Coronavirus Roundup: Legislators Weigh Raising Taxes to Close Budget Gaps | 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, May 18.

353,371 cases confirmed (1,250 new)
1,439,557 tests performed (26,161 new)
22,729 deaths (110 new)
75,870 hospitalizations (overall)
5,840 hospitalizations (current)
1,908 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Western New York finally has enough contact tracers and has been cleared for Phase One of reopening for Tuesday, joining the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Central New York in a limited return to some business activity. Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his daily briefing in Buffalo on Monday to announce the news. The Mid-Hudson, Capital Region, New York City, and Long Island are still awaiting a green light because of stalled progress on bringing hospitalizations and deaths down, high hospital occupancy, inadequate contact tracer numbers, or all of the above. The Capital Region is close to making the benchmarks, and will likely be cleared for Phase One soon. The state now has a dashboard for monitoring how each economic development region is doing on the seven metrics they must meet to begin phased reopening.

Tax the rich? Cuomo hasn’t breathed a word about raising taxes on the state’s highest earners to fix the catastrophic hole coronavirus has blown in the state budget. State legislators are talking about it, though. With both the state Senate and Assembly led by Democrats, legislative leaders in both houses are weighing a few bills that would shift more pandemic costs to the wealthiest New Yorkers, Newsday reports, including a stock transfer tax, a tax on mostly vacant multimillion-dollar homes in Manhattan, and measures aimed at equity fund managers, luxury housing development, and large corporations. A group of 34 New York millionaires calling themselves the Patriotic Millionaires say that it’s time New York asked them to step up and make sacrifices.

Despite the state’s budget woes, New York has yet to furlough state employees, many of whom are stuck at home getting paid not to work. So far, most of New York’s departments and agencies have not been forthcoming about how many of their employees are working from home or not at all, the Albany Times Union reported Monday. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the state official charged with keeping an eye on New York’s finances, told the Times Union he’s opposed to layoffs or furloughs. “The more you would downsize agencies, the harder you’re going to make it to get us back to whatever that new normal is,” he said. “I think we want to keep a motivated workforce…and we need people to put 110 percent into their jobs during this crisis. Taking away something that has been promised could be a surefire way to really dispirit your workforce at a time that we need everybody as motivated as possible.”

Courts partially reopened Monday in about two dozen upstate counties in the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Mohawk Valley, with their counterparts in several other regions expected to  follow suit later in the week. The New York Law Journal reports that although the ban on “nonessential” lawsuits is being lifted in regions entering Phase One, the state is still moving cautiously; all non-employee court visitors must be screened for COVID-19, and masks are required for everyone entering a courthouse.   

Stocks got a lift on Monday following news that a drugmaker is seeing encouraging early results in its coronavirus vaccine trials. The vaccine, from Massachusetts-based Moderna, has only been given to eight volunteers so far; the next phase, which will involve 600 volunteer test subjects, will begin soon, The New York Times reports.

Governor Cuomo doesn’t have COVID-19, he announced in his Monday briefing, in which he encouraged New Yorkers to get tested. “When you find out you’re negative, it’s actually a nice sense of relief.” The state recently launched a website where New Yorkers can type in an address and find the nearest test site.

Want to vote in the June 23 primary? Don’t forget to apply for an absentee ballot. Cuomo has ordered absentee ballot applications to be mailed to every registered voter, but you still have to apply, either on paper or online with your local board of elections. Anyone can vote absentee; you’re entitled to check the box marked “temporary illness,” whether or not you’re sick. Gothamist has a handy guide to how to vote absentee, which also features a New York City Board of Elections official hinting darkly at a “national envelope shortage.” We’re not sure what to make of that.

Announced by New York State on Monday:

  • New York State will help nursing homes meet a new state mandate for all staff to be tested twice a week. The state Department of Health is sending 320,000 test kits to nursing homes across the state, and working to connect nursing homes with private labs and reserve capacity to run the tests. On Friday, the New York Post reported that the state Wadsworth Center has been swamped by the new influx of nursing home staff testing, and has begun denying test shipments from nursing homes, leaving the facilities scrambling to meet the new mandate.
  • Cuomo is encouraging sports teams to plan reopening and televising games without fans in the stands. “Personal disclosure, I want to watch the Buffalo Bills, but I’m still objective,” he said.

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

County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam

The Journal News got ahold of documents showing that Empire City Casino in Yonkers has furloughed about 1,000 employees?—some 90 percent of its workforce?—due to the coronavirus pandemic. The casino is the largest private employer in the city, and brought in $50 million in revenue in February BT (beforetimes).

Westchester County executive George Latimer gave a COVID-19 update from Yonkers City Hall with mayor Mike Spano on Monday, announcing that Playland Beach and Croton Point Park will be open for Memorial Day weekend, Playland Park will remain closed until at least July 20, and the fireworks show for the Fourth of July weekend at Kensico Dam and Playland parks is canceled. You can watch the full briefing on the county’s website.

The Putnam County Economic Development Corporation announced today the formation of an advisory committee of local small businesses to help “provide, share, and disseminate information as we accelerate toward a post-coronavirus world,” according to a press release. A list of participating business leaders is available on the county’s website.

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

Test results from Golden Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the first nursing home to be comprehensively tested under expanded effort to test residents and staff at all 13 nursing homes in Ulster County, are in: All of the facility’s 206 residents tested negative for the coronavirus, and only one of 126 staff members was positive. “It’s some of the best news we’ve had since this started on March 8,” Ulster County executive Pat Ryan said of the results.

Ulster County district attorney Dave Clegg announced that his office has launched a probe into the hair-cutting operations at 678 Broadway, where Joseph LaLima was found to be providing surreptitious haircuts. LaLima eventually tested positive for COVID-19; according to Clegg, the investigation will seek to determine if he knew he had coronavirus at the time he was cutting hair.

A Saugerties auction house that has been openly flouting the statewide shutdown has been ordered to cease and desist by the town building department. NJA Auctions has been open to the public in defiance of NYS on PAUSE guidelines, and has posted signs on the door stating that masks and social distancing are not required.

Will local music venues survive the pandemic?Hudson Valley One (which itself has been walloped by the coronavirus economy) spoke recently to Colony of Woodstock booker Mike Campbell. “Every independent venue is on the chopping block, and it’s not just the independents,” he said. But the interview closes out on a hopeful note: “I come from a punk and DIY background, and think something that will happen organically is entrepreneurial, DIY, boutique venues blooming from the ashes, things that may be more interesting in the long run. With all the big concert promoters and venues shut down, people will be, like, ‘Well, if we want music, we have to make it ourselves.’ That’s exciting to me.”

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

Greene County is hoping to avoid furloughing county employees, but they may have to, the Catskill Daily Mail reports. “We believe furloughs, if not absolutely necessary, would contribute to the greater problem of unemployment rather than offering a solution,” the chair of the Greene County legislature, Patrick Linger, told the paper. “We still need to provide services.”

Sullivan County legislator Michael Brooks held a virtual town hall on Facebook on Monday with county health commissioner Stephanie Brown. Video of the session is publicly available on Facebook.

The Schoharie County town of Middleburgh will begin reopening various town functions on June 1, according to a post on Facebook by town clerk Brenda Lawyer.

Cumulative cases per 10,000 residents in each county, drawn from New York State’s data of cases found the previous day.

The River has a guide on where, how, and when to get tested for the coronavirus in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. We also have a regularly updated list of resources on our website. To read more of our daily news roundups, 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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