Coronavirus Roundup: New York County Leaders Plead for Federal Aid | 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 Thursday, July 23 and Friday, July 24. 

410,450 cases confirmed (753 new)
5,444,845 tests performed (76,507 new)
Positive test rate: 1%
25,090 deaths (9 new)
650 current hospitalizations
156 current ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

If you’ve been listening to WAMC lately, you may have heard a rare sound: The call of an upstate New York Republican politician blasting Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. County executives from Dutchess, Ulster, Albany, and Oneida counties joined forces with the New York State Association of Counties on Thursday to make the case for direct federal aid to state and local governments, a piece reportedly missing from a package of GOP proposals negotiated between McConnell and the White House. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican who lost his father to COVID-19 in April, minced no words: “What the United States Senate, at the moment, led by Senator McConnell, and, yes, they share my political party, is doing is politically craven. It is the worst of what I think politics can be in the midst of an emergency. Never before has the United States government left those of us on the front lines without the aid and support that we need in an emergency.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance for schools on Thursday, in an online publication that lays a heavy emphasis on in-person instruction. The new guidance advises that a single COVID-19 case in a school isn’t necessarily a reason to close down; USA Today points out that in previous recommendations, the CDC has advised schools to close for two to five days after an infected person has been in the building. 

Parents all over the nation are mad as hell about how the federal government has handled the pandemic, and at least one—writer and podcaster Dana Stevens—isn’t going to take it anymore. Stevens has an incandescent outpouring of rage in Friday’s Washington Post, in which she blasts the choices our nation’s leaders have made that are now making a return to school unsafe for many. “What we chose as a country—or rather, what was chosen for us by an administration seemingly committed to chaos and entropy as governing principles—was to jeopardize the future of public education while prioritizing the opening of restaurants, bars and Home Depots,” she writes. Ouch. 

The July 30 deadline for New York State’s COVID Rent Relief Program is coming up fast. To apply, or to find out if your household might qualify for help making rent payments, visit the program’s page on the state website:

New York State residents will be allowed into the Trusted Traveler Program again, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Thursday, an abrupt about-face that came with an apology from the agency for having lied in court and unfairly singled New York State out for punishment. The federal agency banned New York State residents from the Trusted Traveler Program in February, in response to New York’s “Green Light” law that blocked the sharing of state Department of Motor Vehicles data with immigration authorities. In a Friday briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted the DHS for the now-reversed ban, implying that the agency’s policy worsened the outbreak in New York: “Without the Trusted Traveler Program, you know what else happened? The lines at the airports backed up. You know when the lines at airports backed up? In February, in March. You know what was going on in the airports in February and March? What was going on? It’s when the COVID cases were coming from Europe,” Cuomo said. “They backed up the lines of people waiting to get through Customs and Border Patrol in dense areas, in tight quarters, waiting on a line because they were playing politics.”

The New York Times has a snazzy interactive visualization showing how the US compares to other countries in terms of daily new COVID-19 cases. We aren’t quite the worst—that dubious honor belongs to Oman, at the moment—but we’re solidly in the top 10, sandwiched between South Africa and Israel.

New York State’s new cases are holding steady at a low rate compared to most of the rest of the US. On Thursday, the positive test rate was less than one percent. But testing delays are becoming more and more of a problem, as testing ramps up elsewhere in the country and puts growing strain on the capacity of the private labs that are processing most of the tests. Some New Yorkers are waiting as long as two weeks to receive test results, The New York Times reports. With waits that long, testing stops being useful as a way to trace infections and isolate them before they can spread.

Where in the US are people being hospitalized? The CDC isn’t releasing that data—so The New York Times went looking for it, canvassing local and state health departments to get a clearer picture of how the pandemic is impacting hospitals around the country. Some of the worst spikes in hospitalization are in Texas and Florida. “Your hospitals are drowning,” wrote Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya in a recent Miami Herald op-ed.

New research in The Lancet this week suggests that newborn infants are unlikely to catch COVID-19 from their mothers if precautions such as mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and cleaning of breasts before breastfeeding are taken. The study, in which 82 babies born to COVID-19-positive mothers at New York Presbyterian hospitals were tested shortly after birth and then again five to seven days later, suggests that with careful protocol, infected mothers may be able to breastfeed and stay close to their newborns without a high risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Announced by New York State on Thursday and Friday:

  • The state Liquor Authority and New York State Police made rounds among more than 1,000 bars and restaurants in New York City and Long Island this week, issuing violations to 37 establishments, Cuomo said Friday. Officials did not provide a list of the establishments. Cuomo called on local officials to step up enforcement of pandemic guidelines at bars and restaurants: “State Police and the SLA are not going to be enough. Local government, stand up and do your job,” he said.
  • It’s not entirely a done deal yet, but Cuomo announced on Friday that he’s hammering out an agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays to play in Buffalo this baseball season. 

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

A person who recently visited the Mount Pleasant Pool in Valhalla has tested positive for COVID-19. Facility staff are working with the Westchester County Department of Health to identify and notify patrons and staff who came into proximity with the individual. The pool is closed for now.

An individual at the Reach Academy in Harrison has also tested positive for COVID-19. The school is conducting contact tracing with the Westchester County health department. Reach Academy has held in-person special-education instruction for about 40 students this summer, but was closed Thursday and Friday for cleaning.

The Rockland County firefighters’ parade and convention has been canceled for the first time in its 108-year history.

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

An employee of Ashley HomeStore at 1895 South Road in Poughkeepsie tested positive for COVID-19, Dutchess County health commissioner Dr. Anil Vaidian announced Thursday. Anyone who shopped at that Ashley HomeStore between July 11 and 15 is advised to monitor symptoms and get a coronavirus test.

The Kingston City School District appears to have finalized its plan for the fall semester, and it includes a mix of in-person and virtual instruction. Students in grades pre-kindergarten through six will be spread across all 10 district buildings for in-person learning, according to the Daily Freeman. The full plan is expected to be on KCSD’s website by July 31, the deadline for school districts across New York to submit fall reopening plans to the state.

Columbia County released its weekly town-by-town breakdown of total coronavirus cases on Friday.

Columbia County is moving ahead with plans to offer antibody testing to members of the general public, starting with first responders, law enforcement officers, and other essential workers. Antibody tests are of dubious value for making individual health decisions, because it is unclear whether having antibodies to the novel coronavirus confers immunity, and because in areas with low cumulative infection rates, the number of false positives may be close to or even greater than the number of real positives, even for a test that delivers mostly accurate results. But antibody tests are much more useful in tracking how the outbreak is affecting a population, and local officials are hoping to use more widespread antibody testing to get a clearer picture of the outbreak in Columbia County, the Register-Star reports.

The Bearsville Center, which has been closed for renovations for more than a year, announced on Facebook a soft reopening this weekend.

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

On Thursday, Delaware County Public Health reported a possible exposure at the Walton First Baptist Church at 55 Townsend Street on Sunday, July 12. Anyone who attended church or a church function on July 12 should immediately self-quarantine and contact Delaware County Public Health at (607) 832-5200, officials said in a statement. The Walton First Baptist Church posted a statement on Facebook on Thursday stating that it would continue to hold services both in person and online, and that the church would make masks available but not require them. “We make this decision having understood that it heightens the risk for some, but it allows us to set a precedent moving forward that is sustainable and in line with our faith and conscience. If we shut down each and every time someone in our congregation comes into contact with a positive case, the odds are high that we will all be quarantining without end,” the church wrote. The post has since been removed.

Three new cases have been found in Delaware County since Wednesday, and the number of people under mandatory quarantine has more than doubled. The county now has eight active cases, one of whom is hospitalized. The county is not releasing information on which towns any new cases are located in, as has been its policy throughout the pandemic.

Schoharie County Public Health posted an update on Facebook on Friday stating that five new cases have been found in the county. According to data on the New York State website, two of those cases were found on Monday, two on Wednesday, and one on Thursday. County health officials did not give any information about where in the county the new cases were located. Schoharie County currently has five active cases. 

Sullivan County announced the closure of Lake Superior State Park in Bethel this weekend in response to park-goers failing to follow social-distancing rules and flouting a swimming ban.

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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