COVID-19 Update – 4 NY Regions Can Now Open, Kingston Barber Operating Illicitly Tests Positive

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 Thursday, May 14.

NEW YORK STATE
340,661 cases confirmed (2,176 new)
1,258,907 tests performed (33,794 new)
22,013 deaths (168 new)
73,963 hospitalizations (overall)
6,946 hospitalizations (current)
2,308 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 175
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

About two-thirds of local leaders in New York say they will have to cut their budgets because of the pandemic, and 90 percent approved of how Dr. Anthony Fauci was handling the crisis, according to a new report by The Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives. The SUNY New Paltz research center asked 233 randomly selected county and municipal elected leaders about how their communities were dealing with the crisis, what they needed from the state and federal government, and what the future would bring. Ninety-four percent said budget gaps are likely, with a precipitous drop in sales tax as the primary cause, though respondents also pointed to cuts in state and federal aid and a lack of revenue from fees and fines as reasons for the expected gaps. When asked about what their primary role was during the pandemic, a plurality said it was “following, interpreting, and communicating to their constituents the constantly changing information and directives received from the state and federal government.” Those interviewed approved of how their state leaders were handling the crisis, and 84 percent “approved” or “strongly approved” of how the New York State Department of Health was responding. The only leader who received negative marks was President Donald Trump: 45 percent “strongly disapproved” of how he was handling the pandemic, while only 24 percent “strongly approved.”

House Democrats announced a sweeping new stimulus package on Tuesday with a price tag expected to be more than $3 trillion. The legislation, which Dems are calling the Heroes Act, would provide nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, $200 billion for essential worker hazard pay, $75 billion for coronavirus testing, tracing, and isolation efforts, and a new round of direct payments to Americans of up to $6,000 per household. The bill would also usher in a two-year repeal of the SALT tax cap, which was enacted as part of the GOP tax cuts that went into effect in 2018, and which currently limits state and local tax deductions to $10,000 a year. Republican leaders in the Senate dismissed the bill as overreaching and exorbitant.

It took a lawsuit, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has added a sign language interpreter to his daily briefing broadcast.

Announced by New York State on Wednesday:

  • The North Country region has joined its fellows in the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, and Finger Lakes in meeting the seven criteria necessary to begin Phase One of economic reopening. A dashboard showing a map of the state’s 10 regions, and their progress toward reopening benchmarks, was added to the state website on Monday. The dashboard also shows new charts of historical data on hospitalization, both statewide and broken down by region.
  • More state antibody study results were released in Wednesday’s briefing, this time focusing on policing and corrections. A survey of 2,750 New York State Police officers found that 3.1 percent had antibodies to COVID-19. A survey of 3,000 corrections officers found that 7.5 percent have antibodies. Both were below the rate for the general population, a result in line with earlier antibody studies that found that frontline healthcare and transit workers were less likely to have antibodies to COVID-19 than the population at large. “That should give us all some peace of mind [about] the essential workers who are out there are doing fantastic work for us, and we’ve made sure that they were protected in doing the work that they’re doing,” Cuomo said in Wednesday’s briefing.
  • Twelve more counties are cleared to begin elective surgeries once again, joining the 35 that were already declared eligible. Among the counties announced Wednesday were Columbia and Orange in the Hudson Valley, and Albany County, where many Hudson Valley and Catskills residents go for medical care.
  • The New York State Department of Health will host a webinar for healthcare providers on Thursday, May 14, to discuss a rare and dangerous inflammatory syndrome in children that has been linked to COVID-19.
  • A statement from the National Governors Association, which Cuomo said on Tuesday was forthcoming, has been made, calling on Congress and the White House to provide federal pandemic aid to states. Co-signed by Cuomo, the vice chair of the association, and Maryland governor Larry Hogan, the chair, the statement said that “we cannot afford a partisan process that turns this urgent relief into another political football.”
  • The Washington Post published an op-ed by Cuomo promoting his proposed “Americans First Law,” which if passed by Congress, would prohibit businesses from keeping federal pandemic aid if they fail to rehire the same number of workers after the crisis that they had before. “Washington’s bailout rule should be simple and clear: No government support if you don’t hire back all of your pre-pandemic workers,” the governor wrote.

LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam

Dr. Azfar Chak, the chief of the infectious disease unit at Montefiore Nyack, and others at the hospital are trying to figure out if convalescent plasma treatments are helping patients infected with COVID-19. Chak told News 12 that the treatment is showing “some success” in patients. The hospital began convalescent plasma treatments last month as part of the Mayo Clinic’s national study. “Unfortunately, some patients don’t respond,” Chak said. “But a significant chunk of patients, we see the improvement within 48 hours or so.”

MID-HUDSON VALLEY
County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

A barber who had been cutting hair illicitly out of a Kingston barbershop for weeks has tested positive for COVID-19, the Ulster County Department of Health announced late Wednesday. Neither the barber nor the barbershop were named in the press release, but county health director Nancy McGraw urged anyone who received a haircut on Broadway to immediately contact their primary-care physician or call the county’s COVID-19 hotline at (845) 443-8888 to arrange a test.

Half of all deaths in Ulster County since the pandemic began have been at nursing homes. Two facilities in the county reported all the deaths: Ten Broeck Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing had 23 deaths, while Ingate of Ulster had six, according to figures released by the state Tuesday. The county plans to use 3,000 test kits from the state to test all nursing home residents by May, Ulster County executive Pat Ryan said.

A nursing home outside Hudson has refused to work with the Columbia County Department of Health in its mission to test all nursing home residents in the county. “They are the only facility not working with us,” health director Jack Mabb said in a statement Tuesday. Someone at the Ghent Rehabilitation and Nursing Center—traditionally known at Whittier—at first requested 180 kits, but the facility later called back to refuse them, according to Mabb. The Register-Star interviewed the facility’s administrator, Frank K. Yeboah, who said the facility is using a different strategy: testing all residents as they are admitted. “As we have tested proactively, we have demonstrated that patients have been coronavirus-free, and so at this stage it doesn’t make sense for our building to perform [a] wide testing strategy which is voluntary and not mandated by law,” Yeboah said in a statement Wednesday. Twenty new or returning residents were tested Wednesday, Yeboah said, and all came out negative.

A bar in Monroe had its liquor license suspended by the State Liquor Authority after police repeatedly caught people drinking there. Police arrived at Bourbon Street Bar & Grill on April 29 after receiving several complaints to find eight people drinking at the bar. The owner’s spouse was issued a warning, but a Town of Monroe police officer said he saw a patron inside two hours later. Four people were also drinking at the bar on May 3, police said. The state authority charged the bar’s parent company, Wahter Inc., with multiple violations, though the company can appeal the decision.

CATSKILLS
County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

The first Sullivan County Jail inmate to test positive for COVID-19 has been identified, Sheriff Michael Schiff said. The case, identified late Monday, led to the jail being placed on lockdown, restricting all internal movement. Two staff members tested positive in early April and have since been cleared; two additional staff members are currently quarantined after testing positive. The jail suspended visitation in March and currently requires both inmates and staff to wear masks.

Sullivan County Public Health will offer a testing clinic this Friday, May 15 at Brian Ingber Park in South Fallsburg from 8:30am to 4pm. If the weather is bad, the clinic will be rescheduled for Friday, May 22. Anyone wishing to be tested on Friday must fill out an online registration survey by 2pm on Thursday, May 14; surveys are available in English and Spanish.

New York State data released Wednesday showed a new positive case in Schoharie County, a day after the second COVID-19 fatality in the tiny rural county appeared in the state data release. The Schoharie County Department of Health has not published updated case data since Wednesday, May 6.

In an interview on a radio show at WIOX in Roxbury on Wednesday, Schoharie County Board of Supervisors chair Bill Federice said that despite local fears that second homeowners fleeing New York City would bring the virus with them, the relatively low number of cases Schoharie County has seen so far have been locally transmitted. “There are a lot of cars in driveways in homes you usually don’t see this time of year. There was concern they’d bring the virus with them,” he said. But thorough contact tracing of the county’s few dozen cases has not turned up a pattern of transmission from downstate. “Only one had any connection to an outside area, and the one that did was a resident who went down to an impacted area and brought it back with them. Those fears haven’t been borne out.”

The first Greene County COVID-19 testing clinic will open on Saturday, May 16 from 9am until 12pm at the parking circle at Catskill Middle School. It will mainly be a drive-through event with accessibility for walk-through appointments. One-hundred and fifth tests will be conducted, with priority given to individuals meeting certain criteria. All testing will be by appointment only.

On Tuesday, the Delaware County Board of Supervisors released a list of business types that will be allowed to reopen with plans for worker and customer safety after May 15, when four regions in New York will begin Phase One of the reopening process. “There are several unanswered questions regarding social distancing standards in the workplace and enforcement that we are working with the region and the state to resolve before Friday,” the board wrote.

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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