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 25 – Memorial Day.
NEW YORK STATE
361,515 cases confirmed (1,589 new)
1,699,826 tests performed (47,765 new)
23,391 deaths (109 new)
77,295 hospitalizations (overall)
4,393 hospitalizations (current)
1,406 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
The Mid-Hudson economic region, which stretches from Westchester and Rockland counties up to Ulster and Dutchess, is cleared to enter Phase One of reopening on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in Saturday’s briefing. With Long Island set to begin reopening on Wednesday, New York City is the only region that remains without a timeline to open nonessential business activity. Under the original criteria for reopening, the Mid-Hudson region would have had to wait until seeing two straight weeks of declining deaths, but the state relaxed its initial criteria to allow regions that had previously had higher rates of COVID-19 deaths to begin reopening if their three-day average daily death rate dipped to five or lower after May 15. Phase One of reopening allows non-essential business activity to resume in construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, agriculture, forestry and fishing, and limited retail with curbside or in-store pickup and dropoff. The NY Forward state website has more information on which businesses can open in Phase One, and what the requirements are for safety.
The front page of The New York Times on Sunday was one for the history books: The entire front page of the print newspaper was devoted to names and one-sentence obituaries for some of the 100,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19.
How risky is camping? Backyard grilling with friends? Going to the beach? NPR spoke to a few public health experts for a guide to navigating risk for favorite summer activities in the new reality. Bottom line: The longer you stay in contact with potentially infected people, the more people you’re in contact with, and the more you interact with them indoors, the more risk you expose yourself to.
Social distancing and shutdowns have apparently shortened the flu season in the northern hemisphere by six weeks, according to a news story in the prominent science journal Nature.
In New York, the flu season ended five weeks early, data suggest. The abbreviated flu season is lifting some of the disease burden off the general population, but other diseases—for instance, tuberculosis—are likely to worsen, because the pandemic has put a halt to programs aimed at treatment and fighting spread.
The Cuomo administration is refusing to release information on how much of the state’s workforce is telecommuting, the Times Union reports. Some state offices have responded to the paper’s inquiries; most state employees in the Education Department and Attorney General’s office are working from home, the paper reports. Anecdotally, the president of one of the state’s largest labor unions told the Times Union that telecommuting is working out well for many state workers, and he has been hearing from managers that worker productivity is up.
Announced by New York State on Friday and over the weekend:
- The statewide COVID-19 death rate, which had dipped down below 100 a day briefly, is back up to 109 as of Saturday’s count.
- Just before the Memorial Day weekend began, Cuomo announced that religious ceremonies and Memorial Day observances of no more than 10 people would be allowed statewide. The order drew a lawsuit from the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed Friday on the grounds that the state could not lawfully discriminate against protests and other activities while allowing religious and holiday ceremonies. In an apparent response to the lawsuit, Cuomo signed an executive order Friday allowing all gatherings of up to 10 people for any purpose, provided social distancing and sanitation measures are followed. The decision was swiftly condemned by New York City councilman Mark Levine, who called the order “shocking” and said that it “changes nothing about the risks associated with group gatherings.”
- Campgrounds and RV parks have been cleared to reopen statewide on Monday, May 25. The issue has caused great controversy (see more in Catskills).
- Veterinary practices can reopen in all regions starting Tuesday, May 26.
- Professional sports leagues may begin holding training camps effective immediately. The New York Daily News reports that the Mets and Yankees have already begun training in Florida.
- In Sunday’s briefing, Cuomo announced the 15 members of a “Blue Ribbon commission” on telehealth and broadband access, led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
- The state is launching a pilot program in partnership with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct an additional 7,000 COVID-19 tests per week. Another 15 new testing sites will be established downstate through a partnership with Advantage Care Physicians.
LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester’s daily death toll from COVID-19 has been in the single digits all week, county executive George Latimer said in his Friday briefing. The number is down from a high of 50 per day at the height of the pandemic in Westchester County.
Hospitalizations are down in Rockland County, LoHud.com reports.
Putnam County residents are more interested lately in getting antibody tests than diagnostic tests for COVID-19, county health commissioner Michael Nesheiwat told county legislators last week. Antibody tests have proved useful in tracking the scale of the pandemic, but the rates of false positives and the uncertainty over whether antibodies indicate immunity to being reinfected make them a not-terribly-useful tool for individuals.
Putnam’s mental health professionals are worried about the pandemic’s effects on local mental health, the Highlands Current reports. Calls to the county mental health hotline are up 30 percent in March and April over the same time period in 2019.
Ulster County launched a landing page for reopening guidance and resources specific to businesses in the county, which can be found at www.covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/businesses.
Dutchess County has reopening guidelines, resources, and other information for county businesses at the new Restarting Dutchess website.
The first of Columbia County’s next three mobile testing clinics will be held this Wednesday, May 27, in front of John L. Edwards Primary School in Hudson between 10am and noon. County residents who want to be tested should visit the Columbia County Department of Health coronavirus website. Testing is free of charge.
News we missed on Thursday: the Dutchess Responds Food Connection has now delivered more than 10,000 meals in less than two months, reported Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro. The initiative, a collaboration between Dutchess Outreach, Community Action Partnership for Dutchess County, and the Dutchess County Department of Planning and Development, had made 707 deliveries as of last Thursday, each consisting of three meals per day for three days. Those who need food can request free meal deliveries by filling out an online form or by calling the Dutchess County Coronavirus Hotline at (845) 486-3555 and selecting Option 5.
A fifteenth person has died of COVID-19 at The Grand at Barnwell, a Columbia County nursing home, according to county health director Jack Mabb. Mabb recently accused the nursing home of misrepresenting the number of its residents who have died of COVID-19.
Vassar College is exploring ways to hold in-person classes this fall, and college president Elizabeth Bradley announced the findings of an advisory committee Friday. Students would not be allowed to leave campus, socializing would be kept to a minimum, and students with health risks could take classes remotely, among other provisions. The advisory committee also suggests canceling October break and having students leave campus by Thanksgiving, with remaining classes and exams taken online.
The visitors center, West Trapps, East Trapps Connector, Spring Farm, and Upper Duck Pond trailheads at Mohonk Preserve reopened last week. The Preserve has issued new safety protocols in accordance with CDC and New York State guidelines, including requiring visitors to wear a face covering upon entry, maintain a six-foot distance from others at all times, and limiting trailhead parking. Rock climbing, bouldering, and horse trailers are still not permitted
Cuomo’s Sunday announcement that campgrounds and RV parks can open statewide as of Monday, May 25 lends some clarity to an issue that has been hotly debated across the Catskills and Hudson Valley, and has been particularly contentious in Sullivan County. Under a state declaration that all local emergency orders must be approved by the New York State Department of Health, local governments have had little power to rule on the issue of whether or not local campgrounds are allowed to open, and there has been much confusion about what constitutes a “campground” and whether or not they are essential businesses. On Friday, Sullivan County Public Health director Nancy McGraw put out a press release intended to clarify the situation, entitled “What Is A Summer Camp, And Who Permits Them?” “The County has limited jurisdiction over children’s campgrounds, camps and temporary residences, both seasonal and year-round,” McGraw wrote. “…We rely on the State for guidance and authority to take action when needed regarding camps and temporary residences that are issued permits in Sullivan County.”
A person who attended a May 16 livestock auction in Otsego County, which borders Delaware and Schoharie, has been diagnosed with COVID-19, local health authorities announced. The person was not wearing a mask. Attendees of the auction in Unadilla are being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms until May 30, and contact their primary care provider if they develop symptoms.
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.
SOURCES FOR ACTIVE CASES
Rockland: county data dashboard
Westchester: county briefing
Putnam: county press release
Orange: county data dashboard
Dutchess: county data dashboard
Ulster: county data dashboard
Columbia: county coronavirus page
Greene: county coronavirus page
Sullivan: county coronavirus page
Delaware: county press release
Schoharie: county press release