This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Wednesday, June 17.
NEW YORK STATE
385,142 cases confirmed (567 new)
3,111,119 tests performed (59,341 new)
24,629 deaths (21 new)
431 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
It’s the end of an era: Governor Andrew Cuomo will end his regular coronavirus briefings on Friday, after more than three months of daily PowerPoint presentations on state pandemic data that have earned him a national audience and a reputation as a coronavirus communicator. “These daily briefings, while fun, take a lot of time,” Cuomo said in Wednesday’s briefing. “I’m going to finish the daily briefings on Friday, and then we’ll do briefings as necessary, and I’m sure they will often be necessary. But we’re going to turn the page on the immediacy of this crisis.”
New York State’s numbers on cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19, which for a long time were the worst in the nation (and even the world), have declined dramatically in recent weeks, even as the state has entered into the phased reopening process. In Wednesday’s briefing, Cuomo contrasted the situation in New York with Arizona, Texas, and other states that are now seeing dramatic spikes in cases and hospitalizations after being less affected early in the pandemic: “I hope people learn from what we accomplished here in New York. I hope people around the country look at New York and say, ‘How did they do that? How did they go from the worst situation in terms of transmission to the best?’” he said. “I hope they look around and say, ‘How can all these states be going up and New York is going down? How can that be? I thought New York had such a terrible problem. All that density, all that crowding. How’s New York going down and our states are going up? What’s the difference between what we’re doing and what New York is doing?’”
According to rt.live, a website launched by the founders of Instagram that estimates transmission rates for every state in the nation based on testing data, New York isn’t quite number one. In last Friday’s briefing, Cuomo touted New York’s estimated R0 of .77, then the lowest in the country. As of Wednesday, rt.live estimated New York’s R0 at .82: still less than one, meaning the outbreak is shrinking rather than growing, but slightly higher than estimated transmission rates in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The site’s founders say that on Friday, June 19, there will be a significant update to the model the site uses to estimate transmission rates.
So far, few advances have been made in using drugs to treat or prevent COVID-19. Early hopes for a malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine have proved to be unfounded, and another patented antiviral called remdesivir has not been found to make any impact on survival, although it did shorten the length of hospitalization for patients in a widely reported study. This week, another drug has the world’s hopes up: Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely available corticosteroid used to treat arthritis and asthma. Preliminary results from a large study in the UK show that the drug reduced deaths by a third in patients on a ventilator, and by a fifth in patients receiving oxygen but not ventilated. The full study has yet to be published and peer reviewed, and many scientists are urging caution in leaping to conclusions before all the data has been released, but the news that there is some evidence of a drug improving COVID-19 survival rates is a welcome development.
Almost all of the school budgets that were up for a vote in New York State last week passed: roughly 99 percent, according to a preliminary analysis by New York State United Teachers. One that didn’t: Rensselaer, whose plans for a 19.5 percent tax hike were resoundingly trounced by local voters. School districts were forced this year to conduct elections by mail on short notice, a process that has proved logistically challenging.
State Senator Jen Metzger, who represents part of the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions in the 42nd district, hailed the signing into law of a state bill she cosponsored with New York City Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal that expands the definition of “telemedicine” to include audio-only services. “This legislation will reduce barriers to care in our rural communities for residents who lack broadband or don’t own a 💻 or smartphone,” Metzger wrote on Twitter.
Announced by New York State on Tuesday and Wednesday:
- Hospitals and group homes will be allowed to reopen to visitors, Cuomo announced Tuesday. Nursing homes are not included in the order; the state Department of Health is still researching the issue. The statewide prohibition on visits to nursing homes, which has stood for more than three months, is a source of pain and frustration for many residents and families. A recent in-depth feature on NJ.com painted a vivid portrait of the issue in neighboring New Jersey, also under a prohibition on nursing home visitation.
- The Capital Region entered Phase Three on Wednesday, June 17, joining most of the rest of upstate New York. The Mid-Hudson region is on track to enter Phase Three on Tuesday, June 23, with Long Island right behind on Wednesday, June 24. Cuomo also announced that New York City is looking good for entering Phase Two on Monday, June 22, just a few hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city might not be ready to move forward until July. How fast the city progresses might depend on how well its residents do at social distancing; Cuomo has warned that if people keep crowding around bars, like they did in Hell’s Kitchen and the East Village last weekend, the city’s reopening process might be delayed.
- The US Open will be held this year, from August 31 to September 13, but without fans in the stands.
- Another recent round of state antibody testing estimates that 13.4 percent of the state’s residents have antibodies to the novel coronavirus.
- Cuomo has signed a bill passed by the state legislature that prevents employers from punishing health care workers who speak out about workplace conditions.
- The state Department of Financial Services has reached an agreement with credit reporting agencies to provide free credit reporting to consumers.
One person died and two more were hospitalized in Rockland County, a slight increase as the county prepared to enter Phase Three of reopening with the rest of the Mid-Hudson region on Tuesday, June 23. LoHud.com has the latest.
Meanwhile, over in Putnam County, coronavirus infection numbers remain flat, with no new deaths over the past week. And in Westchester, active infections are now below 700, and hospitalizations are around 100, Executive George Latimer said in Wednesday’s briefing. Only 17 people tested positive Tuesday out of more than 3,000 total tests.
Rockland County will again distribute free protective face masks to small businesses and local nonprofits on Friday, June 19, from 1-3pm as part of the ROCK GOV–FACE COV program (this county loves its acronyms). Masks are only available for the first 100 respondents who submit an online request, which one can do here. To be eligible, businesses or nonprofits must conduct operations in Rockland County and employ no more than 20 people.
Westchester County Deputy Executive Ken Jenkins hosted a virtual conversation with Community Mental Health Commissioner Michael Orth to discuss mental health during the pandemic. The 21-minute video can be viewed on YouTube.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro provided the latest numbers in his COVID-19 town hall on Wednesday. The county currently has 421 active cases and 18 hospitalizations, down from 458 cases and 21 hospitalizations one week ago.
In Ulster County, where Executive Pat Ryan announced on Monday zero new COVID-19 cases, active infections have dropped from 440 to 331 over the past week.
The virus continues to decline in Orange County, as well, which had 11 hospitalizations as of Monday, June 15, down from 50 the week prior. And Columbia County had no new positives out of 134 people tested on Tuesday.
As of June 15, the Poughkeepsie DMV office is open for in-person license, permits, and non-driver ID transactions by appointment only. Appointments can be made by calling (845) 486-2388 between 9am and 4:45pm.
The Ulster County DMV will open next week for limited transactions by appointment on Monday, June 22. Appointments can be made at ulstercountyny.gov/countyclerk/dmv.html clicking the “Make an Appointment” button.
Big Deep swimming hole in Woodstock is closed due to the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped visitors, who’ve gotten creative: Hudson Valley One reports that for the past few weekends, cars have been lined up outside the entrance to Little Deep, which town officials left open because it mostly consists of hiking trails. Instead, some enterprising individuals have used Little Deep to gain access to Big Deep by swimming upstream. “You don’t have to be a genius to figure it out,” said councilman Reggie Earls.
Sullivan County is down to 82 active cases and seven hospitalizations, down from 178 and 11 last week. Delaware County had its first positive test in the last week, but still has just two people hospitalized. Greene County has just four active cases, with no hospitalizations. And Schoharie County confirmed one new positive infection out of 87 people tested in the last 24 hours.
Sullivan County health officials announced on Tuesday that customers of the Broadway Barber Shop, located at 456 Broadway in Monticello, may have been exposed to a COVID-19 risk if they visited the shop on Tuesday, June 9. “The risk is low, as the establishment was in full compliance with Phase Two reopening guidelines, and everyone present was wearing masks and following current guidelines and protocols for prevention of COVID-19 transmission,” said Public Health Director Nancy McGraw in a statement. Health officials followed the release up on Wednesday with a clarification: “As there has been some confusion, please note that yesterday’s Public Health Advisory referred ONLY to Broadway Barber Shop at 456 Broadway in Monticello. The business known as The Barbershop located at 462 Broadway in Monticello is unrelated to this advisory. Both barbershops have been adhering to all COVID-19 guidelines, which is why Public Health Services considers the potential transmission risk low. The advisory was issued only out of an abundance of caution and should not be construed as discouraging business at either of these establishments.”
Greene and Columbia counties hit Phase Three along with the rest of the Capital region on Wednesday, which means restaurants can open for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, among other restrictions. Nora Mishanec of Columbia-Greene Media visited a few establishments in the twin counties on their first day back open.
Hot topic in a few Delaware County towns this week: What’s happening with the town pool. Outdoor pools statewide have been cleared for reopening, but the decision is up to local authorities. In Delhi, managers hope to have the pool open “in the near future,” according to a Facebook post; Andes is planning to reopen the town pool on July 1 to coincide with Phase Four in the Southern Tier, the Walton Reporter reports.
The River is 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.
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.