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Coronavirus Roundup: New Test Kits, No More Play Time

All the news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties from Wednesday, April 1.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, in Westchester, is donating 500,000 test kits to New York State free of charge.
Photo: Jim Henderson/Wikimedia Commons
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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 Wednesday, April 1. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.

La Voz, a Spanish-language magazine covering Hispanic news and culture in the Hudson Valley, is translating these roundups and co-publishing them on its website. Read here. You can also listen to daily audio updates from “La Voz con Mariel Fiori” on Radio Kingston.

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. 

The River is also 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.

We’ve moved our list of resources to a page on our website, which will be updated regularly. The list is not comprehensive, but if you know anything you’d like us to add, please email us.

83,712 cases confirmed (7,917 new)
220,880 tests performed (15,694 new)
1,941 deaths (390 new)
18,368 hospitalizations (overall)
12,226 hospitalizations (current)
3,022 ICU
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 43
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

New York State, your budget’s late. Budget negotiations, already complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, failed to be resolved by the annual March 31 deadline. Governor Andrew Cuomo said that despite the shadow cast by the coronavirus, he was certain the final spending package will be a “robust” budget that would include many of his policy proposals set forth earlier in the year. “With everything going on, we did not scale back our efforts or our ambitions,” Cuomo said. “You look at this budget, you would never know that anything else was going on.”

Definitely scaled back: New York State’s cannabis legalization effort. It’s too complicated a task to pull off for this year’s budget, Cuomo said on Tuesday. Marijuana Moment has more.

While some measures in the budget were passed late Tuesday night, frequently contested bills like the bail reform law were left to be discussed Wednesday, delaying the budget another day. Final talks regarding the bail reform stalemate eventually led to an agreement between Cuomo and state lawmakers in which Cuomo will be able to make mid-year changes to the budget (depending on the state’s post-pandemic finances) while also updating the controversial law passed last year, in which certain crimes that are currently ineligible for bail will become eligible (the original law eliminated cash bail for misdemeanors). The change is meant to limit the number of criminal offenders in prisons in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the already rapid rates of spread within those prisons.

Corrections and parole officers at state prisons will now be able to use their own protective masks while working. The policy change comes after dozens of corrections employees fell ill,  including Michael Powers, the president of their union. US Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who represents the 21st Congressional district in the North Country, and state assemblyman Billy Jones, who represents the 115th state district in the North Country, pushed for the change. Employees had been barred from bringing in their own N95 and surgical masks, though Department of Corrections and Community Supervision acting commissioner Anthony Annucci said masks were provided to employees who were interacting with sick inmates. There was no indication if masks would now be provided to employees other than when interacting with known cases. There were 20 confirmed cases among inmates, according to Annucci.

Fourteen COVID-19 patients were transferred from downstate hospitals to Albany Medical Center late Tuesday night, the Times Union and Spectrum News report. Cuomo addressed a reporter’s question about it in Wednesday’s daily briefing: “This is one state, this is one family of New York. This is one family of the United States of America by the way.” In previous briefings, Cuomo has also talked about New York City relieving upstate hospitals later in the outbreak, when they become overwhelmed.

The state Department of Labor released a new PSA to help New Yorkers applying for unemployment benefits. The PSA provides information on how to apply, and notes that if your unemployment filing is delayed, you will still receive everything you are owed.

Announced by New York State on Wednesday

  • Westchester-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is donating 500,000 test kits to New York State free of charge. We’re not sure how many patient tests that translates into, but it’s good news.
  • Cuomo told us he would close New York City’s playgrounds if we didn’t behave, and now he’s done it. “I’ve talked about this for weeks. I warned people that if they didn’t stop the density and the games in the playgrounds—you can’t play basketball, you can’t come in contact with each other—that we would close the playgrounds,” he said Wednesday. 
  • New York State is down to just one county without a confirmed COVID-19 case, Cuomo said Wednesday—and in what looks like yet another state vs. county data discrepancy, he’s probably wrong. The Yates County Public Health Department reported the county’s first case on Sunday, though it has not appeared in the official statewide count. Cuomo’s point stands, though: The coronavirus is coming for rural America. “That’s what you’re going to see going all across the nation: ‘Well, we’re a rural area. We’re not going to get it.’ Oh, really? Go visit upstate New York if you want to talk about rural areas. We have rural areas. Just the way it’s gone through rural New York, it will go through rural America,” Cuomo said.
  • Cuomo talked again on Wednesday about the multiple models the state is using to try to predict the future of the outbreak. It’s an imperfect science. One of the frustrating things about it, he said, is that as the models get more data, and “learn” more about how the outbreak is growing and how well people are following social distancing rules, the predictions keep changing.
  • Right now, the state is looking at a couple of models that both predict a peak in late April. One assumes high compliance with social distancing, and predicts that the state will need to hospitalize 75,000 COVID-19 patients. The other assumes minimal compliance and predicts the need for 110,000 COVID-19 hospital beds. “The model changes, and the numbers change. But what we’re looking at now is the apex, top of the curve, roughly at the end of April. Which means another month of this,” Cuomo said.
  • If the reality of the outbreak matches the worst-case predictions of some of the more pessimistic models, Cuomo said, the state cannot hope to respond adequately to it. “Over 110,000 beds, there is no possible way we could get there. In some ways, an overly aggressive estimate doesn’t even mean anything to us, because it’s just unachievable.”
  • Law enforcement may get more aggressive about people not following social distancing rules in public, Cuomo said, but he’s sounding more and more frustrated that people aren’t doing it voluntarily. “What else do you have to hear? Who else has to die for you to understand you have a responsibility in this?” he said, referring to people standing shoulder-to-shoulder to watch the USNS Comfort dock in New York Harbor.
  • The state updated its guideline for essential personnel in the workplace who have been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, or who have been infected and are recovering.

Starting with today’s update, we will be looking to represent case numbers visually instead of listing numbers for each county. State and county numbers are beginning to diverge widely from each other; we are working on a story about how counties are handling data. We will seek to be transparent about how we are using data, and provide links to both state and county data sources.

Below: A graph showing the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, drawn from New York State’s data. County populations vary widely in this region, and we feel that reporting numbers proportionally is a better way to make comparisons between counties than using the number of confirmed cases. But it is important to note that we do not know how much difference between counties is being driven by insufficient testing. The reporting of cases is lagging far behind actual infections, and sick people who cannot get tested are not being reported.

County coronavirus page
County press release page

The county announced 39 deaths today, bringing its total to 64, though Westchester County executive George Latimer said this was due to a reporting lag and not because they had all died in the last 24 hours. Latimer read some of the names of those that died. “Now they reside in a place that we will all reside in some future date,” he said.

Latimer also warned residents about social distancing in parks, saying he had come under “great pressure” to close them but had resisted because he realized the importance of the outdoors. “Don’t make me close the parks,” Latimer said.

The town of Yorktown has unveiled a “digital dashboard” of COVID-19 data, similar to those used by some local county governments.

County coronavirus page

A total of 29 people have died from COVID-19 in Rockland, the county announced today, eleven more than the toll released Monday.

County executive Ed Day wants to give teeth to Cuomo’s Executive Order banning gatherings. Day has been frustrated in recent days by what he sees as continued gatherings in the county, leading him to clash with the Ramapo police chief and a yeshiva. Day said the order was useless without enforcement and the language of the order, which “temporarily bans all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason,” was vague, though “essential gatherings” have been further defined. Day says he is seeking the official approval of the state Department of Health for a county emergency order allowing enforcement in Rockland; all local emergency orders have been overruled by Cuomo’s executive orders, and local governments must get state approval for all emergency orders.

County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Five more people in the county have died of COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to county executive Steven Neuhaus. The deaths are from across the county, he said, trying to allay fears that the coronavirus was concentrated in a particular area.

County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

A 68-year-old woman died of COVID-19 at her home today before she could be checked on by the county health department. The woman, who had underlying medical conditions, was tested at the Vassar Brothers Medical Center emergency room after not feeling well late last week, according to a county press release. She was informed of her positive result, but “the individual had not yet been transferred to [the health department] monitoring,” according to the release. The woman was the fifth victim of the coronavirus in Dutchess County.

Vassar Brothers Medical Center will transfer pediatric patients to children’s hospitals during the pandemic. The Poughkeepsie hospital will still take patients under 18 into their emergency room but then will be transferred to the children’s hospital of the parent’s choice, according to a spokesman from the hospital’s parent company.

A Marist alumnus and special education teacher died of COVID-19 in New Jersey on Monday. Ben Luderer started feeling ill the weekend of March 21, and went to the hospital last Friday night, where he was briefly placed on oxygen before being sent home, according to his wife, Brandy Luderer. He felt better Sunday, but his condition worsened that night. Brandy found him dead at 6am the next morning. He had no pre-existing conditions, Brandy said. He was 30.

County coronavirus page

The county released the number of people who died of COVID-19 in the county the day after The Examiner ran a story quoting officials confused about who had information on the deaths, or even if anyone had died. Seven people have so far died in the county, two in the last 48 hours, according to the Putnam County COVID-19 dashboard, which appeared today on the county website. The numbers cited are from the Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel, and the county referred all questions there. The deaths occured after March 6, according to the dashboard, but a hospital representative told the Highlands Current that this was the date the hospital began collecting data, not when the first person died. Not all the deceased were from Putnam County, according to the hospital representative.

County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

The county is in “preliminary planning” with the county’s largest hospital provider to set up one, or possibly two, field hospitals. County executive Pat Ryan said he wanted 200 additional beds, with 100 in the next few weeks. This would complement the additional bed capacity county hospitals are already adding, including 235 beds at HealthAlliance’s Mary’s Avenue campus.

Ryan and legislature chairman Dave Donaldson called on county landlords to freeze rent. No one on the county level has the authority to do so, but Ryan said he would report landlords who increase rent during the pandemic to the state Attorney General’s Office for review for price gouging. Town of Ulster supervisor James Quigley said he’d heard of rents rising amid the crisis. “We’re all in this together,” he said. “…Now is not the time to try and make money. Now is the time to help everyone survive.” Kingston has seen rents skyrocket in recent years, and an attempt to implement rent control under a state law failed in February after a study concluded the city’s vacancy rate was too high for the law to take effect.

The Ulster County Health Department will not issue permits for campgrounds, seasonal resorts, children’s camps, and bungalow colonies during the pandemic. No telling when they will be issued.

More than 1,300 prepared meals were delivered to those in need in the Kingston City School District on Wednesday through the city’s Emergency Food Hotline, according to an update from Mayor Steve Noble. The hotline, launched only five days ago, is staffed by city employees and volunteers from Rise Up Kingston and other organizations. Meals are prepared by local restaurants through the county’s Project Resilience and by Family of Woodstock. People’s Place Pantry is also distributing groceries equivalent to 1,800 to 4,150 meals a day though the Kingston Emergency Food Collaborative, according to Noble. The hotline can be reached at (888) 316-0879 and is available in English and Spanish. Families and individuals are encouraged to call.

SUNY New Paltz’s own Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center (HVAMC) began producing medical face shields in response to the local shortage of personal protective equipment being felt in hospitals across the state. So far the staff at the HVAMC have distributed 440 face shields to local hospitals, medical centers, testing sites, and elderly care facilities. On Friday alone, 200 shields were sent out to medical professionals across the Hudson Valley.

The Belleayre Ski Center is collecting donated ski goggles for healthcare workers through the nationwide Goggles for Docs program, it announced in a Facebook post.

County coronavirus page

Sullivan County held its third coronavirus Town Hall Q&A session Wednesday. Video from the session can be watched on the county’s Facebook page.

County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

Columbia-Greene Community College in Greenport may be used as a field hospital for COVID-19 patients. It has been placed on a list by the state, according to the Register-Star, though the college’s spokeswoman said the college had only agreed to house people in quarantine, not “people who are actively ill.” The college has not been given details or had further communications with the state after they were approached, according to a spokeswoman.

The county announced it will begin doing video arraignments. Defendants will remain in the lobby of the county jail. Previously, they would be arraigned at town courthouses, many of which are spatially constrictive.

The county also extended its closure of county buildings through April 17. “This may well wind up going through till the end of April,” said Board of Supervisors chairman Matt Murell. “But at this time we are proceeding in two-week increments.”

County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

April 1 is the first day of trout season. The Delaware County Board of Supervisors advises anglers to stay safe, and not crowd each other in busy local trout streams.

The 607, a multi-farm cooperative that collectively offers seasonal produce shares in Delaware, Otsego, and Schoharie counties, has launched an online ordering portal for local farm goods. The 607 will make weekly home deliveries of products from more than two dozen local farms from April 1 through June 3, when the group’s produce share season begins.

County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

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

County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

We’re looking askance at the Cobleskill Times-Journal today for publishing a sketchy story about a Schenectady County entrepreneur and his alleged miracle cure for COVID-19, flu, and herpes. We’re not linking to it. Do better, guys.

In today’s case count update, the Schoharie County Department of Health stated, “We are confident that this is an UNDER COUNT of cases in Schoharie County.” That’s not news to anyone who’s been following this outbreak closely, but it bears repeating.

The River is publishing a weekly Sunday roundup of some of the best longform reporting, analysis, and feature writing on the coronavirus pandemic. Check out our third edition here.

To read more of our daily news roundups, visit our coronavirus page.