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Coronavirus Roundup: ‘Every Part of the Country Is at Risk,’ says CDC

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

The styrofoam mountain Cuomo rolled out Monday as a metaphor for New York's battle with the coronavirus.
Governor Andrew Cuomo/Flickr
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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, July 1.

394,079 cases confirmed (625 new)
3,971,648 tests performed (56,710 new)
Positive test rate: 1.1%
24,866 deaths (11 new)
879 hospitalizations
226 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Coronavirus is out of control in the US, experts are saying this week, as infections continue to rise dramatically across the South and West. In a Monday interview, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention principal deputy director Anne Schuchat said that the virus is spreading too rapidly in the nation to be brought under control, or for every case to be tested, traced, and isolated. On Wednesday, the nation reported 43,644 known new cases in one day, bringing the total so far to more than 2.6 million, according to CDC data. “If any part of the US is having a rapid, uncontrolled outbreak, every part of the country is at risk. The increased spread we’re seeing in states such as AZ, FL, TX is creating a huge viral reservoir that will take months to deal with,” former CDC chief Tom Frieden wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening.

In New York State, numbers continue to stay low: on Wednesday, the state reported 625 new cases, 11 new deaths, and a daily positive test rate of 1.1 percent. But outbreaks in other states are worrying New York officials, and the state is pumping the brakes on planned reopening, perhaps hoping to avoid the rollback of reopening plans now underway in places like California and Arizona. On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that indoor dining would be postponed in New York City, even though the city is slated to move to Phase Three on July 6. “At this point, it isn’t prudent. This is a New York City-only modification, because frankly it’s a problem that is most pronounced in New York City,” Cuomo said.

Testing for COVID-19 is now available to all New Yorkers, regardless of whether they are workers on the front lines, have symptoms, or have been exposed to the virus. Cuomo announced the expansion of guidelines for access to diagnostic COVID-19 tests in a Wednesday briefing. For more on where and how to get tested for the coronavirus, read The River’s testing guide, which we updated today with the latest information.

New York State has expanded its list of states from which all travelers, including returning New Yorkers, must quarantine for 14 days. The new states under the quarantine order, announced Tuesday, are California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee; still under the order announced last week are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Texas. Washington State was briefly included on the list, but was dropped after a review of the data, The New York Times reports. New York State’s criteria for including a state on the quarantine list are either a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average, or a 10 percent or higher positive test rate over a seven-day rolling average. Travelers who violate the order to quarantine face potential fines starting at $2,000 and going up to $10,000. 

New York is talking tough on quarantine, but it’s extremely unclear how—or even if—it will be enforced, City & State reports. Officials say there are plans to monitor flights coming into New York airports, and that inspectors will be randomly calling people on flight lists to make sure they are quarantining, but consistent enforcement of the quarantine order is likely far beyond the capacity of the state or local governments to carry out, and local law enforcement has often been wary of enforcing state pandemic rules at all.  

In Wednesday’s briefing, Cuomo admonished local officials and law enforcement to take action on citizen noncompliance with state pandemic rules. “They had one job: Testing, tracing, and enforce the compliance. They must do it. If you have citizen compliance dropping, and you don’t have local governments enforcing—then you’re going to see the virus go up,” he said. The governor threatened to bring back the actual Styrofoam mountain he unveiled Monday, representing the state’s progress on bringing the outbreak under control, as a reminder of how bad it can get. “I’m going to bring my mountain back just to remind you of what happens. I left the mountain in Albany. My bad. I’m bringing the mountain back.”

Time is running out for New York State renters facing eviction, but tenants will get a little extra legal protection thanks to a bill passed by the state legislature and signed by Cuomo on Tuesday. The Real Deal reports that the Tenant Safe Harbor Act will allow tenants to use COVID-19-related financial difficulty as a defense in eviction proceedings, and prohibit evictions of eligible tenants if any part of the country is still shut down by the pandemic. Although it buys time for renters to stay in their homes, the bill does not bar money judgements against tenants.

The US Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to extend the application deadline for small businesses to apply for Payroll Protection Program loans until August 8. The bill now heads to the House for a vote.

Up until now, small business owners with some types of criminal records, including low-level misdemeanors, have been barred from accessing PPP loans under guidelines set by the federal Small Business Association. That’s all about to change, Route Fifty reports: The SBA has broadened the rules in response to a lawsuit from small business owners. Those with pending felony charges and those serving probation or parole for felony crimes in the past year, as well as those convicted of financial crimes in the past five years, are still barred from receiving PPP loans, the outlet reports. 

Democrats in the Senate are pushing a proposal to extend emergency $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits past the end of July, and tie the expiration of the benefits to state unemployment rates. Republicans are pushing a counter-proposal to give people $450-a-week bonuses for returning to work, The Hill reports. New York Senator Chuck Schumer doesn’t think much of it. “What about the people who are unemployed and can’t get back to work? I don’t get it, it’s illogical. If unemployment insurance is supposed [to help] people who are unemployed, back-to-work bonus doesn’t solve that problem,” he said.

Mask culture wars are raging, and The New York Times Style desk is on it. Jonah Engel Bromwich spoke to essential workers and business owners across the nation for their tales of fistfights, thrown objects, verbal abuse, and other shenanigans they are enduring from customers who are irate at being asked to wear the mask. The paper obtained a characteristic email sent to a taqueria owner in Los Angeles: “‘Why is it the responsibility of a taco stand to dictate to its customers a personal freedom of choosing to wear or not wear a mask!’ it said, concluding: ‘Go to hell taco man. Close permanently! Do us all a favor!’” The paper dryly added that “the person who sent the email did not respond to a request for comment from The Times.”

Air conditioning might be fueling the spread of COVID-19 in the South, a Harvard infectious disease expert is claiming. Some research has found that HVAC systems can blow enough COVID-19-laden droplets past a six-foot distance to spread infection, but Edward Nardell’s claim is simpler: It’s hot in the South right now, and people are spending more time indoors, which is a far riskier environment. “The states that, in June, are already using a lot of air conditioning because of high temperatures are also the places where there’s been greater increases in spread of COVID-19, suggesting more time indoors as temperatures rise,” Nardell said. “The same [thing] happens in wintertime, with more time indoors.”

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the agency that runs the city’s water supply system, has an innovative plan for tracking the spread of coronavirus: Testing the city’s wastewater for genetic sequences from the novel coronavirus. Monitoring viral levels in New Yorkers’ poop might alert officials to outbreaks before they hit emergency rooms, DEP commissioner Vincent Sapienza told the Wall Street Journal recently. Not mentioned in the story: Wastewater treatment plants operated by the DEP in the city’s vast upstate Catskills watershed. The River has reached out to a DEP spokesperson to see if they have any plans to monitor upstate for COVID-19 outbreaks.

Announced by New York State on Tuesday and Wednesday: 

Rate of active cases per 10,000 residents, drawn from the latest county data. Active case data unavailable for Rockland and Orange counties.

County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam

The pandemic has blown holes in local governments’ budgets, necessitating creative, albeit grim, solutions. Enter Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who Wednesday proposed a program that would offer county employees $1,000 for every year of service if they voluntarily leave county employment. The “Voluntary Separation Program” is expected to save the county $1-2 million this year, and $6-10 million in 2021. Westchester County employees who wish to participate must notify the county by July 24.

The June 20 outbreak that began at Horace Greeley High School’s drive-in graduation has become a subject of fear and frustration in Chappaqua. reports on a “town on edge,” with many residents upset that others are not following rules to contain the spread.

Rockland County health commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said Wednesday that a “cluster” of COVID-19 cases had been found in the county. Ruppert, speaking during a fireworks safety demonstration with County Executive Ed Day, attributed the outbreak to a large party held by someone who was ill at the time, and spread the virus to at least eight others. (She did not specify where the party was, though the title of the video of the press conference says Clarkstown.) Ruppert also chastised people for not cooperating with contact tracing efforts, and announced greater enforcement measures. “Unfortunately, I am now forced by these circumstances to send subpoenas to the individuals who are required to cooperate with us,” she said (COVID remarks begin at 5:59 of this video). Failure to comply could lead to fines up to $2,000 per day.

Latimer also announced Wednesday that Wilson Woods Pool, in Mount Vernon, and Tibbetts Brook Pool, in Yonkers, will open on Friday, July 3, with restrictions in place. All four county-owned pools will then be open daily for county residents. The amusement park at Playland Park will remain closed for the 2020 season, though the beach is open.

In other pool news, the decision to close the Pleasantville village pool has prompted an online petition. The petitioners allege that the decision to keep the pool closed was made prematurely. As of press time, 523 people have signed to “Save the Pool.”

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

The Dutchess Responds Food Connection, which has provided county residents with some 14,000 over the past 14 weeks, has concluded, County Executive Marc Molinaro announced Wednesday, citing waning demand.

Molinaro also announced that the county’s drive-through test site at the Intermodal Center at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill will close Thursday, July 2. Nuvance Health, which operated the site, will concentrate COVID-19 testing at its primary and urgent care facilities. For more on where and how to get tested for the coronavirus, read The River’s testing guide.

News we missed last week: Kingston’s summer parks program for children will remain closed for 2020. In his most recent weekly update, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble provided a list of small group short-term, free, or low-cost drop-in programs as summer respite services for youth.

Olana State Historic Site announced the restart of public programming with new outdoor tours.

Vassar College announced plans to bring students back onto campus in the fall, with staggered return dates. Classes will proceed through November 20, when there will be a one-week Thanksgiving break, after which the semester will be concluded remotely. Students are not allowed to leave campus during the semester except for emergencies, and any student who does not wish to take classes in-person this fall can take them remotely.

Horses in the Sun, a Saugerties equestrian facility, was hit with a cease-and-desist order on Tuesday in advance of its first events since the pandemic began. Events on July 1 and 2 can (and in fact, did) go ahead with a cap of 25 competitors, and all events scheduled for July 3-5 have been canceled. The facility’s previously announced schedule will resume Wednesday, July 8.

The Columbia County Fair has been canceled for the first time in its 180-year history.

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

The Greene County Public Health Department will hold weekly COVID-19 testing clinics outside the county office building on Main Street in Catskill. The clinic will be every Wednesday from 5:30-6:30pm by appointment. To register for testing call (518) 719-3600 ext. 1.

The Schoharie County Sunshine Fair, originally scheduled for August, has been canceled for 2020, the Times Journal reports. This year would have been the fair’s 144th anniversary. 

The Delaware County Fair, originally scheduled for August and currently in its 134th year, has also been canceled for 2020, the Daily Star reports.

The board of the Schoharie County village of Middleburgh voted unanimously on Monday to adopt a resolution encouraging all local residents to wear masks in public places. “Whereas the Village of Middleburgh in the State of New York recognizes the importance of mask wearing in this time of global pandemic, which has largely spared our rural community thus far due to our sparsity and mask wearing in public places,” reads one part of the resolution.

The River updated its guide on where, how, and when to get tested for the coronavirus in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. To read more of our coronavirus coverage, 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.