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Coronavirus Hudson Valley and Catskills News: Saturday, March 21

Cuomo, coronavirus, River Newsrooms
Governor Andrew Cuomo holds a press briefing on coronavirus in Albany on Saturday, March 21.
Photo: Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
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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 Saturday, March 21. 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.

We’ve moved our list of resources to a page on our website, which will be updated regularly. The list is not comprehensive, but if you know anything you’d like us to add, please email us.—Phillip Pantuso

10,356 cases confirmed (3,254 new)
45,437 tests performed
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Announced by New York State today:

  • The Army Corps of Engineers has identified four potential sites for temporary hospitals: the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, locations at SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Old Westbury on Long Island, and the “Westchester Convention Center”—by which they mean the Westchester County Center in White Plains.
  • The state is making progress on getting more personal protective equipment and ventilators for hospitals. Apparel manufacturers in the state are switching over to making masks and other medical equipment. The state has purchased 6,000 additional ventilators, although they will need more.
  • The DMV is now temporarily closed for all in-person visits. Online transactions can still be done, and license and permit expiration dates will be extended.
  • The major disaster declaration issued yesterday for New York State by the federal government entitles New York to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds, with the state currently slated to pick up 25 percent of the tab while FEMA covers the other 75 percent. Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling on President Donald Trump to have the feds cover 100 percent of the cost.
  • The federal coronavirus aid package recently passed by Congress includes a provision preventing states from shifting Medicaid costs to counties, a move New York State was relying on for this year’s state budget, due at the end of March. Cuomo is calling the provision a “technical issue” with the bill that will prevent the state from getting $6 million in federal aid, and is asking New York’s Congressional delegation to get it changed.
  • There’s some anecdotal evidence from other countries that a drug called hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria, might help coronavirus patients. Trump has been optimistically touting it as a treatment, while Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the US’s top expert on COVID-19, has said there isn’t enough evidence to know whether it helps. Cuomo announced today that New York State will conduct clinical trials.
  • Cuomo says he hasn’t been tested himself, WAMC reports. “Because I’ve not been exposed to anyone who is positive, I don’t have a fever, I don’t have any symptoms,” Cuomo said. “And also, I don’t want to waste the test.”
  • New Yorkers can sign up for email updates from the state and ask questions about COVID-19 using a form on the state website. There’s also a new page explaining the state’s new paid sick leave policy.
  • Cuomo issued a call for therapists and other mental health professionals to volunteer to help anxious New Yorkers cope. “I am asking the professional mental health establishment to contact us. Let us know that you are willing to volunteer time. It would obviously be all electronic,” he said. Interested volunteers can sign up on the state’s website, where there are also forms for volunteer healthcare professionals and equipment manufacturers.
  • Cuomo is going into full Dad Mode about people in New York City parks not doing proper social distancing, and if they don’t cut it out, he might go down there and yell at them personally. “There’s a significant amount of non-compliance, especially in New York City, especially in the parks. I’m going to go down there today. I want to see what the situation is myself,” he said in Saturday’s daily briefing.

Reminder: As we reported in Friday’s daily roundup, the state is now directing 100 percent of the non-essential workforce to be at home, effective 8pm on Sunday, March 22. The state has issued a list of businesses deemed “essential.”

Today, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first rapid coronavirus test, created by a California company called Cepheid, with a 45-minute turnaround time, Reuters reports.

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.

1,387 cases confirmed (296 new)
County coronavirus page

Westchester’s confirmed cases have been growing more slowly than the rest of the state’s, a fact Cuomo noted as a good sign in his daily briefing Saturday. “We did a New Rochelle containment area. The numbers would suggest that that has been helpful. So I feel good about that,” Cuomo said. “Our hotspot of Westchester is now slowing, and that’s very good news. New York City, it is the most dense environment. This virus spreads in density, right? And that’s what you’re seeing in New York City, obviously.”

Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital, which was in the process of winding down operations in anticipation of a new outpatient clinic in the city, is now ramping up its capacity to deal with the expected deluge of COVID-19 patients. Two floors, including an ICU, are being brought back online and a screening area and a triage are being set up in the hospital’s parking lot. This will add 150 beds to the hospital. There are currently 54,000 total hospital beds in the state and 3,100 ICU beds, according to LoHud, most of which were full even before the pandemic. Governor Cuomo has said the state will need 110,000 hospital beds and more than 37,000 ICU beds—ten times the current number—to handle the pandemic.

New Rochelle School District superintendent Laura Feijóohas announced today she had tested positive for COVID-19. On March 12, the day she first noticed symptoms, she visited Henry Barnard Early Childhood Center, Isaac Young Middle School, and Trinity Elementary School to discuss her decision to close the schools due to the pandemic. A faculty member and a student at Isaac Young have tested positive, but they developed symptoms after the schools closed.

Feijóohas describes her symptoms, which vary greatly from person to person: “Early symptoms were just chills, feeling cold. I later had body aches, joint aches and my eyes were achy. I was coughing and had a shortness of breath, but I think my symptoms have been pretty mild.”

262 cases confirmed (161 new) 
County coronavirus page

The Journal News put out a list of restaurants in the county doing takeout or delivery during the pandemic. The list does not include restaurants that normally offer those services.

163 cases confirmed (79 new)
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

In a video update posted on Facebook, Orange County executive Steve Neuhaus announced that the county now has 219 confirmed cases. “We have 37 percent ICU beds available, that’s the number that we’re really concerned about,” Neuhaus said, noting that local hospitals were in the process of expanding their available beds. He also said a wave of panic shopping has set grocery stores back in stocking shelves.

Mobile Life Support Services, an ambulance company operating in the Mid-Hudson Valley, issued an appeal for additional personal protective equipment. The company needed N-95 masks, surgical masks, eye protection, splash guards, gloves and decontamination supplies, and was looking for donations or to purchase. Anyone willing to help should email or call (845) 561-5698, ext. 251.

Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh postponed its commencement ceremonies and announced classes will not resume in person for the rest of the semester, joining SUNY New Paltz and Vassar College, who made their announcements earlier this week.

49 cases confirmed (13 new)
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

The county is planning to open a mobile test facility next week at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, though county officials would not give an exact timeline. Residents will be provided with a number to call if they are experiencing symptoms, and those warranting testing will be given an appointment at the drive-through site.

22 cases confirmed (15 new)
County coronavirus page

According to a Saturday afternoon announcement from county public health officials, Putnam County now has 31 confirmed cases.

18 cases confirmed (6 new)
County coronavirus page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

The Poughkeepsie Journal interviewed Edward Lundergan, one of the two SUNY New Paltz faculty members the college announced had tested positive on Friday. His wife, Carol, is also ill. The couple, who are in their sixties, are self-quarantining. Mr. Lundergan has run a high fever for the last week and has body aches, an incessant cough, and nausea, but neither he nor his wife have needed hospitalization. They are being checked on by county health workers and their son, who lives in Poughkeepsie. Carol Lundergan said of the experience:

It feels like you have leprosy. And, worse, there’s a feeling of guilt, thinking, “What if we unknowingly infected someone? What if they get sick or even die?”

Two Saugerties residents tested positive, raising the county’s count to 23 late Saturday. However, both people were second homeowners and were tested and quarantined in New York City. The other 21 cases originated in the county.

12 cases confirmed (4 new)
County coronavirus page
County Emergency Community Assistance Center: (845) 807-0925

Sullivan County is now counting 15 confirmed cases, according to a statement on their website Saturday that included an out-of-date number for confirmed cases statewide.

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

Although New York State’s daily numbers are only counting two Columbia County confirmed cases, county health officials announced Saturday that there were now seven. A statement on the county health department’s website: “As of 12pm, March 21, 2020, Columbia County has 7 positive cases of COVID-19. We have received a total of 161 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are several residents under mandatory and precautionary quarantine which is coordinated by CCDOH nursing staff. These dedicated public servants are working non-stop to protect our community. Anyone who can please stay home.”

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

No major updates out of Greene County today. To read yesterday’s news, click here.

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

After the daily state numbers were announced, Delaware County officials announced that two new cases were confirmed in the county. One of the two new cases is not a county resident and was transferred to the NYC Health Department.

The Delaware County Board of Supervisors announced that no penalties or interest would be levied against businesses who pay their county occupancy tax late.

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

No major updates out of Schoharie County today. To read yesterday’s news, click here.

Today, The River published a feature on the race to finish the Vassar Brothers Medical Center expansion, in Poughkeepsie. A portion of the hospital has been slated for COVID-19 patients, but workers say the construction site is dangerous and may be acting as an incubator for the virus, and they wonder why Governor Cuomo’s order mandating businesses statewide to close does not apply to them. Read the story here.

The River’s Lissa Harris appeared as a guest on today’s special edition of Kaatscast, a Catskills podcast produced in Chichester by Brett Barry of Silver Hollow Audio. Also interviewed were “Rachel,” a recent college grad who’s battling COVID-19 head-on; Ulster County Economic Development director Lisa Berger; Phoenicia Diner owner Mike Cioffi; and Onteora school superintendent Victoria McLaren.

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

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