Coronavirus Hudson Valley and Catskills News: Monday, March 23 | Health | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Monday, March 23. 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.—Phillip Pantuso

20,875 cases confirmed (5,707 new)
78,289 tests performed (16,888 new)
157 deaths (43 new)
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Senate Democrats again blocked a version of the $1.8 trillion relief package on the basis that it offered too little protection for workers and too much potential for abuse by corporations. The tenor of the debate got heated, The New York Times reports. “Are you kidding me? This is not a juicy political opportunity, this is a national emergency,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, with no apparent irony. The impasse is primarily about a $425 billion fund that the Federal Reserve could access for loans to assist broad groups of companies, with few restrictions tied to the loans. As the legislation is currently written, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would not have to disclose recipients until six months after the loans were disbursed. Talks continued late into Monday evening.

The White House’s coronavirus response coordinator is worried about New York City’s “attack rate,” which is reportedly about five times other areas.

Catskills counties have been telling New York City residents to stay away. Today, The New York Times reported that Florida doesn’t want them either.

New Yorkers fleeing for less populated—or less infected—areas was the subject of a Times “Dilemmas” column today. Airbnb bookings by urbanites looking to flee to rural areas are surging, and second homeowners are fleeing to their country homes: “‘I can’t just imagine staying in an apartment with a dog and a child when there’s a lawn and space upstate,’ said Natasha Schull, 48, a cultural anthropologist at New York University who left Manhattan on Thursday for her home in Delaware County. Worried about a medical condition that predisposes her to pneumonia, she checked the number of ventilators available at the hospital there: 12.”

Announced by the state today:

  • A temporary hospital under construction at the Jacob K. Javits Center got a delivery of masks, gloves, gowns, and other hospital supplies from the federal government. Cuomo got a tour of the hospital-in-progress.
  • Two former secretaries to the Governor, Steve Cohen and Bill Mulrow, have been charged with developing a plan for restarting the state’s economy after the New York State On PAUSE order is lifted. A third, Larry Schwartz, has been given the job of helping the state find healthcare equipment and supplies, and increasing hospital capacity.
  • The state Department of Financial Services is asking health insurers how many nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals they employ, so it can reach out and ask them to serve in the field during the pandemic.
  • The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of a new experimental drug in New York on a “compassionate care” basis, meaning that it can be used without any guarantee of benefit by people with life-threatening illness and few treatment options. Patients will be able to get “antibody injections,” a press release states, which is one way of saying that blood from people who have recovered from COVID-19 will be collected, and antibodies will be harvested and injected into sick people, with the hope of stimulating their immune systems to fight the virus. The medieval-sounding treatment is not without risks, The Atlantic reports, but based on their experience with Ebola and other viruses, some researchers are hopeful about its prospects.
  • A new drive-through testing center is opening in the Bronx, joining facilities that have already come online in New Rochelle, Rockland County, Staten Island, and Long Island.
  • The federal government has agreed to cover 100 percent of the cost of deploying the National Guard in New York. It’s not a full 100 percent federal disaster cost share, which Cuomo wants, but it’s something.
  • The state is launching a star-studded campaign to convince New Yorkers to stay home, dubbed “NY Stronger Together,” and featuring videos from homebound celebs, like Ben Stiller, who’s learning chainsaw art (don’t cut yourself, Ben!). There’s been some chatter on Twitter about how if the state wants to reach young people, they ought to enlist celebs on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms. According to the Times Union, they’re at least looking into it. (Pro tip from a mom of an 11-year-old: LaurenzSide’s a New Yorker, isn’t she?—LH)
  • Cuomo again called on President Donald Trump to use the 1950 Defense Production Act to coordinate manufacturing and stop price gouging for badly needed protective equipment and other medical supplies. The President thinks it’s socialism, and so far has resisted.
  • In today’s daily coronavirus press briefing, Cuomo mused aloud about what efforts to get the “economic engine” of the state restarted again might look like. Should people who have recovered go back to work first? Should younger people, who are statistically at lower risk for the virus (but are also a significant vector of infection)? With testing still lagging far behind new infections, and much of the nation still not at the standstill that would be needed to prevent millions of deaths in the US, this kind of talk might be a little premature, but the governor is already looking ahead.

David Lat, the 44-year-old founder of the legal blog Above The Law, has been tweeting about having COVID-19 from a bed at NYU’s Langone Hospital. Over the weekend, Lat’s condition declined and he was put on a ventilator.

A growing list of Capital Region hospitals are shutting down community testing, reserving a dwindling stock of tests for healthcare workers and people sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.

A general note on New York State data: These numbers are changing very, very rapidly. Print newspapers are out of date by the time they hit newsstands. In our own 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 in this news roundup don’t add up, it may be because local confirmed case counts have not yet been included in state numbers, or because a case that was reported to local public health authorities is officially being included in the count for another county.

2,894 cases confirmed (1,021 new)
County coronavirus page

Westchester County executive George Latimer released a breakdown of the county’s cases by municipality. Other county leaders have resisted revealing the towns of people sickened by the coronavirus except in special circumstances, like when the case involved a food service worker. New Rochelle had the most cases with 223, followed by Yonkers with 145 and Mount Vernon with 70. Latimier only released numbers for the top ten municipalities. There were 2,894 cases in the county as of Monday, according to Latimer.

It’s going to take a week to 10 days for the Army Corps of Engineers to set up the Westchester County Center in White Plains as a temporary hospital, reports.

Westchester County will be receiving 17,000 N95 masks, which protect healthcare workers from getting COVID-19, and 43,000 surgical masks, which protect sickened individuals from transmitting COVID-19, as well as other medical gear, according to Governor Cuomo. New York is suffering from a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). A worldwide shortage is felt more acutely in the United States because PPE used in the US is mostly made overseas, including 95 percent of surgical masks, and many counties have banned the export of PPE during their national emergencies.

592 cases confirmed (137 new) 
County coronavirus page

Two more county residents have died from the coronavirus, raising the toll there to five. One person died Sunday night and one Monday, according to the county. Their ages were given as 79 and 66 years old and both had significant health problems.

A wedding at a home in Ramapo was shut down by police for violating state orders against large gatherings. Rockland County executive Ed Day ordered police to break up the party. No tickets were issued.

389 cases confirmed (142 new)
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

In a video update posted to Facebook on Monday, county executive Steve Neuhaus called for volunteers to help organize community response: call (845) 291-4000 to volunteer.

The leader of Kiryas Joel’s religious sect tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Satmar Grand Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum, 73, leads one branch of the Satmar, one of the US’s largest Hasidic groups.

There were 411 positive COVID-19 cases in Orange as of 8:55pm on Monday, according to the county. Nineteen people who had tested positive were hospitalized, and 44 people were hospitalized with their test results pending.

100 cases confirmed (18 new)
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Several local companies are beginning to make personal protective equipment (PPE) to fill a statewide shortage of the supplies. Unshattered, a company based in Hopewell Junction that employs women recovering from addictions, is sewing surgical masks to be used at Vassar Brothers Medical Center. The company was about to shut its doors last week when it repurposed its business, which normally produces hand-sewn handbags, to produce the masks. Unlimited Tomorrow, based in Rhinebeck, is also helping out by producing 1,000 face shields.

Dutchess County Public Transit is reducing its service starting Tuesday. Only Routes E, J, K, and L will be operating, with service provided from 7am to 4pm from Monday through Friday. All other fixed routes will be suspended, as well as Dial-A-Ride and Flex service. A special on-demand service can transport senior citizens, those with disabilities, and veterans who don’t have access to the open routes. Fixed route fares will be a reduced rate of 75 cents per ride. To access the on-demand service for groceries, prescriptions, or medical needs, call the Dutchess County COVID-19 information line at (845) 486-3555.

45 cases confirmed (8 new)
County coronavirus page

A news release from 4pm on Monday stated that there are now 46 confirmed cases in Putnam County. As of yesterday, the coronavirus is now considered “widespread” in the county, officials said, with cases in every town.

35 cases confirmed (9 new)
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

County executive Pat Ryan called on the state to retrofit existing structures in the county into surge hospitals to meet the expected deluge of COVID-19 patients. The US Army Corps of engineers and state workers are expected to begin preparing four surge hospitals in Westchester, Manhattan, and Suffolk and Nassau counties in Long Island this week. He also said there was an urgent need for medical supplies and the medical system would run out of personal protective equipment like surgical masks in 1-2 weeks. He asked anyone with PPE to call the COVID-19 hotline at (845) 443-8888 to donate it to frontline personnel.

The county’s first mobile testing site opened Monday on the TechCity campus outside Kingston in the Town of Ulster. Mobile testing allows people with potential COVID-19 cases to be tested without exiting their cars so the contagion can be contained. Several mobile testing sites are operational in the southern Hudson Valley. To be tested at TechCity, you must be screened over the phone by your primary care physician, or, if you do not have one, by calling the COVID-19 hotline at (845) 443-8888. Those who qualify will be given appointments. The county is struggling with a shortage of test kits, a problem throughout the Hudson Valley.

The rural Catskills counties of Sullivan, Delaware, and Greene all issued statements last week telling visitors and second homeowners from downstate to stay away. On Monday, Schoharie County joined them in issuing a similar statement. But so far, Ulster isn’t sending any such message. Asked about the issue Monday by a Daily Freeman reporter, Ryan declined to join in. “Those are not our values,” he said. “Especially in a moment of challenging crisis, we're supposed to all be in this together.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ulster County is seeing increased demand for services, both from farmers and backyard gardeners and would-be chicken-keepers. Last week, the Times Herald-Record reported that high demand for farm products had local farmers in the Black Dirt region scrambling to meet the need.

The Mohonk Preserve is closed to the public until further notice. The private preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge also cancelled all programming.

23 cases confirmed (7 new)
County coronavirus page

According to a Monday news release, there are currently 25 confirmed cases in the county. The release states that “unnecessary travel is banned as of 8pm,” but as we noted yesterday, this is misleading. There is no general travel ban or road closure in the state, and any travel bans that might be enacted in future would need to come from New York State, not local governments. Under New York’s 10-point PAUSE policy, in effect as of 8pm Sunday, all New Yorkers are being advised to keep a six-foot distance from others in public and refrain from unnecessary use of public transportation, and all non-essential gatherings of any kind are cancelled, but there are no penalties for individuals for traveling or being on the roads.

Catskill Regional Medical Center is looking at adding 45 hospital beds to its facility, considering adding beds to pre-surgical areas, conference rooms and existing hospital units, and potentially using mobile medical surgical units, according to the Sullivan Catskills Times Facebook page. Governor Cuomo ordered hospitals in the state Monday to expand their bed capacity by 50 percent.

10 cases confirmed (5 new)
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

Columbia County Board of Supervisors chair Matt Murrel announced there were now 19 cases of COVID-19 in the county, though none of the sickened individuals had required hospitalization. The county’s Emergency Operations Center will be open from 8am until 4pm to monitor the situation starting today. Murell also noted the importance of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

Testing in Columbia County might be lagging behind other area counties. Along with other Albany-area hospitals, Columbia Memorial suspended its community testing program Friday. Capital Region hospitals are facing a shortage of tests and prioritizing hospitalized sick people and healthcare workers.

The Ichabod Crane School District, which serves northwestern Columbia County, announced one of its students tested positive for COVID-19. The district’s schools have been closed since March 17—later than counties farther south, but before any cases were confirmed in the county.

Cooper’s Daughter Distillery and Cooperage in Claverack has started to make hand sanitizer and donate it to first responders local hospitals. It has so far made 50 gallons with its cache of alcohol, enlisting other area businesses for the other ingredients. They have so far donated to the Hudson Police Department, Columbia County EMT, and seven county fire departments.

3 cases confirmed (0 new)
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

The state is counting three confirmed cases in the county, two of which were added Sunday, although Delaware County’s news release on Monday cites two. In a Saturday release, the county noted that one of two new confirmed cases had been transferred from Delaware County Public Health Services to the New York City Health Department for monitoring.

The Delaware County clerk’s office is closed until further notice, and is not accepting filings, except for a list of emergency exemptions that includes domestic violence restraining orders, emergency guardianship orders, and a few others.

4 cases (2 new)
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

According to a Monday press release, Greene County currently has six positive cases in Windham, Hunter, and Cairo, and 26 people are self-monitoring for possible exposure.

Three Greene County inmates being housed at the Albany County Jail are in isolation after they came into contact with a nurse who tested positive for COVID-19. There have been fears the virus will enter the jail system, where it could run rampant, leading to the cancellation of most visitations in the state. Those fears have been realized in New York City, where 38 inmates and corrections officers tested positive at Rikers Island and other city jails. However, there are no confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday in the Greene, Columbia, or Ulster County jails.

The Greene County legislature is asking residents not to list vacation rentals online, the Daily Freeman reports: “‘As we meet the many challenges in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greene County Legislature strongly requests that all property owners ...  remove any short-term rental listings from services such as Airbnb and VRBO immediately,’ the Legislature said in a prepared statement issued Monday afternoon.”

1 cases confirmed (0 new)
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

Joining their fellow Catskills counties of Sullivan, Delaware, and Greene (but not Ulster), Schoharie County tells visitors from areas where the outbreak is more advanced to stay away, although in slightly less pointed terms. “Schoharie County is a rural community with one small hospital, which is not equipped to provide the higher level of care COVID-19 patients will need and will quickly become taxed if they were to receive a large number of patients,” said the release, issued by the county Office of Emergency Services.

Middleburgh Rotary is offering a $100 scholarship ($50 for runners up) for the best essay from a Middleburgh Central School student on coping with life and education during the outbreak.

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 second edition here.

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

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Lissa Harris

Lissa Harris is a staff writer at The River and a volunteer firefighter. She was the founding editor of the Watershed Post, a site that covered local news in the rural Catskills from 2010 to 2017.
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