This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Tuesday, May 26.
NEW YORK STATE
363,836 cases confirmed (1,072 new)
1,774,128 tests performed (34,679 new)
23,564 deaths (76 new)
77,637 hospitalizations (overall)
4,265 hospitalizations (current)
1,273 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
The New York State Legislature is back in session this week, as both the state Senate and Assembly prepare to take action on a raft of pandemic response bills. Rent relief is a high-priority item on the agenda, the Buffalo News reports. And legislators are getting itchy about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s essentially unchecked flexing of state muscle, the Niagara Gazette reports: “The governor should have to deal with the scrutiny of the Legislature,” Madison County Assemblyman John Salka told the paper. “That is the way the system is set up. We need to rein this guy in.”
The New York Stock Exchange opened on Tuesday, with masks and stricter occupancy limits, for the first time since March. Cuomo rang the opening bell. All traders on the floor must sign a waiver; the Wall Street Journal reports that they are required to acknowledge that working the floor may result in them “contracting COVID-19, respiratory failure, death, and transmitting COVID-19 to family or household members and others who may also suffer these effects.”
Is it infrastructure week again? Cuomo is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, and will urge the president to invest in bridges, roads, and railways, Reuters reports.
With courts open again (at least virtually), it’s lawsuit time: Almost 4,000 suits were filed in New York State between Monday, May 18 and Monday, May 25, the New York Law Journal reports.
One lawsuit filed: Uber and Lyft drivers joined forces with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance to sue Cuomo and the New York State Department of Labor for not paying benefits to drivers in a timely fashion, the New York Times reports.
The usual suspects: A 134-member state advisory board created in April to help guide New York’s reopening process contains 37 major donors to Cuomo’s reelection campaigns. The New York Daily News reports that the donors appointed to the board have collectively given Cuomo more than $1 million. The top donor on the board, developer Scott Rechler, gave Cuomo $198,165 between June of 2008 and October of 2019.
Cuomo has told frustrated New Yorkers to blame him if they don’t like the state’s response. On Tuesday, City & State did some digging into issues the Governor is blaming others for: nursing home deaths, slow state response in early March, state budget cuts, and an $89 million medical equipment contract that failed to get the state a single ventilator.
Announced by New York State on Monday and Tuesday:
- Families of frontline state and local government workers who die of COVID-19 will receive death benefits.
- In Monday’s briefing, Cuomo called on the federal government to give hazard pay to essential public workers.
- The Long Island region is on track to begin Phase One of reopening on Wednesday.
- The state is taking advantage of a sharp dip in travel to fast-track construction of Empire Station at Penn Station and at LaGuardia Airport, as well as speeding construction of power transmission cables and renewable energy infrastructure upstate.
- In Tuesday’s briefing, Cuomo said that the state will focus prevention efforts on zip codes where the viral outbreak has been highest, mostly downstate low-income and predominantly minority communities. “We’re going to focus on those zip codes. We’re going to focus on those communities and we want to slow the infection rate even in those communities. And that will really bring the numbers down in New York City,” he said.
Rockland County executive Ed Day joined Westchester County executive George Latimer on a Zoom call Tuesday to discuss how their respective counties will tackle Phase One of reopening. Day touted his experience dealing with a past measles outbreak in Rockland, and noted that the region has established a “war room,” with contact tracers working 24/7, to monitor the spread of the virus. “We have so many people in Westchester who work in Rockland, and so many in Rockland who work in Westchester,” Latimer said. “Our futures are linked together.” You can watch the entire 22-minute conversation on YouTube.
Day One of reopening in the lower Hudson Valley saw construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, retail (pickup or dropoff only), manufacturing, and wholesale trade industries resume operations, and LoHud.com has some of the details on guidelines and photos from the first day of nonessential economic activity in the region since the pandemic began. Rockland County executive Day expressed optimism that the restart would allow the lower Hudson Valley economy to get a leg up on nearby New Jersey and Connecticut. “We want to make sure people go back to the stores that they frequent as opposed to New Jersey,” he said.
LoHud.com also has a humorous video interviewing folks about how they are coping with not being able to get a professional haircut for two-plus months now. Most, it seems, are taking the inconvenience in stride, resorting to DIY efforts or embracing “a new opportunity to see what comes of it,” in the words of one interviewee. Only one hat was spotted in the video, which frankly seems suspicious to us.
Ulster County executive Pat Ryan gave his first briefing of the Phase One reopening on Tuesday, and he’s already looking ahead. Ryan outlined the necessary steps individuals and businesses must follow for the region to continue through all four phases of reopening. If the Mid-Hudson region continues to hit the reopening metrics, Phase Two—when professional services, retail, administrative support, and real estate rental and leasing can resume—can begin in two weeks. You can watch the whole thing on Facebook.
Ryan’s Tuesday comments echo an interview he gave to the Daily Freeman on Monday, in which he stressed the importance of individual responsibility to ensure a safe reopening for the region. On the eve of Phase One, Ryan urged Ulster County residents to continue wearing masks and following social distancing protocols for at least the next 45 days. “The sacrifices that were made [by generations of veterans] were immense and this is one of those times to take on responsibility as citizens,” Ryan said, on Memorial Day. “Each person’s decision will impact everyone else.”
The COVID-19 death toll at Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell reached 15 over the weekend, days after the state Department of Health launched its second investigation into the facility’s handling of the crisis. One-hundred and twenty-seven people have tested positive. The outbreak is the deadliest in the twin counties, surpassing Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont, and the true number may be yet higher: Last week, we noted that Columbia County Department of Health director Jack Mabb had alleged that the nursing home has tried to “disown” dying residents by shipping them off to hospitals. Administrators are refusing to comment.
The tiny Sidney Municipal Airport has received $30,000 in federal funding through the CARES Act, but the village hasn’t decided how to spend it just yet, the Daily Star reports. Village mayor Andrew Matviak is calling the funding “a good opportunity for us to make important changes that we don’t usually have the money for.”
The Schoharie County Department of Health is featuring local businesses that are adapting to the pandemic on its Facebook page. First local business to get a shoutout for good practices: The Brick House Bakery in Cobleskill, where the front of the shop has been reorganized for easy pickup and social distancing. The department is encouraging people to let them know about local businesses that are doing a good job in the challenging new business environment.
The Sullivan County Democrat took a look at employment figures recently released by the New York State Department of Labor. With a year-over-year decline of 8.7 percent, the county lost a smaller percentage of its jobs than the Hudson Valley overall, the paper reports, but the leisure and hospitality sector took a brutal hit: 31 percent of jobs lost since last April.
The River has a guide on where, how, and when to get tested for the coronavirus in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. We also have a regularly updated list of resources on our website. To read more of our daily news roundups, 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.