This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published Monday, April 5, in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.
Note: As the once-rapid pace of pandemic news has slowed in recent weeks, our coronavirus roundups have increasingly become the latest in vaccine news, and well, we have an entire guide for that. With fewer local- and state-level updates to keep track of, we have decided to wind down the roundup with this week’s edition. We will continue to update the vaccine guide, and we’ll still be here to cover any major COVID news—the pandemic isn’t quite over, after all. But largely we’ll be shifting editorial resources to other areas of coverage. If reading these updates is how you discovered The River, we can’t thank you enough for subscribing, and we hope you’ll continue reading our reporting on housing, the environment, justice, politics, and more.
NEW YORK STATE
7-day average positive test rate: 3.6%
366 deaths past 7 days
4,373 hospitalizations (882 in ICUs)
Share of population fully vaccinated: 20.7%
Share of population given 1 dose: 33.3%
New York State coronavirus page
New York State vaccine page
New York State official pressroom
COVID-19 hotline: (888) 364-3065
Vaccine appointment hotline: (833) 697-4829
The River’s COVID-19 vaccine guide
Universal vaccine eligibility starts Tuesday, April 6 in New York State, when every state resident who is at least 16 years old can get a COVID-19 vaccine. Some vaccination sites are only open to those 18 and older, because the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are not authorized for 16- and 17-year-olds, but the state mass vaccination sites and other sites with the Pfizer vaccine will begin vaccinating those 16 and up this week.
New CDC travel guidance: Those who are fully vaccinated—that is, at least two weeks after their last shot—can safely travel within the US and do not need to test or self-quarantine for travel as long as they follow basic social distancing, masking, and handwashing precautions.
Data on COVID-19 vaccines in older children is beginning to come in, and so far, it looks good. Pfizer announced the first results of a Phase 3 study of 2,260 12- to 15-year-olds last week: The participants who were vaccinated had good antibody levels, and there were no cases of symptomatic COVID-19 among those who got the vaccine, compared to 18 placebo recipients who got sick. The results pave the way for the company to apply to the FDA for authorization to give the vaccine to those 12 and up, and offer hope that older children might be able to get vaccinated before the start of the next school year.
In less good news, Johnson & Johnson lost a batch of up to 15 million vaccine doses when workers at a Baltimore plant mixed up two ingredients, The New York Times reported last week. The issue was caught in quality control before the batch was delivered to vaccinators, but the loss of the batch may delay the company’s delivery of future shipments. Federal officials say the screwup will not slow down the Biden administration’s vaccination goals.
The hits keep coming for Governor Andrew Cuomo: A weekend story in The Washington Post paints a picture of a governor more obsessed with his political image than with crafting good pandemic policy, and a state health department whose experts were habitually cut out of important decisions. “Key health department officials who complained they were sidelined from decisions joked grimly among themselves that they needed to watch the daily news conferences to learn what policies they were going to have to implement,” write Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer. Oof.
Cuomo took questions from the press on Monday for the first time in more than a week—but not many, and not on television. In an afternoon conference call with reporters, Cuomo said that a broad agreement has been reached with the state legislature on the annual budget, which was due April 1 and has not yet been published, let alone voted on. Cuomo answered questions from a handful of reporters, including a pointed inquiry about when schools can expect new guidance; New York has not yet acted on the CDC’s revised guidance, now two weeks old, that says schools can cut distance between students from six to three feet if other prevention measures are in place. Cuomo said that the state Department of Health would put out new guidance for schools within a week.
New York State is launching a new ad campaign aimed at overcoming vaccine hesitancy in Black and brown communities, Cuomo announced at a separate televised briefing on Monday that was closed to the press. While the governor has been focused on vaccine hesitancy in communities of color, polling data has been showing shifts on that front lately: According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, Americans in general are becoming more willing to be vaccinated, with the largest recent shifts happening among Black Americans. Among the groups polled, vaccine hesitancy remained highest among Republicans and white evangelicals.
A group of undocumented workers has been on hunger strike in Albany for weeks, advocating for a measure in the upcoming state budget that would fund relief for essential workers who have been shut out of unemployment and other forms of pandemic aid. As legislators haggle over the delayed budget, the blown deadline is increasingly taking a toll on the hunger strikers.
Recently in ProPublica: Not having insurance, US citizenship, or a social security number shouldn’t stand in the way of getting vaccinated, although these “false barriers” have turned people away from some vaccination sites. The news outlet has a guide to some of the roadblocks vaccine sites have put up, what your rights are as a person getting vaccinated, and how to get help if you are mistakenly barred from vaccination.
Few businesses, schools, or travel services have yet acted to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, but that may be on the horizon. Slate’s Future Tense dissects the complex issues around vaccine mandates; the upshot is, they’re legal, and they aren’t considered compulsory, but they’re complicated. “Mandates attach consequences to one’s choice,” the authors write. When those consequences are high-stakes, like not being able to send one’s child to school or being denied a job, a mandate can feel compulsory, even if there’s legally a choice involved.
One rural bar’s reopening party: 46 cases of COVID-19, three people infected at a local nursing home, a doubling in the county’s new infection rate, a collective 9,100 days of school lost by 650 children, and one hospitalization. A new report from the CDC this week takes a look at the collective cost of a single unsafe indoor event, and finds that it adds up quickly.
About 40,000 children in the US have lost a parent to COVID-19, a new study out recently in JAMA Pediatrics finds. We must support them, the study’s authors write in The Washington Post, and that includes strengthening the safety nets for the most vulnerable families as well as giving schools the resources they need to reopen safely.
According to state data, a third of New York State residents have now had at least a first COVID-19 vaccine shot, and just over one in five are completely vaccinated. Locally in the Hudson Valley, every county east of the Hudson is above the state average for vaccination rate; across the river in the western Hudson Valley and Catskills, only Ulster County is ahead of the rest of the state, with 38.6 percent of its residents at least partially vaccinated, and Orange, Delaware, Schoharie, and Sullivan counties all below 30 percent.
LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
A vaccine clinic at the Rockland County Department of Health this Wednesday still has dozens of appointments available at press time. The clinic is a first-dose Moderna clinic, and is open to anyone 18 and up. Click here to check available times.
Putnam County updated its COVID-19 dashboard to include test-positivity rates, the total number and percentage of the county population that has been vaccinated, and more. The dashboard, which uses state and local data, will now be updated on Fridays.
After a slight uptick in active cases and hospitalizations recently, Westchester has seen improvement in its numbers over the past week. Hospitalizations were down to 238 as of yesterday, County Executive George Latimer said in his Monday briefing. Latimer also noted that the case county was up slightly, but the number he cited is 500 cases lower than what’s reflected on the county’s dashboard, which was updated after the briefing and indicates a welcome trend in infections.
Less welcome: Reports out of Westchester County that some uninsured residents are being charged $20 for the COVID-19 vaccine. As the county reiterated in a press release Monday, there is no out-of-pocket cost to obtaining the vaccine, and no one should be charged. The county encourages individuals to report violations to the US Office of the Inspector General by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or the website tips.hhs.gov.
Medical workers with the New York State Police vaccinated infirm Columbia County residents at their homes in a pilot program that may soon be applied statewide. The county health department, the Office for the Aging, and the county call center began collecting the names of homebound individuals who called about the vaccine earlier in the Spring, according to Health Director Jack Mabb. The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be given to 130 seniors by Tuesday, injected by a state police EMT with a state police paramedic on hand in case of an adverse reaction. About a quarter of Columbia County residents are aged 65 or older, giving it one of the oldest populations in the state.
Nearly 400 people failed to get their second vaccine as scheduled from Premier Medical Group, which serves patients at the Mid-Hudson Regional hospital in Poughkeepsie and elsewhere in the mid-Hudson Valley, according to The Poughkeepsie Journal. A Primer spokesperson said they had not received their shipment from the county health department on time; a health department spokesperson the shipment was delayed due to a “glitch with New York state.” The appointments were rescheduled.
In an update to the county health department’s Facebook page on Saturday, Public Health Director Amy Gildemeister wrote that despite the vaccination effort, Schoharie County has a long way to go before ordinary socialization is safe again. “We had an outbreak at the county building and are in the middle of an outbreak at SUNY Cobleskill,” Gildemesiter wrote. “We have had several instances of COVID sweeping through family and friend groups that felt like it was safe to gather now that some restrictions are easing and a few of them were vaccinated.”
Schoharie County currently has 58 known active cases among residents, Gildemeister told The River, and an additional 46 not counted in that number in a recent outbreak at SUNY Cobleskill. A 15th COVID-19 death was reported in the county on Sunday. “We need people to get vaccinated,” Gildemeister said.
Delaware County’s case count has also been on a steep rise lately. The county has 186 known active cases as of Monday, 17 of them hospitalized, and a 46th person has died in the county of COVID-19 since last week.
Coronavirus might be public health enemy No. 1 right now, but it’s not the only problem public health experts are tackling on a daily basis. The River Reporter recently sat down with Wendy Brown, Sullivan County’s deputy public health director, to talk about some of the other health issues facing a county ranked near the bottom of the state for health outcomes, and with a large chunk of its population living in poverty.
The Athens Street Festival, canceled in 2020, will be back this year, organizers say—though they plan to hold a smaller event, and in September instead of July. In the meantime, the Catskill Daily Mail reports, they’re looking for four bands and a saxophone player.
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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.
To read more of our coronavirus coverage, visit our coronavirus page.