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, June 8.
OF NOTE: Starting this week, we will publish the coronavirus news roundup three times per week, typically Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and we will continue to devote more resources to original reporting and analysis. Look for more of that on therivernewsroom.com and in your inbox.
NEW YORK STATE
378,799 cases confirmed (702 new)
2,555,896 tests performed (58,054 new)
24,299 deaths (40 new)
89,995 hospitalizations (overall)
2,371 hospitalizations (current)
678 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
New York City began Phase One on Monday, the last of New York State’s 10 economic development regions to begin the reopening process. It’s been exactly 100 days since New York’s first case, and city and state officials are enjoying making speeches with that nice round number. Reopening is going to be a little more complicated in our biggest metropolis than it has been in the rest of the state, largely because of New York City’s heavy reliance on public transportation to function normally. Gothamist has a handy guide to how things are going to work.
On Sunday, there were 40 new confirmed deaths from COVID-19, according to New York State data released Monday. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been citing the daily fatality count nearly every day in public briefings, didn’t present numbers on deaths in Monday’s briefing.
Cuomo had more competition than usual for his 11:30am briefing on Monday: The New York State Assembly scheduled a briefing to start at the same time to discuss a sweeping package of police reform bills taken up in response to massive protests of police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. As of Monday evening, several of the bills on the legislative agenda had passed the Senate and Assembly; a key bill that would repeal 50-a, the state law that keeps the internal records on police officers accused of misconduct out of the public eye, had not yet been voted on. On Monday afternoon, Hudson Valley-area state senator James Skoufis, who has recently been recovering from coronavirus, took to Twitter to explain his “yes” vote on the reform package.
The Mid-Hudson region enters Phase Two of reopening on Tuesday, a long-awaited step that will bring haircuts and outdoor dining back to the hard-hit region. Local businesses are preparing diligently (though not, we hope, feverishly). On Monday, Cuomo announced that a panel of global public health experts that has been advising New York State had cleared Mid-Hudson to move to Phase Two as expected; honestly, we’re not sure what would have happened if they’d said no. Long Island is on track to begin Phase Two on Wednesday.
Hydroxychloroquine, hailed early on as a possible coronavirus treatment and boosted by President Donald Trump even after evidence began to cast doubt on its efficacy, is looking pretty definitively unhelpful. A major clinical trial of hospitalized patients in the UK that wrapped up recently found that there was no benefit from the drug. In fact, patients who got it died at a slightly higher rate than those who didn’t, but the difference was not significant, meaning that it may well have been due to chance.
Emerging research: Density is contributing to coronavirus spread, but not in the way most analysts have been thinking about it. You may be more at risk of catching the virus if your house is crowded than if your city is. Whether rural or urban, places where households are crowded are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, the Wall Street Journal reports, after analyzing all US counties with at least 50 cases. The top 10 percent of counties with the highest rates of crowding have 28 percent of the nation’s coronavirus cases; within counties, zip codes with more household crowding are worse off than those with less. Some of the highest rates of both household crowding and COVID-19 infection rates are in the Navajo Nation, the paper reports; one Indian Health Service doctor told reporters that some people have been living in their cars to avoid exposing their families.
Ramsey Orta, the New York City resident who filmed the fatal arrest of Eric Garner in 2014, was granted early release from prison on May 28 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rolling Stone reports. Orta was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016 for possession of a weapon and drug charges, after being arrested several times between 2014 and 2016 on various low-level charges. Orta has claimed that he became a target of law enforcement after filming the infamous “I can’t breathe” video; in 2015, he filed a lawsuit alleging that rat poison had been put in his food during a stint at Rikers Island.
Announced by New York State on Monday and over the weekend:
- Elective surgeries and ambulatory care are cleared to resume in New York City.
- Fifteen new testing sites are being opened in New York City to make more tests available to people who participated in widespread protests. Last week, the Department of Health expanded COVID-19 testing guidelines to include anyone who had been in a recent protest. “We don’t know what the effect of those protests are and we are concerned about it. All of the health experts I have spoken to are concerned about it,” Cuomo said in Sunday’s briefing. Protests were underway in New York City by Thursday, May 28, and increased in size over the week and a half that followed. The incubation period for COVID-19 between exposure and the onset of symptoms can be up to 14 days, but the median is four to five days; if there is a wave of cases set off by protests, there should be evidence of it soon.
- Houses of worship are permitted to open at 25 percent capacity in regions that have been cleared for Phase Two of reopening. The move, announced by Cuomo in Saturday’s briefing, was hailed by Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro, who had been among a bipartisan group of local officials petitioning the state to allow worship to resume in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. “We fought for this,” Molinaro said in a statement.
- Managers of commercial buildings are permitted to do temperature checks on anyone entering, as per a new executive order signed by Cuomo. (The Governor’s actual words in Saturday’s briefing were “we’re giving commercial buildings the right to take the temperature of everyone who walks into a building,” but we’re pretty sure commercial buildings don’t have rights.)
- Special education can resume in person in New York State schools this summer, as decreed by a Friday executive order. Parents across the state have been pushing for special education services to resume; among them was Molinaro, who has an autistic daughter, and has been a dogged advocate for special education. He also wrote the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities last week requesting facilities under their purview once again allow visitors. Many people with developmental disabilities are immunocompromised, and visitation was banned April 28, but Molinaro said the policy was overly restrictive at this point in the pandemic.
- The deadline for returning mail-in ballots in local school elections, originally slated for Tuesday, June 9, has been extended a week to June 16 by executive order. Thank a bunch of Westchester state legislators for getting it done; LoHud.com reports that legislators dogged the state to extend the deadline after several local schools hit snags in the massive effort to hold board elections and budget votes by mail. “Like lots of unfunded mandates from Albany, it sounded feasible,” New Rochelle school superintendent Laura Feijoo told the paper. “But then it comes to people on the ground who have to figure out how to do it.”
- The deadline for returning absentee ballots in the June 23 primary has also been extended; as long as ballots are postmarked by June 23, they will be counted.
- Outdoor graduation celebrations of up to 150 people will be allowed starting June 26. For many schools, the gathering limit is smaller than the size of their graduating class; schools across the state are still weighing their options. It’s a confusing time to be in charge of a school in New York; the announcement, which was made Sunday, followed just days after the state released guidelines recommending drive-in and drive-through ceremonies.
LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester County executive George Latimer said that he was concerned George Floyd protests in the county could worsen the spread of COVID-19, but that he would not assume the protests will lead to a spike in cases. He urged all protestors to get tested for the virus.
Outdoor dining will resume tomorrow when the Mid-Hudson region enters Phase Two of reopening. LoHud.com has a list of restaurants in Westchester County offering al fresco service.
Though retail stores and hair salons can reopen with reduced capacity in the Mid Hudson region on Tuesday, businesses in malls must remain closed to in-person shopping. Many stores in malls have been doing curbside pickup since it was permitted during Phase One, but the situation leaves service industries in malls out in the cold. For instance, the family-owned C&C Unisex Salon’s two storefronts are in malls, and the business remains in limbo. A spokesman for Governor Cuomo told News 12 that a date for the full reopening of malls has not been determined.
Columbia County joined a growing list of local governments criticizing the new state contact tracing system, with Public Health director Jack Mabb saying Sunday the system “as currently devised doesn’t work.” The county does not want to abandon the CommCare contact tracing system at this point, Mabb said, instead suggesting a two-week pause to work out the system’s bugs.
West Point Military Academy is finalizing the details of its June 13 commencement ceremony, where President Trump will address the graduating class, to abide by social distancing guidelines. The cadets will not be allowed to bring guests, who can watch the ceremony through a live stream instead. More than 15 cadets returning in anticipation of the ceremony tested positive for COVID-19, though none were symptomatic, and there was no local transmission within the academy, according to an Army spokesman.
A Delaware County town is holding a long-delayed memorial service this weekend: On Saturday, June 13, Roxbury’s Kirkside Park will host a drive-through memorial to former town supervisor and funeral home director Tom Hynes, who died on March 20. Hynes did not die of COVID-19, but the pandemic interfered with community mourning, as it has for many in the past several months; Hynes died the same day Cuomo signed the New York State on PAUSE executive order. Arrangements are being handled by the Hynes Funeral Home.
All 68 inmates at the Sullivan County Jail were moved to a newly constructed facility Friday. Though the transfer was planned far before the pandemic, it follows on the heels of a lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union petitioning for the release of four medically vulnerable inmates in the face of a large outbreak of COVID-19 in the jail.
The Village of Catskill has dropped its proposal to turn Main Street into a pedestrian walkway so businesses could expand into the street in order to observe social distancing guidelines. However, the village is allowing businesses to expand onto the sidewalk. Governor Cuomo allowed outdoor dining in Phase Two regions starting last week, and HudsonValley360 interviewed restaurant owners about how it was helping their businesses.
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 is 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