This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Wednesday, March 25. 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
NEW YORK STATE
30,811 cases confirmed (5,146 new)
103,479 tests performed (12,209 new)
285 deaths (75 new)
888 in ICUs
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
Today’s grimmest read: A New York Times story that describes the “apocalyptic” scene of a Queens hospital on the front lines of the growing outbreak surge, and a leaked FEMA briefing that predicted every one of the city’s current 1,800 ICU beds would be full by Friday, March 27. At the Elmhurst Hospital Center, the Times reports, some patients are dying in the emergency room waiting for a bed, and a refrigerated truck is stationed outside to collect bodies. City officials expect morgues in the city to be full by the end of the week. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. “We have not turned the trajectory nor have we hit the apex,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his daily briefing Wednesday. “We’re still on the way up the mountain.”
US Senators reached a bipartisan agreement on the $2 trillion federal stimulus package in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, though as of press time, a last-minute dispute over unemployment aid was delaying a final vote on the Senator floor. Four Republican Senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were concerned that the bill as written would incentivize workers who had been laid off to collect unemployment rather than looking for work, The New York Times reports. The bill includes a one-time $1,200 payment for adults with incomes up to $75,000; $500 billion in aid to industries like the airlines; and $350 billion in loans for small businesses. The bill also extends protections to gig and part-time workers.
But there are critics, including Governor Cuomo, who said the bill is “terrible” for New York State in his briefing. “The $2 trillion bill, what does it mean for New York State government? It means $3.8 billion…This response to this virus has probably already cost us $1 billion. It will probably cost us several billion dollars when we’re done. New York City only gets $1.3 billion from this package. That is a drop in the bucket as to need.”
A state press release issued Wednesday said that despite the fact that New York currently has by far the greatest number of cases and the highest costs in the nation, it is poised to get far less budgetary relief from the federal government in the current draft of the bill. “Based on initial reports, New York State government gets approximately $3.1 billion. As a percent of our total state budget—1.9 percent—it is the second-lowest amount in the nation,” the release stated.
Vice has an investigative report on “NYS Clean,” the hand sanitizer being produced in New York State prisons. According to inmates at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, the prison isn’t actually making sanitizer, they’re bottling fluid supplied by an unknown manufacturer, at a pay rate of $2 an hour and with grueling hours. Inmates at Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill are also involved in sanitizer production.
A bill that would cancel 90 days of rent for tenants and small business owners that have lost income or been forced to close due to the state’s coronavirus-related restrictions gained more momentum today in the state Senate. Twenty democratic state Senators now support the measure, which was introduced Monday by Queens Senator Mike Gianaris, though only one of the co-sponsors—Senator Timothy Kennedy of Buffalo—is from north of New York City. The bill would also forgive a portion of landlord’s mortgages equal to the amount they lost from the cancelled rent. The bill essentially shifts the losses up to the banks, the Real Deal points out, quoting Senator Mike Gianaris as saying banks that back mortgages are “best positioned to seek federal relief.”
Congressman Antonio Delgado, who represents the Catskills and much of the Hudson Valley in New York’s 19th Congressional district, is fighting for more relief for small businesses from Congress and the Small Business Administration, Columbia-Greene Media reports.
- The state has a new helpline for free online mental health services: (844) 863-9314. More than 6,000 mental health professionals have signed up to staff it. Also volunteering for duty: more than 40,000 healthcare workers, some of them students and retirees, who will be put to work in the state’s surge healthcare force.
- Repeating Tuesday’s call for resources to be deployed to hard-hit New York first, Cuomo is calling for the “rolling deployment” of equipment and other resources. Cuomo is promising to redeploy equipment and personnel to other states as the outbreak recedes in New York and crests elsewhere. “I said to the president, ‘I’ll be part of going to the next hotspot with our team. We’re asking the country to help us, we will return the favor,’” he said.
- A new plan to increase social distancing in New York City involves a pilot project to close streets to cars and open them to pedestrians. There is also a new voluntary playground social distancing protocol that prohibits basketball and other close-contact sports. If the protocol is not adhered to, Cuomo said, the state and city will make it mandatory, and possibly close down the playgrounds.
- The Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street, one of Manhattan’s toniest addresses, will provide free rooms to medical personnel on the front lines so they can isolate themselves from their families. Others will follow.
- The state is still aggressively working with hospitals to increase bed capacity by at least 50 percent, and in some cases up to 100 percent. Cuomo estimated that these measures could get the state from an existing capacity of 53,000 beds to around 85,000. With temporary hospitals being built by FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Navy ship Comfort expected in New York Harbor in mid-April, the total capacity might be around 119,000 beds. That’s still short of the 140,000 beds the state expects to need, but Cuomo says more locations for temporary hospitals are being scouted.
- The state still needs many more ventilators, despite extra purchases and a shipment of 4,000 from the federal government. Health officials are exploring splitting one ventilator between multiple patients, a tactic that Italian hospitals were forced to adopt.
- Cuomo said that more protective equipment would be needed soon, but that “right now, we have enough protective equipment, gloves, masks, gowns, for all the hospitals statewide that are dealing with it.” Reports from some healthcare workers on the front lines say otherwise, and hospital workers in Manhattan have shared photos on Instagram of healthcare workers using trash bags as PPE.
- The state Public Service Commission has suspended planned rate increases for utilities that were set to go into effect on April 1.
- It’s early to draw conclusions about social distancing measures put into place in New York over the past week, but Cuomo said in today’s briefing that the evidence suggests that efforts are paying off. A projection of state data on infections and hospitalizations found that on Sunday, hospitalizations were doubling every two days. By Tuesday, Cuomo said, the rate of hospitalization was doubling every 4.7 days. As grim as the picture is in New York City right now, the slowing rate of growth in the state’s hospitalization numbers suggests it would be far worse without such measures.
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 the state’s daily numbers, or because a case that was reported to local public health authorities is officially being included in the count for another county.
Nurses at four Westchester County and New York City hospitals interviewed by LoHud.com reported being told by hospital management to reuse surgical masks. They also said they were not being given N95 masks, which protect against coronavirus transmission. Nurses at one hospital in the Bronx were being told to break quarantine early to come back to work. This comes after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended loosening quarantine rules for medical workers and reusing N95 masks. New York is facing a shortage of personal protective equipment because of ballooning worldwide demand and emergencies in other countries blocking the export of gear normally headed to American hospitals.
New Rochelle’s containment zone, established March 12 after a cluster of cases started emerging there, ended Wednesday as scheduled, though the state has a whole now has far more stringent restrictions Town leaders said the containment zone gave New Rochelle a bad name and led some residents to think people would not be allowed to enter or leave the zone, or that it admittance would be decided by National Guard troops deployed there. Cuomo said last week he should have chosen a more accurate name for the effort. He said Wednesday the one-mile containment zone, which closed schools and houses of worship and banned large gatherings, slowed the virus. There have been 234 COVID-19 confirmed cases in the community of 79,000, or one out of every 338 people.
A parish employee at the Church of the Assumption in Peekskill tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday. Reverends Esteban Sanchez and Carlos Limongi, the parish’s two priests, are self-quarantining as they await their test results. Anyone who came in contact with the priests is advised to self-isolate until they receive test results.
County executive Ed Day and Dr. Patricia Ruppert, head of the county’s Health Department, issued a Commissioner’s Standing Isolation Order announcing anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 found breaking quarantine could be fined up to $2,000 a day. An emergency order issued as part of the county’s State of Emergency already stated anyone awaiting test results who did not stay home could be fined $2,000, but today’s order widens the scope of who can be fined. The original emergency order also stated anyone found leaving their home while awaiting test results could be charged with a class B misdemeanor, which carries up to three months in jail.
A resident died of COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, the first death from the pandemic in Orange County. The resident was older than 80 and had multiple pre-existing conditions, but the county did not release any other information about the deceased. About 117 people sickened with COVID-19 are hospitalized in the county, including 39 in intensive care, according to the Times-Herald Record, which used hospitalization percentages given by county executive Steve Neuhaus.
A wave of cases is likely to crest in the region in two to three weeks, Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro said Wednesday in a joint press briefing with Ulster County executive Pat Ryan. Both counties are working hard to increase hospital capacity to meet the need, and are calling for volunteers to help with various relief efforts.
Quote of the day goes to Kristi Barnes of the New York State Nurses Association, which represents more than 1,200 nurses in Kingston and Poughkeepsie hospitals, talking about the dire need for personal protective equipment (PPE). “We can’t craft our way out of this crisis,” she told Daily Freeman reporter Diane Piniero-Zucker. The nurses’ union is calling on the federal government to ramp up production and distribution of PPE.
The Dutchess Business Notification Network, an alliance of local business and economic development associations, government entities, and others, has been sending daily email updates on the outbreak and compiling local resources for businesses and nonprofits. In today’s email, the DBNN included a link to a survey that local businesses should fill out if they can donate, sell, or help manufacture protective equipment for hospitals and healthcare workers.
From a Putnam County news release: “As of 4 pm on March 24, the Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) is confirming 11 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Putnam County residents, bringing the total to 93 cases.”
A student at Haldane Central School has tested positive for COVID-19, the Highlands Current reported Tuesday.
Ulster County is likely to need four times the available beds and ventilators currently available, county executive Pat Ryan said in a Wednesday briefing.
Ulster Publishing founder Geddy Sveikauskas says that despite the closing of print editions and layoffs of staff, the Woodstock Times and Ulster Publishing’s other local papers will keep publishing online and will try to survive the pandemic. In a letter published on the company’s website, Sveikauskas wrote: “Our objective remains to publish the best journalism we can in whatever format serves our communities best.”
Mohonk Mountain House, the massive 19th-century resort in the Shawangunk Mountains, will be temporarily furloughing 90 percent of its employees as it extends its closure until June 1, according to a spokesperson for the resort in an emailed press release. The resort employs hundreds of people.
The Kingston Tenants Union is holding a tenants rights livestream on Friday at 2pm in anticipation of April 1, when many out-of-work tenants will be unable to pay rent. The livestream, which will be available on the Kingston Tenants Union Facebook Page and YouTube channel, will feature Kingston attorney Steve Gottlieb answering questions. Tenants can submit questions in advance by filling out the form at KingstonTenantsUnion.com. No one submitting questions will be named on the livestream.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, SUNY New Paltz made several announcements about students and faculty testing positive for COVID-19. As of Wednesday afternoon, the campus had five confirmed cases, three of them faculty members.
The county announced its Early Intervention (EI) and preschool special education face-to-face services are immediately cancelled. EI appointments can continue remotely, but the special education classes are not approved to do this by the state, according to Sullivan County.
County leaders are holding a live stream Q&A session at 1pm on Thursday. Sheriff Michael Schiff, county manager Josh Potosek, and public health director Nancy McGraw are scheduled to take part. Questions can be submitted by emailing email@example.com or by sending a private message to the Sullivan County government’s Facebook page.
Mountain Jam has been cancelled. The three-day music festival, held at Hunter Mountain for 14 years before moving to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in 2019, will not take place because the “safety of our artists, fans, and staff [is] of paramount importance,” according to a posting on the festival’s Facebook Page. Tickets will be automatically refunded at their point of purchase.
From a Columbia County news release Wednesday: “As of 3:30pm, March 25, 2020, Columbia County has 19 positive cases of COVID-19. We have received 254 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 85 under mandatory quarantine and 30 under precautionary quarantine. There are 9 residents with suspected, not tested cases.”
County Board of Supervisors chairman Matt Murell urged people coming to the county from New York City to self-quarantine for 14 days to avoid spreading COVID-19. Yesterday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, advised New York CIty residents to self-quarantine for two weeks when traveling to other parts of the country, saying the disease was spreading in Long Island from people leaving NYC.
Columbia County has leased two locations to house people ordered to self-quarantine who can not do so elsewhere. One of the leases is in Kinderhook and the other is in Austerlitz. People there could have been in contact with someone who tested positive, been displaced from a common or family home by someone quarantining, or could have the virus themselves. “You have a better chance of catching the coronavirus walking by someone in a store than you do from someone in a house next door to you,” according to county health director Jack Mabb, who reminded the county the people at the properties were their fellow residents and to respect their privacy. No one is hospitalized in the county from the coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon.
Both the Democratic and Republican election commissioners in Columbia County said they supported delaying New York’s April 28 Presidential primary until June 23. The New York State Election Commissioners Association called for the delay Tuesday, citing critical shortages of inspectors and available polling places due to the pandemic.
The City of Hudson’s parks were closed today by an emergency order from Mayor Kamal Johnson. The order covers playgrounds, basketball courts, BBQ pits, and picnic tables at the four city parks. The city’s public trails can still be used provided people stay six feet apart.
Inmates and staff at the Delaware County Correctional Facility are doing a good job of social distancing, sheriff Craig DuMond told a Daily Star reporter. All new inmates are being quarantined for 14 days to monitor them for symptoms before allowing them to be among the general population. “I have to commend our staff and inmates here for maintaining a level head and not panicking, and for using sound universal precautions,” DuMond said.
Today’s update from county government states that Greene County has eight positive cases, in Windham, Durham, Greenville, Hunter, and Cairo. Thirty-two people are being self-monitored for possible exposure.
In a Facebook post on the local state of the outbreak today, presumably written by director Amy Gildemeister, the Schoharie County Department of Health pleaded with readers to hold fast to tough social distancing measures for the long haul. “The goal is 15 days to flatten the curve. I want to clarify what that means. Once social distancing efforts are in place, it takes at least 15 days to know if they are impacting the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading,” the post said. “If we see that drop, it is NOT a cue that we can stop social distancing. It is a sign that what we are doing is working and we must continue to do it.”
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 second edition here.
To read more of our daily news roundups, visit our coronavirus page.