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Coronavirus Roundup: Unemployment Benefits Boosted, Brodsky Dies

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

Governor Cuomo directed all flags on state government buildings to be flown at half-staff during NYS on PAUSE.
Source: Public Domain
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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, April 8. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.

La Voz, a Spanish-language magazine covering Hispanic news and culture in the Hudson Valley, is translating these roundups and co-publishing them on its website. Read here. You can also listen to daily audio updates from “La Voz con Mariel Fiori” on Radio Kingston.

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. 

The River is also 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.

We’ve moved our list of resources to a page on our website, which will be updated regularly. The list is not comprehensive, but if you know anything you’d like us to add, please email us.

149,316 cases confirmed (10,453 new)
365,153 tests performed (25,095 new)
6,268 deaths (779 new)
32,669 hospitalizations (overall)
18,079 hospitalizations (current)
4,593 ICU admissions
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 77
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Chag sameach, Hudson Valley and Catskills: Wednesday is the first night of Passover. A group of 14 Orthodox rabbis has ruled that teleconferencing seders are kosher, TechCrunch reports: “Just as it is permissible for a noncritical patient to receive treatment on Shabbat in order to cure him of illness, such is the case here,” the rabbis explained. Next year at Bubbe’s, but for 2020, Zoom will have to do.

Taking in the worst of the pandemic news is fearsomely hard, but it’s important to try to keep in touch with reality, even when it’s brutal. The grimmest news in New York State so far this week: A report by WNYC and Gothamist released Tuesday that shows a tenfold spike in the number of New York City residents dying at home each day. About 200 New Yorkers in the city are now dying in their homes every day, up from an average of 20 to 25 during normal times, and even those that are listed as “probable” COVID-19 cases have not been counted in official statistics unless they have a positive test. The report suggests that official counts might be undercounting actual deaths from the virus by as much as 40 percent. In response to WNYC and Gothamist’s reporting, city officials say they will begin counting suspected cases among people who die at home and releasing those numbers to the public. The problem is not confined to New York City: on March 26, The Other Hudson Valley reported on a Columbia County man who died of COVID-19 at home and was not included in official state or county statistics.

Deaths in New York State in a 24-hour period rose again to 779, hitting a new official daily record for the second day in a row.

State senator Jim Seward of Oneonta, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was put on a ventilator, has been released from the ICU and is on the mend.

Announced by New York State on Wednesday

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed flags to fly at half-mast throughout the duration of New York State on PAUSE. On Thursday, the Kosciuszko Bridge, the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the spire of One World Trade Center, and LaGuardia Airport parking garages will be lit blue as part of the #LightItBlue campaign to support healthcare workers and essential workers.
  • As more data have been made public, states and cities are finding that COVID-19 is hitting low-income and minority neighborhoods hardest. Newly released data from New York City show that COVID-19 deaths are disproportionately striking down Black and Latinx residents, and sparing more white and Asian New Yorkers than would be expected if the virus’s lethality was spread out evenly across all races and ethnicities. Cuomo addressed the issue in Wednesday’s daily briefing, announcing that he was appointing SUNY Albany head Havidán Rodriguez to investigate the root causes of why the pandemic is striking certain demographics harder than others. Is it the result of higher rates of underlying medical conditions in minority and low-income communities? “Comorbidity—I understand that,” Cuomo said. “But I think there’s something more to it. It always seems that the poorest people pay the highest price. Why is that? But let’s figure it out. Let’s do the work. Let’s do the research. Let’s learn from this moment and let’s learn these lessons and let’s do it now.”
  • The state will make an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits available to all New Yorkers, and extend unemployment benefits to a total of 39 weeks. That’s due to the federal CARES Act. New York is early on it, but other states are following suit.
  • Cuomo will sign an executive order to ensure that New Yorkers can vote absentee in the June 23 primary elections. (Good. Let’s not be Wisconsin.)
  • BiPAP machines aren’t as good as ventilators, but they can be helpful, and the state just got a donation of 2,400 of them from Mercury Medical. Cuomo also gave a shout out to Oregon, California, and Washington state for sending ventilators to New York. 
  • Delta, JetBlue, and United are donating free travel to New York for medical workers. 
  • “Do you think that New York was late to act?” a reporter asked Cuomo at Wednesday’s briefing. “No. I think New York was early and I think the actions we took were more dramatic than most, and, frankly, were criticized as being premature,” the governor shot back. That might be so, but despite acting more swiftly than most of the nation, New York State and New York City missed some critical windows for action that might have blunted the pandemic’s impact, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Former CDC head Thomas Frieden told the paper that if the city and state had adopted widespread social distancing a week earlier, the death toll might have been reduced by 50 to 80 percent.

Below: A graph showing the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, drawn from New York State’s data. County populations vary widely in this region, and we feel that reporting numbers proportionally is a better way to make comparisons between counties than using the number of confirmed cases. But it is important to note that we do not know how much difference between counties is being driven by insufficient testing. The reporting of cases is lagging far behind actual infections, and sick people who cannot get tested are not being reported.

6,413 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Nineteen new deaths were reported by the county Wednesday, bringing COVID-19’s toll in Rockland to 154. Reported deaths have more than doubled since Friday, when they stood at 69.

Ramapo’s Phil Tisi, a retired teacher, former town administrator, and well-known figure around town, died at home of coronavirus complications, reports. He was 72. 

Over 9,000 pounds of food were distributed among 14 food pantries and feeding programs on Tuesday in Pomona. The local nonprofits collectively serve over 30,000 meals per month to county residents in need. The previous site of this distribution was closed due to COVID-19 and this new drive-thru site set up in the interim. “Today’s food distribution will go a long way towards providing healthy, nutritious meals to those who are in need,” said county executive Ed Day. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our economy, more people will need help putting food on the table, and we urge everyone who is able to get involved and help out.”

15,887 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

Richard Brodsky, who served in the New York State Assembly from 1983 until 2000, died of a suspected case of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Like many victims of COVID-19, Brodsky was not yet diagnosed with the disease and died at home, according to his wife Paige, who said he was tested last Friday but had not yet gotten the results. The Greenburgh-based Democrat was socially liberal and fiscally moderate and was remembered for taking on financial mismanagement and corruption at state public authorities and for authoring the legislation creating the Environmental Protection Fund. “In these times, when each of us is getting to that inevitable point of having the tragedy of this virus directly impact our personal lives, that time has arrived for many of us in Albany,” assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston), said. “Richard was a gregarious, acerbic, brilliant, and unique statesman, and his passing leaves a void in our collective memory.”

More than half of local business owners surveyed by the Westchester County Economic Development Office are keeping their staff employed despite facing steep business losses, the Examiner reports.

3,865 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

JetBlue, the largest carrier at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, eliminated all flights from there between April 15 and June 10 as part of its plan to consolidate flights in the New York City area to JFK and Newark airports. The company predicted the number of passengers this April and May will be less than six percent of what it was last year. The airport’s three other carriers are still taking reservations.

Seventeen people in Orange County have died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, county executive Steven Neuhaus announced Wednesday, but 25 percent of intensive care beds at local hospitals remain available.

1,395 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

A dorm at Dutchess County Community College (DCCC) being converted into a temporary hospital will be able to take patients starting Monday, if needed. The county’s three hospitals are currently able to handle COVID-19 patients, and excess patients will be transferred to expanded hospitals in Ulster County if the hospital system reaches capacity before the temporary hospital is ready. The temporary hospital takes three days to prepare, and every day starting on Friday, the county will evaluate every if the hospital will be needed in three days’ time. Vassar College will serve as backup to the DCCC hospital if needed.

Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro’s father has been hospitalized, the county executive said today during a Facebook town hall. In unplanned remarks, Molinaro emotionally told the county his father was on a ventilator, “struggling to stay alive.”

Molinaro also directed all businesses whose employees interact with the public to do everything they can to ensure their employees wear face coverings, though he stopped short of requiring businesses to provide them to employees. The county also advised all residents to wear face coverings in public, following federal recommendations made last week. The county provided directions for making face coverings at home on the health department website.

Several businesses throughout Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley have converted their manufacturing efforts to produce personal protective equipment for healthcare workers battling the spread of the coronavirus. On Wednesday, Molinaro toured manufacturers in Dutchess and Ulster counties now producing protective face shields.

Poughkeepsie-based Nuvance Health is seeking volunteers who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma that can be used for treatment.

403 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Parking for two popular trails in the Hudson Highlands was further restricted by the state earlier this week to limit the number of people hiking. Parking for Little Stony Point in Cold Spring is prohibited on the west side of Route 9D, and only parallel parking is permitted along the east side of Route 9D to access Breakneck Ridge.

279 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Sullivan County will host another virtual town hall Q&A session on its Facebook page on Thursday, April 9 at 1pm. Legislature vice chair Michael Brooks, county manager Josh Potosek, and public health director Nancy McGraw will be joined by Catskill Regional Medical Center CEO Jonathan Schiller to address coronavirus-related questions from Sullivan residents.

The community is pulling together to help the Callicoon Theater with a GoFundMe drive, the Sullivan County Democrat reported Monday.

422 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

County executive Pat Ryan told the Daily Freeman that COVID-19 cases in the county are doubling every five days and are expected to peak one to three weeks later than in New York City. Governor Cuomo has said flattening hospitalization rates in the last few days indicate the virus may be reaching its peak in the state as a whole, but the state is supposed to experience a “rolling apex” as the virus moves north.

Two more deaths from COVID-19 were announced by the county today, bringing Ulster’s toll to seven.

The Ulster County finance commissioner estimated an annual loss of $34.2 million in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic—10 percent of the county’s total revenue stream and 47 percent of its property tax levy. Sales tax revenue would fall between 17 and 26 percent, according to commissioner Burt Gulnick, who said sales tax only fell eight percent during the Great Recession. The prediction is far more dire than one made less than two weeks ago by the New York State Association of Counties, which predicted sales tax revenues in Ulster County would fall 4.3 under a “mild” scenario, and 13.1 percent under a “severe” scenario.

Ulster County will use an artificial intelligence program to answer residents’ questions about COVID-19, according to a press release from the County Executive’s Office. The IBM-developed “Watson Assistant” can answer verbal or typed questions about COVID-19, increasing the capacity of the county to answer queries so humans can deal with the most crucial requests. The assistant can be found on the county’s COVID-19 Virtual Center.

Ulster County will hold a virtual town hall on Thursday, April 9 at 2pm. Ryan will be joined by state senator Jen Metzger on the county’s Facebook page to address COVID-19 related questions.

63 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

On Wednesday, the Columbia County Department of Health placed an order for 1,000 test kits that are expected to ship at the end of next week, twice the number of total tests completed in the county thus far. The total cost for the kits will be $1,000, said county DOH officials. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to conduct more extensive testing in the County,” said DOH director Jack Mabb. “Testing is key to understanding the extent of the disease and aiding in the fight against it in our community.”

The county announced Tuesday a fourth person in the county died of COVID-19. No other details were given.

37 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

The Delaware County Chamber of Commerce will host an online workshop on crisis management and recovery for local businesses at 10am on Tuesday, April 14.

25 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

Commenters on a Greene County Public Health Department Facebook post alleged the department was removing comments and blocking users who comment about the lack of testing in the county and the false sense of security promoted as a result of the inaccurately low number of positives. “We only remove comments containing derogatory language or gross misinformation, all other comments are left on each post,” the page responded to one user. The Greene County health department claims it is testing at the same rate as surrounding counties, despite explaining the true number of positive cases is much higher than what is being reported and tests in the county are primarily being reserved for healthcare workers and first responders

A fifth rapid-response paramedic SUV was added to the county’s stable. Though the purchase was decided on before the pandemic, the vehicle will allow faster response times to Mountaintop communities during the crisis. The “flycar” will be stationed in Prattsville and is meant to stabilize and treat patients prior to an ambulance arriving.

12 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

Middleburgh’s village mayor, Matt Avitabile, would have preferred to step down from office by now, but since he had to keep serving because of delayed village elections, he’s been making the most of it. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Avitabile wrote that his efforts to round up help for the little village’s business community had netted about $30,000, and the village is also planning to distribute relief checks to taxpayers. That accomplished, Avitabile announced that he’ll be remaining on the village board, but stepping down as mayor effective Monday, and turning over the keys to the village to new mayor Trish Bergan. “Serving as our community’s steward for the past eight years has been the singular privilege of my life. To all of you—even if we disagreed—I love you all and look forward to our community’s next, and better days ahead,” he wrote.

For the second week in a row, the Times-Journal is peddling a local doctor’s alleged miracle cure for COVID-19. We remain skeptical. A request for comment made to the Schoharie County Department of Health about it has so far gone unanswered.

With nearly all local courts closed, how are Hudson Valley residents navigating the legal system? The River’s Arvind Dilawar visited the Dutchess Family Court, in Poughkeepsie, where all emergency cases in the county have been directed: regarding orders of protection, violent crime, neglect, abuse, child protection, and arraignments. Published Wednesday, it’s our latest feature looking at how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting daily life in the region.

To read more of our daily news roundups, visit our coronavirus page.