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Coronavirus Roundup: Decision on Schools Won’t Be Made Until August

All the news and announcements from New York State, the Hudson Valley, and the Catskills for Wednesday, July 8.

Newburgh Free Academy, the public high school for students in grades 9–12 in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District.
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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 8.

398,929 cases confirmed (692 new)
4,402,452 tests performed (57,585 new)
Positive test rate: 1.2%
24,944 deaths (11 new)
841 current hospitalizations
166 current ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Students and parents will be in limbo a little longer: New York State won’t make a decision on whether public schools will reopen this fall until the first week of August, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. “The facts change here day-to-day, week-to-week. I understand there’s a drop-dead date where you have to make a decision by a certain date. But wait until that date to make a decision because the facts may change.” The current plan is for the state to issue guidance to school districts on July 13; after that, districts will have until July 31 to submit plans for reopening to the state. New York State will make decisions on whether to approve those plans between August 1 and 7. Those decisions might be made on a regional basis rather than statewide. Newsday reports that private schools are also being asked to submit their reopening plans to the state.

In the Wednesday briefing, Cuomo got testy about a tweet that morning from President Donald Trump threatening to cut off federal funding to schools that did not open in the fall. “School reopenings are a state decision, period. That is the law, and that is the way we’re going to proceed. It’s not up to the President of the United States.”

Back in May, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced that it would transfer inmates 65 and older to the Adirondack Correctional Facility, opting to create a “prison nursing home” rather than release their vulnerable elderly prisoners. Families of the incarcerated and prisoners’ rights groups have been sounding alarms about the plan, worrying that a single case could spark a devastating outbreak. This week, that dreaded single case was found in the North Country prison: a man who prison officials say has no symptoms, and has been quarantined away from other inmates. The Intercept published a story on Wednesday blasting New York State’s prison nursing home, calling it a “potential massacre,” and casting widespread infections and deaths in both nursing homes and prisons across the state as the result of policy failure.

Cuomo pressured Trump on Wednesday to declare a federal mask policy, in response to research that suggests widespread masking could save 45,000 American lives by November. Researchers at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, whose COVID-19 model has been widely used by government bodies for decision making, including the White House, projected this week that 208,255 Americans could die of COVID-19 by November if current trends hold, but that the number would drop to an estimated 162,808 if 95 percent of people wore masks in public.

Three more states were added on Tuesday to New York State’s quarantine order, which directs travelers entering or returning to New York to quarantine for 14 days if they have come from a state with high COVID-19 case numbers or positivity rates. The list now includes 19 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

Is the quarantine order being enforced? New York State officials have been cagey about giving out details on enforcement, but a recent report from Gothamist paints it as an impossible task. The state is working with airlines to gather information on passengers entering New York from states on the quarantine list. That information is being shared with local health departments, Delaware County Public Health education coordinator Heather Warner told The River, and health officials will make an effort to contact them. But there doesn’t appear to be much concerted enforcement of the steep fines associated with violating quarantine guidelines, and only a fraction of those entering New York are traveling by air. 

The quarantine mandate is tough on off-duty military, a group of state Senate Republicans says. Twelve Republican state senators wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo on Tuesday asking for service members to be allowed to take a COVID-19 test instead of quarantining; one gave an example of an airman who was denied leave to go to his grandfather’s funeral because he would have to quarantine.

A map by NPR that tracks COVID-19 across the US shows cases currently rising in 45 states, including New York.

This spring, while the rest of Europe imposed sweeping lockdowns, Sweden decided to let coronavirus take its course, opting to let businesses and gatherings continue in the interest of the economy. Now, The New York Times reports, experts are declaring the Swedish experiment a failure: Not only did Sweden suffer many times more deaths than its neighbors, the country’s laissez-faire strategy didn’t even help the economy. “Despite the government’s decision to allow the domestic economy to roll on, Swedish businesses are stuck with the same conditions that produced recession everywhere else. And Swedish people responded to the fear of the virus by limiting their shopping—not enough to prevent elevated deaths, but enough to produce a decline in business activity,” the paper writes. The combination of massive fatalities and economic malaise Sweden has endured lends weight to what many economists and health experts have been saying all along: The choice between the economy and public health is a false one, and the best way to boost the economy is to control the virus.

New York state legislators are planning to return to Albany for a rare special legislative session in July to deal with COVID-19 issues, the Buffalo News reports. Lawmakers describe a “robust agenda” for the upcoming session: A big item on the table will be whether or not to raise taxes on New York’s highest earners to offset steep funding cuts to schools, hospitals, and other vital local services.

Following the discovery of clusters of cases and the shutdown of two local restaurants, Albany County is urging out-of-towners to respect quarantine rules, and pleading with restaurant owners to wear masks properly, the Times Union reports. “To have your nose hanging out is not wearing a mask. To have it under your chin is not wearing a mask,” said county health commissioner Elizabeth Whalen.

A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit brought against Governor Cuomo for declaring gun shops non-essential businesses in March. “In the face of a global pandemic, the Court is loath to second guess those policy decisions,” wrote Judge Lawrence Kahn of the Northern District.

Announced by New York State on Tuesday and Wednesday:

  • Malls will be allowed to reopen on Friday, July 10 if they have HVAC filters installed with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 13. Those with systems that cannot take MERV-13 filters will be allowed to use MERV-12 or MERV-11 filters if they take additional precautions, including increased ventilation. Guidance for malls has been posted on the NY Forward website.
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

Some retail businesses in Westchester County have been adding “COVID fees” to bills pursuant to a county statute that allows businesses to add fees at the point of sale. To inform both businesses and consumers of their rights, the county Consumer Protection Department issued guidance clarifying the law.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced an open forum for Westchester business owners and community leaders to discuss best practices for reopening. “Taking It To The Streets: Dining and Shopping During Covid” will take place on Thursday, July 9 at 10am. Despite its name, the forum will be held online.

Putnam County hasn’t posted an update to its case dashboard since June 29. According to the county website, the dashboard is slated to be updated weekly. The data on the county’s website is now almost two weeks old, dating back to Thursday, June 25. New York State reports that since Monday, seven new positive cases have been found in Putnam County.  

The Putnam County Health Department is warning of potential COVID-19 exposure at the Tops Market in Carmel on Thursday, July 2 between 5:30am and 10:30am, and on Sunday, July 5 between 5:30am and 8am, the Putnam County Courier reports. The county Health Department posted a warning on Twitter, but no notice or press release is posted on the Putnam County website. 

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police have opened a joint investigation into assault allegations linked to a Kinderhook home owned by Alex Rosenstrach, who reopened the gym he owns, ClubLife Health and Fitness gym in Valatie, on May 15 in defiance of the shutdown order. Hudson Valley 360 reports that law enforcement officials searched Rosenstrach’s house on Tuesday afternoon, but that no arrests had been made as of noon Wednesday.

The Columbia County Department of Health has a schedule of upcoming drive-through and walkup testing clinics in the county. The next drive-through clinic will be held July 12 at 325 Columbia Street in Hudson from 9am-12pm (pre-registration is required at this link). The next walkup clinic will be July 21 from 9-11am on the sidewalk in front of John L. Edwards elementary school in Hudson.

SUNY Ulster officials have proposed two solutions to make up for budget shortfalls for the 2020-21 academic year: dipping into the college’s reserve account and increasing tuition. Officials are considering the measures because of decreasing enrollment and a reduction in state aid, the Daily Freeman reports. The community college’s proposed budget for next school year is $27,362,353, which is 3.8 percent smaller than its 2019-20 spending plan.

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

Jim Barber, a Middleburgh farmer on the November ballot for the 51st Senate district, has tested negative for COVID-19 after a potential exposure, the Daily Star reports. Barber, a Democrat, will face Republican Peter Oberacker Jr. in the race to replace retiring Republican state senator Jim Seward, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 in March and released in mid-April

Businesses in Schoharie County can get help with filing New York Forward safety plans—a requirement for reopening—through the Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corp. (SEEC). The organization is launching a program called the “SchoCo Promise,” in which businesses that work with SEEC on their safety plans get a certificate and window stickers that signal to customers that they are taking COVID-19 safety seriously. SEEC also has a list of resources available to local businesses on their website.

Sullivan County is looking to sell the county-owned Care Center at Sunset Lake, a 146-bed nursing home in Liberty. Sunset Lake has lost roughly $3.5 million a year for the past two years, the Times Herald-Record reports, and because of the pandemic-fueled fiscal crisis, local officials say the county can no longer afford to run it. The county will hold a hearing to discuss and vote on the sale at 8am on Tuesday, July 14, at the county government center in Monticello. Written comments must be received by Monday, July 13; comments can be emailed to, or sent by standard mail to Clerk of the Legislature AnnMarie Martin, 100 North St., Monticello, NY 12701.

The Festival Farmers’ Market in Cobleskill reopens on Saturday, July 11; the Times-Journal is billing it as “one of the few things not canceled this summer.”

The Greene County village of Coxsackie is forgiving residents’ second-quarter water bills because of the pandemic. The Catskill Daily Mail reports that the action will save local households roughly $150 each, and cost the village water and sewer district more than $200,000, which they will pay from funds saved over the past few years. “We wanted to give folks one less…worry during this time of COVID-19,” said village trustee Stephen Hanse.

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.