Dutchess has first deaths, Philipstown has six cases
■ State health officials said that, as of Saturday (March 28), 131 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Putnam County, 262 in Dutchess, 7,875 in Westchester, 1,896 in Rockland, 128 in Ulster and 1,101 in Orange. Statewide, there were 52,318 positives, including 29,766 in New York City.
■ Dutchess County reported its first deaths related to COVID-19. The health department said it could not share the victims’ identities or where they lived because of medical privacy laws but that the first, who died March 20, was 69 years old and went to MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie after he had trouble breathing. The second was a 71-year-old man who died Wednesday (March 25) at St. Luke’s Hospital in Newburgh. Neither man had been screened or monitored by the health department for COVID-19 before going to the hospital.
■ Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro will host a live, countywide telephone town hall meeting on Thursday, April 2, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. During the call, which will be streamed live on the county’s Facebook page, Molinaro will provide a brief overview of the current situationy and answer questions from residents. When the town hall begins, an automated system will dial residents’ homes. If you receive a call, you can join the town hall by staying on the line. If you do not receive a call, you can dial in at 845-765-7121.
■ On March 27, Cuomo extended school closures until April 15.
■ At 9 a.m. on Monday, March 30, Patterns for Progress will host a web panel to discuss how the housing industry has been impacted by COVID-19, including real estate transactions, lending and title processing, and what the changes mean for homeowners, buyers, sellers, landlords, tenants and employers. See the group’s Facebook page.
■ Effective Monday (March 30), the Dutchess County Clerk’s Office will be closed to the public. The office will continue to receive allowable court filings through the NYSCEF filing system, as well as through the mail. Land records can also be accepted through the mail or via the clerk’s electronic portal. The Record Room, located on the second flood of the County Office Building, 22 Market Street, will be open weekdays from 1 – 4 p.m. for title searching. For questions or an emergency, call 845-486-2131.
■ After initially saying it could not release the names of the towns with confirmed cases, the Putnam County Department of Health on March 27 released a breakdown: Philipstown (6), Putnam Valley (8), Carmel (56), Kent (13), Patterson (6) and Southeast (17). About half of the cases were people in their 30s or 50s, the county said.
■ Because Dutchess County could run out of Personal Protective Equipment within the next week, the Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corps will collect donations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday (March 28) of disposable gloves, masks, isolation gowns, eye protection and cleaning supplies at its headquarters at 1 Arquilla Drive off Delavan Avenue.
■ A small staff of Beacon school cafeteria workers on Monday (March 23) handed out more than 2,500 meals to students, their families and other members of the community, a big increase from the week before. For Wednesday, they prepared 6,000. Since the schools closed on March 16, “helping out at the pickups and delivering meals to families has been the highlight of my week,” said Cathryn Biordi, an assistant principal at Rombout Middle School.
■ The Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce has compiled a list of the status of local businesses. It recommends the purchase of gift cards now to be used later as a way to support merchants.
■ Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 27 ordered all schools to remain closed until at least April 15.
■ Central Hudson has said it will not suspend service for customers who are unable to pay their bills as a result of financial distress. Contact the utility through its website or by calling 845-452-2700. Central Hudson also donated $25,000 to Dutchess Responds and $20,000 to the Hudson Valley Food Bank.
■ Beahive in Beacon posted on its blog a list of resources for freelance workers. “Much of the coronavirus aid being bandied about in Washington and Albany will directly support employees and corporations,” wrote owner Scott Tillitt. “Small businesses and self-employed freelancers are left to mostly fend for ourselves.” Its resource list includes links to sites such as Community Capital New York, which is offering up to $10,000 in bridge loans at 2 percent interest to small-business owners in Putnam, Dutchess and five other counties. See beahivebzzz.com/blog.
■ The Garrison School PTA has launched a campaign to raise money to provide food for
residents who are impacted by food and economic See. paypal.me/GUFSPTA. The school nurse will coordinate distribution of food and gift cards following public health guidelines.
■ Gregg Pulver, the chair of the Dutchess County Legislature, who is a Republican, canceled its April meeting, citing an order from the county executive to limit gatherings to 20 people or less. In a letter sent to Pulver in response, eight Democratic members (including Nick Page and Frits Zernike, whose districts each include part of Beacon) said he should instead arrange to hold the meeting by videoconference or phone. Pulver replied that changing the date of a meeting or its location would require a resolution by the Legislature, and that a meeting held by phone would need to be an “emergency meeting,” not a routine one.
■ Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said on March 27 that the county-owned golf course in Mahopac will remain open, with social-distancing restrictions. In addition, all “nonessential touch points,” such as hole pins, water coolers, ball washers and bunker rakes, will be removed, carts will be limited to one rider, and only reservations will be accepted. The announcement came soon after Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown, wrote Odell asking that the course be closed. “Our constituents need to get outside, get fresh air and move around, close to home,” she wrote. “The Putnam County Golf Course is not a trail, park or sanctuary intended for passive recreation.”
■ Former Garrison resident Louie Lanza, who owns a number of restaurants in Peekskill, donated $100,000 through his family foundation to the newly created Million Gallons program, an initiative to use excess food and raise funds to cook a million gallons of soup to feed restaurant workers who have lost their jobs because of the shutdown. See milliongallons.com.
Dutchess County posts updates at dutchessny.gov/coronavirus and also has an informational hotline at 845-486-3555. Putnam County has posted info at putnamcountyny.com/health. New York State has created a coronavirus hotline at 888-364-3065, and a webpage at ny.gov/coronavirus. The state also created an email list to provide updates. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is posting updates at cdc.gov.
■ Mutual Aid Beacon, a grassroots citizen organization, is delivering groceries and prescriptions to residents, many of them seniors, single parents with immune-compromised children or people with health issues. “People are so grateful, but they’re also scared,” said Dara Silverman, the group’s organizer. “There are a lot of isolated seniors and people with disabilities who are falling through the cracks.” Silverman said nearly 200 people have volunteered to shop, pick up prescriptions or deliver the goods. The group also has created a series of neighborhood “pods,” through which it coordinates requests and drop-offs. “A lot of people feel connected to this community but they may not feel connected to their own block,” Silverman said. “People don’t know who lives around them.” See mutualaidbeacon.com for assistance, or donate at venmo.com.
■ The state and federal filing deadlines for income-tax returns have been extended from April 15 to July 15.
■ New York State opened its health insurance marketplace to allow individuals to enroll through April 15. See nystateofhealth.ny.gov.
■ Haldane announced that a student in the district has a confirmed case of COVID-19. It said the student is resting at home and that the symptoms, which first appeared after schools had been closed, have been mild. “It is inevitable that we will continue to have cases,” said Superintendent Philip Benante in an email to the community. “I will not be able to inform you of each one during our closure; however, I felt it was important to bring this first known case to your attention. It reinforces that our children are vulnerable to this illness and that we must take the necessary precautions as a community to stop its spread.”
■ Because of a 94 percent decrease in ridership, Metro-North said it would be reducing service on the Hudson Line, cutting capacity by about 50 percent. As of March 27, trains will operate hourly, with extra trains during peak hours. Dutchess County also reduced its transportation services and the Beacon Loop Bus is not running.
■ The state established a free mental-health hotline at 844-863-9314 staffed by more than 10,000 mental-health professionals who are volunteering their time so people can “talk to them about what you’re feeling and what stress you’re feeling,” Gov. Cuomo announced.
■ Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro on March 24 announced the creation of Dutchess Responds, a portal at dutchessny.gov/dutchessresponds that has information for residents who want to volunteer through the Medical Reserve Corps of Dutchess County or to deliver supplies. It also offers information about receiving food delivery, prescriptions and household essentials, and lists organizations that are providing relief services.
■ The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley on March 24 launched the Dutchess Responds Fund, which will raise funds to provide support to residents experiencing hardships or quarantine restrictions.
■ On Monday (March 23), Dutchess County opened a mobile coronavirus testing facility in a parking lot at Dutchess Stadium. The site is open by appointment only and requires a doctor’s order. Nurses from Nuvance Health, which owns the Putnam Hospital Center and six other facilities, collect a nasal sample, send it for testing and notify the doctor of the results, which could take up to six days. Contact your doctor or the state Health Department at 888-364-3065. Putnam County has set up a number of temporary drive-thru sites and the state has one at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area on the Palisades Parkway in Rockland County. As with Dutchess, appointments are required.
■ On Tuesday (March 24), the Village of Cold Spring announced that the Tot’s Park is closed until further notice. It also banned all “non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size, for any reason” and asked residents not to flush disinfectant and baby wipes because of the risk of clogged sewer pipes and septic tanks.
■ On Monday (March 23), Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a order requiring all hospitals to increase capacity by a minimum of 50 percent, with a goal of increasing capacity by 100 percent. In Dutchess and Putnam counties and Newburgh, this would represent about 650 beds.
■ In Putnam County, three nonprofits have partnered to provide meals to senior citizens, residents who are disabled or actively seeking treatment for chronic or terminal disease, first responders, law enforcement, firefighters, EMS workers, and health care workers. There are no income restrictions. Community Cares, a nonprofit that provides meals, house cleaning, and laundry services to families going through medical crisises, will match up to $10,000 in donations to pay for family-style meals prepared by restaurants recruited by the Putnam County Business Council, and United Way of Westchester and Putnam is identifying recipients through its helpline and coordinating volunteer delivery drivers. Those interested in receiving meals can call 211. Financial contributions can be made at communitycares.org. Restaurants in Putnam that are interested in providing family-style “meals-to-go” at a set price, or individuals who want to volunteer as delivery drivers can email email@example.com.
■ In Cold Spring, Drug World closed and is providing curbside pickup and delivery only. “We have a new normal and we’re doing everything we can do to keep our employees and customers healthy,” co-owners Heidi and Mark Snyder wrote on Facebook. Call 845-265-6352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your order and the time you would like to arrive. Call the store when you arrive and the order will be brought to your car.
■ If you are not registered to vote, the deadline is April 3 to participate in the presidential primary election scheduled for April 28. If you are registered and want to vote by absentee ballot, the postmark deadline is April 21. Cuomo issued an executive order allowing voters requesting absentee ballots to check the “temporary illness or physical disability” box and cite “potential for contraction of the COVID-19 virus” to qualify. You can download a form at elections.ny.gov.
■ On March 17, Sven Wenske created a private Facebook group, COVID-19 Philipstown Community Care, to share, communicate and organize information about the response to the virus. He encouraged community members to “post requests for aid/support and to share opportunities, events, broadcasts and blogs that may be helpful.” See facebook.com/groups/philipstown-covid-19.
■ Under a state law enacted in December, unsolicited telemarketing calls by firms doing business in New York are illegal during a state of emergency, which the governor declared on March 7.
■ In Dutchess County, Molinaro issued an order allowing vacant temporary housing units (PODs) at the county jail to be repurposed as emergency homeless shelters. The county and the sheriff’s department partnered with Hudson River Housing and Mental Health America to operate one of the two modular, dormitory-style buildings, which will be divided into male and female sections. The PODs were opened in 2015 to temporarily house inmates who had been boarded with other counties due to overcrowding but have been vacant since January.
■ The state has issued a call for recently retired health care professionals to sign up as reserve staff and for qualified medical and nursing school students and staff. (By March 25, more than 40,000 had volunteered, Cuomo said.) See health.ny.gov/assistance. The state also has a critical need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including gloves, gowns, and masks, as well as ventilators. If you have or can make any of these items, email COVID19supplies@ESD.ny.gov.
■ Cuomo ordered all non-essential businesses to keep all of their workforce at home, effectively an order to close, effective March 22. Essential businesses include grocers and restaurants, health care providers, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, banks, hardware stores, laundromats and cleaners, childcare providers, auto repair, utilities, warehouses and distributors, plumbers and other skilled contractors, animal-care providers, transportation providers, construction companies and certain manufacturers.
■ Just outside of Beacon, the Gap Distribution Center in Fishkill remains open because Cuomo’s closure order exempted warehouse and distribution centers. But some employees, many of whom are still working 40-hour weeks, are questioning that call. “How are we still essential if we’re not shipping anything important?” said one employee who asked not to be identified. “We’re shipping socks and shirts.” The company, on the other hand, said through a spokesperson that it has added measures “to keep our facilities clean and help our employees stay healthy and distant from one another” while also implementing a staggered schedule, “which will allow fewer employees to be at our facilities at any given time while offering continuous pay for the shifts when they stay home.”
■ The Dutchess County Stabilization Center switched to “telepractice,” meaning its counselors will continue to operate 24/7 but only by telephone and videoconferencing. The center serves individuals experiencing crisis resulting from mental health or substance abuse issues. It can be reached at 845-486-2849. Or individuals can always call or text 845-486-9700 to be connected with a mental-health professional who can counsel or offer referrals. Dutchess County’s 24/7 Mobile Crisis Intervention Team will also move to operating via phone and telepractice.
■ The Putnam County Crisis Intervention Hotline can be reached at 845-225-1222.
■ Cuomo ordered all DMV offices closed, although many transactions can still be made online at dmv.ny.gov. The governor issued a directive extending the validity of state driver’s licenses, non-driver IDs and registrations that expired on or after March 1, 2020. The extension applies to temporary registrations issued by auto dealers.
■ Cuomo announced a directive in which mortgage servicers will provide 90-day relief to borrowers impacted by the novel coronavirus. The directive includes waiving mortgage payments based on financial hardship, no negative reporting to credit bureaus, a grace period for loan modification, no late payment fees or online payment fees, and postponing or suspending foreclosures.
■ The Haldane school board adopted several emergency measures at its March 17 meeting, including the payment of part-time employees through at least March 31. Superintendent Philip Benante said the administrative staff developed a COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan that is posted on the district website at haldaneschool.org and includes an overview of key responsibilities.
■ The New York Blood Center said there is an urgent need for blood and platelet donations. Its nearest donor center is in Hopewell Junction (2070 Route 52, Building 200). See nybc.org to make an appointment. The center notes that “there is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion. In fact, there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmission for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus.” Call 800-688-0900 with questions.
■ Compass Arts in Beacon said it was informed that an adult who had attended a program at its 395 Main St. location on March 9 and 10 was confirmed to have COVID-19. “Her husband has also tested positive and her two children are showing symptoms,” it said in an email. “We were already taking precautions with disinfecting at Compass Arts but feel it is our responsibility to make sure all who were at the center last week are aware of this in case you begin to show any symptoms. If so, we hope that this information may help you to receive testing more quickly.”
■ The U.S. Small Business Administration began to offer low-interest federal disaster loans of up to $2 million to small businesses, nonprofits, agricultural co-ops and aquaculture enterprises in Dutchess, Putnam, Orange and Westchester counties that have suffered “substantial economic injury” as a result of the coronavirus. The loans can be used to “meet financial obligations and operating expenses” such as fixed debts, payroll and accounts payable “which could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” the agency said. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofits, with a maximum repayment term of 30 years. See disasterloan.sba.gov or call 800- 659-2955. The deadline is Dec. 16.
■ Dutchess County and a number of economic development groups created a network at dutchessbnn.com to share updates with businesses and nonprofits.
■ Cuomo enacted a law on March 18 that provides sick and disability leave for individuals while they are quarantined. The state also agreed to a permanent paid sick leave policy that Cuomo pushed for in his 2021 budget proposal. That policy goes into effect in six months and requires employers, depending on their size, to provide each employee with five to seven days of paid sick leave annually.
State Sen. Sue Serino, whose district includes the Highlands, did not vote on the bill, which passed the Senate 50-6. But in a statement, she said she objected to the fact it made permanent changes to sick leave rather than simply addressing the COVID-19 emergency. “This is politics at its worst,” she said. “Our small businesses are the backbones of our communities. As they do their part to help keep our communities safe and healthy, many of them are feeling tremendous pressure. They do not have time to monitor or speak out against proposals moving rapidly through Albany that could have serious long-term consequences for them.”
■ Cuomo and the governors of Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey jointly ordered a capacity limit of 50 people for social and recreational gatherings. In Beacon, Mayor Lee Kyriacou said in a statement: “Dutchess County and the City of Beacon collectively have the authority to enforce this limitation through our police, fire and building departments, and will promptly begin doing so.”
■ The governor ordered restaurants and bars to close except for takeout and delivery. Those selling liquor were given waivers to sell carry-out alcohol and to offer home delivery of packaged beer through at least April 15. A number of restaurants in the Highlands began to offer takeout and curbside pickup.
■ In Dutchess County, Molinaro declared a state of emergency; prohibited gatherings or events of more than 20 people; ended visitation at the county jail; postponed civil service exams; and closed county senior centers.
■ Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell on Sunday signed an executive order to prohibit public gatherings or events of more than 20 people, as well as buffet-style food service or sales. Two days later she recommended limiting gatherings to 10 people. She also ended public access to county facilities, pledging that “essential county services will continue” and that “for emergencies and emergencies only, the public should contact the department directly via phone.” She said residents can use drop boxes at the county office building in Carmel to submit documents and that the county intends “in the near future” to install boxes elsewhere.
■ Cuomo waived the requirement that schools be in session for 180 days each school year to receive state funds. Districts are required to develop and submit their plans for alternative instructional options (including distance learning); the distribution and availability of meals; and childcare, especially for parents of first responders and health care workers.
■ Molinaro closed Dutchess schools until at least March 31 and suspended extracurricular functions, although schools may remain open for administration and staff. His order did not include private day care facilities, Head Start or other day care programs.
■ Odell on March 15 ordered all public and private schools in Putnam to close, as well as day care centers and nursery schools, although the state did not require the latter. She allowed day cares and nursery schools to re-open on Wednesday following Cuomo’s order that required school districts to have plans to provide childcare for first responders and health care workers.
Putnam Legislator Amy Sayegh, who chairs the Health Committee, defended Odell’s order, saying in a statement: “If on the one hand we are telling [residents] to stay home and keep their school-aged children home, how can we then tell them to drop their little ones at day care?” Odell said that “residents who have any questions about whether their business should be opened or closed in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections should direct their questions to the governor’s office.”
■ Odell closed the county’s four senior centers, including the Philipstown Friendship Center in Cold Spring, for at least two weeks. Michael Cunningham, director of the county Office of Senior Resources (OSR), said that although the centers are inactive, two crucial services continue: deliveries of meals and phone calls to check on the elderly, both those who had been homebound before the crisis and those who frequented the senior centers and now are cut off from them. He noted that some residents who had eaten lunch at a senior center have now requested deliveries, but others who had meals delivered have stopped because family members are not commuting to jobs and can provide meals.
Before the crisis, the county delivered 120 to 140 meals a day, including eight to 10 in Philipstown, he said. In Philipstown, there are now 10 to 15 recipients, he said, adding that a slow increase has begun county-wide. Before the closure, Cunningham said, 200 to 220 people used the senior centers daily and the shutdown generated “a lot of disappointment, a lot of concern, but not real surprise.” The OSR staff, now working half-day shifts, also feels the anxiety, he added. “The biggest issue is concern for the seniors.”
■ The Garrison School announced that it will be closed, and all transportation and activities suspended, through April 13. Distance learning began for students on Wednesday. In explaining the decision to close longer than mandated by the state, interim Superintendent Debra Jackson wrote to parents: “Limiting social interaction controls the rate of infection. As such, it only makes sense that we request you practice the same measures according to your capability: Stay home. Wash hands. Avoid socializing, play dates, parties, sleepovers, movie theaters, malls, etc. Try to limit your exposure and only venture into public areas when necessary. If we all participate in social distancing, the lives saved will be profound. If we treat this closure as we would a typical break, we will undermine the purpose of this closure. The good news is that it is getting warmer and outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and running are encouraged.”
■ During her first week as a remote student, Cora McMahon, a fifth grader at the Garrison School, organized a “virtual Spirit Week” for her classmates, with “wear your pajamas to ‘school’ day” on Monday followed by dress-up day, wacky Wednesday, VSCO girl (a teenage fashion trend) or sports player, and Garrison School gear. Students were asked to post photos of themselves in their outfits.
■ “This may go over like a lead balloon, but if you are one that thinks everyone is overreacting, then this message is not for you,” wrote Timothy Haskell, owner of the Cold Spring Cheese Shop, on Facebook. “I’d just like to remind all parents that they canceled school to keep kids from congregating. Although kids don’t get very sick from this, they apparently are excellent carriers, hence eliminating social interaction at school. I am mentioning this because I have seen several large groups of kids just hanging out in town enjoying their very prolonged spring break. This defeats the whole purpose. I know everyone is stir-crazy and this truly blows, but I think everyone would like for this to be over sooner rather than later, so please do your part and allow it to suck for a little while.”
■ Troop K of the New York State Police, which is based in Poughkeepsie, advised anyone calling 911 to advise dispatchers if they or any members of the household are experiencing flu-like symptoms. This information will ensure first responders can prepare to prevent the spread of any illnesses.
■ The Beacon City School District provides breakfast and lunch to students daily at the Beacon High School parking lot from 10 to 10:30 a.m. and at South Avenue Elementary from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Haldane is delivering breakfast and lunch to eligible students.
■ A message on the Putnam County Health Department site reads: “We’ve received many complaints that you are calling the Health Department and are not receiving an answer after leaving a message. We do apologize that our nurses are inundated with calls. Please know that you are among many other people with concerns and questions. We are attempting to contact everybody who leaves us a message.”
■ The Hastings Center, a think tank based in Garrison, has posted links at thehastingscenter.org to essays on COVID-19 published in its Bioethics Forum and Bioethics Briefings, including two from China on transparency in fighting coronavirus and others on New York City’s response to the pandemic, the crisis of trust and pandemic ethics.
■ Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley Jr. suspended visitation, church services, outside work details and programs for inmates at the Putnam County jail. “We know that these steps will be difficult for the families of inmates and the inmates themselves, however we must ensure that we protect everyone’s health, especially those confined to close quarters,” he said in a statement.
■ A Little Beacon Blog published a (Not) Happening This Weekend Guide.
■ Putnam County warned residents about scams in which callers claim to be from the federal government and offer to send a coronavirus test kit if the person will provide a name, address and Social Security number. “No government agency would ever call and request your Social Security number,” said Legislator Addonizio. Other reported scams include texts that offer free iPhones to help pass the time at home and emails from hackers with subject lines promising cures.