COVID-19 Update – Columbia & Greene Should Begin Reopening Mid-Week, Kingston Barber Speaks Out

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 18.

NEW YORK STATE

350,121 cases confirmed (1,889 new)
1,413,396 tests performed (34,679 new)
22,619 deaths (141 new)
75,525 hospitalizations (overall)
5,897 hospitalizations (current)
1,981 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Hot scoop in the New York Post: New York State’s top coronavirus testing lab can’t keep up with the twice-a-week tests Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered all nursing home staffers to get. County executives and health officials told the Post that the Wadsworth Center, which processes tests for free, is turning nursing homes away, leaving them at the mercy of private labs charging $100 a test.

The Democratic-led House passed another federal stimulus bill on Friday, dubbed the Heroes Act, but it looks like it’s going to be bogged down in the Republican-controlled Senate for a while. Included in the Heroes Act: aid to state, local, and tribal governments; another, larger round of stimulus payments to individuals; hazard pay for essential workers; funding for testing; and a raft of other broad efforts to address the pandemic’s impact on Americans. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the bill, and the White House is pushing for the next pandemic bill to focus on cutting payroll taxes and giving businesses liability protections instead.

Cuomo, who has been blasting Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and calling for federal aid to states, hailed the bill’s passage in the House in his Saturday briefing, calling it “a smart bill, which finally provides funding for state and local governments.” Cuomo had some pointed words for the Senate opposition: “From their point of view, they say, ‘Well, we funded businesses, we funded millionaires.’ Yeah, good, that’s nice. How about working Americans? That’s what the Senate should think about. How do you actually help the American people?”

The New York Times did some inventive digging to figure out where New York City residents have fled to escape coronavirus: They looked at mail-forwarding requests from the US Postal Service. Two Hudson Valley cities made it into the list of top 20 New York pandemic destinations: Kingston in eighth place, and Hudson in twelfth.

Squeamish about getting a swab up your nose? Don’t fret too much: Cuomo got tested for COVID-19 on live television on Sunday, and managed not to squirm.

Schools districts across the state are considering closing a week early to avoid paying teachers and staff for more days than what’s in their contracts. Schools canceled spring break to continue remote learning, and the schools would face a major payout if schools continue until normally scheduled.

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

  • New York State has launched a website to find a local COVID-19 testing site. The state now has more than 700 testing locations.
  • The state is partnering with CVS to launch more than 60 new testing sites at pharmacies across the state.
  • Testing criteria statewide, which have been expanded several times, now include any worker who is eligible to return to work because their region has entered Phase One of the reopening process.
  • Phase One went into effect Friday. New guidelines for Phase One businesses have been introduced on the NY Forward site. For more on how Phase One of economic reopening is unfolding locally, see our news roundup from Thursday, May 14.
  • NYS on PAUSE has been extended until May 28, apart from regions where Phase One reopening has begun.
  • Cuomo announced that state beaches will be reopening on May 22, in time for Memorial Day Weekend, in coordination with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware. In a slightly confusing development, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced that city-run beaches are not yet ready to reopen.
  • Horse racing tracks will be allowed to open statewide with no spectators as of June 1.
  • The state isn’t quite ready to decide whether to allow summer camps to reopen, health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker told reporters on Sunday. The state is being especially cautious because of emerging data on a dangerous inflammatory syndrome linked to COVID-19 infection in children, which has sickened about 120 children in New York State so far, the Jewish Press reports.

LOWER HUDSON VALLEY

County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam

The superintendent of Mount Vernon School District and a leadership team of administrators and employees all volunteered to freeze their salaries due to the economic impact of the coronavirus, according to a report by News 12. In a statement, superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton said he hopes the rest of the district’s employees will do the same.

After almost two months on a ventilator at Bronxville’s Lawrence Hospital, a 72-year-old woman has beat COVID-19. Linda Lynch was admitted to the hospital on March 21 and needed a blood transfusion when the virus ravaged her lungs and kidneys, News 12 reports. She will head to Northern Manor Multicare Center in Nyack to continue therapy.

MID-HUDSON VALLEY

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

 

The owner of a gym in northern Columbia County was served a cease-and-desist letter and an appearance ticket Tuesday after thumbing his nose at New York State on PAUSE. Alex Rosenstrach held a reopening rally at ClubLife Health & FItness the day before, opening the gym’s doors to the public. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is in charge of enforcing the executive orders, and county Department of Health director Jack Mabb said they had been “all over” the gym, according to the Register-Star, but the sheriff’s office did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.

The Capital Region, which includes Columbia and Greene counties, should be able to begin reopening by midweek after the state adjusted its reopening metrics, provided additional contact tracers can be hired. Originally, regions’ three-day rolling average of new deaths could never rise above five, and their three-day rolling averages of new hospitalizations could never rise above 15 to achieve this metric. If they did, these metrics had to fall for 14 consecutive days. County leaders argued that although the region had broken the first metric, their numbers were still too low for it to be possible for them to fall consecutively for 14 days. The state essentially allowed regions to reset and will now accept the original metric, which the region achieved. The only thing holding the Capital Region back from reopening is hiring an additional 166 contact tracers, which is expected to be achieved in the next few days.

Ulster County continues to be the only county in the Mid-Hudson Region to meet all seven of the criteria to reopen. However, Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro expressed hope that the region could open by the end of the week, suggesting the revised metrics applied to the Capital Region could help the Mid-Hudson region.

Ulster County executive Pat Ryan said there was no evidence to suggest the barber who was illicitly cutting hair in Kingston while unknowingly infected with COVID-19 had infected “over a dozen people,” after Governor Cuomo at his daily briefing said the barber “infected, I think, over a dozen people.” Ryan said Friday that the county had not received any test results from people who might have had contact from the barber. The New York Times talked to the barber, Joseph LaLima of La Lima Barbershop, who had been hospitalized for COVID-19. He had been cutting hair out of his home, which is connected to the storefront, and not the storefront itself, and said therefore he was compliant with the state orders. However, someone charging for haircuts anywhere is banned. LaLima also claimed he cut police officers’ hair during the closures. The case has been referred to the county district attorney’s office.

Columbia County will hold three testing clinics. The first two will be walkup clinics held in front of John L. Edwards Primary School in the City of Hudson on May 27 and June 2 from 10am until 12pm. The third will be a drive-through clinic at the Chatham Fairgrounds on June 7 from 10am until 2pm. County residents who want to be tested should visit the Columbia County Department of Health website. The test kits were purchased from a vendor using private donations. Testing is free of charge.

Crystal Run Healthcare, the largest physician practice in the Hudson Valley, recently notified the New York State Department of Labor that it would lay off or furlough some 400 employees, the majority of which will be at its Town of Wallkill offices, the Times Herald-Record reports.

In better Orange County healthcare industry news: the Greater Hudson Valley Health System and the union representing its employees at Orange Regional Medical Center, Catskill Regional Medical Center, Greater Hudson Valley Family Health, and other medical groups announced on Friday that they had reached an agreement on hazard pay for staff for their work during the local peak of COVID-19. The terms of the deal, negotiated by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, stipulate that full-time “high-risk” employees will receive a “one-time, discretionary bonus” of $5,000; those at medium risk will get $3,500; and those at low risk will get $2,500, according to the agreement letter.

Kudos to the fine folks of Rockland and Putnam counties: On a gorgeous, blue-sky Saturday, local sheriff offices said there were no cases or calls regarding problems with crowds or social distancing at parks.

CATSKILLS

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

Greene County residents will have the chance to get tested at a clinic in Coxsackie sometime in the coming weeks, the Catskill Daily Mail reports. There will also be a mobile food pantry on site available to any residents who need food.

Free cloth masks will be given away at several local high schools on Monday, May 18 and Tuesday, May 19, the Schoharie County Department of Health announced on Facebook.

How one little local movie theater in Delaware County is spending the pandemic: Hosting live music shows for online broadcast, and giving away bags of popcorn to patrons to go with their home movies. The Walton Theatre isn’t making any money right now, the Daily Star reports, but they’ve managed to keep their staff on the payroll—and since the small-town theater has often turned to their neighbors and patrons for support, they’re looking to give back. “We wanted to do something for the community because they’ve supported us for so many years,” program coordinator Chris Howland told the paper.

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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