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Coronavirus Hudson Valley and Catskills News: Friday, March 20

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This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Friday, March 20. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.

La Voz, a Spanish-language magazine covering Hispanic news and culture in the Hudson Valley, is translating these roundups and co-publishing them on its website. Read here. You can also listen to daily audio updates from “La Voz con Mariel Fiori” on Radio Kingston.

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.

The River is also 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.

7,102 cases confirmed (2,950 new)
32,427 tests performed
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Governor Andrew Cuomo made several announcements today. He took his most drastic step in the effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus today, signing the New York State on PAUSE executive order, which lays out 10 policy points:

  • Effective at 8pm on Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed (here is a list of which businesses qualify as “essential”);
  • Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations, or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time;
  • Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced;
  • When in public individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet from others;
  • Businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet;
  • Individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people;
  • Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders;
  • Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health;
  • Young people should also practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations; and
  • Use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes.

The governor also announced “Matilda’s Law”—named for his mother—which requires New York’s most vulnerable populations to stay home and limit visitation to immediate family members or close friends in need of emergency assistance. The law applies to individuals age 70 and older, those with compromised immune systems, and those with underlying illnesses.

Cuomo also announced a 90-day moratorium on any residential or commercial evictions.

Lastly, the governor issued a plea for personal protective equipment providers to sell to the state whatever products they can spare. He also encouraged any company with the proper equipment and personnel to begin manufacturing PPE products, if possible, promising to pay a premium and offer funding. The state is approaching a critical shortage of PPE like gloves, masks, and gowns.

Great news: Some clever Italian engineers have figured out a way to 3-D print the scarce and expensive valves needed for ventilators, and have been producing them quickly on short notice for a few dollars apiece. It might be illegal under patent law, but they’ve decided they would rather ask forgiveness than permission.

Not great news: There are also shortages of respiratory therapists trained to use ventilators, and there are fewer of those per capita in New York State than any other state in the nation except Minnesota, The City reports.

The country is experiencing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of American Red Cross blood drives being canceled because of the pandemic. The New York Blood Center said the coronavirus could not be transmitted through blood transfusions, and donors would not be tested for COVID-19, though they asked people experiencing a fever, cough, and shortness of breath not to donate.

The wave is hitting New York City hospitals. The New York Times reports that doctors in the Bronx’s Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center are already running low on ventilators, and in Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital Center, staff are reusing masks and “slathering them with hand sanitizer.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is in New York City scouting hotels, dorms, and other buildings that can be converted into temporary hospitals.

Late in the day Friday, President Donald Trump declared New York State a major disaster area, the first time in US history that a president has done so for a public health crisis. The declaration potentially opens up billions of dollars in federal aid for the state.

Wondering what an “essential business” is? The state has a list on their website, but it’s still not entirely clear whether some businesses qualify. For instance: Auto repair shops clearly count as “essential,” but cyclists and delivery workers in New York City are anxious for an answer on whether bike repair shops do.

The due date for filing federal income taxes has been postponed three months, from April 15 to July 15—but if you want a refund sooner, you’ll have to file sooner.

“Panicked wealthy” are fleeing for the hills, CNBC reports, more than quadrupling some monthly rental prices in the Hudson Valley, and possibly putting a new strain on already fragile healthcare networks.

A general note on New York State data: These numbers are changing very, very rapidly. Print newspapers are out of date by the time they hit newsstands. In our own reporting, we are relying on the state’s daily counts, but those are frequently updated or contradicted by reports from local officials within hours. If our numbers in this news roundup don’t add up, it may be because local confirmed case counts have not yet been included in state numbers, or because a case that was reported to local public health authorities is officially being included in the count for another county.

1,091 cases confirmed (293 new)
County coronavirus page

The restrictions ordered in New Rochelle when an attorney there became gravely ill from COVID-19 have been eclipsed by restrictions applying to the whole state, LoHud points out. New Rochelle was the first municipality in the Hudson Valley to report a case, and many measures taken in response—such as drive-through testing—are being replicated elsewhere in the state. Schools were closed and large gatherings forbidden in the one-mile containment zone, restrictions far more lax than what has since been implemented by the state. There were 180 cases in New Rochelle as of Thursday morning.

County executive George Latimer extended his plea for additional licensed nurses to include physician’s assistants. They will be assisting vulnerable populations at child care programs, senior buildings and congregate care facilities. Those that can help in the effort can contact Lindsey Jackson at

101 cases confirmed (48 new) 
County coronavirus page

Rockland County reported its third death from COVID-19, an 85-year-old resident with significant health problems. The county also reported 150 new cases since yesterday as testing ramped up and the virus spread. There were only 45 confirmed cases two days ago, according to the county. County health commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert released the following statement:

As the case numbers continue to rise as testing continues to increase, it is now clear that COVID-19 is widespread within our community. I implore you to stay home to curb the spread of the disease. Your choices now and throughout this outbreak will make the difference between life and death for members of our community.

There was a line around the block outside the Good Guys Gun & Ammo shop in Nanuet, the Rockland County Times reports today, and everyone was standing six feet apart from one another like good citizens.

84 cases confirmed (33 new)
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Orange County executive Steve Neuhaus asked Gov. Cuomo for a containment zone in Kiryas Joel today, saying there are 30 confirmed cases in the densely populated village. It was unclear what this would entail, since the entire state is under restrictions more stringent than those in the New Rochelle containment zone set up last week. Neuhaus also said he’s received word of people “continuously congregating” in the Hasidic community.

Ten people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county by Thursday night, with two of them in critical condition. Neuhaus was considering where to find additional hospital space as part of a state plan. The county health commissioner said she did not expect the virus to peak in the area for another four to eight weeks.

36 cases confirmed (5 new)
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

A mobile testing testing site will open in Dutchess County sometime early next week, Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro said in a joint town hall with Ulster County executive Pat Ryan today. He held off on saying where exactly where the site will be located. Residents will be able to call the facility to be given a time when they could visit the site.

A temporary shelter for the homeless is being set up in the extra space on the Dutchess County Jail campus, which was freed up by New York’s bail reforms. Those in need can go to 150 North Hamilton Street starting Saturday. People will be separated by gender and screened for the coronavirus; anyone found to have it will be directed to a different unit on the campus. The facilities have showers, food will be provided, and those seeking temporary housing will be separated from the incarcerated population.

Vassar College in Poughkeepsie canceled its commencement ceremonies, and president Elizabeth Bradley said in-person classes would not resume this semester. SUNY New Paltz canceled its commencement earlier this week.

12 cases confirmed (2 new)
County coronavirus page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

SUNY New Paltz announced two of professors tested positive for COVID-19. One is a faculty member in the music department, while the other is with the special education department; both informed the school they had tested positive today. The faculty members had last taught classes March 12 and 13, according to the school’s spokeswoman, but it was unclear which date referred to which faculty member. Both were home quarantining. The school has closed the academic buildings housing the members’ departments, as well as two dormitories connected to the music department.

Here is a list of restaurants in Kingston doing takeout, delivery, and/or curbside pickup, as well establishments that have closed.

In an emailed coronavirus update, Kingston mayor Steve Noble wrote that drive-through testing would be up and running in Kingston by Monday. He also noted, starting next week, he would provide daily updates on the pandemic every afternoon at 5pm on Radio Kingston. The county has confirmed 15 cases, numbers that will be reflected in the state’s official county imminently.

8 cases confirmed (5 new)
County coronavirus page
Sullivan County 845-292-5910

The county announced six new confirmed cases of COVID-19 today, bringing its total to 12. Those cases have not yet been included in the state’s official count, above, but presumably will be the next time it is updated.

In an open letter, Town of Fallsburg supervisor Steven Vegliante announced he was suspending the certificates of occupancy for all camps and seasonal bungalow communities. The suspension was to comply with the governor’s order limiting large gatherings, Vegliante wrote. The decision was not made lightly, but “the health of our [sic] residents of our Town, County, State and Country demand it,” according to the letter. Sullivan County’s population quadruples every summer as children and families from Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Brooklyn and elsewhere move to camps and the bungalow communities.

New York State is now providing drive-through COVID-19 testing by appointment only at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area, located off the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Residents should call their physician or the Health Department at (845) 292-5910 to schedule a visit.

7 cases confirmed (2 new)
County coronavirus page

After the state’s daily briefing today, which announced a total of seven confirmed cases in Putnam County, local public health officials issued a statement saying that there are now 12 county residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Putnam County also issued a list of public parks today that are open for socially distanced recreation. The county is temporarily closing Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park in Kent and Tilly Foster Farm in Brewster.

2 cases (0 new)
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

They say in journalism: Three’s a trend. Today, Greene County became the third Catskills county government to release an open letter to second homeowners, weekenders, and visitors, telling them in no uncertain terms to stay away. The letter closely mirrors language in recent releases from Delaware and Sullivan county governments seeking to stave off downstate residents fleeing pandemic hot zones; the releases are already becoming controversial in areas where the economy relies heavily on tourism. The release notes that Greene County has no hospital, and states that “any additional needs presented at our surrounding hospitals will tax our medical care system beyond its capacity.” The release also stated that Greene County is currently home to four confirmed cases, none of which originated in the county.

1 cases confirmed (0 new)
County coronavirus page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

Yesterday, the county Board of Supervisors warned second homeowners and visitors to stay downstate. Today, the board of the Town of Middletown, home to the villages of Margaretville and Fleischmanns, struck a more welcoming note in its own release. “Residents and visitors all have the same goal of getting through this pandemic. It’s important that we work in unity as we make our way through this very trying period,” wrote town supervisor Pat Davis.

Cedarwood Environmental, the company that manages the Fleischmanns sewer plant, would like to remind everybody in these trying times that wipes aren’t flushable. Also, if there’s a problem, they can’t come into your house. Flush wisely.

1 case confirmed (1 new)
County health department website
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

After being the only county in our roundup to have no confirmed cases, three people in Columbia County tested positive today, according to the Register-Star: a woman in her thirties in the northern part of the county; a woman in her forties, also in the northern part of the county; and a woman in her sixties in the southern part of the county. None of the cases appears to be from the City of Hudson. The Columbia County Department of Health has deployed a team of nurses to trace the women’s contacts. One hundred and eighteen Columbia County residents were tested for COVID-19 as of Friday.

But Columbia Memorial Health suspended COVID-19 testing to prioritize tests for the highest-risk patients and for healthcare staff who show symptoms or may have been exposed. A hospital spokesperson would not say how many test kits were on hand. Albany Medical Center and St. Mary’s Healthcare, in Amsterdam, also suspended testing on Friday due to shortages, joining Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, which suspended testing Thursday.

The blog Gossips of Rivertown has created a directory of restaurants in Hudson doing takeout, curbside pickup, and/or delivery due to the pandemic. Rolling Grocer 19, the sliding scale grocery store in Hudson, adopted a preorder-only system. Orders can be submitted online or at their storefront for pickup within two hours.

1 cases confirmed (0 new)
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

The president of SUNY Cobleskill announced in a letter to the community on Thursday that public health authorities had notified the college of a confirmed case of coronavirus on campus. The person has been in isolation and the college has “thoroughly cleaned the relevant workspace,” the letter said.

Few people are alive who remember the 1918 Spanish flu, but Newsday managed to find two: 106-year-old and 107-year-old women on Long Island. It’s chilling stuff, but at least we’ve progressed as a society beyond wearing garlic to ward off viruses.

The River is publishing a weekly Sunday roundup of some of the best longform reporting, analysis, and feature writing on the coronavirus pandemic. Check out our first edition here.

To read more of our daily news roundups, visit our coronavirus page.

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