus page

County executive Ed Day and county health commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert announced an amendment to the commissioner’s standing isolation order, which now directs residents who have tested positive for or have symptoms of COVID-19 to remain in isolation at their residence and away from other people in their home for at least 10 days, up from the seven days previously advised by the CDC.

Congers Lake walkway in the Town of Clarkstown will reopen Monday at 10am, but only residents will be allowed to enter. Park staff will check IDs. All bathrooms, playgrounds, and basketball and tennis courts remain closed.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
31,294 cases confirmed
Active cases: 4,272 as of Friday, May 8 (source: county briefing)
County coronavirus page
County press release page

An inflammatory disease that might be linked to the coronavirus has left one young boy dead and 11 children hospitalized in Westchester County, officials said Friday. The children have been diagnosed with what medical professionals are calling “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.” Those treating individuals with the disease say it resembles known immune disorders such as Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome, with symptoms like persistent fever, abdominal pain, and a body rash, among others.

ORANGE COUNTY
9,543 cases confirmed
Active cases: Not available on county data dashboard
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Newburgh mayor Torrance Harvey appealed directly to residents in a citywide newsletter pleading with residents to follow social distancing guidelines after three gatherings with more than 100 people occurred over the weekend. One of the gatherings was a prayer vigil for a young man that lasted late into the night. Harvey also took issue with a motorcade that traveled to area medical facilities to thank healthcare workers, saying he’s seen pictures of participants not wearing masks nor practicing social distancing. As of May 9, 1,314 people have tested positive in the city of 28,000.

Delta Airlines will suspend service at Stewart and 10 other airports, it announced Friday, after saying it would cut 80 percent of domestic flights and 90 percent of international flights. Delta will also stop flying to and from the Westchester County Airport.  American Airlines and JetBlue have already suspended service at Stewart, leaving Allegiant the sole operating airline.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
3,359 cases confirmed
Active cases: 2,220 as of Friday, May 8 (source: county data dashboard)
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Eighty-three percent of the inmates tested at Fishkill Correctional Facility were positive for COVID-19, according to state figures released Saturday. That figure is higher than the state prison average—still an astronomically high 70 percent—and five inmates have died from the virus. Of the 90 inmates who tested positive, 53 have recovered, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

At its next board meeting, the Dutchess County Local Development Corporation is expected to vote on establishing a COVID-19 small business express loan program in partnership with Community Capital New York that will help small businesses in Dutchess County that have been unable to secure SBA assistance. The zero-interest loan program is intended exclusively for small independent businesses in Dutchess County that have not been able to secure SBA, PPP, EIDL, or any other COVID-related aid, and comes with an optional deferred payment plan and loan amounts up to $10,000.

PUTNAM COUNTY
1,089 cases confirmed
Active cases: 56 as of Thursday, May 7 (source: county press release)
County coronavirus page

County legislator Nancy Montgomery said during a meeting last week that Cold Spring didn’t have a sufficient law enforcement presence to deal with crowds escaping New York City on recent weekends. She said the village was “overrun” the weekend of May 2 and many visitors were not maintaining social distancing. The Cold Spring Village Board decided last Wednesday to close parts of its waterfront because of the hordes.

SULLIVAN COUNTY
1,093 cases confirmed
Active cases: 337 as of Friday, May 8 (source: county coronavirus page)
County coronavirus page

The county will hold another Facebook live virtual town hall on Monday, May 11 at 1:30pm on its government Facebook page. Joining county leadership will be congressman Antonio Delgado and Sullivan County treasurer Nancy Buck.

The Brooklyn-based Association of Jewish Camp Operators wrote a letter pleading Sullivan County officials to allow their overnight camps to open, many as early as the end of June. In the letter, dated May 5, the consortium also promised camps would be “run differently this summer.” All children and staff members would be tested before coming to the camps, and a “full and complete lockdown” would be enforced once on site, with no field trips or outside visitors allowed. Staff members could not leave the grounds on their days off. The group also asked county leadership not to contact Governor Cuomo about shutting down the operations.

ULSTER COUNTY
1,450 cases confirmed
Active cases: 810 as of Sunday, May 10 (source: county data dashboard)
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

The Kingston comptroller expects the city will lose $2.5-$5 million in revenue from declines in sales and property taxes, parking revenue, and fees, according to a release from mayor Steve Noble’s office. Noble has taken three estimates by the comptroller⁠—the low-loss, mid-range, and high-loss estimates—and proposed cutbacks for each scenario. Phase One would be implemented as soon as possible and includes departmental budget cuts, a hiring freeze and overtime pay reductions, as well as digging up $1.6 million from the city’s rainy day fund. Phase Two would be implemented June 1 if the mid-range estimate seemed realistic, and consists of temporary layoffs that would cause a “temporary impact in the delivery of some city services,” according to Noble. Phase Three would come September 1 if the outlook showed signs of a high-loss scenario and includes “far-reaching permanent layoffs along with severe cuts to City services.” Whether the city implements Phase 2 or 3 will be largely dependent on state aid cuts, which depends on how much federal aid New York receives. The plan has been sent to the city’s common council.

The Rosendale Street Festival has been canceled, event organizers announced Friday. The event, which was planned for July 18 and 19, attracts tens of thousands attendees every year. Event organizers said they were working on reimagining the festival, perhaps as a drive-in or virtual event.

The Village of New Paltz’s revenue stream, which is largely dependent on SUNY New Paltz and tourism, is expected to be decimated more thoroughly than in most places in the Hudson Valley. Village officials estimated, for instance, they will take in only $2,000 in parking fees and fines this year, compared to the half-million dollars normally raised. The village is 70 percent renters, many of whom are students, and officials estimate property taxes will be off by a third because landlords will struggle to fill apartments or collect rent from cash-strapped tenants. Water and sewer use has already fallen by a third thanks to the student exodus. Mayor Tim Rogers said the village would be $700,000 short even after burning through its rainy day fund.

A Mamakating town board meeting on Tuesday was “Zoombombed” by a person chanting the N-word, according to the Shawangunk Journal.  Zoombombing refers to someone entering a zoom chat and anonymously causing disruptions.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
312 cases confirmed
Active cases: 179 as of Sunday, May 10 (source: county coronavirus page)
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

A county emergency order closing summer camps due to COVID-19 concerns was denied by the state Department of Health, Columbia County Board of Supervisors chair Matt Murrell announced Saturday. County leaders and the Health Department continue to recommend the camps not open, with Murrell saying he “sincerely hopes” the camps remain shut until local health officials deem it safe for them to open.

Three more county residents were confirmed to have died of COVID-19 since Thursday, bringing the county’s toll to 20. The county Health Department released its weekly town-by-town breakdown Friday showing the most cases outside nursing homes were in Hudson, which had 31. It was followed by Kinderhook, with 26, and Greenport, with 13.

A pop-up mobile test site at Columbia-Greene Community College in Greenport tested 80 people Friday, though several spots were unfilled at the appointment-only site. Single-day testing sites are being planned by the county Health Department; the next one will most likely be in Hudson and will not require a vehicle. A total of 2.408 residents were tested as of Sunday, though most were tested in other counties as the health department struggled to procure test kits.

Columbia Memorial Health is creating a plan to gradually resume elective procedures after getting the green light from the state. These surgeries—suspended with the New York State on PAUSE order—were permitted to resume in the majority of counties in late April, but Columbia County was left off the list because it could still have a surge of COVID-19 patients. The cancelation of the surgeries, combined with people avoiding hospitals for fear of contagion, has led to a revenue crisis in many hospitals. CMH furloughed 125 workers to cut costs.

DELAWARE COUNTY
64 cases confirmed
Active cases: 9 as of May 10 (source: county press release)
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

There were no major updates out of Delaware County over the weekend. To read Thursday’s news, click here.

GREENE COUNTY
206 cases confirmed
Active cases: 92 as of Friday, May 8 (source: county coronavirus page)
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

There were no major updates out of Greene County over the weekend. To read Thursday’s news, click here.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY
46 cases confirmed
Active cases: 2 as of May 6 (source: county press release)
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

In an effort to alleviate loneliness among seniors isolated by the pandemic, the Schoharie County Office for the Aging is giving out furry dog and cat robots. “Given the nature of COVID-19 and forcing older adults to become so isolated, it’s a great tool. I’m a believer. If people feel socially isolated and alone, they should give us a call. We may be able to get more from the state office,” OFA director Nancy Dingee told the Mountain Eagle.

The Schoharie County Department of Transportation released new guidelines for those utilizing their public transportation system including the mandatory use of face coverings and those riding must be doing so for essential needs only, like groceries or transportation to work, among others.

OF INTEREST?

The River has a guide on where, how, and when to get tested for the coronavirus in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. We also have a regularly updated list of resources on our website. To read more of our daily news roundups, visit our coronavirus page.

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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