This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Thursday, June 4. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.
NEW YORK STATE
375,133 cases confirmed (1,048 new)
2,293,032 tests performed (63,559 new)
24,133 deaths (54 new)
89,995 hospitalizations (overall)
2,849 hospitalizations (current)
832 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
The latest expansion of coronavirus testing guidelines in New York State puts a spotlight on the intertwined crises of pandemic, racism, police violence, and property destruction: All participants in recent protests are eligible for coronavirus testing, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in Thursday’s briefing. No specific mention was made of the anti-lockdown protests that preceded the George Floyd protests, although those were likely less risky in terms of infection, since they were much smaller, and police in those protests did not tear gas crowds or make mass arrests.
In the briefing, Cuomo urged New Yorkers to keep the issues separate. “Those two compound each other. You then wrap it in this hyperpartisan, hyper-political period of time. We are in the middle of an election year, a heated election year, so everything becomes political. You add the issue of race on top of that. It is as dangerous a time as I have ever experienced. So, keep the issues separate, stay smart, and be honest,” he said.
New unemployment claims in New York dropped by more than 50 percent last week. The 83,000 new filers in the week ending May 30 was the lowest total since mid-March.
The Mid-Hudson region enters Phase Two on Tuesday, June 9, and with that comes the return of legal outdoor dining and haircuts to the Hudson Valley.
In Thursday’s briefing, Cuomo presented data showing a dramatic decline in the percent of tests in New York State that are coming back positive. “We went from 20 percent to two percent in six weeks,” Cuomo said, referring to Long Island. While it is true that active infections are in decline statewide, the dramatic reduction in the rate of positive tests is at least partly a consequence of expanded testing, which has made it possible for people without symptoms or known contact with active cases to be tested. Statewide, 63,559 tests were conducted on June 3, and 1,048 came back positive. Six weeks before that, on April 23, New York State conducted 34,736 tests, of which 8,130 were positive. The decrease in new case numbers over the past six weeks is less dramatic than the decrease in the rate of tests coming back positive.
The Daily Yonder, an online news site devoted to rural issues, did an analysis this week on how the outbreak is affecting rural counties across the nation. Their findings: Rural counties are among both the hardest-hit and the least-impacted, with many reporting few or no cases, and some reporting levels of infection that are among the highest in the nation. Local counties cited in the Daily Yonder’s report are Columbia, which was 16th on a list of 53 rural counties with the most deaths in May, and Sullivan, which was 15th on a list of 50 rural counties with the most cases in May and 42nd for most May deaths.
- The state Department of Financial Services will issue an emergency regulation to accelerate insurance claims for policyholders that have lost property to looting.
- New York State will allow drive-in graduation ceremonies.
- Medical schools statewide will open on June 22 in preparation for new cohorts of students this summer and fall.
- Long Island will join Mid-Hudson and the rest of upstate New York in moving to Phase Two on Wednesday, June 10.
Governor Cuomo’s announcement on Wednesday that restaurants could open for outdoor dining in Phase Two was not expected, and it seems to have taken many restaurateurs by surprise. LoHud.com spoke with several Westchester and Rockland county restaurant owners who are now scrambling to prepare for next Tuesday. “We didn’t expect this to happen so fast so we’re here with landscapers, and power washes and buckets of paint to get this place,” said Bobby Harris, co-owner of Barley on the Hudson in Tarrytown. “We were planning more for June 15 than June 9.”
Rockland County revealed a new dashboard to track reopening metrics on Thursday. The “Rockland Unpause Dashboard” has graphs and tables for each of the seven metrics the state is using to determine reopening status. The dashboard is updated every weekday afternoon, according to a press release.
In his latest Facebook live COVID conversation, Westchester County executive George Latimer spoke with chef David DiBari (of the Cookery and the Parlor, in Dobbs Ferry, and Eugene’s Diner, in Port Chester) about how the pandemic has affected the county’s hospitality industry. You can watch the full 19-minute conversation on YouTube.
During his coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Latimer announced that every county-owned pool except the one at Playland Park will open this summer. The pools at Saxon Woods Park in White Plains and Sprain Ridge Park in Yonkers are scheduled to open June 26, and the pools at Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers and Willson’s Woods Park in Mount Vernon will open July 3, with safety precautions in place.
Ulster County executive Pat Ryan on Thursday signed two housing initiatives to help residents who have been affected by the pandemic. The first is a resolution from the county legislature requesting that the City of Kingston Land Bank expand its jurisdiction to create a countywide land bank. The second introduces a Housing Advisory Committee in partnership with the county legislature, which will assess the lack of affordable housing and recommend strategies that the county can pursue to provide a “healthy housing mix, in conjunction with municipal, business, and community partners.”
Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro will sign an executive order prior to the region’s Phase Two reopening, which is expected on June 9, easing local regulations on outdoor dining, according to a county press release. Governor Cuomo announced on Wednesday that restaurants in Phase Two can offer outdoor service as long as they follow certain regulations, such as spacing tables six feet apart.
Some Hudson City School District voters won’t receive their absentee ballots for the June 9 school board elections until at least June 5, raising the possibility the ballots will have to be dropped off in person, according to the Register-Star. The ballots were sent out late because the mailing service ran out of envelopes due to a COVID-19-related supply disruption. Ballots were sent out late in many Hudson Valley districts due to the envelope shortage hitting NTS Data Services. It is unclear if this was the same mailing service used by the Hudson district. The school board elections are being held exclusively through mail-in ballot this year because of COVID-19 concerns.
Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell released a statement Wednesday reiterating the county’s opposition to the reopening of summer camps. “I don’t see how you can hold a summer camp while maintaining social distancing and other necessary safety measures related to the spread of the coronavirus. Because of that, the county holds to our original statement that summer camps remain closed this year. This decision was arrived at in consultation with the county Health Department,” according to the statement. The county attempted to close camps for the summer via a local executive order in early May, but the order was denied by the state. Counties and communities around the Hudson Valley and Catskills fought the opening of camps prior to Cuomo’s decision in late April to open camps at the end of June.
State senator James Skoufis, who fell ill with COVID-19 in late April, donated convalescent plasma this week and is encouraging other coronavirus survivors to do the same. The plasma contains COVID-19 antibodies, which can potentially help fight the virus in sickened individuals. To make a donation, visit the American Red Cross website.
The Sullivan County Legislature will vote Friday on whether to cut the pay of 87 managerial county employees by four percent for the second half of the year. The measure, supported by county manager Josh Potosek, will save the county $200,000—about one percent of the county’s expected revenue shortfall for the year. Counties are facing a fiscal catastrophe from the pandemic, as sales and property tax revenues have plummeted and state aid may be dramatically cut. At least nine elected officials, including Sheriff Michael Schiff and District Attorney Meagan Galligan, have voluntarily agreed to accept the same pay cuts.
Greene County’s tourism department released a new marketing campaign called “Little Things MAGNIFIED” as part of the county’s plan to jumpstart the economy. The campaign is based on county marketing research suggesting short day trips will be the first form of travel people will feel comfortable with. “[We created it] as an attraction to visitors and are reminding them that during this time it was the little things we all missed,” the county tourism director said. “Like taking a walk with friends, dining out with friends, taking small vacations with friends. We can slowly come back to those little things and Greene County is a place to come to for those little things that we make greater.” Sixty-five percent of Greene County visitors surveyed said they would travel within the first month of reopening, with 92 percent reporting they would take road trips first.
A state supreme court justice was set to hear arguments Thursday on the early release of four inmates at Sullivan County Jail to protect them from possible infection in the COVID-19-overrun facility. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas petition last Friday to release the four inmates, all of whom have preexisting conditions. The Sullivan Times posted Acting District Attorney Meagan Galligan’s Wednesday court filing opposing their release. The conclusion of the hearing is not yet known.
Delaware County reported one new confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday, and one new death, bringing the death toll in the county to five.
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.