This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties for Tuesday, July 28 and Wednesday, July 29.
NEW YORK STATE
413,593 cases confirmed (715 new)
5,746,822 tests performed (62,276 new)
Positive test rate: 1.1%
25,132 deaths (6 new)
619 current hospitalizations
154 current ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
There’s no way around it: New York’s budget is a disaster, and federal help might not be forthcoming. Progressive Democrats in the state legislature want to call on New York’s wealthiest to pick up more of the budget burden, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has so far refused to consider new taxes. Cuomo and his budget director, Robert Mujica, panned the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy in a call to reporters on Wednesday, the Buffalo News reports. “The only alternative is really to have the federal government provide the assistance. There’s not a way to tax us out of this problem,” Mujica said. Cuomo has argued that raising taxes on wealthy New Yorkers will only cause them to leave the state, but a growing chorus of Democrats in the state legislature is urging New York to go ahead and call their bluff. “We are all hurting and this crisis calls for multimillionaires and billionaires to help our state shoulder this extraordinary burden,” said state Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester Democrat, in response to Cuomo and Mujica’s comments.
Cuomo’s executive order shielding nursing homes and hospitals from liability during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Gothamist reports that although state legislators voted last week to stop the liability protection going forward, a Democrat-led group in the state Senate and Assembly advocating for a full repeal of the liability provision was unable to muster enough support to make the repeal retroactive. That means that anyone looking to sue a hospital or nursing home for actions taken during the pandemic so far will have an uphill battle. Sources told Gothamist that the Greater New York Hospital Association, a major donor to Cuomo and the New York State Democratic Party, “effectively wrote” the provision shielding healthcare facilities from liability.
Cuomo’s language protecting healthcare facilities from liability has since spread beyond New York State. Republicans in the Senate copy-pasted it straight into their proposed COVID-19 relief bill, which was released on Monday. The TMI newsletter, helmed by David Sirota, has the scoop on New York’s traveling liability language.
Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU, made a provocative claim on his blog recently: 89 colleges and universities across the US are at risk of shuttering for good because of the pandemic. Galloway analyzed a variety of financial and ranking data on more than 400 universities included in US News and World Report’s annual college rankings, and used that data to sort schools into four categories: “Thrive,” “Survive,” “Struggle,” and “Perish.” Locally, Bard and Sarah Lawrence are among 14 New York State colleges deemed at risk of failure. Galloway writes that his analysis is a non-peer-reviewed work in progress; constructive criticism welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hospitalization data reported by the federal government has become erratic and unreliable in the last two weeks, the COVID Tracking Project reports. Problems stem from a controversial White House decision to require hospitals to stop reporting data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and instead report it directly to Health and Human Services, as of July 15. Since the directive, some states—including hard-hit California, Texas, and South Carolina—have warned that they are currently not reporting accurate hospital information. The COVID Tracking Project, a site that has earned a reputation as a trusted authority on pandemic data amid a lack of federal leadership on data collection and dissemination, does not believe that hospital data is being intentionally manipulated; they believe it’s the result of overworked hospital staff having to change reporting systems abruptly in the middle of a pandemic. Nor do the site’s authors believe that HHS is manipulating case counts: “We find no evidence to support a popular online conspiracy theory that the switchover from the CDC system to the Health and Human Services system explains a national plateau in new coronavirus cases,” they write, in a lengthy blog post explaining the recent hospitalization data issues and their investigation of them.
The Eastman Kodak Company, best known for manufacturing film and cameras, will soon be making another product: pharmaceutical ingredients. The storied Rochester company was awarded a $765 million federal loan under the Defense Production Act, which will allow it to create a new business unit, Kodak Pharmaceuticals, to help maintain a steady production of generic drugs while other pharmaceutical companies race toward COVID treatments.
New York State’s rent relief program is “a mess,” Curbed reports: underfunded, inaccessible to many non-English speakers, complicated to apply for, and only open to applicants for a brief two-week period. A coalition of housing advocates is urging the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal to extend the application period, which closes July 30 at 6pm.
New York State is lagging behind other states in testing incarcerated people for COVID-19, advocates say. According to recent data from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, only about 15 percent of the state’s prisoners have been tested for COVID-19, compared to 29 percent of New York residents generally. “The state has committed to testing millions, and that commitment needs to be extended to everyone behind prison walls,” Khalil Cumberbatch of New Yorkers United for Justice told the Auburn Citizen.
Announced by New York State on Tuesday and Wednesday:
- Illinois, Kentucky, and Minnesota have been added to the tri-state quarantine list, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. The list of states from which travelers to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut must quarantine is now up to 34.
- DMV-licensed driving schools can now conduct distance learning pre-licensing courses.
- The US Open will be held without spectators in Mamaroneck from September 14-20.
- Two dozen more New York City bars have had their liquor licenses suspended by the state Liquor Authority for pandemic guideline violations, Cuomo announced in a pair of press releases Tuesday and Wednesday.
- New York State will help establish a new testing site in St. Petersburg, Florida.
- Cuomo has issued a letter to New York’s Congressional delegation calling on them to ensure that $500 billion in unrestricted state aid is included in the next federal coronavirus relief bill.
- Cuomo is inviting major league baseball teams from anywhere in the nation to play in New York State. “I think it would be good for the economy, I think it would be good for the psyche, I think it would be good for the nation’s soul…Let’s stay home and watch a ball game. But then there has to be a ball game on TV,” the governor said in a Tuesday briefing.
There were no deaths from the coronavirus in Westchester County from Thursday through Sunday last week, the first time since early in the pandemic that the county went at least four consecutive days with no deaths. In all, 1,577 people have died as a result of COVID-19 in Westchester County.
The news is similarly good in Rockland County, which hasn’t had a COVID-related death in more than a month, and which currently has zero people hospitalized with the virus, according to county data.
Active cases in Ulster County jumped from 110 on Monday to 141 on Tuesday, the highest level in more than three weeks and the biggest single-day jump since April. All but five of the 31 new cases were in state prisons, according to Assistant Deputy County Executive Daniel Torres.
State officials plan to test every inmate in Beacon’s Fishkill Correctional Facility, the Auburn Citizen reports. Fishkill has had more documented infections than any other state prison in New York, and at least five inmates have died of COVID-19. The Beacon City Council, concerned about the spread of infection both within and outside Fishkill’s walls, passed a resolution last week calling on New York State to take greater safeguards against COVID-19 infection in state prisons, and consider expanding clemency to release more prisoners.
Woodstock town officials expressed concern at a board meeting last week about a “Freedom First” anti-mask group that has caused conflict in public in recent weeks, including encroaching upon a Sunday drum circle that meets on the village green. “They’re showing themselves to be selfish,” councilwoman Laura Ricci said.
Delaware County received two positive test results in the past two days, one each on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ninety-four people have tested positive in the county during the pandemic.
The Sullivan County town of Highland issued code violations last week to the Catskill Mountains Resort, the Sullivan County Democrat reports. Town officials say the resort is operating as a camp in violation of its special use permit. When asked about the issue, the New York State Department of Health told the Democrat that state health officials have served seven cease-and-desist notices on businesses in Sullivan and Delaware counties, but refused to identify the businesses they have served or give any further information. “The Department will continue to aggressively hold camp operators accountable for following all COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. As these are active investigations, we cannot comment further at this time,” a spokesperson said in a statement. The DOH has also taken enforcement actions against several businesses in the Delaware County village of Fleischmanns that were allegedly running illegal overnight camps, village officials say.
Cobleskill Little League has voluntarily called a halt to games and practices because of pandemic concerns, the Times-Journal reports.
Since mid-May, The River has been collecting and charting data on the number of active COVID-19 cases by county in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. Below is a Flourish animation we have compiled that shows the rate of active cases per 10,000 residents for each county over time, from May 12 through the present date.
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