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Coronavirus Roundup: More Details on Regional Reopening Plans

All the news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties from Monday, May 11.

Where New York's 10 regions stand on seven criteria that will guide reopening.
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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 Monday, May 11. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.

337,055 cases confirmed (1,660 new)
1,204,651 tests performed (21,653 new)
21,640 deaths (162 new)
73,143 hospitalizations (overall)
7,226 hospitalizations (current)
2,450 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 173
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Upstate, start your engines: Three of New York State’s 10 economic development regions are ready to start reopening for business on May 15, when the NY State on PAUSE order expires. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the move to Phase One of a four-step reopening process for three regions in his briefing on Monday: the Southern Tier, the Mohawk Valley, and the Finger Lakes. Lined up behind them: Central New York and the North Country, which are close to meeting all seven of the metrics required by the state for reopening parts of the economy.

The state’s 10 regions are drawn along county lines in a scheme that appoints a Regional Economic Development Council for each region. Every Christmastime since 2011, Cuomo has pitted the regions (and their governing councils) against each other in an annual scramble for state grant money that has been dubbed the “New York Hunger Games.” To guide reopening plans—ideally a slightly more collaborative process—Cuomo is not turning to the regional councils that are already set up. In Monday’s briefing, he announced a list of names appointed to “regional control rooms,” whose members are charged with keeping a close eye on regional data on cases, hospitalizations, deaths, hospital capacity, testing, and tracing, and dialing back reopening plans if the numbers go in the wrong direction. Leaders in county government make up most of the list of names, with a smattering of city mayors, labor leaders, and others, and each control room has a “regional captain,” most of whom are state officials.

Phase One of reopening will allow for construction; manufacturing and wholesale supply chain businesses; retail for curbside pickup and dropoff or in-store pickup; and agriculture, forestry, and fishing. “We start with businesses that are more essential and pose a lower risk, because once you say, ‘We’re going to reopen,’ they say, ‘Well, what first?’” Cuomo said in Monday’s briefing. “Well, really everybody says, ‘Me first.’ After ‘me first,’ what businesses first? Those that are most essential, and those that pose a lower risk because you can socially distance.” The state is calling on all businesses and industries to create safety plans for workers and customers, but so far, it is unclear what the mechanism will be to gather, vet, and enforce those plans.

How the hell can the stock market still be basically fine with everything that’s going on? The S&P 500 is down less than 10 percent so far since the beginning of the year. The New York Times’s Matt Phillips breaks it down: “For decades, the market has been growing increasingly detached from the mainstream of American life, mirroring broad changes in the economy,” he writes. The stock market represents less than one percent of American businesses, and most stock is owned by a small minority of wealthy people; both can well afford to weather a prolonged crisis. The biggest businesses might even end up ahead when all is said and done: “The five largest listed companies [in the S&P 500]—Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, and Facebook—have continued to climb this year, as investors bet these behemoths will emerge in an even more dominant position after the crisis.”

The virus’s death toll in New York City has grown by more than 5,000 in a CDC accounting that attributes more deaths to the pandemic. Since last month, New York City has been reporting probable COVID-19 deaths among residents who died before they could be tested. By the city’s count, “probable” COVID-19 deaths accounted for about 5,000 of its almost 14,000 officially counted pandemic deaths between March 11 and May 22. But even that count was wildly underestimated, the CDC found. The city’s official count did not include people “who did not access diagnostic testing, tested falsely negative, or became infected after testing negative, died outside of a healthcare setting, or for whom COVID-19 was not suspected by a healthcare provider as a cause of death.” The federal health agency estimated 5,293 additional pandemic deaths by comparing the death rate in New York City this spring to the expected mortality for the same period in a typical year.

Should nursing homes be exempt from liability? Right now, they are, thanks to a provision tucked into the state’s emergency declaration back in March. State of Politics reports that the Lawsuit Reform Alliance thinks that makes sense, on account of nursing homes being forced by the state to readmit COVID-19-positive patients until recently. Others worry that without liability, there’s no accountability for an industry that’s already had some high-profile failures to care well for its residents.

On Thursday, May 7, Congressman Antonio Delgado held a telephone town hall where residents could ask questions of him and of several panelists: Director of the Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center Dr. Arnaldo Sehwerert, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Matt Murell, and Columbia County Director of Public Health Jack Mabb. Audio from the session has been publicly posted on the Congressman’s Facebook page.

Announced by New York State on Monday: 

  • As part of the regional reopening effort, New York State has launched an online dashboard that tracks where each region stands on seven criteria for reopening the economy. 
  • The state has published a 52-page report on the reopening effort, “NY Forward,” which includes an explanation of the state’s strategy, discussion of the antibody studies that have yielded estimates of the extent of the pandemic in different regions and populations, and more long-term goals for guiding statewide social and economic recovery.
  • Some activities deemed “low-risk” will be allowed statewide after May 15, Cuomo said in Monday’s briefing. “Landscaping, gardening, low-risk recreational activities like tennis, drive-in movie theaters. Talk about going back to the future, back to drive-in movie theaters,” he said. “I’m okay with that, by the way.”
A graph showing the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, drawn from New York State’s data of cases found the previous day.

12,484 cases confirmed
Active cases: Not available on county data dashboard
County coronavirus page

Two hospitals in the county will receive tens of millions of dollars in funding from the CARES Act, part of $5 billion set to go to 90 New York hospitals to increase staffing and bed capacity and to buy personal protective equipment. Montefiore Nyack Hospital will receive nearly $45 million, while Good Samaritan Hospital in SUffern will receive about $39 million.

The county received a donation of 35,000 surgical masks as part of a larger donation of half a million masks by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers association to twelve downstate counties.

31,384 cases confirmed
Active cases: 3,377 as of Monday, May 11 (source: county briefing)
County coronavirus page
County press release page

County executive George Latimer announced $3.2 million in federal funding for the county’s recovery efforts through the Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Solutions Grants. The money will be distributed to public assistance nonprofits and businesses, with funds available as soon as July.

9,584 cases confirmed
Active cases: Not available on county data dashboard
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

County sales tax revenues plunged 24.75 percent in April when compared to last year, county executive Steven Neuhaus said Monday.

3,378 cases confirmed
Active cases: 2,202 as of Saturday, May 9 (source: county data dashboard)
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

County executive Marc Molinaro told The Poughkeepsie Journal that he believed the mid-Hudson region would be able to begin reopening Monday of next week. The seven-county region has met only four of the seven requirements to begin the first phase of reopening, and Westchester County executive George Latimer said that reducing new hospitalizations below two per 100,000 would be a challenge, but Molinaro said leaders from the seven counties agreed on a conference call Monday all the goals could be reached within days.

Molinaro also announced $72,015 in funding for 11 libraries through a special allocation to the county’s Agency Partner Grant program. The funding is aimed at bridging the digital divide and addressing technology barriers to literacy, early reading, literacy for those seeking jobs and English as a Second Language. “This grant will, in part, expand access to the internet to 63 households through hotspot lending programs that will be made available throughout the county,” Molinaro said.

1,098 cases confirmed
Active cases: 56 as of Wednesday, May 6 (source: county press release)
County coronavirus page

The Desmond-Fish Public Library in Garrison has partnered with Split Rock Books in Cold Spring to offer a limited number of books for checkout. Books will be delivered or picked up from the bookstore and can be kept until restrictions are lifted.

Cornell Cooperative Extension offices across the Hudson Valley are distributing free hand sanitizer and face coverings to local farms from its Brewster office on May 13 and 14.

1,109 cases confirmed
Active cases: 322 as of Sunday, May 10 (source: county coronavirus page)

There were no major updates out of Sullivan County today. For the news from the weekend, read yesterday’s roundup.

1,454 cases confirmed
Active cases: 810 as of Sunday, May 10 (source: county data dashboard)
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

Former Ulster County executive Mike Hein, who resigned in January of 2019 to take a job with the Cuomo administration, has been named regional captain of the control room overseeing the Mid-Hudson region’s progress toward reopening. Current county executive Pat Ryan is also serving as a member of the control room. In addition to Ulster, the Mid-Hudson region includes Sullivan, Orange, Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland counties.

County executive Pat Ryan announced Monday that more than 30,000 face shields have been produced for hospital workers, local police departments, and nursing homes throughout New York and Connecticut as part of the face shield project, started in mid-March by SUNY New Paltz Science and Engineering Dean Daniel Freedman, director of the Hudson Valley Additive Manufacturing Center, and Ryan.

Marbletown was set to reduce 19 employees’ hours by 60 percent on Monday to mend the damage done to the budget by the collapse of sales tax revenues. Two employees at the town’s transfer station were also furloughed. All the workers should receive the supercharged pandemic unemployment insurance payment, supervisor Richard Parete said. Local governments forced to cut costs have relied on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is federally funded, to aid employees they have laid off.

Ryan will be joined by Congressman Antonio Delgado for his town hall on Tuesday at 2pm. The event can be viewed on the county executive’s Facebook page.

314 cases confirmed
Active cases: 171 as of Monday, May 11 (source: county coronavirus page)
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

A local gym has partially reopened in defiance of New York State on PAUSE, offering free smoothies to first responders from its concession stand. The Register-Star interviewed many of the approximately 20 people gathered at ClubLife Health & Fitness on Monday who argued the virus was blown out of proportion and was not a local threat compared to in New York City, and that business had to go on. The gym created a regional frenzy on Facebook after its proprietor posted that the virus was a “planned sabotage on our nation.” No law enforcement had stopped by as of midday Monday, according to the Register-Star. The gym will be open from 1pm to 7pm on Tuesday, according to a post on its Facebook page.

Twenty Hudson residents will receive $500 for the next five years in an experiment testing the effects of Universal Basic Income (UBI) on a small scale. UBI consists of replacing all forms of welfare with a monthly check sent to all citizens, regardless of income. The concept, embraced by some libertarian groups, gained popularity through the presidential candidacy of Andrew Yang, whose nonprofit is running the experiment with The Spark of Hudson, a nascent Hudson community organization. The idea was embraced by community groups, the Department of Social Services, and Hudson mayor Kamal Johnson, who said the experiment was especially welcomed in the midst of the economic crisis. “We welcome out-of-the-box and innovative ideas that can better our communities,” Johnson said. “This pilot will provide a cushion for families, and this support could be life-changing.” Despite the glitz of Warren Street, the poverty rate in Hudson is estimated to be more than 21 percent, according to the census. The program is set to launch sometime later this year.

65 cases confirmed
Active cases: 8 as of Monday, May 11 (source: county press release
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

Delaware County is on the eastern edge of the Southern Tier region, bordering Ulster and Sullivan counties in the mid-Hudson region and Greene County in the Capital Region. Cuomo’s announcement that the Southern Tier was on track for Phase One of reopening on May 15 was greeted with little fanfare by the county Board of Supervisors, which noted at the bottom of its Monday press release on COVID-19 numbers that they were working on plans to reopen. Tina Molé, chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the supervisor of tiny Bovina (population 576) is a member of the Southern Tier’s 14-person regional control room, which is chaired by DEC commissioner Basil Seggos.

206 cases confirmed
Active cases: 94 as of Monday, May 11 (source: county coronavirus page)
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

For the most recent updates out of Greene County, read last Wednesday’s roundup.

46 cases confirmed
Active cases: 2 as of Wednesday, May 6 (source: county press release)
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

Schoharie County is at the southern end of the Mohawk Valley region, and borders Greene and Albany counties in the Capital Region and Delaware County in the Southern Tier. In contrast to Delaware County, whose officials did not herald Cuomo’s announcement that their region was headed to Phase One of reopening, Schoharie County Public Health greeted the development with several exclamation points. “Great news today!!! The Mohawk Valley Region currently meets all metrics for moving forward with the Phase I Reopening,” health director Amy Gildemeister wrote on Facebook, cautioning residents that if they don’t keep social distancing, the region won’t make further progress. “If our numbers go up, we will not be able to move to Phase II, III, and IV!!!”

Village of Middleburgh trustee Timothy Knight echoed that sentiment in another post: “If we begin to neglect the positive actions that have flattened the curve in our Mohawk Valley Region, positive cases will begin to spike again and we will be placed on PAUSE again.” The village has canceled its summer youth programs and July band concerts, and is closing its pool for summer. Village offices will reopen June 1 with limited hours by advance appointment, with masks and social distancing required.

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.