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Coronavirus Roundup: A Red-Hot Real Estate Market in Upstate New York

All the news and announcements from New York State, the Hudson Valley, and the Catskills for Monday, July 6.

Real estate brokers in parts of rural upstate New York say the market is hotter now than it's been in decades.
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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 Monday, July 6.

397,649 cases confirmed (518 new)
4,288,131 tests performed (54,328 new)
Positive test rate: 1.0%
24,913 deaths (9 new)
817 hospitalizations
170 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Rentals and real estate sales are booming in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, along with the rest of rural New York. The Times Herald-Record ran a Sunday feature on the local red-hot market, which is a snapshot of a region divided: on the one hand, local excitement about at least one part of the economy doing well, and on the other, a real apprehension about an influx of tourists and relocators from more infected parts of the country. Airbnb found a 40 percent rise in searches for properties in the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Adirondacks over the Fourth of July weekend this year, the paper reports.

Coronavirus affects the lungs. In a brutal phrase used to describe what COVID-19 does to the body, doctors sometimes say that patients are “drowning on land”: in advanced cases of the disease, the lungs flood with inflammatory cells, cutting off the patient’s access to oxygen. It seems obvious to assume from the way the disease progresses, and the way other coronaviruses work in the body, that the novel coronavirus is first and foremost a respiratory infection—and that’s what scientists thought at first. But as more research emerges, some medical scientists think that COVID-19 is a vascular infection, a disease that may enter through the respiratory tract but that spreads in and attacks blood vessels. The good news, if research lends more weight to that theory, is that drugs like statins that are used to treat vascular disease may have some benefit against coronavirus too. ABC News in Australia reported last week on a recent paper in the journal Cell Metabolism that found that statins were associated with a slightly lower mortality risk in COVID-19 patients, though the paper also suggested worryingly that statin use might also make patients more susceptible to infection.

A graphical abstract of the Cell Metabolism study. Source: Cell Metabolism

The New York State Department of Health says a controversial state nursing home policy isn’t to blame for the deaths of more than 6,000 nursing home residents in the state, according to a report released by the agency on Monday. The March 25 policy prevented nursing homes from denying admission to COVID-19-positive patients on the basis of infection, and was in place until May 10, when the state reversed course. In a press conference about the report, state health commissioner Howard Zucker told reporters that the peak in COVID-19 nursing home deaths in New York came a week before the peak of nursing home admissions, and coincided with a peak of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home staff. State health officials concluded that nursing home outbreaks were mostly sparked by infected staffers in mid-March, before the order went into place.

On Twitter, The City reporter Josefa Velasquez pointed out that it’s difficult for reporters to fact-check the DOH’s claims because of how the state has reported nursing home data: Fatality data for specific nursing homes wasn’t released until April 15, making comparisons with earlier data difficult, and nursing home residents who die in hospitals aren’t counted by the state as part of nursing home fatalities, making it impossible to calculate how many nursing home residents have died in the pandemic. “Unless we know the exact methodology, this ‘report’ is just the state Dept. of Health validating itself,” Velasquez wrote. The state legislature plans to hold hearings to investigate the issue, although a date has not yet been set.

The travel quarantine order that New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut jointly implemented could soon expand to 21 states covering more than half of the US population, according to a USA Today Network New York analysis. The order applies to travelers coming from a state with at least 10 daily positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents or at least a 10 percent positive test rate, each measure calculated on a rolling seven-day average. Three states not currently on the list—Delaware, Kansas, and Oklahoma—meet at least one of those criteria, and Wisconsin and New Mexico are close. There are already 16 states on the quarantine list.

The Trump administration has released a list of businesses that got more than $150,000 in PPP loans, and it’s got some head-scratchers, including, perplexingly, the Ayn Rand Institute, which was approved for a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million. The loans to companies on the biggest-borrowers list made up just 13 percent of businesses getting funds, but accounted for almost three-quarters of the money loaned, CNBC reports.

On Sunday, The New York Times published a story billed as “The Fullest Look Yet At The Racial Inequality Of Coronavirus,” based on data they had to sue the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to obtain. Black and Latino Americans have been three times as likely as whites to contract COVID-19, the paper reports, and nearly twice as likely to die of the virus. Racial disparities persist in both rural and urban areas. And because older Americans are more likely to be white than younger ones, the disparities are even starker when making comparisons within an age group: for instance, Latinos between 40 and 59 have been five times more likely to be infected than whites of the same age. The Times notes that the data do not include recent cases, and is missing a lot of information: There are many cases for which racial and ethnic information was never collected.

Cases are ballooning across a growing swath of the US, and the lack of any clear federal response is making this a dangerous moment for the country. So what should we do now? The Guardian asked six global public health experts how they thought the nation should tackle the threat now, having missed key early opportunities to keep the virus from spreading. A common theme among the answers was the need for a coherent federal message from Trump, top federal advisors, and the CDC, but also a sense of despair over the slim odds of that happening. Columbia University disaster preparedness expert Irwin Redlener spoke directly to state governors: “There is no clear exit strategy from this, sad to say. If I were speaking to governors, my advice would be to stop any efforts to reopen immediately. Just stop,” he said. “The White House is living in a dreamland that everything is under control but you don’t have to follow that lead. Instead, give more power to the mayors, especially of the larger cities, to encourage mask-wearing and social distancing.”

Announced by New York State on Monday and over the weekend:

  • The New York State Fair has been canceled.
  • The Mid-Hudson region will enter Phase Four on Tuesday. Higher education, low-risk arts and entertainment, media production, and sports (sans fans) can resume.
  • Notably absent: Casinos and movie theaters, which will remain closed as the state reviews when and whether they can reopen safely.
  • New York City entered Phase Three on Monday without indoor dining.
  • The state Department of Health, in consultation with the Reimagine Education Advisory Council and others, is finalizing guidance on the possible reopening of schools in September.
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 number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Chappaqua linked to the Horace Greeley High School drive-in graduation has risen to 27, Westchester County Executive George Latimer confirmed in his press briefing Monday. Four municipalities have cases from the cluster: Chappaqua (21), Mount Kisco (3), Bedford (2), and Pleasantville (1). 

Westchester County is cutting back on the number of public COVID-19 briefings given by Latimer and other town and county officials, moving from daily briefings Monday through Thursday to a Monday once-a-week briefing.

Should wearing masks be mandatory? The Town of New Castle is debating the question, and might become the first municipality in New York to act. The Examiner News reports that the town board will hold a public hearing on a proposed law that will require masks on public and private property, as well in places of business in most situations, with fines between $250 and $500 for failure to comply.

As of Monday evening, Putnam County’s COVID-19 dashboard had not been updated in more than a week. The county’s last update was published on the county website on Monday, June 29, and included data through Thursday, June 25. According to data from New York State, 12 people have tested positive in Putnam County in the last week.

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

Cases continued to rise in Ulster County over the weekend. Data on the county’s coronavirus dashboard show 169 confirmed active cases as of Sunday, July 5, up from 119 on July 1. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan told the Daily Freeman on Monday that in addition to several clusters found in the county last week, a new cluster emerged over the weekend, traced to a youth softball team that traveled to Pennsylvania for a tournament in violation of state guidelines. Ryan also said he’s concerned that a Saturday rally in uptown Kingston to protest coronavirus-related restrictions could lead to even more cases. Some 200 people attended the “Occupy Peace” rally, most of whom were not wearing masks.

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

People are “over-loving” favorite waterfall spots like Fawn’s Leap in Hunter, and local officials are worried about the increasing impact of trash, crowding, and public use of the great outdoors as a toilet. Overuse of the Catskills’ most spectacular swimming holes is nothing new, but the pandemic is exacerbating the situation, the Daily Mail reports. “There is going to have to be a study done and if they elect not to provide additional parking and monitoring, they’ll have to close it,” said Greene County coroner Hassan Basagic, who has become something of a local celebrity for daring the 75-foot plunge into Fawn’s Leap into his mid-70s.

A federal judge on Monday denied a request to allow Orthodox Jewish sleepaway camps to open in the Catskills in contravention of the state’s ban. “Although the State of New York has made progress in limiting the transmission of the virus in recent weeks, the recent resurgence of positive COVID-19 cases in several states raises concerns and is a painful reminder that the fight is far from over,” Chief Judge Glenn Suddaby of the Northern District of New York wrote in a 43-page ruling.

Sullivan County officials are relieved that case counts in the county have gone down, the Sullivan County Democrat reports. The county currently has 14 active cases, up slightly from last week, but a far cry from its numbers in March and April, which reached a peak of 516 active cases. Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw has told The River that the county had outbreaks early on in several local food processing facilities, but that public health outreach efforts helped to halt them. McGraw hopes that local and state efforts will continue to pay off for Sullivan County: “We’ve never dealt with a pandemic like this before. So in the beginning we had no idea what we were facing, and how severe it could be. Now that we’re seeing our interventions have been successful we want to continue on that trend,” she told the Democrat.

Schoharie County Public Health reported that one county resident tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, the county’s first new positive case since June 23. The county currently has just one active case.

The River has a 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.