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Coronavirus

Coronavirus Roundup: Federal Aid to New York Is Probably Not Coming

All the news and announcements from New York State, the Hudson Valley, and the Catskills for Tuesday, September 22 and Wednesday, September 23.

Is Governor Cuomo’s budget strategy of deep cuts and hoping for federal aid sunk?
Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
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This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties for Tuesday, September 22 and Wednesday, September 23. 

NEW YORK STATE
451,892 cases confirmed (665 new)
10,135,692 tests performed (70,940 new)
Positive test rate: 0.94%
25,437 deaths (5 new)
490 hospitalizations
141 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

It’s time to face facts, New York: Federal help isn’t coming anytime soon. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget “strategy” of threatening deep future budget cuts and hammering on Washington, DC to deliver aid to state and local governments isn’t working, State of Politics’s Susan Arbetter reports. The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made the prospect of a Congressional compromise that could deliver aid to suffering states before the November election even more unlikely. Policy think-tank types are divided on what New York ought to do about it; Arbetter spoke to Ron Deutsch of the Fiscal Policy Institute, who thinks New York should raise taxes on the wealthy, and E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy, who thinks the state should cut school aid and, among other things, get rid of the clothing exemption for sales tax. Policy advisors have very different politics, and offer different prescriptions for the state’s budgetary ills, but increasingly, they’re in agreement on one thing: We can’t rely on the federal government this year.

Congress is preparing to leave town this week without passing a stimulus bill, CNN reports. With no sign of movement on a stimulus bill both sides agree is necessary, Republican and Democratic lawmakers may act unanimously to pass a continuing resolution to keep government funding flowing this week, and then go home for campaign season. Among those not impressed with Congressional inaction: The stock market, which continued a weeklong steep slide on Wednesday.

Senator Rand Paul used New York State’s COVID-19 response—and some very dubious science—to go after the nation’s top infectious disease doctor Anthony Fauci, and tough pandemic policies, in a Congressional hearing Wednesday. In an argument with Fauci, Paul brought up New York’s high COVID-19 death rate—much of which was baked in by widespread undetected infections before the state instituted strict pandemic policies—and argued that New York is now doing better because we have developed “herd immunity.” Fauci was having none of it. “No, you misconstrued that, senator, and you’ve done that repetitively in the past,” he said.

A saliva swab diagnostic test developed by SUNY Upstate Medical University and Quadrant Biosciences was granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday. The test can be administered by individuals themselves, swabbing their mouths, and was developed for use as a “pooled test,” where multiple samples are combined into a single sample that is then tested for COVID-19. If the pooled sample tests positive, each individual saliva sample in the pool can be retested individually without the need to collect a new sample. The SUNY/Quadrant tests have been used on SUNY campuses this semester to support quick, widespread testing as students return to school.

The New York State Department of Health is staying firm on its rules: Every student in public school must get required immunizations, even if they’re learning remotely. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports that several large school districts have petitioned the state for a waiver or an extension, citing the increased difficulty of making sure students can visit their pediatrician during the pandemic, but the DOH isn’t bending. “Every student must get all of the required vaccinations unless they have a valid medical exemption,” officials said in a statement. “This applies to all students enrolled in school, regardless if they attend classes in person or remotely.”

An outbreak is underway in several Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods. Dubbed the “Ocean Parkway Cluster” by officials, the outbreak is disproportionately hitting Orthodox and Hasidic communities in the city; one city official told The New York Times that a quarter of the city’s cases appear to be in Hasidic communities, although the data isn’t perfect. The Forward, a Jewish news website, reports that some Brooklyn yeshivas are telling teachers not to get tested in order to avoid school shutdowns, although at least one school, Borough Park’s Bais Brocho, is being a little more socially responsible.

The New York State Office for the Aging has a new survey about COVID-19 risk, and it’s encouraging New Yorkers of all ages to fill it out. The confidential survey, dubbed CV19 Checkup, asks questions about your activities, living situation, age, and other factors, and estimates your rough risk of contracting COVID-19, or of being hospitalized or dying if you do get it. Some local health departments are encouraging people to fill it out too. According to CV19 Checkup, one of our River reporters has a three percent chance of being hospitalized if she comes down with COVID-19. Thanks, New York State Office for the Aging.

Last week, we noted the Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York would not ban trick-or-treating this Halloween. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a set of guidelines for Halloween and Día de los Muertos, separating activities into low, moderate, and high risk and recommending safe practices. Of particular note, the CDC cautions that “a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask,” and that haunted tours should still practice social distancing—perhaps making them extra spooky. “If screaming will likely occur,” the CDC writes, “greater distancing is advised.” Good advice in general.

Announced by New York State on Tuesday and Wednesday: 

  • With daily confirmed cases climbing in many places across the US, Governor Cuomo added five states to New York’s travel advisory list: Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. The list now includes 33 states and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.
Rate of active cases per 10,000 residents, drawn from the latest county data.

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’s active cases have risen sharply over the past two weeks. When the county began including an active case count on its case dashboard on September 15, there were 272 active cases. That number currently stands at 460, an infection level that indicates that more than one in every thousand county residents is currently actively infected. The positivity rate of tests in the county hit 4.7 percent on Tuesday, roughly five times New York State’s overall rate of .94 percent. About two-thirds of the county’s active cases are in Spring Valley and Monsey, in the town of Ramapo. LoHud.com reports that town leaders are distributing masks and information, and hosting a free testing clinic at the Ramapo Cultural Arts Center; call (888) 364-3056 for more information.

MID-HUDSON VALLEY
County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia
University coronavirus page: Bard, Vassar, Marist, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Ulster, Columbia-Greene Community College, SUNY Orange

A couple of weeks ago, we published a lengthy investigation into the state of inpatient mental health care and detox services in the Mid-Hudson Valley, with a focus on an inpatient unit at the Mary’s Avenue campus of the HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston that was closed in case it was needed to treat a surge of COVID-19 patients. That unit provided the only inpatient psychiatric and detox services in Ulster and Delaware counties. Yesterday, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan weighed in with an op-ed for Hudson Valley One demanding HealthAlliance return mental-health services to Ulster County, in which he wrote that the hospital “has now made clear that they have no intention of returning any of these inpatient beds.” A source told The River that hospital executives recently met with the state Office of Mental Health to begin the process of decertifying the mental health and detox beds at the HealthAlliance Hospital. We are working on confirming that with the OMH, and will update our story when we do.

Active cases in Orange County have gone up recently. In a COVID-19 video briefing on Facebook on Wednesday, County Executive Steve Neuhaus said that there were currently 252 active cases in the county, up from 199 last Wednesday. Some of the county’s new positive cases may have been held up by backlogs at testing labs, Neuhaus said.

A Saugerties man was arrested by the FBI in New Jersey last week, and stands accused of $5 million worth of PPP and disaster loan fraud. A press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office accuses Jean “Rudy” Lavanture of falsely representing that each of his five Saugerties-based companies had employees, substantial revenues, and a payroll, and that he submitted “fraudulent” tax documents in support of his lies.

Dutchess County has 141 active COVID-19 cases, 35 of which have been linked to the Hedgewood Assisted Living Facility in Beacon, said County Executive Marc Molinaro in his latest coronavirus town hall. You can watch the rest of the briefing on Facebook live.

The Castle Fun Center, an amusement park in Chester that closed in March, is being put up for sale by its owner, the Times Herald-Record reports. The 11-acre site includes a laser tag arena, a bowling alley, a minigolf course, a go-kart track, an arcade, and a parking lot, among other amenities. It employed 58 people year-round, and about twice that number every opening season.

CATSKILLS
County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie
University coronavirus pages: SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Delhi, SUNY Sullivan

On Tuesday, Delaware County confirmed its first COVID-related death since June. There are currently three active cases in the county.

Nation writ small: While contrarian Senator Rand Paul and top infectious disease doctor Anthony Fauci trade barbs in Congressional hearings over the severity of the pandemic, a similar dynamic is playing out on the small stage of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors. A couple of local town supervisors expressed skepticism about the seriousness of COVID-19 at a recent board meeting, criticizing a proposed mask ordinance in the nearby city of Oneonta and referring to its backers as “COVID Nazis.” “It scares people more than is good,” said Seward supervisor Earlin Rosa, who promptly got pushback from the county’s own in-house expert, Schoharie Public Health director Amy Gildemeister. “I strongly disagree,” she fired back.

Sullivan County town halls are back, baby! The rebooted, now-online “Let’s Talk Sullivan” series will have its second installment on Monday, September 28. Legislature Chairman Robert Doherty and Vice Chair Michael Brooks will be joined by Treasurer Nancy Buck and Jonathan Schiller, the CEO of Garnet Health Medical Center–Catskills. Tune in on the county’s Facebook page or YouTube channel.


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OF INTEREST?
The River has a guide on where, how, and when to get tested for the coronavirus in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. To read more of our coronavirus coverage, visit our coronavirus page.

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.