Coronavirus Hudson Valley and Catskills News: Wednesday, March 18 | 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 Wednesday, March 18. 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 more here. | 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. Continue leyendo aqui.

2,382 cases confirmed (1,008 new)
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Today’s most sobering headlines revolved around the recent public release of a report from a team of researchers at the Imperial College in London. The New York Times is calling it “the virus report that jarred the US and the UK to action,” and it’s not hard to see why: The report was issued by a team with an impeccable reputation and a history of driving public policy, and it predicts up to 2.2 million deaths in the US if no action is taken to halt the uncontrolled spread of coronavirus. Equally sobering is the report’s estimate that widespread social distancing measures would be needed until a vaccine can be created, a process that may take 18 months. A breakthrough in treatment could change that, but so far, none has emerged.

A federal coronavirus aid bill held up since Saturday has finally passed the Senate. President Donald Trump signed it today.

Announced by New York State today:

  • A 1,000-bed hospital ship, the USS Comfort, is being deployed to New York Harbor, though the ship likely won’t arrive for weeks because it is undergoing repairs.
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order directing all businesses in the state to enact work-from-home policies, effective Friday. All non-essential businesses are forbidden to have more than 50 percent of their workforce in-office. “Essential businesses” include shipping, delivery, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and important businesses in supply chains. It also includes media, although a lot of reporters are already working from home.

Having made nice with the Trump administration, Cuomo is now feuding with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. This time, it’s because the mayor has indicated that he wants to enact a “shelter in place” policy for New Yorkers, like those already in place on the West Coast, an idea the governor has shot down. “I have no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city,” Cuomo said in a press briefing. This might be good news for less-affected upstate communities: If New Yorkers don’t fear getting stuck in one place, they might be less likely to flee for the hills.

Cuomo also announced that all bowling alleys, malls, and indoor amusement parks statewide will close as of 8pm on Thursday. Like other closures announced in recent days, this move was done in conjunction with Connecticut and New Jersey.

The idea of sending every American a chunk of cash to weather the coming storm continues to pick up in popularity, on both sides of the aisle.

Bigger fish to fry: A lab at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, which has been disease-testing ticks mailed to them from anywhere in New York State for free, announced the suspension of the tick program. Lab scientists advise that if you find a tick, don’t mail it to them, keep it in the freezer “until we are back to normal working conditions.”

538 cases confirmed (158 new)
Department of Health website

Confirmed cases in New York City more than doubled between Tuesday and Wednesday’s state briefings, jumping from 644 to 1,339. After the briefing, New York City officials announced that they were up to 1,871. Meanwhile, Westchester’s confirmed cases increased by a less precipitous 42 percent, from 380 to 538. Does the slower increase in Westchester County mean that testing is more complete there? Is the virus actually spreading faster in the city? Are social distancing measures working in Westchester? These are questions for an epidemiologist. If we find an expert weighing in on them, we’ll let you know.

Westchester Medical Center, the network that now runs HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley hospitals and assisted living centers, announced a drive-in testing facility at their flagship hospital, starting today, for current and former patients. Testing is by appointment.

The New Rochelle attorney who was the first known case in what became a cluster of COVID-19 cases in Westchester County is recovering. Though still at hospital, he is alert and Facetiming with his wife, who is in quarantine. He was in serious condition last month at a New York City hospital. There have been 550 hospitalizations in the state from COVID-19, and more than 100 people who tested positive have recovered, according to Cuomo.

Here’s one we missed on Tuesday: The Wall Street Journal joined other high-profile publications in paying a visit to the New Rochelle containment zone. Also contained: The Wall Street Journal’s coronavirus coverage, which is still locked behind a paywall. Many news outlets have dropped their paywalls on COVID-19-related news.

30 cases confirmed (8 new) 
(County officials announced a total of 45 cases after the state’s daily number were released)
County website

County officials announced there are now 45 cases of COVID-19 in the county, and they released additional information of where they may have exposed others. Those at the following locations at the following times are told by the county to quarantine until the date listed.

9 cases confirmed (1 new)
County website
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

The county is having to deal with a limited amount of COVID-19 test kits after receiving only 200 of the 2,000 it had requested. An Ulster County resident who thought he might have the virus after developing a cough and a mild fever was told Monday he could not be given a timeline when the test could be performed. On Tuesday, he was told his symptoms didn’t qualify. The federal government produces the kits, which are distributed through the state.

County executive Pat Ryan announced the county would have a mobile testing site by Monday during an online town hall. Nine residents have been confirmed to have COVID-19, while 114 have been tested. The proposed site can not test everyone who wants the test because of the scarcity of kits. Ryan said the county would prioritize based on exposure, vulnerability, and symptoms.

In the town hall, Ryan also said that the number of infections in Ulster County could be as high as “100 times” the number already detected. That estimate needs context: A study published Monday in Science estimated the number of undiagnosed cases in the US to be roughly five to 10 times higher than the number of confirmed cases. The more testing is done, the better epidemiologists will be able to estimate how many people are infected.

32 cases confirmed (17 new)
County website
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

Schools in the county are likely to be closed for at least four weeks, county executive Steve Neuhaus said Tuesday.

Farmers in the Black Dirt region are seeing a boom in business as demand grows for produce due to hoarding.

20 cases confirmed (4 new)
County (website, Facebook)
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

In a public briefing today in which he took live calls from county residents, Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro told listeners that daycare workers were essentially being called upon to be first responders, taking care of children of healthcare workers on the front lines. “If moms or dads who are nurses or doctors or 911 dispatchers don't have child care, the system breaks down,” he said. Video from the event is posted on the county’s Facebook page. The county will host another call-in session for businesses on Friday. 

Like restaurants across the state, Dutchess County restaurants are having to lay off workers due to a “take-out only” order announced by Gov. Cuomo on Monday to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Bars have been hit harder.

1 cases confirmed (0 new)
Delaware County Public Health Services website
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

Thursday morning on WIOX in Roxbury, broadcast live on 91.3 FM and online at, tune in to Kent Garrett’s morning show “The 8:01” to hear an interview with Diana Mason, a nurse and health journalist who writes for the Journal of the American Medical Association. Diana will be appearing regularly on the show to talk about coronavirus news and public health policy.

0 cases confirmed
County website
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

The county Department of Health said that coronavirus test kits remained limited a week after a woman in the county was told there were no available tests. The woman eventually tested negative. The federal government bungled the rollout of the tests, causing a three-week delay in getting them to the states, and test kits have been limited since then.

A spokesman for Columbia Memorial Health, the only hospital in Columbia and Greene counties, said they currently have enough COVID-19 test kits, but an increase in demand could be problematic without additional supplies. This comes after Albany Medical Center said today they had a two-to-three-day supply of test kits left and Ellis Hospital in Schenectady ran out.

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson announced on Facebook that he was suspending the use of parking meters and waiving late fees on parking tickets given after February 1 as part of an amended emergency order.

2 cases (0 new)
Note: In official counts, New York State lists the county where a patient was tested, not where the patient is currently, leading to discrepancies in this county, according to Catskill Daily Mail reporter Melanie Lekocevic. The newspaper reported on Sunday that three people confirmed to have coronavirus, all of whom contracted the virus outside the county, are self-quarantining in Greene County.
County website
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

No major updates out of Greene County today. To read yesterday’s news, click here.

2 cases confirmed (0 new)
County website

Putnam County executive MaryEllen Odell warned against the scourge of coronavirus scams spreading e via email, social media, by text, and by phone call, according to a press release issued today. Putnam residents reported receiving phone calls claiming to be from the federal government and offering to send a coronavirus test kit to their homes—if they share their name, address, and Social Security number. “If you get this call, just hang up,” the release advised.

1 case confirmed
Note: Three more cases have been confirmed by county officials in the last two days, but these were not reflected in the state’s count
County coronavirus info page

The public health director announced a fourth case of COVID-19 in the county. The person has been self-quarantining and county health staff were investigating whether there were additional exposures.

County officials released a message to downstate residents asking them not to travel to Sullivan County from areas experiencing community transmission of the coronavirus to avoid spreading the disease. The message also stated they should not expect resources to exist in the county that had been depleted downstate. “Should large numbers of individuals move up to Sullivan County while COVID-19 community transmission is occurring, it will quickly overwhelm the healthcare, public health, public safety and government,” the message read in part.

0 cases confirmed (as of today’s state briefing; county officials later announced the first case in the county)
County coronavirus info page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

Schoharie County announced the first officially confirmed case in the county today. The county declared a state of emergency on Monday.

With village elections that were scheduled for today currently in limbo, Middleburgh’s newest village trustee was appointed to fill the slot of a member in self-quarantine. New trustee Tim Knight and village mayor Matthew Avitabile shared a post-appointment celebratory elbow bump.

We hadn’t seen this before today, but way back on March 5, which feels like a million years ago, ProPublica reporter Caroline Chen, who was on the front lines of covering Ebola and lived through SARS, put out a terrific guide for reporters navigating some of the confusion around how we talk about coronavirus. Some solid advice from an outbreak pro: When officials talk about numbers of “kits,” that doesn’t necessarily translate into numbers of people that can be tested. The death rates that people often refer to are estimates, and they can change depending on how we measure and act; for instance, if we only test people who are very sick, we will see high death rates. But probably the most important advice Chen gives is that information in a pandemic changes very, very quickly, and a story only hours old can be out of date by the time the reporter has finished writing it. That’s something for us all to bear in mind as we do our best to keep up with the dizzying pace of news.

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 first edition here.

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

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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