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Coronavirus Updates: Shutdown Extended, New Test Developed

All the news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties from Sunday, March 29.

Clinical specimen testing for COVID-19 at the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Laboratory.
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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 Sunday, March 29. 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.

59,513 cases confirmed (7,195 new)
172,360 tests performed (16,426 new)
965 deaths (237 new)
12,075 hospitalizations (overall)
8,503 hospitalizations (current)
2,037 ICU admissions
3,572 discharged from hospital (846 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 31
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

President Donald Trump announced Sunday that he would extend nationwide social distancing guidelines until April 30. So much for Easter.

Sunday’s New York Times has an in-depth report on a government initiative begun in 2007 that could have—and should have—developed a national stockpile of inexpensive, lightweight, easier-to-use ventilators to deploy in the event of a pandemic. Dubbed Project Aura and assigned to a small California medical device manufacturer called Newport, the effort was making progress, the Times reports, until 2012, when the large multinational company Covidien bought Newport, only to later shut down the project, canceling the government contract. Federal officials told the Times that Covidien brass felt the initiative was not profitable enough for the company.

The outbreak in the US has been going on long enough that doctors are gaining expertise in how people recover, and how best to help them. NBC News had a report Saturday on “post intensive care syndrome,” a combination of trauma, cognitive problems, and decreased lung function common among those who have been in intensive care with COVID-19.

Announced by New York State today:

  • New York’s PAUSE policy, which has shut down all non-essential business and public gatherings, has been extended for another two weeks, until April 15. The policy will be renewed in two-week intervals as needed.
  • The state’s Wadsworth Lab has developed a new COVID-19 test using saliva and a short nasal swab that’s less invasive than the current nasopharyngeal swab test, and requires less personal protective equipment for health workers to administer. Also, with the new test, health workers can test themselves. In Sunday’s daily briefing, Cuomo said that continued improvements in speed and access to testing will help decrease the statewide economic shutdown. “When they come up with an inexpensive home test or point-of-care test that can be brought to volume, I think that’s probably when you see a real return to normalcy in the workforce,” Cuomo said.
  • Cuomo has signed a new executive order allowing schools to host free daycare.
  • Major pharmacy chains in the state have agreed to free home delivery of prescriptions.
  • A new mobile testing site in the Bronx’s Co-op City is being opened. The facility will provide tests by appointment only and will prioritize symptomatic individuals who had close exposure to a positive COVID-19 case, healthcare workers and first responders displaying symptoms, and those working in or having recently visited a nursing home who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. To get an appointment, New Yorkers can call the state coronavirus hotline at (888) 364-3065.
  • The data being reported by the state has become more detailed as the outbreak has progressed. Since March 21, the state has been reporting figures about hospitalization; those figures are now split into total hospitalizations since the beginning of the outbreak and the current number of patients still in the hospital. In Sunday’s briefing, Cuomo shared a chart with daily intubation data and gave figures on how many patients had been discharged from hospitals so far.
  • For several days, Cuomo has been talking about the “apex” of the outbreak, which New York State has not yet hit. The good news, Cuomo said, is even though the outbreak is still growing, the rate at which it is growing is slowing down, buying hospitals more time to prepare for the peak number of cases. According to one model, developed by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, New York State is currently predicted to hit the apex of “peak resource use” on April 6, and hit its highest daily death rate on April 8.
  • The apex for hospitals won’t hit at the same time across the whole state; modeling predicts it will hit in New York City first, then either Westchester or Long Island, and then move upstate. Cuomo today talked about using upstate hospitals to ease pressure on downstate early in the outbreak, then reversing the pattern to have downstate hospitals help upstate ones when the peak of the outbreak moves north and west. “If New York City gets overwhelmed, we’ll ask the upstate systems to be a relief valve for the downstate health systems, which has never happened before to any scale, and also vice versa. There will be a time where the upstate hospitals will be struggling, and when the upstate hospitals will be struggling then we want the downstate hospitals to be able to take over and relieve those hospitals,” Cuomo said.
  • Cuomo is fine with the travel advisory for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut issued by the CDC on Saturday night, which is not a ban on travel. “In essence, it’s nothing that we haven’t been doing. Non-essential people should stay at home. So it’s totally consistent with everything we’re doing and I support what the President did because it affirms what we’ve been doing. It also affirms what New Jersey and Connecticut have been doing,” he said.
  • Contrary to what Cuomo said in his Sunday briefing, Rhode Island’s executive order directing police to stop travelers with New York State license plates, issued on Saturday, hasn’t exactly been repealed. It now applies to every out-of-state traveler and imposes a 14-day quarantine on all non-Rhode Islanders entering the state for non-work purposes.
  • Three NYPD employees and a nurse manager at Mount Sinai have died of COVID-19, and CNN reports that at least 696 NYPD employees have been infected. Cuomo gave a shoutout to first responders in Sunday’s daily briefing: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear,” he said.

One number that’s been impossible to pin down in New York State: How many people have recovered from COVID-19. The state’s daily numbers show only the cumulative number of cases, and officials in the Cuomo administration acknowledged they have not been tracking recovered cases internally, the Albany Times Union reported Sunday. The state is now tracking numbers of people released from the hospital, but that number includes people who are still sick but healthy enough to recover at home.

Even defining what “recovered” means has been tricky. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) define two possible ways patients can be cleared for release from isolation, based either on testing or on the number of days without symptoms. The CDC is not releasing any data on recovered cases, and did not respond to requests by the Times Union for comment.  Some New York State counties are tracking their own numbers on recovered cases.

We have begun calculating the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, rounded to the nearest whole number. 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.

A general note on New York State data: These numbers are changing rapidly. In our reporting, we are relying on the state’s daily counts, but those are frequently updated or contradicted by reports from local officials within hours. If our numbers don’t add up, it may be because local confirmed case counts have not yet been included in the state’s numbers, or because a case that was reported to local public health authorities is officially being included in the count for another county.

8,519 cases confirmed (644 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 88
County coronavirus page

Employees at four ShopRite Supermarkets in the county have tested positive for COVID-19. The Thornwood, New Rochelle, Bedford Hills, and Tuckahoe Road Yonkers locations each had one employee test positive, and an employee at the White Plains location reported COVID-19 symptoms, according to ShopRite. Employees who were in close contact with the sickened individuals were notified by the county and must self-quarantine for 14 days, according to the company.

2,209 cases confirmed (313 new) 
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 68
County coronavirus page

A writer for the hyperlocal news platform Patch reported on Friday that the biopharmaceutical company Pfizer had partnered with German biotech company BioNTech to develop a potential RNA vaccine for COVID-19 at its Pearl River research facility.

1,247 cases confirmed (146 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 32
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Four more people died in the county of COVID-19, county officials announced late Sunday: a man over the age of 80, a man over the age of 50, a woman over the age of 90, and a man over the age of 80. All four had pre-existing health conditions. Nine people have died of COVID-19 so far in Orange County.

320 cases confirmed (58 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 11
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Two corrections officers at Dutchess County Jail tested positive for COVID-19 and 31 others were under mandated or precautionary quarantine Sunday. No inmates had been tested, but the county executive’s office said inmates would be tested if they experienced symptoms and met testing criteria. Visitations to jails were cut off early in New York’s crisis to avoid the virus entering the jail system, where it could spread rapidly. New York City released hundreds of prisoners from its jail system last week after dozens of inmates and corrections officers tested positive. Just over 100 inmates and 80 staffers had tested positive as of Friday. The Dutchess County jail complex is also serving as a temporary homeless shelter during the pandemic, but the shelter is housed in separate buildings from the jail.

144 cases confirmed (13 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 15
County coronavirus page

Putnam County executive MaryEllen Odell again asked the state to set up a testing facility in the county after saying Friday that it had run out of kits, forcing sickened residents to drive long distances in attempts to get tested. One town, Carmel, has the majority of the county’s confirmed cases, with 65.

146 cases confirmed (18 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 8
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Hospitals: Ellenville Regional Hospital, HealthAlliance Mary’s Avenue (Kingston), HealthAlliance Broadway (Kingston)
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

A 76-year-old man from Plattekill died Sunday at Vassar Brothers Medical Center of complications from COVID-19, according to a press release from the Office of the Ulster County Executive. Plattekill has by far the most confirmed cases in Ulster County, with 34 among its 10,300 residents.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups have mostly stopped doing in-person meetings and shifted to remote platforms such as Zoom, Facebook, and traditional conference calls. However, addiction specialists and group members interviewed by the Daily Freeman worried that people just out of rehab or early in recovery would face harder struggles without in-person groups. Villa Veritas cofounder Sue Cusack said addiction was a disease of isolation. “So now we’re faced with one of our worst dilemmas,” Cusack said. “We thrive on personal connection—hugging, getting together, going out to diners.”

88 cases confirmed (16 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 12
County coronavirus page

Fallsburg town supervisor Steven Vegiante acquiesced to the state Department of Health’s authority after it denied his emergency order revoking occupational permits for summer camps and bungalow communities. The Health Department denied the order March 26 because the town was attempting to create laws under its municipal emergency order, which is barred under Governor Cuomo’s March 18 Executive Order. Earlier in the day, Vegiante released a statement posted by the Sullivan Catskills Times saying he was not going to allow the camps and bungalows to operate whether the state approved of it or not.

23 cases confirmed (1 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 4
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

The Albany Times Union identified the person who died of COVID-19 over the weekend as a resident of Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont. The county’s Health Department announced Friday that four residents had tested positive and four others were showing signs of the virus. A Pine Haven administrator told the newspaper on Sunday that there were four people with confirmed cases in the facility, but no additional tests had been done because she hadn’t received any test kits. No information about the resident was released by the county or the Pine Haven facility. This was the first confirmed death from COVID-19 in the county, and the second suspected COVID-19 death.

8 cases confirmed (0 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

Delaware County Public Health Services announced on Facebook on Sunday that the county had received reports of two new confirmed cases, bringing its running total to nine (Delaware County is not counting three cases that were transferred to another public health department after being reported to the county). Director Amanda Walsh noted that one of the two new cases is a close contact to a previously confirmed positive case, and had been quarantined prior to becoming symptomatic.

7 cases (0 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 1
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

Greene County legislators are urging residents to remove short-term rental listings “immediately” so that people fleeing the pandemic aren’t able to rent properties in the county. Though the unnamed legislators behind the statement admit there is already community spread locally, residents should comply to “protect the health and welfare for all,” by which they apparently mean only people in Greene County. The statement referred to a request made by Legislature Chairman Patrick S. Linger asking people in areas with community spread to stay away and not access local doctors or public-health systems if they need medical attention.

5 cases confirmed (0 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

Tim Knight, a writer for the Mountain Eagle weekly paper and a newly-sworn-in trustee on the board of the village of Middleburgh, launched a weekly podcast about COVID-19 developments and other news in Schoharie County on Sunday. Listen to “The Mountain Eagle’s Week in Review” on Podbean.

The River is publishing a weekly Sunday roundup of some of the best longform reporting, analysis, and feature writing on the coronavirus pandemic. Check out our third edition here.

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