Coronavirus Roundup: Positive Rates Top 25 Percent in Two Ramapo Communities | 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 Saturday, September 26 to Monday, September 28. 

456,460 cases confirmed (834 new)
10,561,122 tests performed (52,936 new)
Positive test rate: 1.58%
25,468 deaths (12 new)
543 hospitalizations
135 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

The four zip codes with the highest COVID-19 positive test rates in New York State on Sunday are all in the Hudson Valley, and all in neighborhoods with predominantly Orthodox Jewish populations. On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo released a list of the top 10 zip codes for positive case rates in Sunday’s testing. Leading the state with a shocking 30 percent positivity rate was 10977, Spring Valley in the Rockland County town of Ramapo; right behind Spring Valley at 25 percent positivity was 10952, the zip code of neighboring Monsey, also in Ramapo. Orange County’s 10950, the zip code of Kiryas Joel in the town of Palm Tree, was next at 22 percent. Fourth was another Ramapo zip code: 10901, the village of Suffern, with 18 percent. 

Together, the cases in the top 10 zip codes in New York State accounted for 27 percent of the positive tests statewide on Sunday, Cuomo said. All of the other zip codes in the state’s top 10 list were Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods, with one exception: Binghamton’s 13905, where an emerging cluster has been traced to a pub and several other local businesses.

The dramatic surge of cases in just a few neighborhoods has pushed the statewide positivity rate to a level not seen since July: 1.58 percent. The Mid-Hudson region, which includes both Rockland and Orange counties, hit a 3.1 percent positivity rate on Sunday, although the Southern Tier, where outbreaks have been less confined to a few zip codes, was the highest of the state’s 10 regions with 3.6 percent positivity. In a Monday press briefing, Cuomo announced that he was sending up to 200 rapid-response testing machines and kits to areas with clusters. “The private schools that are in those zip codes, I strongly encourage to request a rapid testing machine and have them start testing their students,” he said. “We can provide staff, Department of Health staff, to operate those machines if the local governments can’t. That’s every private and public school in those zip codes. To the local governments in those zip codes, it’s the same offer.”

Cuomo did not talk Monday about the outbreaks occurring in predominantly Orthodox neighborhoods, and dodged a reporter’s question about the issue, saying that COVID-19 restrictions “apply to all religious groups and gatherings.”

The international Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service ran a story on Sunday about rising COVID-19 cases in Jewish communities in New York and Chicago as well as in Israel, possibly fueled by family and synagogue gatherings around the high holidays. “Yom Kippur has the potential to be a superspreader event, much like Purim was in March,” the outlet wrote.

Orthodox doctors in predominantly Jewish communities have been sounding the alarm about rising cases recently. Forward, a Jewish news magazine, wrote last week about open letters written by Orthodox doctors in Monsey as well as the “Five Towns” area of Long Island, urging people to mask, social distance, and take precautions—and sparking some intense community debates. “The question is if you value our children and their chinuch [education] at all or if the only thing that matters is the risk of death to our elderly?” one community member retorted in response to the Five Towns letter. Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, who wrote the Five Towns letter urging the community to protect themselves from COVID-19, is worried about anti-Semitism rising in response to outbreaks. “How do you think our neighborhoods are described in the lay press and by the Department of Health?” he wrote. “What type of comments do you think are being made on polite social media, never mind on the dark web and nefarious sites that always besmirch us.”

What a difference a few months make: Back in early April, when cases were on a steep rise in the region, Rockland County Executive Ed Day was calling loudly and publicly on Governor Cuomo to declare a “containment zone” around the zip codes 10977 and 10952, the two zips that topped the state’s list of outbreak locations on Monday. At the time, there was widespread misunderstanding about what the phrase “containment zone” meant: New York State declared a containment zone in New Rochelle in March, but it did not prevent people from going in and out of the city. New Rochelle’s containment zone imposed strict limits on activities and gatherings within the zone—limits that were soon imposed statewide, with Cuomo’s March 22 declaration of the “NY On Pause” lockdown order, which rendered New Rochelle’s local restrictions moot. On Monday, with cases once again surging in Ramapo, Day has seemed less inclined to cross swords with the governor, issuing a statement urging local residents to take precautions

Another New York State religious group was also in the news this week for COVID-19 outbreaks: The Lighthouse Baptist Church in the Chemung County town of Horseheads, where an outbreak of more than 70 cases has spread to the county jail. The church is suing Chemung County for imposing a shutdown order; for their part, county officials say all the church has to do in order to reopen is to follow a safety plan.  

SUNY Oneonta has been shut down for more than three weeks, but cases are still being found among students. Three new COVID-19 cases were found on campus on Saturday, bringing the campus case count to 687.

Worldwide coronavirus deaths have passed 1 million, but the Associated Press’s chief medical writer is trying to see a silver lining. “Through desperate efforts to save their lives, scientists now better understand how to treat and prevent the disease,” writes Marilynn Marchione, “and millions of others may survive.”

What does the coronavirus smell like? We mere humans may never know—but some very good boys in Helsinki are fast becoming experts. The Guardian profiles four COVID-sniffing dogs at the Helsinki airport, part of a state-funded pilot program that Finnish researchers hope will provide a cheap, fast, and effective alternative method to diagnostic testing. The dogs are capable of detecting the presence of the coronavirus within 10 seconds, according to Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is overseeing the trial.

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

Rate of active cases per 10,000 residents, drawn from the latest county data. Note: Recent cases from Orange County’s current outbreak are not reflected in today’s graph. Several counties, including Orange, release active case numbers only once a week or less frequently.

Below is a Flourish animation we have compiled that shows the rate of active cases per 10,000 residents for each county in our coverage region from May 12 through the present date.

County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam
University coronavirus pages: Sarah Lawrence, Iona, SUNY Purchase, Manhattanville, Westchester Community College, Rockland Community College, Dominican, Mercy

Rockland County Executive Ed Day addressed the outbreaks underway in the county in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday (though, curiously, not to the county health department website). “It is concerning that the number of active cases continues to increase throughout Rockland and significantly increase within two zip codes within the Town of Ramapo,” Day wrote. “I am both privately and publicly urging local municipalities to utilize their employees such as building and fire inspectors and police in educational efforts. It is my expectation that appropriate enforcement action will be taken, as necessary. (i.e. building or fire code violations, summonses, etc.)”

One person who attended a confirmation ceremony at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church on Saturday has tested positive for COVID-19, church officials told The confirmation was at 10:30am, and the positive case was confirmed later that evening. Mount Pleasant Superintendent Kurtis Kotes sent out a letter to the community on Monday, but Westchester County has not yet issued a health alert.

County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia
University coronavirus page: Bard, Vassar, Marist, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Ulster, Columbia-Greene Community College, SUNY Orange

A Hudson elementary school student tested positive for COVID-19 last week, Columbia County officials said in a Monday press release, although the student was not attending in-person classes. Five positive cases were found in the county last week, after a long period of no new cases; the new cases serve as a reminder that “the virus is still alive and out there among our community,” said county health director Jack Mabb. The county is hosting a walk-up COVID-19 test clinic on Tuesday, September 29, from 9am to 11am on the sidewalk in front of the John L. Edwards Primary School in Hudson.

New York’s Phase Four reopening guidelines do not allow for ticketed live music at bars and restaurants—only music that is “incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.” But what is “incidental music”? In an attempt to answer the unanswerable, Hudson Valley One looks at the strange situation the live music edict has created: “a don’t-ask, don’t-tell promotional climate for venues and artists, all inference and insinuation.”

Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus used a portion of his latest COVID-19 briefing to read complaints from different workplaces about people not wearing masks or respecting social distancing. “We have all hands on deck on this,” he said. “It is a very frustrating process.”

SUNY New Paltz reported Monday that all 14 positive cases of COVID-19 since the fall semester began have recovered.

Unemployment rates for August are in, and in the Twin Counties, there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic. Hudson Valley 360 takes a look at the latest data from Greene and Columbia counties.

County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie
University coronavirus pages: SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Delhi, SUNY Sullivan

Harness racing returned to the Monticello Raceway last week for the first time since mid-March.

Monticello was the only track in New York State not to resume racing on June 1, the Sullivan Democrat reports. Until recently, the Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association has been locked in a dispute with track owner Empire Resorts, which apparently did not want to reopen racing at the track while their Resorts World casino was closed. “We spent close to $400,000 on taking care of the horses and the horsemen during that period,” said Alan Schwartz, president of the association. 

Starting on Tuesday, SUNY Delhi will expand pooled surveillance testing on campus to more than 500 students a week, a rate the college says will allow all students living or taking classes on campus to be tested every two to three weeks. The college has had nine positive COVID-19 cases on campus since August 1

Adapting to the new world: The Schoharie County Department of Health ran an all-outdoor, socially distanced rabies vaccination clinic for local pet owners last week

Unemployment rates for August are in, and in the Twin Counties, there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic. Hudson Valley 360 takes a look at the latest data from Greene and Columbia counties.

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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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