Coronavirus Roundup: Time to Make Your Own Mask? | 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 Tuesday, March 31. Produced in collaboration with The Other Hudson Valley.

La Voz, a Spanish-language magazine covering Hispanic news and culture in the Hudson Valley, is translating these roundups and co-publishing them on its website. Read here. You can also listen to daily audio updates from “La Voz con Mariel Fiori” on Radio Kingston.

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. 

The River is also 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.

We’ve moved our list of resources to a page on our website, which will be updated regularly. The list is not comprehensive, but if you know anything you’d like us to add, please email us.

75,795 cases confirmed (9,298 new)
205,186 tests performed (18,718 new)
1,550 deaths (332 new)
15,904 hospitalizations (overall)
10,929 hospitalizations (current)
2,710 ICU (358 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 39
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s brother, announced Tuesday he had COVID-19. Cuomo addressed it during his daily briefing and in an interview with WAMC’s Alan Chartock, saying his brother was quarantining in his basement and would be fine.

The New York State Association of Counties released a report estimating how sales tax revenues for counties would fall under two pandemic scenarios. Under the “mild” scenario, tourism would fall by 40 percent, transportation-related sales would decline 33 percent, and other retail would fall by 10 percent over a three-month period, with sales recovering fully after an additional six months. This would cause sales tax revenues outside New York City to fall four percent as a whole. Under the “severe” scenario, these revenues would fall 12 percent, but the report notes the outcome could be far worse. “Counties face a quadruple threat of declining local revenues, especially sales tax, but also mortgage recording taxes and hotel occupancy taxes; higher spending necessary to respond to the health emergency; the loss of state reimbursement; and the potential of significant losses for small businesses on our main streets that could threaten jobs and the property tax base over the short to mid-term.” We have included both the mild and severe estimates for each county below.

In an insightful interview with NPR on Monday, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the coronavirus was far more communicable than the flu and would probably hit the Northern hemisphere in waves. Epidemiologists at first suggested the coronavirus transmitted less easily than the flu, but Redfield said it was probably three times as transmittable, meaning three times more people are infected by a single case of COVID-19 than a single case of the flu. However, social distancing can still stop the spread. “This virus cannot go from person to person that easily. It needs us to be close. It needs us to be within six feet. If we just distance ourselves, this virus can't sustain itself and it will go out,” he said.

A recent Los Angeles Times article about a single chorus rehearsal that left at least 45 of the 60 singers sickened, and two dead, despite members’ efforts to use hand sanitizer and not touch one another, is a sobering reminder of how infectious the coronavirus is. The rehearsal was held on March 6 at a church in Mount Vernon, Washington, and is being called a “super-spreading” event. Some experts are weighing the church rehearsal among a body of evidence that the novel coronavirus may be transmittable through “aerosols,” tiny particles of less than five micrometers that can hang in the air longer than larger droplets.

Dr. Redfield also said—noting that it was only a hypothesis—that COVID-19 may be seasonal, like other respiratory viruses, and that the heat and humidity of the summer months might slow the spread. A slowing of spread during the summer months would give the CDC time to prepare for a second wave of the virus in the fall. Asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, where the sickened individual does not know they’re infected, account for perhaps 25 percent of cases, Redfield said. The virus has already been found in about 400 long-term care facilities across the nation, which include nursing homes.

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said during an interview on “Meet the Press” Sunday that Americans should contemplate making masks for their own use. Cotton masks made at home do not necessarily prevent wearers from getting COVID-19—they offer less protection than N95 masks—but wearing one would make a sickened individual much less likely to spread the disease. Since many people who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic, widespread mask-wearing by both sick and healthy people might significantly cut down the spread. Homemade masks “may offer some protection” from getting the disease too, Gottleib said. Hospitals face a critical shortage of factory-made personal protective equipment, which includes surgical masks and N95s, and the CDC has recommended they be used multiple times.

New York City has launched an online portal for residents who have had symptoms or been affected by the virus, whether or not they have gotten a positive test. City officials hope that it will help them gain a better understanding of the outbreak.

Some state legislators are working on a bill to freeze rents and help landlords at the same time, but getting the details right is proving to be a tremendous challenge.

Possibly of interest around the Catskills ski region: A national project called Goggles for Docs is collecting donations of ski goggles for healthcare workers on the front lines who can’t get enough PPE.

Announced by New York State today

  • More details on the new statewide public/private hospital coordination plan, which was first announced by Cuomo in Monday’s daily briefing. On Tuesday, Cuomo introduced a new hospital network Central Coordinating Team, which will be led by the State Department of Health and includes the Westchester, New York City, and Long Island healthcare systems, the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association of New York State. The team will also work with FEMA and the federal government.
  • A new online portal will also be launched to connect hospitals with volunteer healthcare workers and prioritize the system’s highest needs.
  • In today’s briefing, Cuomo said that there wasn’t a single forecasting model the state is relying on to estimate when the apex of the outbreak will be or how much hospital capacity will be needed. “We talked to about five different models, and we compare the models, and we try to find the median through the models,” Cuomo said. “That's how we plan everything. Follow the data. Follow the science.”

We are calculating the number of cases per 10,000 residents in each county, rounded to the nearest whole number. County populations vary widely in this region, and we feel that reporting numbers proportionally is a better way to make comparisons between counties than using the number of confirmed cases. But it is important to note that we do not know how much difference between counties is being driven by insufficient testing. The reporting of cases is lagging far behind actual infections, and sick people who cannot get tested are not being reported.

A general note on New York State data: These numbers are changing rapidly. In our reporting, we are relying on the state’s daily counts, but those are frequently updated or contradicted by reports from local officials within hours. If our numbers don’t add up, it may be because local confirmed case counts have not yet been included in the state’s numbers, or because a case that was reported to local public health authorities is officially being included in the count for another county.

In today’s roundup, we have added some new data from a set compiled by health analytics company Definitive Healthcare: A list of the number of beds each county’s hospitals typically have the staff and space to run. The number of “staffed” beds is usually lower than a hospital’s number of “licensed” beds; we feel that the “staffed” number is a better reflection of the level of care hospitals are typically able to provide. All of New York State’s hospitals are being called by the state to increase capacity, and we do not yet have data on how much capacity is increasing at the county level.

9,967 cases confirmed (641 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 103
Potential sales tax loss: 4% (mild scenario) 12% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 2,427 
County coronavirus page

Members of Young Israel, the synagogue in New Rochelle that became the epicenter for the first outbreak in New York, are donating their blood to see if it can help in the fight against COVID-19. The members’ blood is being researched at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center to determine if it has sufficient antibodies, and the members will then donate their plasma that could be used to treat people stricken with the virus. This is the first cohort of recovered people who can make a difference, according to a Montefiore official, who added that the Young Israel members reached out to the hospital to donate.

Six people have died in Westchester of COVID-19 since Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to 25. Westchester County executive George Latimer said he did not want to lose anybody, but it was encouraging that the fatality rate among confirmed cases—about 0.25 percent—was lower than reported elsewhere. However, the coronavirus can take weeks to kill after transmission, and although Westchester saw early cases, its numbers have also risen significantly in the last week, suggesting the mortality rate may rise.

The Yorktown Town Hall has been closed for disinfection after an employee tested positive, The Examiner reports. 

2,863 cases confirmed (352 new) 
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 88
Potential sales tax loss: 3.8% (mild scenario) 11.5% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 1,144
County coronavirus page

Dr. James T. Goodrich, a famed neurosurgeon and director of Montefiore’s Pediatric Neurosurgery Division, died Monday from complications associated with COVID-19, according to the Einstein College of Medicine. The Grand View-on-Hudson resident separated conjoined twins in 2004 and was the preeminent expert on the operation world-wide, consulting in hundreds of cases. Larry Levine, president and CEO of Blythedale Children's Hospital, where the first set of conjoined twins received post-surgery rehabilitation, said his bedside manner matched his surgical deftness. “He was a brilliant surgeon, a dedicated teacher and a source of tremendous comfort to parents navigating uncharted territory.”

Rockland County’s interactive COVID-19 data dashboard is reporting 1,446 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, a whopping 1,417 fewer than the state’s Tuesday count and by far the largest discrepancy in the region between county and state numbers. In a statement made to, the Rockland County Department of Health chalked the difference up to errors and data that the state had announced but the county had not yet confirmed. “The governor’s figures include all positive lab reports—including duplicate reports, retests, and lab reports that lack address information but are attributed to Rockland because the sample came from a Rockland test site,” the department noted. “The data used for the Rockland County COVID map contains only the confirmed cases that have been investigated and verified by the Rockland County Department of Health.”

Differences in data handling between the state and counties, and between different neighboring counties, are becoming a larger issue in the region as case counts climb.

1,556 cases confirmed (121 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 40
Potential sales tax loss: 3.8% (mild scenario) 11.6% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 986
County coronavirus page
Orange County Department of Health: (845) 291-2330

As of 2pm, Orange County reported the number of confirmed positive cases in the county is now 1,560.

County executive Steve Neuhaus announced in a briefing that the number of deaths in Orange County is now 20, up eight since the previous day. He also reported the availability of ICU beds is now 25 percent, with a total of 229 county residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19 (126 confirmed cases and 103 presumed positives awaiting test results).

Legoland postponed its opening a second time due to the pandemic, pushing the date until next year. Work on the park was shut down last week after Governor Cuomo shuttered all non-essential construction projects. The $500 million park planned to hire more than 1,000 workers, and company representatives said they would honor all work offers made to hourly workers when the park opens.

Newburgh school board vice president Sue Prokosch has died of COVID-19-related complications, the Times Herald-Record reports.

484 cases confirmed (92 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 16
Potential sales tax loss: 3.9% (mild scenario) 11.9% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 874
County coronavirus page
Dutchess County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 486-3555
Dutchess County 24/7 mental health helpline: (845) 485-9700

Dutchess County released a COVID-19 dashboard tracking cases by town, volume of coronavirus 911 calls, recoveries, and other information. The City of Poughkeepsie has the most cases in the county with 50, followed by the Town of Poughkeepsie with 48, and East Fishkill with 32. Fifty-six people are currently hospitalized in the county. County executive Marc Molinaro said he had refrained from releasing town case numbers until now, because they were so few they might reveal cases’ identities.

186 cases confirmed (19 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 19
Potential sales tax loss: 3.5% (mild scenario) 10.8% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 120
County coronavirus page

As of March 31, the Putnam County Department of Health is confirming a total of 187 cases of COVID-19.

There is apparent confusion over who in the county possesses statistics on COVID-19 deaths, according to The Examiner, or even if there have been any deaths. The County Executive’s office said it did not know if there had been any deaths. The Health Department said the County’s Executive’s Office and the Bureau of Emergency Services would be releasing information and directed questions to the spokeswoman for the Putnam Hospital Center. The spokeswoman referred questions back to the Health Department. The County Executive’s office said the county coroner would have the information, but coroners only respond to a small fraction of deaths, including unattended deaths, and would not have that information, according to the Health Department.

211 cases confirmed (21 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 12
Potential sales tax loss: 4.3% (mild scenario) 13.1% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 209
County coronavirus page
Community resources page
Ulster County COVID-19 hotline: (845) 443-8888

As of Tuesday, Ulster County is reporting the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now 217.

A 49-year-old New Paltz man and a 55-year-old Plattekill man have died of the coronavirus, county executive Pat Ryan announced today. They are the virus’s second and third victims in the county.

SUNY New Paltz’s Hudson Valley Additive Manufacturing Center has used 3-D printers to fabricate 340 face shields to protect medical workers against the coronavirus, and plans to make many more. Face shields paired with surgical masks can protect against getting COVID-19 when N95 masks, which are in short supply world-wide, are unavailable. Most of the shields so far have gone to Ulster County’s TechCity mobile testing site.

Two residents of Golden Hill nursing home in Kingston have tested positive for COVID-19. Ulster County health commissioner Dr. Carol Smith said the county was taking additional precautions and working with Golden Hill and other nursing homes to ensure the safety of residents. An employee at Woodland Pond’s Assistant Living unit also tested positive, though no residents have yet presented COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, according to a statement by CEO and president Michelle T. Gramoglia.

109 cases confirmed (8 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 14
Potential sales tax loss: 4% (mild scenario) 12.2% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 99
County coronavirus page

Sullivan County is reporting the total number of positive cases is now 118 as of Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Sullivan County added a new visualization of county COVID-19 data to its county coronavirus page, showing hospital bed usage, number of recovered patients, how long hospital PPE supplies are projected to last, and more. The “Sullivan County COVID-19 Dashboard” isn’t actually an interactive dashboard, just a screenshot from the program the county is using, but it hints at a wealth of data available at the county level that might soon be released more widely.

Sullivan County officials will host a third “Town Hall” Q&A event on Facebook Live at 1pm on Wednesday, April 1, where they will answer questions submitted via email or Facebook message. Officials are asking residents to submit their questions by 7am Wednesday. The event will be available on Facebook for replay after it concludes.

30 cases confirmed (4 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 5
Potential sales tax loss: 3.6% (mild scenario) 10.9% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 95
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

As of Tuesday afternoon, Columbia County reported the total number of positive cases in the county is now 41. The county Department of Health described the discrepancy between their numbers and the state’s thusly: “We suspect the discrepancy comes from dual homeownership. While we get results on people who report having addresses in Columbia County, there may be people with more than one address and the state attributes their results to their other address (likely downstate).”

Teachers in the Germantown Central School District’s elementary school are bringing a “Caravan of Cheer” to their students while practicing social distancing. Teachers in their individual cars drive the normal bus routes escorted by big ol’ yellow, waving and chatting to students in their yards or through their windows. The “Caravan of Cheer” will do two bus routes a day.

16 cases confirmed (5 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 4
Potential sales tax loss: 3.4% (mild scenario) 10.4% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 56
County coronavirus page
County alerts and announcements page
Bassett Healthcare Network hotline: (607) 547-5555

In a press release, Delaware County reported the total number of positive cases is now 14.

The director of Public Health Services in Delaware County, Amanda Walsh, gave an explanation early Tuesday morning about how contact investigation is conducted within her department with every new case of COVID-19. In the video posted on Facebook, Walsh explained the investigation starts with identifying those in contact with an infected person within a certain timeframe, and then uses a set of criteria to determine the type of contact that occurred and if they are at risk for contracting the virus. From there, health officials determine whether those who came in contact with the infected individual are considered close contacts or proximate contacts, and plan for mandatory or precautionary quarantine, on a case-by-case basis.

Since early on in the outbreak, the case count put out by Delaware County public-health officials has consistently been lower than New York State’s tally of Delaware County cases. In some press releases, Delaware County Public Health Services has noted that three cases were “transferred” to other local health authorities for monitoring, and not counting those cases in its official total. We asked outreach coordinator Heather Warner how the county was deciding how many cases to count. “The lab reports get downloaded daily from NYSDOH Electronic Clinical Laboratory Report System (ECLRS),” Warner wrote in an email. “If the person does not reside in our county, we cannot be responsible to carry out mandatory isolation. The case is transferred to the county where they are presently residing. This happens with other reportable communicable disease reports. I presume the state’s numbers will continue to be different since their report is positive results reported to Delaware County.” 

New York State counties are all taking different approaches to the reporting of COVID-19 data, and we’re interested in exploring how and why. If you have a county data question, or are involved in data communication and want to talk to us, email [email protected]

16 cases (6 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 3
Potential sales tax loss: 4.3% (mild scenario) 13.4% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 0
County coronavirus page
Columbia Memorial Health COVID-19 hotline: (518) 828-8249

In an update on March 31, Greene County reported the total number of positive cases in the county is now 20.

6 cases confirmed (0 new)
Confirmed cases per 10,000 residents: 2
Potential sales tax loss: 3.7% (mild scenario) 11.1% (severe scenario)
Baseline staffed beds in the county: 40
County coronavirus page
Bassett triage line: (607) 547-5555

Schoharie County reported no new cases today. 

In these troubled times, it’s nice to know animals are still being looked after. Middleburgh’s New York Wildlife Rescue Center took in “a baker’s dozen” sheep and goats rescued from Ulster County, the Mountain Eagle reports.

The River is publishing a weekly Sunday roundup of some of the best longform reporting, analysis, and feature writing on the coronavirus pandemic. Check out our third edition here.

To read more of our daily news roundups, visit our coronavirus page.

About The Authors

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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