Coronavirus Update (April)

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)

■ On April 26, Cuomo announced a plan to re-open the state, beginning with construction and manufacturing functions that are low risk. Phase 2, he said, would  open businesses considered “more essential” with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers, followed by businesses considered “less essential” or those that present a higher risk of infection spread. “As the infection rate declines, the pace of reopening businesses will be increased,” he said. There will be two weeks in between each phase to monitor the effects.

Sokhara Kim

Sokhara Kim of Nice & Neat Dry Cleaners on Route 9 in Philipstown has made more than 420 masks that she distributes at no charge from the door of her shop, one per person, usually on Saturdays after 10 a.m. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said on April 29 that the health department would work with the 13 nursing homes in Dutchess to test each resident for COVID-19 and that he has asked the state for 2,000 tests. The county will begin the program at Wingate at Beacon. Molinaro said the county is concerned in part because 96 of 330 residents at two nursing homes in Ulster County tested positive, with many of them having no symptoms.

■ On April 29, Cuomo said elective outpatient treatments could resume in counties “without significant risk of COVID-19 surge in the near term,” including Putnam, Dutchess and Ulster but not Orange, Rockland or Westchester. He said a county must have hospital capacity of more than 25 percent and fewer than 10 new hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients over the past 10 days to qualify.

■ Cuomo ordered that all school board elections and budget votes, including for Beacon, Haldane and Garrison, be delayed until to June 9, and that voting take place by mail. He also ordered village elections, including in Nelsonville, be delayed until Sept. 15.

■ Although closed to the public, the Boscobel historic site in Garrison is offering health care workers limited access to its grounds and gardens, if scheduled in advance for one household at a time. If you are a health care worker who would like to soak in the view, hike the Woodland Trail and see the gardens’ blooms, email Ed Glisson at eglisson@boscobel.org.

■ About 90 Democratic members of the New York State Assembly, including Sandy Galef, whose district includes Philipstown, and Jonathan Jacobson, whose district includes Beacon, signed an open letter to members of the state’s congressional delegation requesting federal aid for local governments and for the state to offset budget cuts. It noted that Cuomo recently announced a revised budget plan with cuts to Medicaid, education and property-tax relief programs. “I am calling on our federal representatives to stand up for our first responders, medical staff and schools as we get through the worst of this public health crisis,” Galef said in a statement.

■ The Cooperative Extension of Putnam County canceled its 4-H fair scheduled for July 24 to 26. The event had been held annually for 48 years. The Dutchess County Fair is scheduled for Aug. 25 to 30.

■ The Philipstown Food Pantry, where organizers say they have seen a 140 percent increase in clients since social distancing began, is in need of donations. Food can be dropped off between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Friday mornings, or Saturdays between 8:30 and 10:00 a.m. Do not bring homemade food, food in bulk packaging, or expired foods. See presbychurchcoldspring.org/food-pantry.html. Soho Salon in Cold Spring also collects goods for the pantry each Monday.

■ A group of Putnam County residents are making cloth masks for first responders, healthcare professionals and essential workers. To volunteer as a mask sewer, fabric cutter or transporter of materials see pcmaskguild.org.

■ The 2020 Memorial Day parade in Cold Spring has been canceled.

■ Cuomo said the state is directing insurers to waive cost sharing, co-pays and deductibles for mental-health services for front-line workers. The state also partnered with the Kate Spade New York Foundation and Crisis Text Line to provide 24/7 emotional support for front line health care workers. Text NYFRONTLINE to 741-741.

Rebeca Garcia and Denise Sheeran, nurses with the Putnam County Health Department, take a sample from a resident who came to a drive-thru testing clinic held on April 28 in Brewster. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ The Community Resilience Coalition hosted a webinar on April 28 entitled “Children of Putnam and COVID-19” with panelists who addressed talking to children about COVID-19; addressing child care, school, and summer camp concerns; meeting the need for social services and handling domestic violence. It was moderated by Jonathan Sury, project director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and included speakers from the Community Resilience Coalition, Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center, the county departments of social services and health, Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, and Camp Herrlich. It can be viewed at bit.ly/rcrc-c19webinars.

■ The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley announced the second round of emergency grants from its Putnam COVID-19 Response Fund. The $17,400 in grants benefited CAREERS Support Solutions, the Ecological Citizen’s Project, the Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming, the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub, Putnam Community Action Partnership and Second Chance Foods. Donate or request funds at putnamcovidresponse.org.

■ With assistance from Scenic Hudson, FeedHV is purchasing milk from Hudson Valley Fresh and milk, yogurt and butter from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy to donate to three food programs for children: The Kingston YMCA Farm Project, Dutchess Outreach in Poughkeesie and the Friends of Hudson Youth in Hudson. FeedHV, which is a program of the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corp., links donors of prepared but unserved food and fresh produce with nonprofits and food assistance programs. The donation will include more than 12,000 gallon and 1,800 half-gallon containers of milk, 1,250 containers of yogurt and 210 pounds of butter in eight-ounce packages. Both dairies are selling their products at cost.

■ Jonathan Jacobson, whose state Assembly district includes Beacon and Newburgh, said his staff can assist residents by phone or email who are experiencing delays when applying for state unemployment benefits. Call 845-562-0888 or 845-763-7011 or email jacobsonj@nyassembly.gov.

■ State Sen. Sue Serino, whose district includes the Highlands, and who is a member of the Senate’s Aging Committee, on April 23 wrote Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to call for an alternative to the March 25 guidance that, to open hospital beds elsewhere, nursing homes must accept patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. She recommended instead that the state create a series of regional long-term care centers for COVID-19 patients at nursing homes.

■ On April 27, Cuomo announced New York would provide $25 million for food banks and providers from a public health emergency fund, including $4.4 million to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY, which serves Dutchess and Putnam counties. Philanthropies that would like to help can email Fran Barrett, the state director of nonprofits, at COVIDPhilanthropies@exec.ny.gov.

■ Dutchess County announced it has implemented a mobile app, NYDocSubmit, developed by the state to allow recipients of public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), Temporary Assistance (TA) and Medicaid to scan and upload required documents. The app is available for free download via the Apple App Store and Google Play. See bit.ly/NYDocSubmit.

Reusable cloth face coverings are being made available to essential businesses and nonprofit organizations in Dutchess County. The coverings are provided by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the state, Dutchess County, Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dutchess Tourism Inc. and Hudson Cadillac-Buick-GMC. To register for pickup, see dcrcoc.org/form/view/19770.

■ A survey of 215 nonprofits in the Hudson Valley conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that more than half “described their financial circumstances as so difficult they may have to make significant changes — from laying off staff to ceasing operations — within four months or less. This, they say, is coming against a backdrop of increased demand among some nonprofits for their services due to heightened need brought on by the pandemic.” At the same time, 60 percent of respondents said they had added services in response to COVID-19.

■ On April 21, Molinaro wrote Cuomo asking for his assistance in providing local health departments with access to the state’s Health Emergency Response Data System, where hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities regulated by the Department of Health report data such as fatalities, bed counts and the number of COVID-19 positive patients. Currently, local health departments must contact hospitals and nursing homes directly to find out what they are reporting to the state system. He said access might help better align the data reported by the state and counties through COVID-19 dashboards.

farmers market line

KEEPING THEIR DISTANCE — Shoppers wait to enter the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market at St. Mary’s Church on Saturday, April 25. The market moves this weekend to Boscobel. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ The state launched a texting program and confidential service to assist victims of domestic violence. Text 844-997-2121 or visit opdv.ny.gov to chat confidentially with a professional at any time of the day or night.

■ A federal program will cover $30 million in child care costs for essential workers, including health care providers, pharmaceutical staff, law enforcement officers, firefighters, food delivery workers and grocery store employees. To qualify, a worker must have an income less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $78,600 for a family of four. Essential workers can use the funding to pay for their existing care arrangement. An essential worker who needs child care can contact the local child care resource and referral agency to find openings. See bit.ly/child-care-help.

■ Beacon on April 24 released an FAQ about the crisis and the city’s response. “In the past week, the number of Beacon cases has been in the 90s and 100s — so pretty close to flat,” wrote Mayor Lee Kyriacou. “That’s a positive sign that we’ve been doing the right things. But it doesn’t change what we must be doing right now. As COVID cases peak and our health workers — thank you — can handle the load and rest a little, we are starting to look to the next stage.” Kyriacou said that the city reaches most residents with landline phones through its SWIFT-911 service. Those with mobile phones can sign up at cityofbeacon.org. He also noted that city parks remain open but all playgrounds and sports courts are closed, as well as the skate park. Applications for permits or licenses can be downloaded at cityofbeacon.org and mailed, emailed or placed in the City Hall drop box.

■ The hours of the Beacon recycling facility at the end of Dennings Avenue have been adjusted to Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

■ On April 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that all people in New York wear a mask or a face covering when out in public and in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained, such as on public transportation. Cuomo also ordered essential business to provide masks to employees who come into contact with customers. The Dutchess County government released a flier on how to create a cloth mask if you cannot purchase one. The CDC also offers guidance. Cuomo also announced that the state was increasing the maximum fine for violations of its social distancing protocol from $500 to $1,000 to help address the lack of adherence. Local officials have the authority to enforce the protocols, he said.

■ On April 25, Cuomo said all registered voters in the state will be sent absentee ballot applications for the June 23 primary elections with postage-paid reply envelopes.

■ Cornell Cooperative Extension compiled a list of Dutchess farm stores that offer curbside pickup and/or delivery, including Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction and Meadowbrook in Wappingers Falls.

■ Cuomo said on April 25 he will issue an order allowing pharmacists to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID-19.

■ The Tompkins Hose Co. in Beacon and other firehouses in Dutchess County sounded their rooftop sirens through two cycles on April 23 to thank those working in emergency services, health care and local government, plus all the supporting agencies. On April 16, many drivers sounded their horns for two, 1-second blasts at the same time to honor transportation workers as part of a #SoundtheHorn campaign. The drivers of MTA and Dutchess and Putnam trains and buses also participated.

■ New Yorkers no longer need to have their application for state unemployment benefits rejected before they can apply for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers many self-employed people, independent contractors, gig workers, farmers and others not eligible for state unemployment. See labor.ny.gov. In addition, state applications can now be filed daily between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

■ The Dutchess Responds Fund on April 21 announced it had awarded $32,400 in grants to nonprofit organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, including the Animal Farm Foundation, Ascienzo Family Foundation/Red Hook Responds, Community Voices Heard, Dutchess Outreach, Meals on Wheels of Greater Poughkeepsie, Pawling Resource Center, RDC Loaves and Fishes, Red Hook UMC Food Pantry, Willow Roots and Worker Justice Center of New York.

citra ass beer

Cousin Ale Works, a craft brewery in Wappingers Falls, on April 8 introduced an IPA it calls Citra Ass at Home. Owner Aaron Browne (right) is shown filling an order from Rahul Verma of Hopewell Junction. The beers are brewed, packaged and labeled by hand. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ The state on April 20 changed its guidance on golf courses, allowing them to open with precautions in place. The Putnam County Golf Course, which closed April 11 to comply with an executive order that determined courses to be non-essential businesses, reopened. No golf carts will be allowed. The food vendors, driving range and pro shop are closed to the public. Golfers are required to prepay for reservations online; no walk-ons are permitted. Items that golfers would touch – rakes, flags, benches, etc. – have been removed from the course. Social distancing rules will be strictly enforced. The Garrison also announced it was open for players.

■ The IRS has released a tracking tool for the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments.

■ New York State opened its health insurance marketplace to allow individuals to enroll through June 15. See nystateofhealth.ny.gov.

■ The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce has created a list of suppliers of personal protective equipment in the Hudson Valley personal protective equipment such as face masks, surgical masks, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer.

■ The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation a created a Save Small Business Fund for businesses that employ between 3 and 20 people, are located in an economically vulnerable community and have been harmed financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Get information here. Notably, businesses in Beacon (12508) and Garrison (10524) can apply but not those in Cold Spring (10516).

■ In response to an urgent need for blood and platelet donations, the Food and Drug Administration related its restrictions on who can donate. It changed the deferral period to 3 months from 12 months for men who have had sex with other men; women who have had sex with men who had sex with other men; people who have recently gotten tattoos or piercings; and people who have traveled to malaria-endemic areas (and are residents of malaria non-endemic countries). In addition, people who had been deferred indefinitely because they spent time in certain European countries or on military bases in Europe and were possibly exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (“mad-cow disease”) can now donate. The nearest blood 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.

■ The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley announced the first round of nearly $20,000 in grants to be deployed from its Putnam COVID-19 Response Fund. The recipients were the Brewster Community Food Pantry, Community Cares, CoveCare Center, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, Gilead Food Pantry, Philipstown Food Pantry and Putnam Community Action Partnership. Organizations can apply for funding at communityfoundationshv.org.

■ In an update released April 9, Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea said the town had cut staffing levels by over 50 percent to avoid close contact; purchased food gift cards from local businesses to distribute to front-line workers while supporting local business and encouraging residents to the same; met with the state parks Commissioner Eric Kulleseid to address parking issues on Route 9D — “You will see signage as a result of this meeting; ticketing is taking place and law enforcement has the option to order towing,” he said; sent a mailer to every household in town to offer assistance with food and medicine for those in need; offered assistance to residents in Beacon and Newburgh with food assistance; set up a COVID-19 section on the town website with updates.

He noted that the closest test site for Philipstown residents is at Dutchess Stadium. “You can arrive with your prescription in hand or better yet, have your doctor fax it over in advance to 845-320-7754,” he said. “I have spoken with Sandra Iberger, the head of ambulatory services at Nuvance Health, and she is heading up the testing programs in our area. She gave me a lot of useful information and directed me to the Nuvance Health website Covid 19 section, which gives all the information that people need for testing.”

Shea added: “We are all tired of this crisis, I know I am.  We want our lives to go back to normal. The best way to make this happen is to keep up the fight and stay at home. It is so much harder than taking action, but this is the only effective action we can take at this time. Please stay safe and take care of yourselves. Get out for a walk, eat well, get your rest and wash those hands. This will end and I believe we will come out the other side with a deeper understanding of what it means to be not only a member of the Philipstown community but a member of the world community.”

A nurse with the Putnam County Department of Health, takes a specimen from a resident at a drive-thru mobile clinic in Brewster on April 7. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ Cold Spring Mayor Dave Merandy on April 11 sent out a reminder to residents: (1) “While you enjoy the outdoors – walking, jogging, bike riding – be sure to follow the rules. Unless you are family members or roommates sharing the same home, stay at least 6 feet apart; (2) Help our local businesses as much as you can. While you can’t enter most shops, many are doing curb-side pickup, delivery, shipping. Check their websites or social media pages for more information. (3) If you need to enter a grocery store wear a mask and gloves. When you are finished with gloves, please remember the gloves should be disposed of in appropriate garbage containers, not in the street, on sidewalks, lawns, or in the Foodtown parking lot.”

■ The state added to its list of “essential” businesses livestock medical services; emergency chiropractic services; physical or occupational therapy prescribed by a doctor; automobile manufacturing; manufacture of “any parts or components necessary for essential products”; telecommunications service for existing customers; delivery for orders placed via phone or online at non-essential establishments as long as only one employee is present at the business for fulfillment; marine vessel repair; landscaping for maintenance or pest control; design, print, publishing and signage companies in support of essential businesses or services; and remote instruction or streaming of classes from public and private schools and health and fitness centers.

■ Cuomo ordered flags on all state buildings flown at half-staff to honor the dead. The county executives in Putnam and Dutchess also ordered flags on county property be flown at half-staff.

■ On April 8, the governor ordered the state Department of Labor to make $600 in additional weekly unemployment benefits available and extended the period covered by unemployment by 13 weeks, to 39 weeks.

■ The New York State Board of Regents also announced that the Regents Exams scheduled for June have been canceled.

■ The Town of Philipstown announced that, due to a private donation, it is providing assistance to residents in need, including Foodtown and Drug World gift cards. Call 845-265-5200 or email townclerk@philipstown.com. Para información en español, llame al (845) 276-4601. It also is organizing volunteer drivers to deliver essentials. See philipstown.com to sign up.

■ The state announced the creation of a First Responders Fund to assist COVID-19 health care workers and first responders with expenses and costs, including child care. Blackstone is making an anchor $10 million contribution. Donations can be made at healthresearch.org (specify the donation is for “COVID-19 NYS Emergency Response.”

■ The Putnam County health commissioner issued an order directing anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to go into isolation or face a fine of up to $2,000 per violation per day. Parents and guardians are responsible for ensuring their children comply with the order or face the same fines, he said.

bug killer

Many distilleries are making hand sanitizer from their supplies of whiskey and gin, including Dennings Point Distillery in Beacon. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■  Many distilleries are making hand sanitizer from their supplies of whiskey and gin, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says should be at least 60 percent alcohol (120 proof). Karl Johnson, the co-owner of Dennings Point Distillery in Beacon, made 30 gallons and offered free fills at the door. He also donated a gallon to the Beacon Police Department. Johnson felt compelled to remind most people who stopped to fill up: “Don’t drink it.”

■ Because of social distancing restrictions, funeral homes across the state have restricted the number of mourners at services. In obituaries, many families are noting that a memorial will be held at an unspecified later date. At Libby Funeral Home in Beacon, only spouses and children of the deceased are allowed to attend, with others watching through a live video feed. “Trying to serve families virtually is not what we set out to accomplish,” said Matthew Fiorillo, who owns Libby and said he has handled arrangements for several COVID-19 victims. In Cold Spring, at the Clinton Funeral Home, families are opting for “simple services — no viewing,” said Anthony Calabrese, its manager and funeral director. “Everybody understands what’s going on.” Cemeteries also are limiting graveside services to 10 people and requiring that mourners stand at least 6 feet apart, and the Archdiocese of New York on March 24 banned funeral Masses.

Nurses and staff from the Putnam County Health Department held a mobile COVID-19 testing clinic in Brewster on April 28. One hundred and thirty people were tested. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■  Tracy Prout Bunye a, psychologist with a practice in Garrison, is the principal investigator at Yeshiva University in New York City in a study of the psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The researchers are looking for volunteers to complete an anonymous online survey that takes 20 to 30 minutes. Given the likelihood of future pandemics, Prout said the study “will help us identify those who are at greater risk, inform public health policy and design interventions that are cost-effective and provide relief.” The Yeshiva researchers are collaborating with a psychologist at the University of Pisa, where the project began during the first week of the Italian government’s lockdown. See bit.ly/covid-study.

■  On April 2, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who district includes the Highlands, announced that Dutchess County will receive $856,000 in emergency funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In addition, Newburgh will receive $514,000.

■ Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea said on April 2 that the state parks department has opposed two executive orders he sent to the state Department of Health for approval to restrict parking near state-owned trailheads. He said the health department is required to respond to him within 24 hours and, when he had not received an answer to his March 27 request, “we made inquiries. That is when we were told that NYS Parks had written to them advising them that they were not in favor of the actions that the Town of Philipstown was trying to take to limit parking,” Shea wrote in an email. “We are not saying to close the parks. We are asking to temporarily limit parking. I’m not holding out a lot of hope at this point.”

■ Shea and other five town supervisors in Putnam wrote to state and federal officials on April 2 to complain that the county health department “is not being given the same considerations” as larger health departments in the area, noting that, per capita, Putnam has more positive tests than all but three other counties in the state. The supervisors reported that after exhausting its specimen collection tubes and swabs at a drive-thru testing event on March 21, the county health department has not been able to secure more supplies and suspended testing.

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