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Coronavirus Roundup: On New York’s COVID Anniversary, Cuomo Dodges the Limelight

Amid allegations of sexual harassment and scrutiny over his handling of the pandemic, the governor has gone quiet. Plus: the FDA approves a third vaccine, Kingston gets a rapid testing site, and county health departments can now vaccinate the elderly.

A New Yorker receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at a state popup vaccination site in Mount Vernon.
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 Monday, March 1, in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.


7-day average positive test rate: 3.1%
636 deaths past 7 days
5,307 hospitalizations (1,065 in ICUs)
Share of population fully vaccinated: 7.6%
Share of population given 1 dose: 14.3%
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

What would New York State’s pandemic response look like without Governor Andrew Cuomo calling all the shots? We may find out soon: With a federal investigation into his administration’s handling of policy and data on COVID-19 in nursing homes looming, and Cuomo now facing a firestorm over sexual harassment allegations from two former aides and a third woman who came forward to The New York Times on Monday evening, the man who has been described as the nation’s most powerful governor has never looked so vulnerable.

The governor has not held a televised briefing since last Wednesday; he usually holds public pandemic briefings on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the discovery of the first COVID-19 case in New York State.

While it was soon overshadowed in headlines by accusations of sexual harassment and bullying levied at Cuomo, a nursing home hearing held last week in the state legislature was dramatic in its own way. Both Republicans and progressive Democrats peppered state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker with questions, and expressed frustration at Zucker’s evasive answers. “It is very clear that this administration—whether it’s you, sir, or anybody else speaking on his behalf—will never acknowledge that you did anything wrong,” state Senator Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat from the Bronx, said to Zucker at one point.

STAT, a reliably science-grounded source of reporting throughout the pandemic, spoke to medical ethicists for a recent story about how Cuomo has lost public trust as a leader on COVID-19 policy. The consensus is that the cover up was a bigger problem than the controversial policy whose effects state officials tried to hide. “Cuomo’s conduct stands out not because the policy he put in place was especially egregious, but because he obscured public health data for political gain,” STAT’s Rachel Cohrs writes.

Amid the din of political turmoil in Albany, the number-crunchers at the Empire Center, the conservative-leaning think tank whose quest for better data has been at the center of the unfolding controversy over nursing homes, have kept doing policy work. Last week, health policy analyst Bill Hammond published a blog post echoing testimony he gave to the state legislature, arguing that sharp reductions in state public health funding over the past decade left New York vulnerable to the pandemic’s ravages. The operating budget for the state Wadsworth Center, which has played a key role in COVID-19 testing and is currently at the forefront of screening New York State cases for variants of interest, has been slashed by 40 percent over the past 10 years, Hammond writes.

After weeks of sparring with county leaders over their role in vaccinating the public, New York State is going to let county health departments vaccinate the elderly. Details of the plan are still yet to come, but Cuomo announced Friday that the state will set up more mass vaccination sites in partnership with local health departments and increase the supply of the Moderna vaccine to counties over the next week. So far, state officials have pressured county health departments to stick mainly to vaccinating essential workers and some people with comorbidities, allocating doses earmarked for specific eligible groups and threatening to cut counties off from supply if they strayed from the state plan. 

State Senator Michelle Hinchey, a Democrat from Saugerties, announced the opening of a state-run COVID-19 rapid test site at 27 Grand Street in Kingston on Monday. The site, run by HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, offers testing free of charge and is open to all New Yorkers by appointment. To make an appointment, call (914) 202-4530 or schedule online.

As of Monday, public-facing hotel workers in New York State are now eligible for vaccine, Governor Cuomo announced in a Friday press release. Like restaurant workers and taxi and delivery drivers, hotel workers are in a gray area of eligibility at the local level: They can be vaccinated at state sites, but it is up to county health departments whether or not they have the capacity to add them to their essential worker vaccination efforts.

And then there were three: On Saturday, the US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the first single-dose vaccine authorized for COVID-19 in the US. 

The entry of a third successful candidate into the vaccine rollout is great news for supply, but it’s causing science communicators some headaches. While Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19 in clinical trials, it was less effective than the two mRNA vaccines at preventing “moderate” disease, coming in at 66 percent efficacy, compared to Pfizer and Moderna’s rates of greater than 90 percent. Scientists say the difference in efficacy rates for less-serious illness isn’t nearly as important as the vaccine’s impact on severe illness and death, but some worry that leaning on Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine to immunize hard-to-reach communities might raise questions about equality in the vaccine effort. The best vaccine you can get, says top pandemic doctor Anthony Fauci, is the one you can get right now: “People should take the one that’s most available to them,” Fauci told NBC this weekend. “I think people need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.”


County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam
County vaccine pages: Putnam

A bill introduced Monday in the state Senate calls for New York to establish a state-run mass vaccination site in every county outside New York City with a population of more than 300,000. Those parameters fit just two counties that don’t already have a state-run vaccine clinic: Rockland and Orange. The bill was introduced by Senators James Skoufis and Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, and is cosponsored in the Assembly by Ken Zebrowski. was on site at the Rockland County Courthouse for the lawmakers’ public announcement of the bill.

Following Governor Cuomo’s Friday announcement that county health departments will now be allowed to vaccinate seniors age 65 and up with no comorbidities—a population previously served exclusively by pharmacies in the state—the Putnam County health department released a press release which included more details on the negotiations between state and county officials that led to the policy change. Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, who for months has been calling on the state to loosen its policy and allow local health departments to vaccinate seniors, was part of a Friday conference call with Larry Schwartz, who is leading the state’s vaccination efforts; Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner; and county executives across the state. “This is what we have been working toward, the opportunity to dispense as many vaccines as we are allocated, as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” Odell said in the press release.

On the conference call, county executives were asked to submit requests for the amount of the Pfizer vaccine they could store at sub-zero temperatures and dispense within seven days to senior residents. According to the Putnam County press release, Putnam and Dutchess counties requested 3,000 vaccine doses each, while Rockland County requested 5,000 doses. On Monday, in a separate release, Putnam County said it has been told by the state that it will receive 1,170 doses of Pfizer vaccine to administer to seniors. “We hoped for more, but this is still a big increase over the amount we had been getting,” Putnam County Executive Odell said. The county is waiting until the shipment arrives before scheduling a vaccine clinic for seniors. Keep an eye on the county health department’s COVID-19 vaccine page for more information.

The Rockland County Office for the Aging partnered with Refuah Health Center to vaccinate 280 seniors from the county’s COVID-19 vaccine waitlist. According to a press release, Refuah reached out to seniors at a number of locations throughout the county, and administered shots at two locations in recent days: 80 seniors were vaccinated on Friday at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, and 200 were vaccinated Monday at the Rockland County Fire Training Center. According to County Executive Ed Day, 14.3 percent of Rockland residents have received at least one dose of vaccine—the same percentage as New York State on the whole. Rockland residents age 65 and up can register for the COVID-19 vaccine waitlist by calling the Office for the Aging at (845) 364-2110, Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, or online at Last week, the county activated its Emergency Operations Center to assist the Officer for the Aging with managing the senior waitlist.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer spent a portion of his Monday coronavirus press briefing by discussing popup vaccine clinics in the county, which are collaboratively run by the state health department and local healthcare and community partners. The popup clinics are not open to the public; they are designed for targeted audiences, such as senior citizens with comorbidities or essential frontline workers. After registering online, residents eligible for a particular clinic may receive a bespoke link to make an appointment. “You cannot give that link out to somebody else,” Latimer said. “When you give it to your cousin—to be slightly facetious about this—because your cousin wants it, then you’re denying somebody who needs that vaccine more.”

Case data continues to trend in a positive direction in most of the lower Hudson Valley. In Westchester County, there were nearly 5,739 active cases as of Sunday, nearly 300 fewer than this time last week, according to the county’s coronavirus dashboard. In Putnam County, active cases declined from 524 to 462, according to state data. But in Rockland County, active cases had risen by 85 to 1,457 as of Monday’s dashboard update.


County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia
County vaccine pages: Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

Hudson Valley One interviewed 19 hospital employees in the Hudson Valley about their experiences during the last year. The resulting longform article portrays the pandemic from the front lines.

Ulster County received 3,340 vaccines doses this week, nearly five times what the county has received in recent weeks. The vaccines will be given to those over the age of 65, regardless of whether they have comorbidities.

A free rapid testing site opened in Kingston on Monday, according to a press release from state Senator Michelle Hinchey, who advocated for the state-run operation. Appointments run weekdays from 9am to 5pm at the HealthAlliance medical building at 27 Grand Street, and can be scheduled at Westchester Medical Center’s website.

The Times Herald-Record has an update on the “vaccine sherpa” of Highland Mills who helps eligible New Yorkers get vaccine appointments. Heather Curtis and a partner, who declined to be interviewed, have gotten more than 200 people appointments, and a previous THR article brought a flood of inquiries from as far away as New York City.

The state will hold a popup vaccination clinic at the Seventh Street Fire Station in Hudson on March 6. The clinic is open to those 65 and up, and is meant to target underserved communities, part of the state’s effort to vaccinate minority groups, which have been disproportionately impacted by the virus and are being vaccinated at lower rates. Those interested in being vaccinated should contact their town supervisor. Former Hudson Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes is coordinating a phone bank to make residents of Hudson’s lower-income wards aware of the clinic.

A bill introduced Monday in the state Senate calls for New York to establish a state-run mass vaccination site in every county outside New York City with a population of more than 300,000. Those parameters fit just two counties that don’t already have a state-run vaccine clinic: Rockland and Orange. The bill was introduced by Senators James Skoufis and Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, and is cosponsored in the Assembly by Ken Zebrowski. was on site at the Rockland County Courthouse for the lawmakers’ public announcement of the bill.


County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie
County vaccine pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

Sullivan County and the Garnet Health Medical Center are gearing up to expand their collaborative vaccination efforts with a larger clinic planned soon at SUNY Sullivan, according to a county press release on Saturday. The local hospital is sharing the county’s signup list of people who want to be notified about upcoming vaccine clinics, officials said; that list is now up to more than 10,000 people and growing.

From recent data released by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, it appears there’s an outbreak underway at Sullivan Correctional Facility. As of Friday’s data, there were 17 known active positive cases at the state-run prison, with 89 total positives reported during the pandemic so far and 72 previously recovered.

Schoharie County officials were irate last week at the news that the Bassett Healthcare Network, which runs the Cobleskill Health Center, sent doses intended for use in the county to other facilities they own rather than contact the health department to try to find local eligible recipients. “Those vaccines were intended for Schoharie County. They told us they shipped them out because they didn’t know of anyone here. That is bogus,” said county board of supervisors chair Bill Federice at a recent meeting

Schoharie County Public Health is holding a vaccination clinic on Tuesday for essential workers, and one Wednesday for people with comorbidities

Greene County released a town-by-town breakdown of cases on Monday, listing both active cases and those that have recovered. Of interest to Delaware County: Greene County counts two recovered cases in Fleischmanns, and explains that “some neighboring towns have roads that reach into Greene County. If a person resides on the Greene County side of the border, they are counted under Greene County numbers.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, Delaware County Public Health has steadfastly refused to give any more detailed geographic information on where cases are located than the county level, citing medical privacy and fears that people in small towns will be identified.

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