This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties for Thursday, January 21 and Friday, January 22. Published in collaboration with The River.
NEW YORK STATE
15,144 new cases yesterday
268,001 tests yesterday
Positive test rate: 5.65%
169 deaths yesterday
8,846 hospitalizations (1,546 in ICUs)
New York State coronavirus page
New York State vaccine page
New York State official pressroom
COVID-19 hotline: (888) 364-3065
Vaccine appointment hotline: (833) 697-4829
The White House’s COVID-19 plan is out, and it’s 200 pages of ambitious goals and strategies for taming the pandemic, starting with “Goal 1: Restore trust with the American people.” We admit that here at The River we haven’t had time to read the whole thing cover to cover, but we’ll be taking a pass at it over the weekend—and if you have thoughts on what any of it means for local communities here in the Hudson Valley and Catskills region, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plans for federal vaccination sites run by FEMA and staffed by the National Guard are taking more concrete shape, The Washington Post reports. The plans also call for state and local governments to receive greater reimbursement for vaccine expenses from FEMA funding.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are falling slightly in New York State, a welcome sign after a long fall and winter surge. In Thursday’s numbers, hospitalizations were at 8,846, after reaching a post-holiday peak of 9,273.
The British government and its top science advisers are concerned that B.1.1.7, the so-called “UK variant,” is not only more transmissible, it may be more lethal to those who contract it. But scientists do not yet have enough data to be certain, and the fact that hospitals are becoming overwhelmed is making it difficult to tease apart the effects of new mutations from the toll the pandemic is taking on the quality of care for critically ill patients.
The number of cases of the B.1.1.7 variant found in New York State is now up to 25, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a Friday briefing. Two new cases were found in Westchester County. The state is sequencing about 1,000 cases a week to look for variants, health commissioner Howard Zucker said Friday. So far, neither the Brazilian variant P.1 nor the South African variant 501Y.V2, both of which are worrying epidemiologists, has been found in New York.
Confused by variant names and numbers? So are scientists, reports Nature’s news desk. Virus experts don’t like the practice of naming variants with important mutations after the geographic regions where they were discovered, but the number-heavy systems used to name virus variants are “a bloody mess,” one scientist says, and not just because they’re difficult to remember.
Disabled living facilities are watching their vaccine doses dwindle as the state allocates more doses to state sites for those eligible in Phase 1B, the Times Union reports. Some scheduled appointments for the disabled and their caregivers, both eligible in the highest-priority Phase 1A, have already been canceled, to the dismay of disabled New Yorkers and their advocates and families. State official Gareth Rhodes, a member of Cuomo’s vaccine task force, said that the state hasn’t decided they are any less of a priority. “It’s not like we stopped prioritizing them; they are still prioritized. We just don’t have enough vaccine to go around,” he said.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a frequent and outspoken advocate on disability issues, wrote a letter urging Cuomo to ensure that group homes have adequate vaccine, allow counties to vaccinate the disabled, and include day programs in the definition of “congregate care” that defines the group’s eligibility to vaccine. “We must prioritize those whose voices are so often ignored or unheard by ensuring this at-risk population is vaccinated as quickly as is possible,” he wrote. “I am asking not only for your help but the freedom and flexibility to help in any way I can.”
Risky school sports like basketball, football, and wrestling might start up again in your area soon, depending on what your local health department has to say about it. The latest guidance from the state Department of Health, published Friday, says that county health departments will have the power to decide when high-risk school sports resume, beginning February 1.
A couple of bills that would rein in fees paid to third-party food delivery apps like Seamless and Grubhub during the pandemic are making their way through the New York State legislature, State of Politics reports.
United Airlines might require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, CEO Scott Kirby said Thursday. It’s a step many businesses are looking into, but few have taken, in part because there are some uncharted legal waters here. COVID-19 vaccines in the US are being given under an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, which is not a full approval; until the FDA grants full approval, there may be “unresolved issues” around mandatory vaccination for employees, the National Law Review wrote last month. Some large companies, including Dollar General, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi’s, are paying workers to be vaccinated.
LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
On Thursday, Westchester County released a list of facilities in the county that have been given the vaccine, and the total allotment they are scheduled to receive. Residents cannot make appointments through the web page, but the list provides a comprehensive overview of where vaccines are being administered, and how much vaccine the county is expected to receive in a given week—two bits of information that have been hard to come by. County Executive George Latimer said in his Thursday coronavirus briefing that the county asked for the list from the state health department.
Latimer also said in the briefing that through Wednesday, nearly 11,000 residents had been given the vaccine at the two vaccination sites the county government is involved with. The Westchester County Center, which is run by the state government with assistance from county officials, had vaccinated 8,667 people in its first eight days of operation, and the White Plains County Health Clinic had vaccinated 2,207 people.
Most of the facilities in Westchester County that are administering vaccine are pharmacies, which have been pressed into the distribution effort as eligibility expands. That’s causing a lot of confusion and stress. ‘People are definitely very desperate’ reads the headline of a story by LoHud.com that looks at the vaccine craze in local pharmacies. The paper reports that pharmacies are getting “hundreds of calls” per day.
Putnam County administered 203 vaccine doses on Thursday in its fourth point of dispensing clinic. All of the shots went to essential workers, and the number was lower than the 300 doses the county was able to provide in its previous three clinics, as it received a reduced shipment this week. In a press release, the health department said it expects additional doses for a future clinic soon, but that none are scheduled currently. A clinic may still be announced for next week, depending on when and how many doses the county receives from the state.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day’s latest coronavirus briefing, which aired live on Facebook on Thursday, was mostly about the cooperation between county departments to assist in the vaccination effort. “Our people are working their butts off to make up for the issues caused by New York State,” he said. “The lack of vaccine availability here in Rockland is frankly maddening, but despite the hurdles…we are getting the job done to the best extent humanly possible.”
Two cases of the B.1.1.7 “UK variant” were found in Westchester County, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a Friday briefing.
Ulster County is part-way through what might prove to be the deadliest week of the pandemic this far. Fifteen deaths have been reported since Monday, including eight on Friday, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. County Health Director Dr. Carol Smith told The Daily Freeman that Friday’s spike was due in part to a “lag in reporting” that caused several deaths from Golden Hill Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center to be reported on one day. County Executive Pat Ryan said during his Thursday briefing the tide may be turning, as positivity rates had been falling in recent days.
Though the county can efficiently vaccinate residents at the hub at Kingston High School, it is getting nowhere near as many vaccines as it is able to administer. The county health department received 800 doses Wednesday and ran through them by the end of Thursday, according to Ryan, though he had a bit of good news—Ulster was able to procure an additional 300 doses, which will be administered at the vaccine hub in Ellenville on Saturday. That hub is now at Ellenville High School, switched from Ellenville Hospital. Residents should register for a vaccine at covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/vaccination-assessment or by calling the Office for the Aging at (845) 340-3456. Residents will be contacted when an appointment becomes available. Ryan estimated that as many as 70,000 residents are eligible at this point.
Thirty-six people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Columbia County, a record, and Health Director Jack Mabb said the county was getting “hammered,” with the Ghent Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, The Grand at Barnwell, and Livingston Hills all continuing “to experience significant outbreaks of the virus among residents and staff.”
“Good evening, Orange County, this is your county executive, Steve Neuhaus. No, I am not being held hostage.” That’s how Neuhaus began his Thursday briefing, recorded from a county vaccine hub in Goshen, where 1,000 people were vaccinated Thursday. The majority of them were elderly, Neuhaus said, which pushes back at the state’s guidelines stating counties should prioritize vaccinating essential workers, leaving the elderly to be vaccinated by pharmacies.
Orange County is the latest community in the Hudson Valley seeking to limit the fees third-party delivery services charge eateries. The Orange County legislature will vote February 4 to limit the delivery fees to restaurants to 15 percent, plus 5 percent in other fees. The law would allow eateries charged more than this to ask the delivery service for a refund within seven days and allows them to sue if not refunded. The state Senate passed a bill capping the fees at 15 percent Tuesday that would supersede the Orange County law, but the bill has yet to be brought to the state Assembly.
Saugerties High School students, who have mostly been learning remotely or through a hybrid model, have been struggling with ersatz in-person learning, Hudson Valley One reports, with a high number of students failing at least one class or being chronically absent. The district is discussing a three-tiered credit recovery program for the spring allowing students to complete old assignments or better grades on prior courses.
Dutchess County Health Commissioner Dr. Anil Vaidian posted a short video update on Friday from the county’s point of dispensing clinic at the old JC Penney in the Galleria Mall, which is serving as a large vaccination hub. “We are hampered by the supply of vaccine, so we need you to be patient,” he said. Vaidian advised residents to sign up for Dutchess Delivery, which will send notifications concerning vaccine availability and registration.
Bright idea: Sullivan County has launched a push notification system that will let people know when the county’s Public Health department opens up vaccine appointments. County health officials hope the system will cut down on an overwhelming flood of calls from people looking to schedule a vaccine. Anyone who wants to be notified when county appointments open up can add their contact information online at the county’s vaccine page.
Sullivan County Public Health held its first vaccine clinic for 165 essential workers on Thursday. On Friday, the county began vaccinating people 65 and over, in the first of a series of clinic days that filled up quickly after being opened for registration.
Anyone who visited the Holiday Mountain Ski Area in Monticello on Sunday, January 17 between 9am and 1pm may have been exposed to COVID-19, Sullivan County health officials warned in a late-Friday press release. “Holiday Mountain staff have been cooperative and decided to voluntarily close the ski club for the weekend,” said health director Nancy McGraw.
Delaware County Public Health announced in a Friday press release that it had held a vaccination clinic on Thursday for people in the 1B eligibility group. The county did not make any public announcements about appointments being available before the clinic. County public health officials are encouraging elderly residents who want to be vaccinated to contact the county Office for the Aging at (607) 832-5750. The latest press release also states that employers located in the county seeking vaccinations for their eligible workers should email the county at email@example.com, but the county has not released any information about what eligible workers themselves can do to sign up for vaccination, or indicated whether it will vaccinate eligible workers who are living in Delaware County and working elsewhere.
COVID-19 deaths are spiking in Delaware County this week. The county’s total pandemic death toll, which stood at 10 on Christmas Eve, has risen from 22 to 30 since Wednesday.
Local health officials announced a potential exposure alert for an auction held on the morning of Sunday, January 17 by Michael’s Auction Service at the Quality Inn in Schoharie.
Appointments filled up within a few minutes for a Friday Schoharie County vaccination clinic for people 65 and older, public health officials said Thursday. County health officials say they are getting limited doses from the state, but they encourage eligible people to keep checking back to sign up, as they will continue to make appointments available.
Schoharie County health officials posted an update on the county’s pandemic numbers on Friday evening, announcing that one new fatality had brought the total to six. Active cases in the county are slightly down from their post-holiday highs, but health officials urged county residents to “really buckle down” on preventing transmission: “There have been a total of 943 cases, and over 800 of those cases have occurred since mid-November and the beginning of the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holiday cycle,” they wrote.
Greene County Public Health got an unexpected present from New York State on Tuesday: a one-time distribution of 300 doses of vaccine earmarked for elderly people living in senior housing. County health officials said that the state sent them extra vaccine because of the slow rollout to pharmacies, which along with state sites have been tasked by Governor Cuomo with the vaccination of the elderly. The county has also received and administered 100 doses for essential workers. On Thursday, the county held vaccination clinics for the elderly living in senior housing in Coxsackie, Athens, and Catskill, and sent a “roving team” to perform vaccinations at senior centers in Windham, Tannersville, and Catskill. “This last-minute notification and change in direction from NYS was received on Tuesday at 9am, and by noon on Wednesday, swift action by our Public Health Department along with the Emergency Operations Center had all the logistics in place to deliver the entire allocation,” county officials wrote in a Facebook post.
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The River and The Other Hudson Valley 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.
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