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Coronavirus Roundup: Hundreds of Thousands Out of Work in New York

All the news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties from Thursday, April 2.

A record number of New Yorkers filed unemployment claims last week as the pandemic continues to decimate the economy.
Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock
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This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Thursday, April 2. 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.

Of note: Starting tonight, we are shifting to publishing these comprehensive roundups five days per week, Sunday through Thursday. At the same time, we will be devoting more resources to original reporting and analysis of the pandemic and its effects on our way of life. Look for more of that on and in your inbox. We’ll be back with the next roundup of coronavirus news on Sunday.

92,381 cases confirmed (8,669 new)
238,965 tests performed (18,085 new)
2,373 deaths (432 new)
20,817 hospitalizations (overall)
13,383 hospitalizations (current)
3,396 ICU
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 47
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

In the wildest prognostications of what the year 2020 would look like, no futurist could have predicted a feverish Chris Cuomo appearing on national television, live from his own basement, to describe his hallucinations of his New York State-governing brother Andrew dancing around in a ballet outfit and waving a global pandemic away with a magic wand. But that’s the news.

More than 366,000 New Yorkers filed for unemployment last week, three-and-a-half times more than the week before and more than six times the claims filed in the worst week of the Great Recession. Gov. Cuomo’s New York State on PAUSE plan, which closed all non-essential businesses, went into effect on the first day of the filing period’s week, March 22. However, the true number of newly unemployed is probably much higher. The Department of Labor’s filing site repeatedly crashed and its phone system logged 8.2 million calls between March 23 and March 28, as New Yorkers described calling dozens, even hundreds of times without being able to file. The Department of Labor has boosted its operators to 700 from 97 before the pandemic, but problems persist.

Governor Cuomo took a break from talking about the pandemic response to praise the “robust budget” he and state lawmakers hammered out. Despite initial warnings that spending would have to be drastically reduced, the final budget turned out to be not much smaller than the $178 billion plan Cuomo originally proposed months ago. But progressives aren’t happy. The budget abandons recreational marijuana legalization, dilutes the bail and discovery reforms passed in January, and cuts billions of dollars out of Medicaid funding (although Cuomo decided not to reject emergency federal funding in order to enact Medicaid reforms, City & State notes). It also boosts paid sick leave for working New Yorkers. Cuomo also has increased power of the purse: The plan gives him authority to make cuts each month of the year if tax receipts are 99 percent or less of what is projected.

Why are stores everywhere out of toilet paper? It’s not because people are hoarding, Medium’s Will Oremus reports. It’s because we’re all pooping at home now.

Real estate has been deemed “essential business” by Empire State Development, after initially being excluded from the list, and property showings can resume. Realtors have mixed feelings about it.

The NRA is suing New York State to get gun stores deemed “essential business” too.

The health news outlet Stat has gotten a hold of a leaked memo from the CDC that indicates the agency might be close to making a national recommendation that all Americans wear homemade cloth masks in public.

Reason has a story on the first known federal inmate to die of COVID-19: a nonviolent drug offender in a low-security facility serving a 27-year sentence.

In today’s New York Times: a map showing how far people in different regions of the country are traveling in these locked-down days, based on cell phone surveillance data. It’s making Southerners and rural people mad. “Y’all know us rural Georgians have to drive like 30 minutes to get anywhere, right?” wrote one Twitter user. From upstate New York: We can relate.

At what point should we withhold a ventilator from a patient, when there are not enough to go around? New York doctors don’t want to make these decisions, but they’re having serious conversations about them.

New York State is releasing a lot of data on the outbreak daily. One figure we’re not seeing from the state: A racial breakdown of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths. Michigan is tracking them, and finding that a hugely disproportionate number of both positive cases and deaths in the state are African-American.

Which model is right? Which predictions of the future should we be taking most seriously? “Right answers are not what epidemiological models are for,” writes The Atlantic’s Zeynep Tufekci. They’re meant to steer us toward good decisionmaking—and when they do that job, she says, it will look like they were wrong all along.

Announced by the state today:

  • The New York State outbreak is still very much on the rise toward an apex, whenever that may be: new cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths are all rising. “The trend line is still basically up,” Cuomo said. The apex could be anywhere from seven to 30 days, depending on how well New Yorkers across the state collectively do at maintaining social distancing. “We believe it is closer to the shorter end of the range with our in-house people looking at the professional modeling that’s being done,” he said.
  • Physical beds are easier to find than qualified staff to treat patients, Cuomo said. More than 85,000 volunteers have signed up to help meet the need, many of them from out of state. “21,000 people have volunteered from out of state to come into New York state. I thank them. I thank their patriotism. I thank their dedication and passion to their mission of public health. These are beautiful, generous people. And New Yorkers will return the favor,” he said.
  • The state is still calling on manufacturers who can pivot quickly to produce personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. “Please contact us. We’ll work with you, we’ll work with you quickly. There’ll be no bureaucracy, no red tape, and we’ll finance,” Cuomo said.
  • The existing state stockpile of ventilators is expected to last another six days. Hospitals are putting two patients on a single ventilator, and the state is converting BiPAP machines into makeshift ventilators.
  • Hospitals across the state are taking inventory of supplies nightly and contributing to a central stockpile, to be distributed to hospitals with the greatest need.
  • The Javits Center temporary hospital will take COVID-19 patients after all.
  • Enrollment in state health insurance marketplace plans is extended until May 15. 
  • Consumers and small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic may defer payment of health insurance premiums until June 1.

We are now representing case numbers visually instead of listing numbers for each county. State and county numbers are beginning to diverge widely from each other; we are working on a story about how counties are handling data. We will seek to be transparent about how we are using data, and provide links to both state and county data sources.

Below: A graph showing the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, drawn from New York State’s data. County populations vary widely in this region, and we feel that reporting numbers proportionally is a better way to make comparisons between counties than using the number of confirmed cases. But it is important to note that we do not know how much difference between counties is being driven by insufficient testing. The reporting of cases is lagging far behind actual infections, and sick people who cannot get tested are not being reported.

County coronavirus page
County press release page

Three more people have died of COVID-19, county executive George Latimer announced during his daily briefing Thursday, bringing the toll in the county to 67.

Latimer has proposed new legislation that would ease some of the financial burden being imposed on country residents as a result of COVID-19. The new bill would amend the current Westchester tax law to authorize individual towns to waive penalties for the late payment of county taxes, county district taxes, and assessments until July 15, 2020—extending the penalty-free period to pay county taxes by 76 days. This does not cover town taxes. Residents would have to have been impacted financially by COVID-19 to qualify for the pay-period extension.

County coronavirus page

Thirteen more people deaths were reported since Wednesday, according to the county COVID-19 dashboard, bringing the toll to 42.

County executive Ed Day is calling for a containment zone around Spring Valley and Monsey, two densely populated enclaves in the town of Ramapo with predominantly Orthodox Jewish populations. The containment zone would be similar to New Rochelle’s, but could be “tweaked” by the governor, who has not publicly addressed the request. Day has repeatedly clashed with residents over gatherings, most recently when he criticized Ramapo, the state, and others for what he said were unsafe conditions during the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Roteenberg, who died this week after being wounded in Hanukkah machete attack. Day repeated calls for an enforcement mechanism for Governor Cuomo’s stay-at-home order.

County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

County executive Steven Neuhaus announced Thursday that the Orange County District Attorney’s office, along with state police, local law enforcement and the sheriff’s office will now be arresting individuals who fail to comply with social distancing measures. 

On Wednesday, the Times Herald-Record reported that dairy farmers in Orange County are dumping milk in their fields, after a surge of consumer panic buying followed by a steep drop in demand played havoc with local milk markets. Similar scenes are playing out at dairy farms and milk trucking companies nationwide.

Dean Skelos, the disgraced former majority leader of the New York State Senate, is seeking to be released from the Otisville federal prison in Orange County, fearing that he will catch COVID-19. The 72-year-old Skelos has more than two years of his sentence left to serve.

The New York Times profiled Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, the Kiryas Joel-based doctor who claimed he had successfully treated people with coronavirus-like symptoms with hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial medication, in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin and zinc sulfate. There’s little evidence the treatment works, but Zelenko’s claims eventually made their way to President Trump.

County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Four more people died of COVID-19, the county announced today, including a 28-year-old man. The other victims were a 79-year-old man, an 82-year-old man, and a 83-year-old woman; all had “underlying conditions that were risk factors,” according to a county press release. Nine people have so far died in the county, and nearly 40 have recovered, according to the county.

Adam Schlesinger, cofounder of the band Fountains of Wayne and a county resident, died of COVID-19 on Wednesday in Poughkeepsie. Schelesinger won Grammys and three Emmys, and was nominated for an Academy Award for writing the theme song for the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do.

County coronavirus page

There were no major updates out of Putnam County today. To read yesterdays news, click here.

County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

A fourth person died in Ulster, the county announced today. No other information was provided.

A New Paltz couple who were among the first cases in the county when they tested positive March 19 and 21 are doing better, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports, but are still symptomatic. Carol Lundergan said the severity of her symptoms varied day to day and were worse during the night.

The Town of Woodstock banned rentals of under two weeks on Monday, Hudson Valley One reports.

The Town of Saugerties declared a state of emergency on Wednesday so it can close town parks and playgrounds, the Daily Freeman reports.

A Rosendale business that fabricates custom plastic parts has shifted operations to make face shields for government agencies and regional and New York City hospitals. The family-owned Usheco Inc. sells the masks at a loss, said president Wayne Schaeffer. Face shields can help protect against COVID-19 transmission, and when paired with a surgical mask, can be used when N95 masks aren’t available. The business plans to hire two more employees to reach the goal of producing 20,000 face shields a week.

County coronavirus page

Sullivan County got a shoutout in the blog of the International City/County Management Association, an organization devoted to local government issues, for its efforts to survey and assess the needs of local business owners caught up in crisis.

Sullivan will hold its fourth coronavirus town hall Q&A session on Friday at 1pm on the county’s official Facebook page. The most recent edition of these information sessions occurred Wednesday.

County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

A second resident at Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center died of COVID-19 on Thursday. The nursing home initially thought Clara Rochester had developed another bout of pneumonia before she was transported to Columbia Memorial hospital, where she tested positive March 26. Eight residents have tested positive, but county health officials would not say if there were any positive cases among staff. The facility had been closed to visitors for several weeks.

County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

Delaware County reported Thursday that the first COVID-19 related death in the county occurred Wednesday night. In a press release, the Delaware Board of Supervisors said the details of the deceased’s age, gender, medical history, and severity of symptoms will not be released to the public.

Fleischmanns mayor Fred Woller wrote a letter to Cuomo on Monday, asking the state to advise the tiny 350-person village on what to do about the annual influx of summer visitors. “As the weather warms, the concerns of the local residents grow. They are curious as to what impact an influx of approximately 2,000 people would have on our community and our small hospital in Margaretville,” he wrote.

County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

Windham Mountain is collecting ski goggles for healthcare workers through Goggles For Docs, along with Belleayre Mountain in Highmount and other ski centers.

County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

We thought we’d seen it all: Assemblyman Chris Tague, a Schoharie Republican (and former alternate Trump delegate) who represents New York’s 102nd Assembly district, is teaming up with Democratic Congressman Antonio Delgado to do a telephone town hall-style Q&A on Friday at 5pm. Call in at (855) 905-3295 to participate.

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 third edition here.

To read more of our daily news roundups, visit our coronavirus page.