This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Wednesday, June 24.
NEW YORK STATE
389,666 cases confirmed (581 new)
3,551,952 tests performed (51,144 new)
24,782 deaths (16 new)
1,071 current hospitalizations
290 current ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065
The US is currently one of the world’s worst coronavirus hotspots, and our failure to control the pandemic might soon cost us access to other nations. Countries in the European Union, where a tenuous pandemic recovery is underway, are currently preparing to block travelers from the US, Brazil, and Russia when borders reopen on July 1. If the decision is finalized, The New York Times reports, it will have huge economic and geopolitical ramifications, but EU leaders are trying to set that aside and follow the science: “Despite the disruptions caused by such a ban, European officials involved in the talks said it was highly unlikely an exception would be made for the United States. They said that the criteria for creating the list of acceptable countries had been deliberately kept as scientific and nonpolitical as possible,” the paper writes. Relatedly: The Atlantic this week had a feature by Tom McTague on the novelty of the rest of the world feeling pity for America. Fear and loathing are nothing new, but pity? “It is hard to escape the feeling that this is a uniquely humiliating moment for America,” McTague writes.
It feels like only yesterday that Florida was trying to keep New Yorkers from crossing its borders. The other shoe has officially dropped: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday, in a joint press briefing with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, that travelers arriving from states with high rates of COVID-19 infection will be subject to a 14-day quarantine, with potential fines starting at $2,000 per violation if they fail to comply. The quarantine order goes into effect Wednesday, June 24, at midnight, and will apply to returning New Yorkers who have been visiting affected states as well as out-of-state residents. The criteria for whether a state has a high enough rate to trigger a quarantine requirement are: either a positive test rate of 10 percent or more, or a positive test rate of at least 10 of every 100,000 residents, both calculated as a seven-day rolling average. Currently, the quarantine requirements apply to travelers coming from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas.
Tuesday was Primary Day in New York State, and like just about everything else these days, it was unprecedented: Huge numbers of absentee ballots cast mean that some races may take days or weeks to count. There have been problems with the vote: some voters, especially in New York City, either did not receive their requested absentee ballots at all or received incomplete ballots. At some Westchester polling places, where a couple of hot primaries were underway between progressive and incumbent Democrats in the 16th and 17th Congressional Districts, lines stretched on for hours. The number of voters who never received absentee ballots despite requesting them is unknown; Gothamist is trying to get a handle on how many New York City voters were affected, but reports that they have little recourse.
Phase Four starts on Friday, June 26, in five upstate regions: the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the North Country. With the start of Phase Four comes the cautious return of some cultural activities, like museums, film and television production, and higher education, as well as professional sports without fans in attendance. Also permitted under Phase Four: Social gatherings of up to 50 people and indoor religious gatherings of up to 33 percent capacity.
Not included in Phase Four: Theaters, malls, and gyms, which will remain closed until further notice. The news was not announced in one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s briefings or press releases, but delivered to local officials in reopening “control rooms” by state budget director Robert Mujica Jr., the Times Union reports.
What’s in a number? Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters on Tuesday that there would not be a Phase Five. According to Cuomo, and guidance on NY Forward, the state’s website for reopening guidelines, there are only four reopening phases. But with the most high-risk businesses still awaiting guidance on how to begin reopening, and the state frequently making announcements in the middle of a phase about activities that will be newly allowed, the phased reopening is looking less like an orderly progression toward a full-fledged economy and more like a software version rollout: Are gyms going to be in Phase 4.1?
Election reform proponents, take heed: Mail-in voting increases voter participation. Earlier this month, New York State held a vast (and expensive) experiment in holding elections by mail: School board elections and budget votes, which were required by executive order to be conducted entirely by mail-in ballot. The result was a whopping increase in voter turnout, Gannett’s Jon Campbell reports. One school saw its voter participation go from around 500 last year to 6,000 in 2020. More than 98 percent of school districts in New York State passed their budgets, according to the School Board Association.
On Wednesday, Westchester County Executive George Latimer called on the county’s Industrial Development Agency to launch an emergency loan program to provide relief loans and grants to local businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. The program, which was recently approved by New York State, provides funds from the state disaster and emergency loan and grant pool, and gives IDA temporary authority to issue grants and loans in Westchester County.
On Tuesday, Latimer announced summer service changes for the county’s Bee-Line bus system. A full list of the changes and new bus schedules can be found at westchestergov.com/beelinebus or by calling the Bee-Line customer service center at (914) 813-7777.
An ophthalmologist in Rye has been indicted for allegedly obtaining coronavirus-relief loans fraudulently. Dr. Ameet Goyal was arrested in November for billing minor procedures as higher-paying surgeries for more than $8 million between January 2010 and March 2017. LoHud.com reports that because that case is pending, Goyal’s business is not eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans. But federal prosecutors say he lied about that on two separate applications.
New York State’s decision not to allow gyms, movie theaters, malls, and amusement parks to reopen during Phase Four took many local leaders by surprise, and now they’re sounding off in the press. The Daily Freeman spoke with Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, both of whom remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached soon regarding the businesses cut from Phase Four. “What they told us yesterday was absolutely different than what was advised over the last three weeks,” Molinaro said. “…Never once did they say otherwise.”
A fourth Pine Bush School District employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, Superintendent Tim Mains confirmed via email to the Times Herald-Record. The virus has spread among the 20 employees in the district’s central administration office.
Ulster County comptroller March Gallagher released an audit of Airbnb and other short-term rental properties in the county on Wednesday, recommending reforms to the way the county tracks and registers short-term rentals. In the audit, the comptroller’s office found property hosts who are misrepresenting their income or the status of their properties, potentially costing the county tax revenue in a time of dire shortfall. “Ulster County must collect all tax due from short-term rentals, especially given the COVID-related budget shortfalls we face,” Gallagher said in a statement.
Marlboro High School flinched first: The school, which has been sticking by its original graduation plans for this Friday in hopes that the state would allow larger gatherings, announced Wednesday that it will split its graduation festivities into three consecutive ceremonies.
Outdoor recreation rollback alert: Nudity is now “formally prohibited” at the Mohonk Preserve, to the disappointment of nudists who have been unofficially using the area downstream of Split Rock for years.
Several upcoming COVID-19 testing clinics are scheduled for Columbia County: on June 30, July 7, and July 28 at the former John L. Edwards School from 9-11am; and on July 12 at the Columbia County Department of Health from 9am to noon. To preregister, contact the Columbia County Department of Health at (518) 828-3358.
Christ’s Lutheran Church in Woodstock is holding an online memorial service for those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic at 7 pm on Tuesday, June 30, as part of a memorial project designed by a bereaved parishioner that includes a mural in the parish hall and crosses on the church lawn. To have a loved one’s name added to the service, email the church at firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on June 30; church membership is not necessary for inclusion.
The Greene County Emergency Services Center has safety supplies on hand to give to local businesses, including gloves, face shields, hand sanitizer, and digital thermometers. To request supplies, email the GCESC at email@example.com.
According to a press release issued by Delaware County on Wednesday, 7.6 percent of county residents have now been tested for COVID-19. There are currently three known active cases in the rural county: two sick at home, and one hospitalized. In total, 6,008 tests have been performed so far on 3,423 people; many of those tested have been tested more than once, county officials said.
Schoharie County business owners had many questions in a Zoom meeting last week with county and state officials about reopening, the Times-Journal reports. Key among them: How do we deal with customers who won’t wear masks? “What do we do if they become aggressive?,” asked one business rep. “Can we refuse them? At what point do we call the police? Or do we just deal with it?” The state has an anonymous tipline for complaints about businesses that are not following the rules, and according to a state executive order issued in May, businesses can bar customers for refusing to wear masks. But for the most part, business owners and employees are on their own for dealing with unruly customers, and at least one local employee has been assaulted over a mask dispute.
On Tuesday, the Schoharie County Department of Health announced two new positive cases in the county. There are currently three known active cases in the county, the smallest and most rural of the 11 Hudson Valley and Catskills counties being tracked by The River. In total, 51 Schoharie County residents have recovered from COVID-19, and one has died.
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.