Coronavirus Update (March)

■ The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley on March 31 announced a new charitable fund, Putnam Covid Response, to raise money to provide “immediate critical resources to nonprofit agencies meeting the basic needs of residents.” Last week, the group created a similar fund, Dutchess Responds, as well as one for Ulster County. On April 3, the Foundations announced that St. Andrew’s/St. Luke’s Food Pantry in Beacon was among the first Dutchess recipients of a total of $50,000 in grants, along with the Center of Compassion Food Pantry, Changepoint Church, Dutchess Community Action Partnership, Dutchess Outreach, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, North East Community Center, Pawling Resource Center, Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Food Pantry and Zion Episcopal Church Food Pantry.

■ The federal government on March 30 announced that automatic distribution of economic-impact payments will begin in the next three weeks to everyone who filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019. Filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment of $1,200 per adult. For filers with higher incomes, the amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the threshold. Single filers with income of more than $99,000 and joint filers who earned more than $198,000 and have no children will not receive payments. Parents will also receive $500 for each dependent child. See irs.gov/coronavirus.

■ MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie has established a Meal Train to coordinate donations to its staff. Meal donations in increments of 10 are preferred. Each meal has 10 slots for lunch and 10 slots for dinner.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro on April 8 visited Unlimited Tomorrow in Rhinebeck, which makes prosthetic limbs with 3D printers but has shifted production to protective face shields for health care workers. He is shown with CEO Easton LaChappelle. (Photo provided)

■ Putnam County installed its Row of Honor, a row of flags that is put up on Memorial Day and Veterans Day along the shore of Lake Gleneida in Carmel, along with a “God Bless America” banner, to recognize and give thanks to health care workers and first responders who are putting themselves at risk to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak. The flags will fly through Memorial Day, when two additional rows will be added to recognize veterans.

■ The governor on March 27 ordered all “non-essential” construction to shut down. Essential projects include roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing and homeless shelters.

■ The deadline to upgrade driver’s licenses to Real ID, which will be required as identification to board domestic flights, has been extended from Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021.

■ Effective 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 floor 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.

■ 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.

food service

Stefani Dobert, a cafeterian worker for the Beacon school district, wheels meals from the kitchen to the site where the food was handed to people in a drive-thru lane. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ 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.

■ 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 concerns. Donate at paypal.me/GUFSPTA. The school nurse will coordinate distribution of food and gift cards.

■ Beacon Mayor Lee Kyriacou said city parks remain open, but “outdoor gathering are extremely restricted” and the city will enforce the rule. Residents who see a problem should call the police because complaining on social media is “ineffective at correcting behavior,” he said.

■ The SallyeAnder shop in Beacon had begun manufacturing 1,000 soap bars per day in anticipation of the busy spring season, said owner Sallie Austin Gonzales. After the shutdown, she began donating the soap — 2,500 bars so far — to Beacon and Newburgh schools for free distribution. Along with access to food and medication, she thought, what do people need now more than soap? “We’ve got a lot of soap; it’s ready to go; it’s fresh,” she said. “This is where we live and work. This isn’t the time to profit; it’s to help each other.”

■ 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.

■ Beacon residents can sign up to receive updates at cityofbeacon.org. The city also has a list of food pantries, free meals and other resources here.

 

USNS Comfort

The USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, arrived on March 30 in New York harbor. (Photo by David Rocco)

■ 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.

■ 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.”

A nurse takes a sample from an emergency medical technician at a drive-thru clinic held in Brewster on April 7. First responders were given priority for testing. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ 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.

■ 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.

■ On 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 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 March 23, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an 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 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 covid19@communitycares.org.

■ 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 csp@drugworld.com 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.

■ 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.

■ 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.

Rebeca Garcia

Rebeca Garcia, a nurse with the Putnam County Department of Health, takes samples from residents at a drive-thru mobile clinic held in Brewster on Tuesday (April 7). Ninety-six people tested positive. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ 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. 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 offer counseling or referrals.

■ 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. If a mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Federal Home Loan Banks, the homeowner may be eligible to delay in making payments. (If unsure, check at knowyouroptions.com.) Contact the company where you send your monthly payments. Two terms to keep mind: A forbearance means you are allowed to stop making payments but you will owe all the payments as a lump sum later. A mortgage modification is preferable; it means you can skip payments and they will be spread out over months or the length of the loan will be extended.

■ 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.

Montgomery Food Town

Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery, whose district includes Philipstown, put out a call online for six volunteers to help restock at Foodtown in Cold Spring after a truck of groceries arrived. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ 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.

A sign in a window at Doug’s Pub in Cold Spring expressed skepticism about the shutdown. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ 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.

Metro-North tunnel

Waiting for the Metro-North train at Cold Spring (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ Molinaro closed Dutchess schools 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.”

fire company sign

The Slater Chemical Fire Co. in Glenham offered some advice to passersby last week. (Photo by Brian PJ Cronin)

■ 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.”

Main Street, Cold Spring (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ 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 Toni 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.

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