Coronavirus Roundup: Ramping Up Remdesivir, Contact Tracing Program | 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 Thursday, April 30. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.

304,372 cases confirmed (4,681 new)
900,636 tests performed (28,155 new)
18,321 deaths (306 new)
66,369 hospitalizations (overall)
11,598 hospitalizations (current)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 156
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

With a vaccine still at least months away, a treatment for COVID-19 is the best hope medical science could offer for relief from the pandemic’s devastation. Right now, the frontrunner in that department is remdesivir, an antiviral drug made by Gilead Sciences that was initially developed for Ebola, though it was not a successful treatment for that disease, and is currently being evaluated against COVID-19 in clinical trials at multiple hospitals across the nation.

On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave the nation a glimmer of hope when he endorsed remdesivir as a valuable treatment, saying that the drug has a “clear-cut positive effect” on patients, and sets a new standard of care for COVID-19 patients. While clinical trials are still ongoing, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge of what remdesivir can do for the sickest patients—and what its limits are. The drug isn’t a cure for COVID-19, and the results so far are unclear on whether it helps patients survive at a higher rate: In one study, eight percent of patients given remdesivir died, while 11 percent of patients given other treatment died. There were not enough patients in the study to say whether the lower rate of death in the remdesivir group was due to the drug, or just a random chance. 

While it has not clearly shown that it can help people survive COVID-19, remdesivir does seem to help cut down on the length of an illness. In an NIH study of about 1,000 people, hospitalized patients given remdesivir recovered about four days faster, on average, than other patients. Gilead Sciences, the company that makes the drug is ramping up production. On Thursday, it said it can produce more than 140,000 rounds of treatment by the end of May, and a million by the end of the year. A senior Trump administration official told The New York Times that the Food and Drug Administration is likely to announce an emergency approval for the drug at some point soon.

Some experts feel that the greatest value in the remdesivir results, despite the lack of a large effect on the course of disease, is that they show that COVID-19 can be successfully treated with drugs at all—a goal that, so far, has been mostly out of reach. “It is very important proof of concept,” said Fauci. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”

Announced by New York State on Thursday: 

  • On April 22, Governor Andrew Cuomo promised an “army” of contact tracers in the state, with help from former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. In Thursday’s briefing, Cuomo gave more details on the program and how it’s progressing. “The estimate so far is, you need 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people who are in the affected area. Statewide, that would be about 6,400 to 17,000 tracers, depending on what happens on the testing rate,” Cuomo said. 
  • All MTA trains and buses will be disinfected daily, Cuomo said in a joint announcement with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The MTA is undertaking something that people would've said was virtually impossible,” Cuomo said Thursday, delivering a monologue on public transit sanitation sure to give germaphobes the fantods. “Just think about it, you have to disinfect every place that a hand could touch on a subway car,” he said. “Every rail, every pole, every door, wherever a hand could touch or coughing, sneezing. Wherever droplets could land.” Joining the governor via teleconference, de Blasio said that “we're going to find a way to make our subway system cleaner than it’s probably ever been its history.”

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

11,708 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

The number of people hospitalized in the county continues to fall, dropping from 210 to 190. The county had 246 people hospitalized with the virus as recently as April 21. Eleven more deaths were reported since Wednesday, bringing the total to 511.

Two community leaders in Piermont who were longtime partners died of COVID-19 within three days of each other this week. Robert Samuels and Karen Brown, who were in their 80s, shared a room at Englewood Hospital before passing. Samuels was a longtime journalist, writing for Newsday, The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Paris Herald Tribune. In Piermont, he wrote for a community newsletter and was part of the Piermont Civic Association.

28,970 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County press release page

County executive George Latimer said he expects Playland, a county-owned amusement park, to delay its annual opening that typically takes place in May. Although no definitive decision has been made yet, "it's less likely rather than more likely" that it will open in 2020, Latimer said.

8,650 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

A 66-year-old ambulance driver sick with COVID-19 for more than a month died Thursday. He is believed to be the first emergency medical worker in Orange County to die of the coronavirus. Sal Mancuso drove ambulances for the Blooming Grove Volunteer Ambulance Corps for the last eight years, while also working as a substitute teacher in Washingtonville and Cornwall school districts, where he had worked since retiring from a career in sales. Mancuso first got sick on March 27 and was admitted to Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh on April 6, where he died early Thursday morning after spending almost two weeks on a ventilator. Eight corps members in all have caught the coronavirus, including two of Mancuso’s partners.

2,954 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Dutchess County will begin providing transportation to and from MidHudson Regional Hospital for county residents who want to be tested for COVID-19 but have no transportation of their own. County executive Marc Molinaro announced the program Wednesday, saying he expects it to be up and running by next week.

970 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

There were 23 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours in the county, with at least one new case in each town, and no newly reported deaths.

838 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page

Chuck Petersheim, owner of several small businesses in the Catskills, is offering advice to small businesses in an opinion piece published by The River Reporter on Wednesday. “Small businesses, the lifeblood of the upstate experience, are not typically sitting on a chest of cash for a rainy day. In fact, I would guess even the ones with the healthiest pallor are only a stone’s throw from breaking even in the best of times,” Petersheim said. “My advice to the business community is to make the hard decisions now—do not procrastinate or punt. To spend as little as possible, play hardball with your vendors and payment terms; they need you more than you need them (for once). Keep your money in the bank. Cash is king. Don’t be fooled or distracted with the SBA payroll and disaster programs; not only are they not the solution, but they also might distract you from making the hard decisions you need to be making.”

1,279 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

There is “tremendous uncertainty” over what will happen with SUNY New Paltz’s fall semester, President Donald Christian said during a college council meeting Wednesday. Included in the litany of unknowns is how fully the campus can open this fall. Christensen said the college was war-gaming three scenarios: all in-person classes, all remote learning, or a hybrid of the two, but he added any decision would probably be made by SUNY’s central administration. When asked about social distancing, Christensen noted there were 392 dorm rooms with their own bathrooms but called filling only those rooms a “worst-case scenario.” Another uncertainty is how much state aid the school would receive; Governor Cuomo has repeatedly suggested state aid could be cut by as much as 20 percent depending on how much funding New York gets in future federal stimulus packages. The university is waiting to see if undergraduate enrollment for the fall semester will be affected by the pandemic, though graduate enrollment is actually higher than at this point last year.

At least nine residents at Ten Broeck Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing have died of COVID-19 since late Monday. Ulster County executive Pat Ryan announced that day 79 residents tested positive at the facility, amounting to 27 percent of its population. Ten Broeck sent a statement to The Daily Freeman on Tuesday saying most of the infected residents “continue to not show any symptoms.” A death was reported later that day, then three on Wednesday, then five on Thursday.

Kingston homeowners have until the end of Thursday to submit their biannual property tax payments to the city after Governor Cuomo’s office failed to respond to a request for an extension, according to Mayor Steve Noble. Noble asked permission to extend the deadline until May 21 to help alleviate the financial stress of property owners. He said he contacted the office April 3 with the request.

Ryan and county legislative chair Dave Donaldson called for “immediate reforms” to the Ulster County Industrial Agency’s Board of Directors after upheaval by local business owners. A clutch of 20 apparently coordinated letters was sent to the county requesting the IDA establish a loan program for businesses impacted by the pandemic, according to The Daily Freeman. In an interview Thursday with the paper, IDA chairman Randall Leverette said such a loan program wasn’t realistic, because the agency’s $674,798 unrestricted fund balance would be eaten through just setting it up. Later that day, Ryan and Donaldson, along with Ulster County Economic Development Committee chairman Brian Cahill, issued a press release essentially calling for a shakeup of the IDA’s board. “I have received dozens of letters from business owners and community leaders that have made it clear they do not have confidence in the current leadership of our IDA. This is extremely concerning to me,” Ryan wrote in the release.

170 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

Columbia-Greene Community College hopes to resume in-person classes next semester but is preparing for the possibility of continuing to hold all classes remotely. College president Carlee Drummer said social distancing would most likely still be in place this fall, and any classroom learning would need to happen with desks six feet apart. Another option would be to offer more hybrid classes—which combine classroom and distance learning—so the campus remains uncongested. Some courses have transitioned well to a distance format, but others, like construction and art, have not. Commencement exercises for spring graduates have been postponed until November 28.

A controversial post about the pandemic by the owner of a Valatie gym has blown up on Facebook, gathering nearly 1,000 vitriolic comments slamming or sanctifying the remark. The post, which appeared Sunday on ClubLife Health and Fitness’s Facebook page, reads:

“0.03% chance of dying from Coronavirus. This rate is only dropping. This was a planned sabotage on our nation. Open back up. Open your business, go back to school.” The post originally referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus,” but ClubLife Fitness owner Alex Rosenstrach changed it to “Coronavirus” in what he called a “social experiment,” according to The Register Star. Many comments bash the post, urging others to cancel their gym memberships or saying their family members have died of the virus. Many others support the assertion, praising Rosenstrach for speaking the truth and attacking Governor Cuomo. It is not known which academic journal the gym owner was citing in his fatality statistic.

61 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

More than a week after the Delaware County Board of Supervisors’s most recent meeting, there is still no recording, transcript, or meeting minutes document on the county website.

131 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

A 103-year-old woman battling COVID-19 at a Catskill nursing home seems to be on the mend. Martha Hartman’s daughter, Kay Mitchell, told The Register Star her mother was vulnerable because of her history of breathing problems. “I just assumed that if she got it, that would be the end. But I wasn’t counting on Martha being Martha.” The great-grandmother has had pneumonia for two-and-a-half weeks, and her family was informed she tested positive Wednesday. Testing at The Pines at Catskill Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in mid-April found 17 residents and nine staff members were infected.

42 cases confirmed
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

The Sterling Foundation is giving $50,000 to help businesses in downtown Cobleskill, the Times-Journal reports.

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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