COVID-19 Update – Protests Complicate Pandemic Recovery

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 Wednesday, June 3.

LOCAL DIVE

In mid-March, 80 percent of Danny Brey’s business vanished when Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted New York State on PAUSE. Jeffersonville-based Brey’s Eggs supplied restaurants and restaurant suppliers with 60,000 dozen eggs each week. The chickens did not stop laying eggs when a statewide shut-down was instituted. It left Brey with nowhere to sell his eggs.

Dairy farmers were in a similar situation. Milk processing plants unable to convert bottling lines from commercial to retail packing told farmers to dump raw milk products. Famers do not get paid for eggs that cannot be sold to restaurants or milk poured down the drain. At the same time, demands on food banks surged as out-of-work New Yorkers needed assistance.

“Our distribution has gone up 55 percent since March 16,” says Joanne Dwyer, director of food industry relations and business development representative of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, which includes Cornwall.

In all of 2019, the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York provided 43.1 pounds of food to families in need. Since March, demand has soared to one million pounds each week. On May 2, 2020 Governor Cuomo announced Nourish New York, a $25 million program to help bridge the gap between farmers with products ready for consumption and food banks in dire need.

“It came at a crucial time for our business and helped buffer a certain amount of product that we didn’t have a place to sell to,” Brey says. “While we’re supplying the food bank with eggs, it is helping people who are running short of food.”

With the funding, food banks can purchase New York farm-fresh products to fill their shelves. Eligible products include meat, eggs, concord grape juice, shelf stable items, fruits, vegetables, seafood, and more. The Capital/Hudson Valley Region (which includes portions of North Country and Mohawk Valley) received $4,357,115 from the Nourish New York initiative, which has allowed local food banks to purchase food from New York farmers.

Thus far, the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York has bought 600,000 pounds of New York State dairy, eggs, produce, and shelf stable products with the funds, according to Dwyer.

“Farmers have always been big donors, but to be able to purchase from them at this level is wonderful,” she says.

Alisha Albinder, operations manager of the Hudson River Fruit Distributors in Milton, says the family-run business regularly donates to the food banks. Now the Nourish New York initiative is enabling it to provide even more good and avoid surpluses from the shift from industrial to retail outlets.

“It is helping farmers find a market for their products that were meant for markets, restaurants, and institutions,” Albinder says.

Nourish New York will be a lifeline for our families and our farmers who have been struggling with changes brought on by COVID-19,” State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said in a press statement announcing the initiative. “The agricultural industry has continued to give back to New York communities during this time; however, they have seen devastating losses financially as a result of lost markets, such as schools and restaurants.”

NEW YORK STATE

373,040 cases confirmed (1,329 new)
2,167,831 tests performed (54,054 new)
24,023 deaths (64 new)
89,861 hospitalizations (overall)
3,121 hospitalizations (current)
907 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

New hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at a low not seen since the earliest days of the pandemic in New York State: a three-day average of 154, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in Tuesday’s briefing. At its highest, the three-day average for new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day peaked at more than 3,000 in early April, according to data from one of Cuomo’s PowerPoint slides.

Western New York entered Phase Two of economic reopening on Tuesday, and the Capital Region is slated to start Wednesday. The five regions that started Phase One first on May 15 are already looking forward to the start of Phase Three, which will allow for the reopening of restaurants. If the phases proceed in two-week increments without delay, the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, Central New York, and North Country will enter Phase Three on Friday, May 12.

For the first time since 9/11, it’s all hands on deck for New York State police, CHNI reports. All state troopers have been ordered to show up for work on Wednesday, June 3, as the state prepares to deploy them to cities where protests—and the police response to them—have become destructive and violent.

In Tuesday’s briefing, Cuomo urged protestors to “be mindful” of COVID-19. “Yes, protest, yes, express your outrage, but be responsible, because the last thing we want to do is see a spike in the number of COVID cases, and that is one of the complications of these compounding crises,” he said. A group of infectious disease experts, led by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, are calling for police to stop using tear gas on protestors and crowding them into police vans and jails during the pandemic, saying that causing people to cough exacerbates the risk of viral spread.

Announced by New York State on Tuesday:

  • Summer day camps are cleared to reopen on June 29. Cuomo has not yet made a decision on sleepaway camps, but says that one is forthcoming.
  • A new executive order allows for an expansion of “low-risk outdoor recreational activities and businesses” in regions cleared for Phase One of reopening, and promises guidance from the state Department of Health. The order did not specify what those activities and businesses are, and as of Tuesday evening, there were no guidelines posted about outdoor recreational activities in the Phase One section of the NY Forward site.

Rate of active cases per 10,000 residents, drawn from the latest county data. Active case data unavailable for Rockland and Orange counties.

LOWER HUDSON VALLEY

County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam

As the lower Hudson Valley plans for the next reopening phases, the Business Council of Westchester has issued “Westchester Economic Recovery Task Force Report,” which includes strategies and recommendations to help the state and county jumpstart the county’s economy. LoHud.com has some of the details from the 14-page report, which includes recommendations from every industry sector in the local economy.

Deputy Westchester County executive Ken Jenkins and WMCHealth chief medical officer Renee Garrick held the second Facebook live info session detailing Westchester Medical Center’s efforts to fight the coronavirus. You can watch the 28-minute conversation on YouTube.

LoHud.com also has a story on quarantine fatigue and the still-lingering confusion over the Phase Two reopening guidelines. “Politically charged clashes…are complicating enforcement of measures intended to prevent the resurgence of coronavirus,” the paper writes, as New Yorkers increasingly defy bans on large gatherings and orders to wear masks and a number of county executives embrace a “hands-off” approach to enforcing the rules.

Putnam County announced Tuesday that moving forward, they will be releasing county-level COVID-19 data only once a week, on Friday afternoons.

MID-HUDSON VALLEY

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

Ulster County executive Pat Ryan supported peaceful protests of police brutality during his COVID-19 update on Tuesday, but urged protestors to take health precautions. Ryan said he was “without words” about the police killing of George Floyd and understood the desire to affect change. “But it puts us in a very difficult situation in the midst of a once-in-a century pandemic and public health crisis,” he said. Ryan also said that he was planning on attending protests in Poughkeepsie and Kingston. “I will be there in solidarity, but also in a facemask.”

Ulster County has completed testing the 1,233 residents in the county’s 13 nursing homes, Ryan announced Tuesday in a press release. The results from six of those facilities have come back showing zero infections, though the county is still waiting on the rest of the facilities’ results. Two nursing homes had large outbreaks prior to the countywide testing: Seven people at Wingate of Ulster County died of COVID-19, while 32 died at Ten Broek Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, according to the state Department of Health.

Orange County managed to entice 77 workers into temporary furloughs to help close the gargantuan hole blasted in the county budget by the coronavirus. Forty-seven of the workers agreed to be furloughed for June and July, while the rest agreed to furloughs of one month. All employees will be able to apply for expanded unemployment benefits. This is expected to save the county $389,391, according to the Times Herald-Record.

The Hudson Brewing Company, which had its liquor license suspended by the New York State Liquor Authority after undercover inspectors found it in violation of emergency orders that prohibit people from congregating on the premises and serving beer in unsealed plastic cups, is lawyering up and fighting back. The Register-Star reports that local Hudson officials did not report the brewery to the state Liquor Authority, but that state regulators were “moved to act after learning that the brewery had not complied with warnings from the Hudson code enforcement office.”

CATSKILLS

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Team established by the Greene County Legislature released its crisis response and recovery plan on Monday. The plan details priorities, strategies, and tactics for county businesses and residents, and priorities for reopening the county and “getting back to business in a post-COVID world.”

The Sullivan County Department of Motor Vehicles has partially reopened to mail and online transactions for residents as of June 1. Sullivan County is also extending the deadline for repurchase of tax-foreclosed properties to August 31.

A little something for the graduating seniors of the Catskills, who have seen pandemic take a bite out of their senior year: The Mountain Eagle is printing free photos and bios of students graduating high school, elementary school, and kindergarten in special issues of the newspaper in Schoharie, Delaware, Greene, and northern Ulster counties. Email them at mountaineaglenews@gmail.com if you have a local grad you want to celebrate.

Sullivan County will run a testing site at the Village Hall parking lot in Woodridge on Friday, June 5. All those interested in being tested must complete a survey; English, click here, for Spanish, click here. After completing the survey, you will be contact with an appointment time.

There were a handful of new cases announced by public health officials in the region’s most rural counties on Tuesday: two in Delaware and three in Schoharie.

Cumulative cases per 10,000 residents in each county, drawn from New York State’s data of cases found the previous day.

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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