Coronavirus Roundup: With Cases in Steep Decline, Cuomo Ends Daily Briefing | Health | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Syracuse.com via NYS Dept of Health

This is a roundup of coronavirus news and announcements from New York State and Hudson Valley and Catskills counties published on Friday, June 19.

NEW YORK STATE
386,556 cases confirmed (796 new)
3,258,963 tests performed (79,303 new)
24,686 deaths (25 new)
1,284 current hospitalizations
359 ICU admissions
New York State coronavirus page
New York State official pressroom
Hotline: (888) 364-3065

Friday was Governor Andrew Cuomo’s last daily coronavirus briefing. In lieu of the usual lineup of aides and experts, Cuomo opted to deliver the last one straight to the camera, having given state employees the day off by declaring Juneteenth a state holiday. “When this started, we had more cases per capita than any state in the country or any nation on the globe,” he said. “But today, we have done a full 180, from worst to first. We are controlling the virus better than any state in the country and any nation on the globe. Even more, by reducing the infection rate, we saved over 100,000 people from being hospitalized and possibly dying, just think about that. It is an unimaginable achievement. I'm so incredibly proud of what we all did together, and as a community. We reopened the economy and we saved lives. Because it was never a choice between one or the other, it was always right to do both.”

Sharing the spotlight along with Cuomo in the daily briefings up until now have been the members of the Albany press corps, who have been spending a lot of time with the governor and each other since March. New York Magazine’s Tara Abell turned the camera around on Friday to take a look at the small crew of regulars who have been giving the nation a view of the back of their heads for the past few months: There’s the New York Post’s Bernadette Hogan, who has taken to doing dramatic readings of horoscopes before the briefings begin, and Joseph Spector from Gannett, who gets some ribbing from the corps for his “booming” voice. With the briefings now winding up, Jesse McKinley, Albany bureau chief for The New York Times, wrote that although he’s been covering Cuomo for years, he feels that he knows the governor a little better now. “2020 seems to have offered Mr. Cuomo what many politicians crave: a national platform, without the messiness of a national campaign,” McKinley wrote. 

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Cuomo has earned deserved praise for focusing on hard data and tough talk at a time when many of the nation’s leaders seem to want to only hear good news. But New York made some early missteps that cost lives, and Cuomo has faced sharp criticism for a policy that sent COVID-19-infected residents back to nursing homes before being reversed in May. The state also failed to stop large outbreaks in prisons and jails, or even to provide large-scale testing of inmates, an issue that has sparked less public outrage than the nursing home crisis but no less human suffering. According to a recent New York Times story on the troubling scale of the outbreak in prisons nationwide, New York State has tested only about three percent of its prison inmates, and 40 percent of those tested were infected. 

In an interview with WAMC on Thursday, Cuomo called the mounting criticism of his nursing home policy “pure politics.” The New York Post has been leading the charge on aggressive reporting on the state’s nursing home policy, and Cuomo has dismissed its news coverage as motivated by conservative ideology: “The nursing home thing, it’s just all politics and it’s, frankly, the New York Post, and [columnist Michael] Goodwin, this is their way of defending Trump,” Cuomo said. ProPublica, a nonprofit news outlet not known for being sympathetic to the Trump administration, ran a fairly damning in-depth story this week about New York State’s nursing home policy, describing how a staff whistleblower’s concerns fell on deaf ears at the Diamond Hill nursing home in Rensselaer County, where 18 residents have died and more than 50 have been infected. Congressional Republicans are calling for an investigation of the state’s handling of the nursing home outbreaks.

Not addressed in Cuomo’s final briefing: When nursing home residents will be allowed to have visitors again. Cuomo announced earlier this week that visitation at hospitals and group homes could resume, but no decision has been made by Cuomo or the state Department of Health on nursing homes.

Early on in the pandemic, when New York State was a global hotspot for infection, some other states tried to keep New Yorkers from streaming across their borders: In March, Rhode Island state troopers were stopping drivers with New York plates and telling them to quarantine, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis imposed a two-week quarantine on all New Yorkers entering the state. Now, with New York’s outbreak solidly on the decline, and cases spiking alarmingly in Florida and other states in the South and West, Cuomo is considering imposing quarantines on people entering New York State, the New York Daily News reports. 

In Thursday’s briefing, Cuomo took pointed aim at the Trump administration for encouraging states to reopen against the advice of their own experts at the Centers for Disease Control.  “That's why the CDC and Dr. Fauci are in such a difficult position, because they said, ‘Without mitigation, you’re going to kill a million more people.’ They said that. And now they’re part of a federal government that is telling states, ‘Just reopen.’ Just reopen contrary to their own science, because they abandoned it,” he said.

Announced by New York State on Thursday and Friday: 

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

LOWER HUDSON VALLEY
County coronavirus pages: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam

As the pandemic drags into a fourth month in the US and the weather warms, commitment to safety protocols is waning. LoHud.com reports that Westchester and Rockland county officials have dealt with a number of complaints about social distancing and mask wearing since entering Phase Two of reopening. A Rockland County spokesperson said the county health department received 71 total complaints between June 9 and 16; Westchester County Executive George Latimer did not provide a specific number in his press briefing on June 16, but noted that the county had received similar complaints.

In Putnam County, meanwhile, the director of environmental services told legislators this week that the county has responded to “many complaints, not only in restaurants but in many different businesses” about a lack of social distancing, according to the Highlands Current.

Despite that, on Thursday the county executives of Rockland, Putnam, Orange, and Dutchess counties wrote to Governor Cuomo requesting that the Mid-Hudson region enter Phase Three on Friday, June 19, four days earlier than the region is scheduled to move to the next reopening phase. The governor did not permit the request.

New Rochelle will launch an al fresco dining initiative, “New Ro Eats,” on Sunday, June 21. Starting at 1pm that day, Division Street will be closed to traffic and restaurants will be permitted to seat diners at tables in the street. The initiative will continue daily from noon to 9pm until July 5.

But there remains uncertainty and anxiety over how restaurants can operate once Phase Three begins next week. For the latest distillation of how local restaurants are preparing to serve customers inside, we turn to the Highlands Current, which spoke with a handful of restaurateurs in Philipstown and Beacon.

Latimer’s latest COVID-19 Facebook live conversation was with County Planning Commissioner Norma Drummond on Thursday. The pair discussed how the county’s sustainability planning and quality-of-life initiatives were affected by the pandemic.

MID-HUDSON VALLEY
County coronavirus pages: Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia

Dutchess County completed testing all 13 nursing homes in the county, according to a press release issued Thursday. Some 1,260 residents were tested in all, with 29 cases identified.

Also on Thursday, the county executives of Rockland, Putnam, Orange, and Dutchess counties wrote to Governor Cuomo requesting that the Mid-Hudson region enter Phase Three on Friday, June 19, four days earlier than the region is scheduled to move to the next reopening phase. The governor did not permit the request.

Woodstock Library will begin offering curbside services on Monday, June 22. Patrons can pick up or drop off materials from the library or other libraries in the Mid-Hudson Library System that are open. More information is available on the library’s website.

In Kingston, city-owned playgrounds reopened on Friday, June 19, with health and safety guidelines in place, and Kingston Point Beach will open on Saturday, June 20, with restrictions.

Fireworks are already a nightly occurrence in several cities in the Hudson Valley (and in NYC, we hear), but Dutchess County announced an officially sanctioned display for the Fourth of July. The county will partner with the Hudson Valley Renegades and iHeartMedia of the Hudson Valley for three socially distant fireworks shows at Dutchess Stadium, the county fairgrounds, and Silo Ridge Field Club Equestrian Center. “The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed us all of so much, but nothing will stop Dutchess County from honoring the birth of our nation,” said county executive Marc Molinaro. (A bit dramatic, if you ask us.) More details on the county website.

CATSKILLS
County coronavirus pages: Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, Schoharie

Margaretville is planning to celebrate the Fourth of July with a full-scale fireworks show and a large chicken barbecue earlier that day. The celebration will be in lieu of the village’s ever-popular Field Days, which officials have canceled due to the coronavirus.

With the Fourth coming up, Delaware County officials want residents to be sure to wear masks and maintain social distancing—but they also want to say loud and clear that the state, not the county, is calling the shots. “New York State has established guidelines for gathering in public that limits attendance and requires the use of personal protective measures such as face coverings and strict adherence to social distancing. Please understand these are not mandates from Delaware County and as a county government we are being asked to impose the standards passed down from New York State as part of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders,” the Board of Supervisors wrote in a Thursday press release

From the Dept. of Getting Antsy: A resolution put forward by Greene County calling on Governor Cuomo “to allow Greene County to open for business as normal” was defeated, 12-2, in the county legislature on Wednesday, reports Columbia-Greene Media. The call was led by Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, and William Lawrence, R-Cairo; their fellow legislators were put off by, among other things, the “incendiary language” in the resolution. “If this is about COVID, why are we talking about one tragic death, religious rights, looters, honest business owners? Why do we have to get into that?” asked Larry Gardner, D-Hunter. “You’re going to really tick people off with language like that to our detriment, to the county’s detriment.”

The Greene County Emergency Services Center has a surplus of safety supplies and personal protective equipment available to local businesses. Interested proprietors can email requests to [email protected].

The Sullivan County Legislature has approved a reorganization and consolidation of county government expected to save more than $1.2 million, county officials announced Thursday. The county’s 17 highest-paid employees are taking a four percent pay cut through the end of the year, and county manager Josh Potosek is taking an eight percent pay cut. Sullivan County’s next town hall will be held on Facebook Live on Monday, June 22, at 1pm; another town hall to be held on Thursday, June 25, at 1pm will feature four local religious leaders discussing the impact of the pandemic on spiritual life.

OF INTEREST?
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 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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