This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Monday, June 22.
NEW YORK STATE
388,488 cases confirmed (552 new)
3,452,099 tests performed (56,780 new)
24,739 deaths (14 new)
330 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
Tuesday is Election Day for New York State’s Democratic presidential primary and some local races. Newsday reports that more than 1.6 million voters have requested mail-in ballots, 10 times the number of mail-in votes in the 2016 presidential election in New York. As much as 75 to 80 percent of the vote could be conducted by mail, and the count is likely to take a week or more. The rapid switch to a mostly-mail-in system has presented huge logistical challenges, and problems are already brewing: In New York City, more than 29,000 voters who requested a mail-in ballot had not received one by Friday, The New York Times reports.
The New York state legislature is gearing up to investigate nursing home deaths in the state, an effort that will be presided over by Democratic majority leaders in the Assembly and Senate. In the wake of mounting criticism of a state policy forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-19-positive residents, which was put in place to preserve hospital capacity and later reversed, Governor Andrew Cuomo has characterized the push to investigate the policy and its impact on nursing home deaths as Republican opportunism, calling it “pure politics.” But legislators on both sides of the aisle want answers, The Buffalo News reports. “Many observers believe government policies and provider practices, both COVID-specific and those in place before it, contributed to poor COVID outcomes in nursing homes,” Manhattan Democrat Richard Gottfried said last week. Gottfried chairs the Assembly Health Committee.
The Mid-Hudson region enters Phase Three on Tuesday, June 23, clearing the way for indoor dining and personal care business to resume with new safety guidelines. Long Island will enter Phase Three on Wednesday, June 24, leaving only New York City still in Phase Two of the state’s economic reopening process. The city entered Phase Two on Monday.
With the majority of businesses in New York into or near some level of reopening, the state has continued updating the New York Forward website with information and protocols for the process. At some point recently, statewide guidelines for a range of activities and industries—including child care and day camps, religious and funeral services, public transportation, and dentistry—were added, and there are summary and detailed guidelines for every industry in each reopening phase.
Last week, Cuomo signed a package of rent and mortgage relief provisions passed by the state legislature. The Poughkeepsie Journal has a guide to the new assistance being offered to renters and homeowners, what the criteria are for qualifying for help, and how to apply.
President Donald Trump signed an order on Monday temporarily suspending work visas through the end of the year, a move that will put a halt to highly skilled workers entering the US through the H-1B program.
In an appearance on CNN on Monday, Cuomo touted New York State’s success at driving the coronavirus transmission rate down. “We did 57,000 tests just yesterday, highest number of tests in the United States, and we had less than one percent transmission rate yesterday. We went from the highest transmission rate in the United States to the lowest transmission rate,” he said. Two nitpicky notes on that front: The number that is currently below one percent in New York isn’t the transmission rate, it’s the percentage of tests that are coming back positive. And according to rt.live, a website that estimates the transmission rate for each state based on recent pandemic data, New York is currently in ninth place for lowest estimated transmission rate. Massachusetts is the frontrunner as of Monday evening.
Westchester County announced a wide-ranging plan to address food insecurity over the coming months, when the closure of schools and summer camps will make hunger a more acute issue for families in need. The Westchester Food Security Initiative will provide $3 million toward food pantries, restaurants, and food delivery through four different programs in the county. It’s funded by the federal CARES Act with additional funds from state and federal programs for COVID-19 response.
The Orange County DMV offices in Newburgh and Middletown will reopen Tuesday, June 23, by appointment only for most services. Residents can call (845) 568-5230 to schedule an appointment at the Newburgh location, and (845) 346-1180 for Middletown. The Goshen and Port Jervis offices remain closed.
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus announced Monday that the county’s 2020 “Freedom Fest” fireworks show will be held on Saturday, July 18, at Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Montgomery. The press release mentions no safety protocols related to the pandemic, though additional details about the event will be released in the coming weeks.
The Dutchess Responds Fund, which awards pandemic recovery grants to community nonprofits, announced its fourth round of grants on Monday. According to a press release, $23,500 in grant funding was awarded to John Flowers Community Events, Friends of Historic Hyde Park Inc., Holy Light Pentecostal Church, Inc., Hudson Valley Hospice Foundation, Inc., Mediation Center of Dutchess County Inc., and Rhinebeck Reformed Church Food Pantry.
Marlboro High School is planning a full graduation ceremony for more than 400 attendees, in hopes that the state will loosen the rules by Friday. Currently, the state is allowing graduation ceremonies with up to 150 people in attendance. Superintendent Michael Brooks told the Poughkeepsie Journal that the school doesn’t intend to break the rules; it apparently has a contingency plan ready to go on 24 to 48 hours notice, although officials declined to answer any questions about what it entails. Governor Cuomo’s office did not respond to reporters’ questions.
Keeping things weird: the hamlet of Pine Bush, which is looking to make its annual UFO Fair a permanent fixture in the form of a paranormal museum and haunted house. The Times Herald-Record reports that town officials want to purchase a building to hold a museum about “unidentified flying objects, with a regional focus, as well as a youth center and a seasonal haunted house.” Why now? “After something like this happens that gets everybody down, [some people] want to go out and have entertainment and do the fun stuff,” said Domanie Ragni, the town’s director of community services, small business, and tourism. (Editor’s note: I, too, want to believe.)
When is a camp not a camp? When it’s technically a residence. In a recent Sullivan County town hall, Fallsburg Police Chief Simmie Williams told residents that some of the sleepaway camps that have been prevented from opening this summer by the New York State Department of Health are getting around the prohibition, the Sullivan County Democrat reports. “What many residents in the Town of Fallsburg might see is that many of these camps are open. They’ve applied to the Department of Health to have their residency changed temporarily to these summer camps, so a lot of the summer camps will be open because there’s going to be people temporarily living there,” he said.
There will be a walk-in COVID-19 testing clinic held in the parking lot in back of the Greene County Government Building in Catskill on Wednesday, June 24, from 4-7pm. Preregister by phone at (518) 719-3600.
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.