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Coronavirus Roundup: State Legislature to Scrutinize Nursing Home Policy

All the news and announcements from New York State, the Hudson Valley, and the Catskills for Friday, June 26.

State legislators are asking questions about a policy from Governor Cuomo dictating how nursing homes handled COVID-19 patients.
Matt H. Wade
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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 Friday, June 26.

391,220 cases confirmed (805 new)
3,681,317 tests performed (61,723 new)
24,814 deaths (14 new)
951 current hospitalizations
244 current ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Did a controversial order by the Cuomo administration cause needless deaths among nursing home residents? That question is going to get a public hearing in the New York State legislature, CNHI’s Joe Mahoney reports. Manhattan Democrat Richard Gottfried, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee, said that there will be an announcement soon on the date of the hearing. Cuomo has repeatedly dismissed criticism of a now-reversed state Department of Health directive that ordered nursing homes to take in COVID-19-positive residents as partisan politics, but Democrats as well as Republicans in state government are asking sharp questions.

A federal judge blocked Cuomo’s restriction of religious services to 25 percent capacity, holding in a Friday ruling that religious ceremonies should not be treated differently than other kinds of gatherings, and must be allowed to be held at up to 50 percent capacity. On June 6, Cuomo announced that religious services could now be held at 25 percent capacity in Phase Two regions, expanding on a previous order that permitted religious services with a maximum of 10 people. That order was also challenged in court; the NYCLU sued the state for permitting religious services and Memorial Day ceremonies but not other kinds of small gatherings, and Cuomo quickly moved to allow all gatherings of up to 10 people for any lawful purpose.

As of Wednesday night, travelers to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut from highly infected states have been ordered to quarantine for 14 days or face steep fines: $2,000 for the first violation, and up to $10,000 if someone is harmed or killed as a result of a quarantine breach. Washington State was dropped from the list of states after erroneously being included, Governor Jay Inslee said in a press conference Wednesday. The states affected, which are on the list either because their rate of positive tests exceeds 10 percent or their positive tests exceed 10 people per 100,000 on a seven-day rolling average, are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Texas. Politico notes that California, where cases have been spiking, recently released case data that push its seven-day average above 10 positive tests per 100,000 residents; so far, New York has not announced that travelers from California are subject to quarantine.

On Friday, Cuomo announced that contact tracing has led to the discovery of outbreaks in Montgomery and Oswego counties, both linked to workplace infections: an Oswego County apple packaging plant and a Montgomery County aluminum manufacturing plant. Almost half of the workers at Champlain Valley Specialties—82 out of 179—have tested positive for COVID-19, reports. Contact tracers from the state and the Oswego County Health Department found that the outbreak spread from the apple processing facility to the aluminum plant as well as an onion farm in Central New York. None of the workplaces were named in the state announcement. 

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have dropped below 1,000 in New York State this week for the first time since March, Cuomo announced on Thursday.

New York’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, which was supposed to go into effect in March, has been repeatedly delayed because of fears that reusable bags and containers would be a vector for spreading the coronavirus, a concern peddled by plastics industry lobbyists, who’ve encouraged consumers nationwide to use disposable plastics as a safety measure. “As the COVID-19 virus spreads across the country, single-use plastics will only become more vital,” wrote Plastics Industry Association president and CEO Tony Radoszewski in March. But the latest research indicates that reusables are perfectly fine—as long as you wash them, according to a statement released this week signed by more than 125 virologists, epidemiologists, and health experts from 18 different countries. Grist has more on the latest science concerning the safety of reusables during the pandemic.

How The Virus Won”: On Thursday, The New York Times published an interactive digital article that uses simple visuals—red dots on a gray map—to tell the story of the novel coronavirus’s relentless march across the US, aided every step of the way by official blunders. It’s clear, easy to read, and more than a little depressing. 

A Friday feature in The Atlantic by Robinson Meyer and Alexis Madrigal digs into recent case numbers in the US, which surpassed all previous records in the past week, fueled by outbreaks in the South and West that have been ballooning as Northeastern case numbers shrink. Despite optimistic talk from federal officials and some state governors, the recent news is bad, they write: “Ignore any attempt to explain away what is happening: The American coronavirus pandemic is once again at risk of spinning out of control. A new and brutal stage now menaces the Sun Belt states, whose residents face a nearly unbroken chain of outbreaks stretching from South Carolina to California. Across the South and large parts of the West, cases are soaring, hospitalizations are spiking, and a greater portion of tests is coming back positive.”

Announced by New York State on Thursday and Friday: 

  • New York State will offer assistance to highly infected states, Cuomo announced on Friday, returning to a promise made early on in the pandemic to extend aid to other states once New York’s crisis had passed. 
  • The overall average rate of positive tests in the past week statewide is 1.1 percent, according to a Friday statement that broke down the past few days’ worth of test results by region. 
  • The first five upstate regions to enter the phased reopening process reached Phase Four on Friday: the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the North Country. While the advent of Phase Four brings some lower-risk recreational activities back to upstate New York, Cuomo and the state Department of Health are not yet allowing gyms, theaters, or malls to reopen. In Friday’s briefing, Cuomo cited research that has shown that COVID-19 can be spread via air conditioning systems, and said that the state is studying ways to filter out viruses in air conditioning systems. “Our Department of Health is trying to determine if there is any filtration system for an air conditioning system that can successfully remove the virus from air circulation. Is there a filter that can be added to an air conditioning system that we know will filter out the virus?”
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

New Rochelle on Thursday launched Rebound New Rochelle, a program that provides grants and business assistance to local businesses and residents impacted by the pandemic. The program is a partnership between the New Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, New Rochelle Business Improvement District, the Business Council of Westchester, and the private sector, and has $1.8 million to disperse in financial aid, according to a press release.

Saxon Woods Pool, in White Plains, and Sprain Ridge Pool, in Yonkers, opened as scheduled on Friday in Westchester. Tibbetts Brook Pool and Wilson Woods Pool will open next Friday, July 3.

Pace University, a private NYC university with secondary campuses in Westchester County, announced this week that it will begin the 2020-21 academic year on August 24 with a combination of in-person, online, and hybrid learning and finish classes in time for the Thanksgiving break.

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced a substantial change to testing in the county: Nuvance/Health Quest will transition their mobile testing locations to on-site testing at facilities around the county, and will close the testing site at TechCity on June 30. Nuvance has added testing for existing patients at multiple Health Quest Medical Practice locations in Ulster County, including: 9W in Ulster, Kingston Plaza, Route 299 in Lloyd, Route 32 in Modena, Zena Road in Woodstock, and Route 28 in Boiceville. Non-HQMP patients can get tested at Vassar Diagnostic Lab at the Hudson Valley Mall in Kingston.

Illicit swimmers still haven’t gotten the message that Big Deep and Little Deep swimming holes are closed, it appears. So town police are expected to patrol more often in the area, Woodstock Supervisor Bill McKenna said. The Daily Freeman has more on the crackdown.

Ulster County’s Fourth of July fireworks display will be an “Independence Weekend Salute” to essential workers that will include a drive-in and socially distanced fireworks. (Editor’s note: We recommend maintaining six feet of distance between yourself and all pyrotechnics, pandemic or no pandemic.) The fireworks display will be July 4 at TechCity.

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced additional campgrounds in the Catskills and Adirondacks that will open July 1 to existing reservations. In Catskill Park, the sites being opened are the Devils Tombstone Campground and Day-Use Area in Hunter, the Kenneth L. Wilson Campground and Day-Use Area in Mount Tremper, and the Mongaup Pond Campground and Day-Use area in Livingston Manor.

Delaware County officials announced another death from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the pandemic death toll in the rural county to 6. So far, 82 county residents have tested positive for COVID-19. The county currently has only one known active infection, a resident who is isolating in their home.

The indoor pool at the Catskill Recreation Center in Arkville reopened on Thursday, June 25 with new restrictions: Swimmers must reserve a limited number of time slots in advance and arrive in their bathing suits. Note: In their announcement about the pool reopening, the CRC writes incorrectly that gyms will be allowed to reopen in Phase Four. The reopening of gyms in Phase Four was widely anticipated among gym operators, some of whom brought back furloughed workers in preparation for reopening, but state officials announced Wednesday that they were still studying potential safety issues and would issue a separate recommendation for gyms.

The town of Fallsburg has opted not to hold its day camp this year, the Sullivan County Democrat reports. Municipally-run day camps in Thompson and Liberty are also canceled for the season; nearby camps in Bethel and Mamakating are proceeding with reduced numbers of campers. New York State has officially allowed children’s day camps to operate, but some camp managers are opting to cancel anyway, feeling that they are not able to operate safely. 

Two upcoming Sullivan County town halls are planned for next week. The first, at 1pm on Monday, June 29, will feature Phil Vallone, president of Rolling V Bus Company, along with county government and public health officials. The second, at 1pm on Thursday, July 2, will feature the town supervisors of Bethel and Tusten as guest speakers. Residents can submit questions by email to or by Facebook private message to; questions must be received by 7am on the date of the town hall.

To read more coronavirus coverage from The River, 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.