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Coronavirus Roundup: What We Talk About When We Talk About Cleanliness

All the news and announcements from New York State, the Hudson Valley, and the Catskills for Monday, July 27.

Disinfecting surfaces helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, but not nearly as much as avoiding contaminated air.
Martin Mark/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 Monday, July 27. 

412,344 cases confirmed (608 new)
5,627,149 tests performed (57,270 new)
Positive test rate: 1.1%
25,117 deaths (11 new)
642 current hospitalizations
149 current ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

America has been busy cleaning: We’re disinfecting subways, scrubbing counters, and wiping down our mail. But all this effort is “hygiene theater,” The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson writes, and it’s not going to help much in the battle against coronavirus. Early on in the pandemic, it seemed reasonable to worry just as much about transmission from infected surfaces as from breathing in the virus, but as scientists have learned more, it has become clear that contaminated air is a far greater threat. Keep washing your hands, Thompson says, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by all this elaborate scrubbing and sanitizing: “Many of these establishments are boasting about their cleaning practices while inviting strangers into unventilated indoor spaces to share one another’s microbial exhalations. This logic is warped. It completely misrepresents the nature of an airborne threat,” he writes.

Senate Republicans’ proposed plan for the next coronavirus aid package was unveiled Monday, and it doesn’t include any new aid for local and state governments. It would also cut the $600-a-week emergency unemployment benefit to $200, a move that would dramatically slash income to more than 20 million Americans during a time of record unemployment. The battle over the final shape of the legislation is shaping up to be fierce: GOP leaders are facing stiff opposition from Congressional Democrats, who are demanding aid to local governments and a full extension of emergency unemployment benefits, and the White House is reportedly unhappy with the Senate GOP’s plan to set aside billions to fund coronavirus testing and tracing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is, unsurprisingly, furious about the exclusion of local and state aid from the Senate GOP bill, and is calling on Republicans in the state Congressional delegation to stand up to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and oppose it. “Where have the Republican Congresspeople been?” Cuomo asked in a Monday conference call with reporters. “Stand up. Grab the microphone, say full throated, ‘Mitch McConnell, you did the wrong thing by the people of New York in my district.’”

Long-serving Assembly Democrat Richard Gottfried joined dozens of legislative colleagues and presumptive winners of legislative seats in a virtual press conference calling on the state legislature to pass the Budget Equity Act. If passed, the bill would shift more power in the budget process away from the governor and into the hands of the legislature, a priority for the incoming crop of progressive state legislators. This year, with the state budget in disarray because of the pandemic, the governor’s sweeping budgetary powers have been especially galling to Cuomo’s ideological opponents on both sides of the aisle

In last week’s roundup, we missed Cuomo’s news release listing bars and restaurants in the state that have been cited by the Liquor Authority for violations of social distancing guidelines. The authority issued 84 violations during compliance checks last week, and suspended 10 liquor licenses in New York City and Long Island. From Friday through Sunday, the state issued 132 more violations.

New York State is braced for a second wave of COVID-19 from travelers returning to or entering the state, the Times Herald-Record reports. “We’re all extremely concerned there will be a second wave because the [infection] rates are just rising without end in many states that New York has a lot of connections to socially and economically,” said Dr. Marina Keller, an infectious disease doctor with Middletown Medical.

As a nation, we are currently suffering from a “glut of data and a scarcity of information,” STAT News reports. Health leaders say there are a lot of statistics state and local governments could be reporting that would be useful for people in weighing their personal risk and making decisions—and few of them are available anywhere. A nonprofit headed by Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put out a report last week calling for more thorough and standardized data collection. One key metric Frieden wants to see more communities tracking: The percentage of known cases that can be traced to other cases. If that number is high, it means that contact tracing efforts are working to trace and isolate the virus. 

The nascent baseball season is once again in jeopardy, after 14 members of the Miami Marlins’ traveling party tested positive for COVID-19.

Trump national security advisor Robert O’Brien has tested positive for COVID-19, the highest-ranking official in the administration to do so yet. 

Hermain Cain, former presidential candidate and co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, is still in the hospital three weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

It’s not what anybody wants to hear, but the approval of an effective vaccine isn’t going to be an immediate silver bullet against coronavirus. “The vaccine probably won’t make the disease disappear. It certainly will not immediately return life to normal,” The Atlantic’s Sarah Zhang writes, noting that the logistical difficulties that will come along with mass producing and distributing the vaccine, let alone communicating effectively to the American public that they should get it, are just the sort of challenges the federal government has shown itself deeply unprepared for so far.

Announced by New York State on Monday and over the weekend:

Rate of active cases per 10,000 residents, drawn from the latest county data. Active case data unavailable for Rockland and Orange counties.

County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam

Rockland County is offering free antibody testing to all county residents this week. The testing site is Calvary Baptist Church (15 Clinton Street in Haverstraw), hours between 10am-6pm. Those interested can register by calling (833) 422-7369.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer gave his weekly coronavirus briefing from White Plains today. Latimer said that county officials are monitoring whether there is a bump in COVID-19 cases in Westchester due to residents returning home from vacations or from visitors from coronavirus hot spots. The entire 34-minute briefing is available on YouTube.

Latimer also announced a partnership between the county Department of Environmental Facilities and the City University of New York to study the wastewater at county treatment plants to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on large urban areas. Because trace amounts of the novel coronavirus can be detected in fecal matter, random sampling of wastewater may provide a snapshot of varying infection rates among different communities.

In its latest update of COVID-19 cases, Putnam County reports that as of Friday, July 24, there are seven active cases in the county, down from 22 one week earlier.

The public pool in Valhalla, which closed last week after two lifeguards tested positive for COVID-19, reopened on Monday after the facility was disinfected.

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

Sales tax revenue in Ulster County declined about seven percent over the first five months of 2020 compared to the same time last year, according to county finance director Burt Gulnick. The county received $50.4 million in sales tax revenue through May, down $4 million from the same timeframe in 2019 and $4.5 million less than the county had anticipated receiving before the pandemic.

The 19th annual Hooley on the Hudson, a yearly celebration of Irish culture in the Hudson Valley, has been canceled, the Ulster County Ancient Order of Hibernians announced Monday.

Not canceled: Historic Huguenot Street’s plein air artist street festival. This year’s Artists on the Street is set for August 1 between 11am-4pm, and will feature a dozen local artists, voter registration courtesy of the League of Women Voters, and an Italian food truck. Social distancing and facemask wearing are strongly encouraged.

Amid the neverending rush of news concerning the coronavirus, it can be easy to neglect longstanding health threats. That’s why Twin County health officials are warning residents not to forget about Lyme. The tick-borne disease presents symptoms that could be mistaken for COVID-19. Donna Peterson, who teaches tick prevention as part of her role as master gardener coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties, recommends wearing light-colored clothing to make ticks more visible and pulling socks up around pant legs. “You may look dorky,” she says, “but it works to be tick-safe.”

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

Local health officials in the western Catskills and central New York are concerned about recent upticks in cases, although no major local hotspots have emerged, the Daily Star reports. Both Delaware and Schoharie counties have seen case increases over the past couple of weeks. 

Sullivan County law enforcement and public safety officials say that calls involving domestic violence, mental health issues, drugs, and alcohol have increased substantially during the pandemic, the Sullivan County Democrat reports.

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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.