Coronavirus Roundup: Cuomo Accuses Schools Of Not Submitting Reopening Plans | Health | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties for August 8-10. 

NEW YORK STATE
421,336 cases confirmed (476 new)
6,563,646 tests performed (54,002 new)
Positive test rate: 0.9%
25,204 deaths (2 new)
535 hospitalizations
127 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo dropped a bombshell announcement on 107 school districts statewide, claiming in a conference call with reporters that the districts had not submitted their plans for reopening to the state. “For those 107 school districts, how you didn’t submit a plan is beyond me,” he said, “Maybe they just have determined that they don't want to open, which is the only logical conclusion.” In a news release, Cuomo named the districts, and stated that they would not be allowed to reopen unless they submitted their plans by Friday, August 15. 

Almost immediately, the responses began to come back from the districts named in Cuomo’s release: District after district claimed to have submitted their plans as required, and expressed confusion about how they ended up on the governor’s list of delinquent districts. Some may have gotten tripped up by intricacies in the process, Gannett’s Jon Campbell reports: Districts were required to submit plans to both the Department of Health and the state Education Department, and some districts may have missed a link to file their plans with state health officials, or accidentally submitted their plans to a state portal for business plans instead of school information. Nyack superintendent James Montesano questioned the governor’s judgement in rushing to release the list publicly: “I'm really surprised that they published it so quickly before they got some of his stuff untangled, because obviously it makes school districts look like you know we're slow on the uptake in complying with all this, which is certainly not the case in Nyack,” he said. 

For their part, the Cuomo administration is standing by the list: A statement from Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi claims that “the list of districts that didn't file a plan with the state Department of Health is accurate,” despite claims from school district administrators who say they followed the procedure. One school district on Cuomo’s list appears not to exist at all: “Jeff Youngsville,” apparently a reference to the Jefferson-Youngsville Central School District, which merged with the Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley districts in 1999 to create Sullivan West

https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/3435054/

Above: A map of the school districts cited by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday, August 10 as having failed to submit their reopening plans to the state.

The New York State legislature held a second round of hearings on nursing home pandemic policy on Monday, in which legislators heard from nursing home representatives and families of residents about testing issues, problems securing PPE, and more. No state Department of Health officials testified at Monday’s hearing, Spectrum News reports. 

Cuomo has continued to insist that the inquiry into the state’s nursing home policy is political and partisan, despite facing pointed criticism from members of both parties in the state legislature over the Department of Health’s actions and policies. On Monday, the governor dismissed the prospect of an independent investigation. “If the legislature has any additional questions, they can submit them in writing and we will respond,” said secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa. 

On Saturday, with Congress at an impasse over the next round of pandemic legislation, President Donald Trump signed four executive orders that, if unchallenged in court, would provide emergency unemployment benefits, suspend some student loan payments, discourage evictions, and defer payroll taxes. The unemployment order reduces the $600-a-week emergency unemployment benefit, which expired last week, to $400 a week; $100 of that benefit would be required to come from states, with the rest drawn from unspent FEMA funding. It is unclear when the $400 weekly benefit might start, USA Today reports, in part because states are unprepared (and perhaps unable) to take on the cost. It is also unclear whether the order deferring payroll taxes will result in savings to workers: Employers may decide to keep collecting the taxes anyway, since they may be collected after the deferral period. The deferral also temporarily cuts off revenue for Social Security and Medicare, worrying some experts who fear that the president is using emergency orders to gut the programs

In a joint press conference with Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky, Cuomo lambasted the executive orders, and said that New York is in no position to be able to come up with the cash for funding unemployment benefits: “His executive order says the unemployment insurance could be $400 but the state has to pay $100 of the $400. That's $4.2 billion. We started with a $30 billion hole and your solution is to cost me another $4 billion? Thank you. That's handing the drowning man an anchor,” he said. “I hope this was just a tactic by the president, but if he thinks this is a resolution, this only makes a bad situation worse.”

Negotiations in Congress over actual legislation to address unemployment, aid to local and state governments, a growing housing crisis, funding for public health, and other urgent pandemic priorities are still at a standstill: Politico reports in a Monday update that the “blame game is in high gear.” Congressional leaders in both parties are accusing their colleagues across the aisle of refusal to compromise, and Democrats say that the President’s actions via executive order don’t come close to meeting the needs of a nation in crisis. 

Fleece masks are worse for the people around you than not wearing a mask at all, Gothamist reports. A new study from Duke University found that some kinds of neck fleeces or gaiters often worn by runners act to break up large droplets into smaller droplets that are more easily dispersed. 

It’s not only gyms that are stuck in business limbo in New York State: Bowling alleys have been “left in the gutter” by official state silence on reopening guidelines, Capitol Pressroom reports

Announced by New York State on Monday and over the weekend:

  • Congress has still not reached a compromise on the next round of pandemic stimulus funding, and governors everywhere are fed up. The National Governors Association, which is chaired by Governor Cuomo, released a statement Monday calling on Congress to “come together” to find a workable solution.
  • Governor Cuomo has released a new public service announcement for the “Mask Up, America” campaign that draws on archival images from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
  • On Saturday, New York State tests for COVID-19 reached the lowest positivity rate since the beginning of the pandemic: 0.78 percent
  • A State Liquor Authority and New York State Police task force visited 770 bars and restaurants in New York City and Long Island on Sunday, and found 19 not in compliance with pandemic guidelines. A state press release mentioned the violations but did not list the establishments

Rate of active cases per 10,000 residents, drawn from the latest county data. Active case data unavailable for Rockland and Orange counties.

Since mid-May, The River has been collecting and charting data on the number of active COVID-19 cases by county in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. Below is a Flourish animation we have compiled that shows the rate of active cases per 10,000 residents for each county over time, from May 12 through the present date.

https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/3327033/

LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam

In his weekly coronavirus briefing, Westchester County Executive George Latimer said there’s been only one COVID-19 death in the county over the past week. LoHud.com has more from the briefing.

The lower Hudson Valley is home to several schools on Cuomo’s list of districts that are allegedly behind on their obligation to submit reopening plans to the state: Garrison Union Free School, Hendrick Hudson School District, Bedford Central School District, and Nyack Union Free School District. 

Hendrick Hudson and Bedford claimed in posts published on their websites to have submitted their plans on time. “The District received multiple confirmations that its plans were submitted and accepted, and it expects the state to update and correct its information in the next few days.” Nyack’s superintendent told a Gannett reporter that the district had also submitted its plan to the state.

MID-HUDSON VALLEY
County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

Schools on Cuomo’s list of districts that allegedly failed to submit their reopening plans to the state included the Mid-Hudson districts of Beacon, Middletown, Valley-Montgomery, Poughkeepsie, Germantown, and Ichabod Crane.  

In a message sent to the Beacon school community, Beacon City School District superintendent Matt Landahl said that he thought the school may have ended up on the list because he missed clicking on a critical link. “It appears I neglected to click on a link attesting to the fact that I have read the DOH reopening guidelines. I clicked on that link today. I have probably read those guildelines fifty times but I forgot to fully follow the instructions,” he wrote. 

In statements on their websites, the Middletown, Valley Central, and Ichabod Crane school districts announced that they had met the state’s requirements. “Valley Central has asked the Governor’s office to remove it from the list since the District has proof of on-time compliance,” one statement read. 

Any successful academic year with in-person school will, of course, highly depend on extensive testing, and Columbia County health director Jack Mabb is worried about testing capacity once schools reopen. Laboratories are already overburdened; the state-run lab used by the Columbia County Department of Health has already advised the DOH to cancel at least one previously scheduled testing date. “What happens when local schools open? Where will I send those test kits?” Mabb asks.

Ulster County and Ellenville Regional Hospital announced a partnership to expand efforts to fight opioid overdoses, which are up across the Hudson Valley since the pandemic began. The partnership will expand the county’s High-Risk Mitigation Team to Kingston and strengthen its reach elsewhere in Ulster County. Ellenville Regional Hospital will also fund two “care managers” to serve communities outside Kingston, and the Ulster County Health Department will fund one care manager to focus on Kingston.

The New York International Air Show will move to Orange County Airport this year, county executive Steven Neuhaus said Monday. The air show will be held August 29-30, and safety guidelines are still to be announced.

CATSKILLS
County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

Catskills schools on Cuomo’s list districts that allegedly failed to submit their reopening plans to the state included Margaretville, Andes, Windham-Ashland-Jewett, Catskill, and Eldred. 

When contacted by The River, superintendents of several Catskills districts disputed their inclusion on the list. “WAJ did submit and post our plan. I am not sure why the state listed us erroneously,” wrote Windham-Ashland-Jewett superintendent John Wiktorko in an email. “You will likely find the same is true for most of the districts on the ‘list.’” 

Catskill Central School District superintendent Ronel Cook also disputed the district’s inclusion on the list, and urged a reporter to check before publishing “misinformation.” The district submitted their plan to the state on July 31, he said.

Robert Chakar, shared superintendent of the Margaretville and Andes districts, told The River that the schools had been granted an extension by the state to submit their plans until August 7, and that they had met the extension deadline. “We don’t know why the state doesn’t have things. We did everything we were supposed to do,” he said. Chakar also expressed frustration with Cuomo’s recent comments urging schools to have plans for testing students and staff, saying that diagnostic testing was explicitly not part of the state’s guidelines for school reopening. “We are not hospitals. We are not pediatricians,” he said. 

Delaware Academy middle and high school principal Robin Robbins has sparked controversy and fear among local parents by posting anti-mask comments and apocalyptic posts about the Rapture on Facebook. District superintendent Kelly Zimmerman isn’t saying much about the matter, saying to the Daily Star that any dealings with the principal were a confidential personnel issue. 

The town of Hunter has stepped up enforcement of parking violations at Kaaterskill Falls, in an effort to keep the popular outdoor spot from being trashed by visitors. Overcrowding and litter were already a major problem around the falls before the pandemic, and this year the issue has reached a fever pitch. Over in Claryville, local residents and officials are talking about stepping up enforcement at a popular swimming hole on the Neversink River; some are asking for regulations like those that were recently put into place at the Peekamoose Blue Hole, where access now requires a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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The River has a guide on where, how, and when to get tested for the coronavirus in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. To read more of our coronavirus coverage, visit our coronavirus page.

The River is 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.

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.

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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