The River

Coronavirus Roundup: More Details on Reopening Economy, Schools

The US Navy Blue Angels and the US Air Force Thunderbirds flew over New York City to salute first responders and hospital workers.

This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Tuesday, April 28. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.

NEW YORK STATE
295,106 cases confirmed (3,110 new)
844,994 tests performed (18,899 new)
17,638 deaths (335 new)
64,275 hospitalizations (overall)
12,645 hospitalizations (current)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 152
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

The pandemic is shining a merciless spotlight on all sorts of existing system failures—and one of those is New York State’s unemployment system. City & State reports that problems with the system, which has caused mass frustration for more than a million users currently trying to apply for benefits at once, go way back: “While the sudden surge in traffic is certainly unheard of, some observers say the issues with the state’s unemployment system are rooted in New York’s lack of long-term investment in crucial IT systems,” the outlet reports. A 2017 request for proposals for upgrading New York State’s unemployment system technology, dug up by City & State, cites legacy mainframe-based tech dating all the way back to the 1970s and 1980s still constraining the present system. An Indian tech consulting company was awarded a bid to upgrade the system in 2019, but it is unclear how far that work got before the current crisis hit. 

To add insult to injury: Not only is New York State’s unemployment website trapping users in a Kafkaesque mess of crashes and timeouts, it has been leaking personal information. At least three dozen users had their Social Security numbers and other personal information sent out to other applicants, Gothamist reports. “It was a human error—it wasn’t malicious—where two pieces of paper were stuck together and sent,” said Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa. Whoops.

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to reopen business in New York State in a limited way, he said in Tuesday’s briefing, echoing comments from the past few days where he has hinted at a regional approach to reopening the economy in parts of New York State that have been less heavily impacted by the pandemic. But the state wants to avoid creating “attractive nuisances,” Cuomo said. “An attractive nuisance in this context—you open up a facility, or an attraction, that could bring people from outside the region to you. You have all of this pent-up demand in the whole tri-state region. Make sure that you don’t open up something that’s going to bring hundreds of people from the outside in.”

Assemblyman Brian Miller, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March and was hospitalized, has been moved out of intensive care and is headed for rehabilitation, the Daily Freeman reports. Miller’s 101st Assembly District contains parts of Delaware, Herkimer, Oneida, Orange, Ostego, Sullivan, and Ulster counties.

The United States hit an unwanted milestone on Tuesday: There are more than one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. Nearly 30 percent of those have come from New York.

Announced by New York State on Tuesday:

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.

ROCKLAND COUNTY
11,453 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

The state plans to open a walkup testing site in the village of Haverstraw on Wednesday after the Governor’s Office met with local officials Monday afternoon. The village is within the zip code with the highest infection rates in the county: more than 4.5 percent. This site is pedestrian-accessible, while most testing sites in the Hudson Valley require a car, including the nearest to Haverstraw, on the Palisades State Parkway. The testing site partially fulfils Governor Cuomo’s pledge to locate more testing sites in minority communities, as Haverstraw’s population is about half Latino.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY
28,245 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

The number of active cases in Westchester is down to 8,054, which county executive George Latimer said is the lowest number of active cases in the last month, with 868 in the hospital, down from 1,200 two weeks ago.  

Bedford and Mount Kisco have enlisted a private company to set up a testing site for their communities. The site will be located at the Bedford Hills train station and could open as early as Saturday. Residents of the two towns—and only the two towns—will be able to set up appointments on a nascent website. This will be the first regular testing site in the northern half of the county.

Antibody testing is expected to begin at Westchester Medical Center this week, Latimer said. County government is working with the state to make sure first responders and those in essential roles get the antibodies first.

The US Navy Blue Angels and the US Air Force Thunderbirds conducted flyovers above the tri-state area Tuesday as a salute from the Air Force and Navy to recognize healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential workers. The flyover began in New York City before crossing above Southwestern Connecticut and Westchester. Members of the flight squads said this was their way of bringing the country together in a time of need. “We’re just flying near the hospitals and trying to show them that this is us supporting you. We can’t show you support in person, but this is a way for us to show you support from afar or overhead,” said Major Zane Taylor.

ORANGE COUNTY
8,374 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

The county has spent at least $3 million from March 10 to April 15 fighting the coronavirus. The unexpected expenses come at a time when revenue is down as a result of the shutdown. Orange County expects to lose $11 million in sales tax recipients, and Governor Cuomo said on April 20 that state aid to counties would be cut up to 20 percent if federal aid does not come through. The Orange County budget director told the county legislature Tuesday that she had asked department heads to cut expenditures by 15 percent.

Orange County State Supreme Court Justice Steven Milligram has died from COVID-19, the Orange County Bar Association confirmed on Tuesday. Milligram served eight years as Monroe Town Justice until his election in November to the Supreme Court justice seat for the Ninth Judicial District; he took office in January.

DUTCHESS COUNTY
2,817 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

State Senator Sue Serino, who is a member of the Senate’s Aging Committee, wrote to Cuomo and health commissioner Howard Zucker calling for an alternative to a March 25 guidance that nursing homes must accept patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 to open hospital beds. She recommended instead that the state create a series of Regional Specialty COVID-19 Long-Term Care Centers at nursing homes that would be compensated and staffed for the purpose.

Family Services, a nonprofit community organization helping thousands of people in the mid-Hudson Valley, is facing a nebulous future as its funding dries up. During a time when schools are closed, mental health is fragile, and domestic violence and opioid overdoses are increasing, the organization had to furlough 20 percent of its staff and cut a third of its programming. After a $2.2 million loan from the SBAs Paycheck Protection Program, half the furloughed workers were brought back. However, the organization is unsure if it will meet its funding needs this year. 

The City of Poughkeepsie may face a $5.5 million budget gap because of the pandemic. The city is expected to lose $1 million from parking tickets and meters, as well as money from sales tax. Governor Cuomo has also said that state aid to municipalities could be cut by $8 billion without federal funding. The city has asked all department heads, excluding police and fire, to cut their budgets by 15 percent.

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney will host a Facebook Live town hall on Thursday, April 30 at 4:30pm with county executive Steve Neuhaus and Dr. Irina Gelman, commissioner of health.

PUTNAM COUNTY
932 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

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

SULLIVAN COUNTY
769 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

County manager Josh Potosek announced Monday that summer camps in the county are planning to open this coming season, even as uncertainty looms over the reopening of the state. “We don’t want to be in a position where we are near the middle of June, end of June, having done no planning on how to operate those safely and have the state say they can open, so we are doing the prudent thing assuming they will be open,” Potosek said. “Obviously, we will know more as May 15th gets here and as June approaches.” Every summer, the population of Sullivan County triples as part-time residents, mostly from New York City, come up to the Catskills, and hundreds of kids enroll in summer camps. 

The County Legislature voted to approve a resolution abolishing some county positions as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Department heads have said that the layoffs will cause disruption in their department’s tasks and oppose the decision made by the legislature. District legislator Nadia Rajsz said that after the first layoffs, county department heads said they “had no clue” of who was being cut. “We can’t be cutting people without discussing this with commissioners or department heads and then finding ourselves in a jam,” Rajsz said.

ULSTER COUNTY
1,230 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

County executive Pat Ryan announced the launch of his Ulster County Resilience Economic initiative during his Facebook Live town hall on Tuesday. The primary goal of the new program is to accelerate and coordinate Ulster County’s economic development efforts in the wake of the pandemic. The initiatives include a wide array of plans and resources to drive economic recovery and resilience, such as providing mentors to help businesses safely reopen and adjust their business models, helping businesses and workers more easily apply for federal and state loans and economic assistance, and making a series of targeted economic development investments in high-value sectors to drive future growth within the county.

The Ulster County Comptroller has recommended temporarily laying off county employees to fill the county’s potential $34 million budget gap. March Gallagher stated many employees had been unable to work because of Governor Cuomo’s mandated 50 percent reduction of in-person staff, but the county has still paid these employees nearly $1.3 million for hours they could not work. She suggested laying off workers who had only been able to work five hours a week and who made less than $62,150 a year, since these people would be making more money on expanded unemployment. She refers to this as “shifting” the costs of paying the workers from the county to the state and federal government. About 350 county employees meet the criteria for temporary layoffs set by Gallagher, according to her memorandum.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
154 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

An anonymous notice threatening Airbnb guests and hosts has appeared on Hudson’s Warren Street. The notice, which was first discovered by Gossips of Rivertown, reads: “PEOPLE RENTING AIR BNBS/YOU ARE RISKING HUDSON LIVES/OUR RESOURCES ARE FOR US/YOUR PRESENCE IS DANGEROUS/WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE/GO HOME NOW.” A similar love poem appears below threatening to expose those renting properties. Though the notice refers to the potentiality of Airbnb guests spreading the coronavirus, short-term rentals have often raised the ire of residents, who complain they are inflating rental prices, displacing residents, and turning the city into a simulacra of itself. Hudson tried last year to pass a moratorium on new Airbnbs, but the measure was vetoed by the mayor. The notice also taps the long-simmering vein of anger towards out-of-towners, which the pandemic has lent new legitimacy. Four counties in the region released statements telling downstaters—even those who own property upstate—to stay away.

Seven residents and two staff at Barnwell Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the county Department of Health. After a request, the county supplied the Valatie nursing home with enough kits to test all residents in the affected wing.

DELAWARE COUNTY
59 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

Delaware is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. With the increasing number of recoveries in relation to the limited number of new cases in Delaware County, there are now only 10 known active cases in the county.

GREENE COUNTY
112 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

The Bank of Greene County has handled over 1,000 applications for SBA loans over the last two-and-a-half weeks, and is scrambling to get applications in for the program’s second round. The SBA’s Paycheck Protection program, which offers loans to pay employees and cover continuing expenses like utility bills, launched with $349 billion April 3 but ran out of money 13 days later. After the Bank of Greene County’s third-party lender backed out, the bank was approved as a direct lender and was able to approve $61 million in funding for local businesses during the first round. Bank president Donald Gibson told The Register Star that the second round was a difficult process, as the SBA’s overtaxed application portal continuously crashed. He encouraged businesses to apply now, as he expects the funding to run out within days. “I wouldn’t count on a third round,” he added.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY
38 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

There were no major updates out of Schoharie County today. To read yesterday’s news, click here.

OF INTEREST?
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.