This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties for Thursday, October 15 and Friday, October 16.
NEW YORK STATE
481,107 cases confirmed (1,707 new)
12,611,431 tests performed (136,039 new)
Positive test rate: 1.25%
25,628 deaths (10 new)
200 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
COVID-19 cases are on the rise nationwide. Fourteen states hit their highest-ever case counts this week. The US has passed 8 million confirmed cases. “The Third Coronavirus Surge Has Arrived,” the authors of the COVID-19 Tracking Project declared in The Atlantic this week, noting that even the less-infected Northeast is currently trending upward.
None of this is good news heading into the winter, when more people will gather indoors and dry cool air will boost transmission, says top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. “You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” Fauci said on Friday.
Although positivity rates are lower in New York State than in most of the country, we’re not out of the woods. Hospitalizations have risen lately, fueled by infections in hotspots. According to Rt.live, an online tool that estimates the rate of transmission in all 50 states, New York’s outbreak is growing slowly, with an estimated Rt of 1.01 as of Friday. The state tracker at COVID Exit Strategy, which assigns each state a color code based on disease spread, hospital capacity, and testing, puts New York in the yellow “Caution Warranted” zone; apart from a few other Northeastern states and Hawai’i, the rest of the nation is a sea of red (“Trending Poorly”) and dark red (“Uncontrolled Spread”).
New York State and Orange County health officials have joined forces in a lawsuit seeking the closure of a Kiryas Joel yeshiva that has been operating in defiance of “red zone” state shutdown orders, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports.
Positivity rates in New York State’s hotspots have been improving lately, according to data released Friday by the state. In Orange County’s hotspot in Kiryas Joel, Thursday’s positivity rate was 3.1 percent, and the overall rate for the week to date was 5.9 percent, down from a shocking 24.64 percent during the week of September 27 through October 3. Rockland County’s positivity rate in the Ramapo hotspot has also come down: The rate so far for this week was 5.08 percent, down from 12.29 percent two weeks ago, although Thursday’s single-day positivity rate bounced back up to 11.26 percent. The number of tests administered each week in the hotspots is not shown in state data. In some Brooklyn hotspot neighborhoods, anonymous robocalls have urged people not to get tested in order to keep the numbers down.
Backlash has grown against targeted shutdowns in Orthodox neighborhoods in New York City, The New York Times reports—and spurred on by the goading of provocateur Heshy Tischler, the uprising has taken on a distinctly Trumpy tenor. “In recent months, as the pandemic has ground on and a new outbreak has brought renewed restrictions, the question of how to respond is playing out in the street and online, forums where the influence of rabbis is limited but where Mr. Tischler’s theatrical videos have been shared widely,” the Times writes.
A Pepperdine law professor argues in an op-ed for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this week that New York State’s lack of transparency on how the hotspot maps were drawn is lending weight to charges of anti-Semitism and the deliberate redlining of Jewish communities. If New York officials seek to convince people that they’re not selectively enforcing against Jewish communities, they need to release clear methodology for how they’re drawing maps, Michael Helfand writes. So far, all Cuomo and his aides are saying is that they’re using “the numbers” to draw the maps.
Cuomo had a pointed question for the White House on Thursday: What’s the plan for vaccine distribution? In a letter written in his capacity as chair of the National Governors’ Association, Cuomo wrote along with vice chair Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas asking for clarification on the role of the states in distributing and administering a vaccine. The Trump administration responded to Cuomo’s passive aggression with the ordinary aggressive kind: A White House official shot back that Cuomo has missed the last 17 governors-only briefings, and Trump called Cuomo a “bully thug” in an interview with the conservative digital outlet Newsmax.
With a COVID-19 outbreak raging in Greene Correctional Facility and a smaller outbreak developing in Elmira, the union representing New York State correctional officers is calling on Cuomo to restrict prison visitation to people who can produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the last 14 days, the Press Republican reports.
A long read we missed last week in the New York Review of Books: A devastating up-close look at how the pandemic has transformed life inside women’s prisons.
The president of SUNY Oneonta, where more than 700 students contracted COVID-19 this fall, has abruptly resigned. SUNY Oneonta administrators faced intense criticism for not requiring tests before the start of the semester, and their handling of the outbreak came under national scrutiny when the campus was abruptly shut down, sending some COVID-19-positive students back to their home communities. Dennis Craig, formerly the interim president of SUNY Purchase in Westchester County, will take over as acting president of the college from Barbara Jean Morris.
Higher education advocates are, unsurprisingly, urging Cuomo not to cut higher education budgets. A coalition of 166 groups wrote to the governor Friday to ask for state funding to prevent tuition hikes.
Relying on herd immunity to end the pandemic is “magical thinking,” a pair of Johns Hopkins public health experts write in an op-ed for STAT this week. “Historically, herd immunity has been achieved only through the use of vaccines,” Gigi Kwik Gronvall and Rachel West write. Without an effective vaccine, allowing most of the population to become infected will lead to many more deaths, take a permanent and poorly understood toll on some who survive, and may not even confer lasting immunity on those who are infected.
A large study of patients in more than 30 countries found that the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has become a standard treatment among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, was ineffective at reducing deaths from COVID-19. It’s a disappointing result for a drug that showed promise for the sickest patients in early trials, but some researchers say that because of the design of the study and the difficulty of comparing patient outcomes from different healthcare systems, the results may not be conclusive.
New York State’s recent remotely administered bar exam didn’t go too well, Bloomberg reports. More than 40 percent of law school graduates ran into technical problems with the test, with 37 percent calling it an “extremely negative” experience. Other states aren’t faring any better: One woman went into labor while taking the Illinois bar exam, but didn’t dare stop for fear of being disqualified by the proctoring software, The New York Times reports. This sentence from the story says it all: “They assured her that she didn’t need to come to the hospital just yet, so Ms. Hill logged on to the second part of the exam.”
Governor Cuomo announced a handful of changes on Friday to the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that are designed to expand eligibility and ease access. The updates include expanding eligibility to qualifying college and adult education students enrolled at least half-time in a career or technical education program, a move that is expected to allow about 75,000 students into the program. Elderly and disabled New Yorkers will also have a simplified application to access SNAP benefits.
Below is a Flourish animation we have compiled that shows the rate of active cases per 10,000 residents for each county in our coverage region from May 12 through the present date.
LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam
University coronavirus pages: Sarah Lawrence, Iona, SUNY Purchase, Manhattanville, Westchester Community College, Rockland Community College, Dominican, Mercy
Rockland County is instituting a limited face covering mandate. Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel and County Executive Ed Day announced a standing order Thursday requiring educational institutions, school-age childcare programs, adult learning programs—including colleges and universities—and school transportation companies to enforce mask adherence for all children, faculty, and staff. “Given the recent increases in active cases, we must all redouble our efforts to protect the health of residents and especially children,” Dr. Schnabel said in a press release.
The town of Ramapo and village of Spring Valley have committed personnel to the COVID cluster enforcement task force in Rockland County, which thus far has largely been staffed by state employees. Six full-time code enforcement and parking enforcement workers, including at least one person who is fluent in Yiddish, will be deployed Monday, Ramapo Town Supervisor Michael Specht said Friday. Another five part-time town workers will be made available next week if necessary.
With the Medicare Open Enrollment window available, the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services is offering Medicare-eligible individuals two ways to evaluate their current coverage against newly available 2021 options. One-on-one counseling and assistance is available by calling the DSPS Medicare Information Line at (914) 813-6100 and/or the Westchester Library Systems Senior Benefit Information and Counseling Line at (914) 231-3260. The county will also hold a Medicare 101 Basics presentation on November 18 at 10am via Zoom.
County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia
University coronavirus page: Bard, Vassar, Marist, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Ulster, Columbia-Greene Community College, SUNY Orange
The Hedgewood Home for Adults, in Beacon, has eight active cases of COVID-19, part of a cluster that has resulted in a total of 75 confirmed cases, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said Friday in his last COVID-19 town hall. Molinaro also noted that the county health department has released Halloween safety guidelines.
On Thursday, Ulster County submitted a plan to the state in hopes of receiving rapid testing machines and testing kits. The tests will be deployed first in school districts, congregate care facilities, and other identified clusters throughout the county, County Executive Pat Ryan said.
The Hudson Valley has recouped some of its job losses—but there’s still a long way to go. The latest numbers from the Department of Labor show that the 10 counties in the mid- and lower Hudson Valley gained a combined 14,200 nonfarm jobs last month. The Daily Freeman has a county-by-county breakdown of the jobs picture in the region.
In an effort to help parents of school-age children stretched thin by the additional burden of at-home instruction, Ulster County libraries are offering free access to Tutor.com, which provides on-demand tutoring in a virtual meeting with a vetted professional tutor.
Greene County provided a town-by-town breakdown of confirmed cases on its public Facebook page Friday afternoon. There are 87 active positives in the county—69 of whom are inmates at Greene County Correctional Facility, where an outbreak was identified earlier this week.
Schoharie County also shared an update on confirmed cases on Facebook, with six new cases as of Thursday, a higher rate for the rural county. Seven people are currently isolating, and another 48 who may have been exposed are in quarantine. “Several of these additional cases appear to be related to social gatherings, several at a local bar,” public health officials wrote. The update did not name the bar where positive cases have been found.
The Charlotte Valley Central School District, a rural district of about 400 students in the Delaware County town of Davenport, is requiring all students to return to full-time in-person school or produce a doctor’s note. Some parents and teachers are protesting, the Daily Star reports.
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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.