Coronavirus Update (May)

■ The Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park on Gipsy Trail Road in Kent opened on May 30; its hours are 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Parking is limited to 50 cars and no groups are allowed except individual households and family units. Park staff will enforce restrictions such as social distancing and face masks, the county said. The beach will open on June 5; it will be limited to 50 people at a time. The playground, exercise equipment and pavilion remain closed, and all group sports are prohibited.

Step by Step

There is typically at least 14 days between phases once the criteria for each is met, based on the incubation period of COVID-19.

Phase 1

Construction
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting
Retail (curbside or in-store pickup/drop-off)
Manufacturing
Wholesale Trade

Phase 2

Professional Services
Retail
Administrative Support
Real Estate / Rental & Leasing

Phase 3

Restaurants / Food Services

Phase 4

Arts / Entertainment / Recreation
Education

Source: forward.ny.gov

■ On May 28, Cuomo signed an order to allow private businesses to deny entry to anyone who isn’t wearing a mask or face covering.

■ Metro-North announced on May 27 that all customers are required to wear a mask or face covering on its property and to maintain social distance, “particularly while in Metro-North stations, on our platforms, and in Grand Central Terminal.” It also asked riders “to board trains at all available doors and to take seats that maximize social distancing” and recommended that customers travel, if possible, during non-peak hours, before 7 a.m. and after 6 p.m., and only for essential travel. The agency said it sanitizes its stations every 12 hours and its trains every 24 hours.

■ The Putnam County Business Council has put out a call for volunteer contact tracers for the Mid-Hudson Region’s anticipated eligibility for Phases 2, 3, and 4 of the state’s reopening plan. Volunteers must complete a six-hour online training course. They work remotely to reach out to the contacts of anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 to assess symptoms, ensure quarantine compliance and determine support needs. To volunteer, call Jan Miller at 845-808-1650 ext. 46103, or email jan.miller@putnamcountyny.gov. The state is also hiring contact tracers. See coronavirus.health.ny.gov.

■ In Dutchess County, as of May 27, more than 500 people had volunteered to train as contact tracers, and more than 280 had completed the training. The county was required to have 250 contact tracers for the region to enter Phase 1.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor celebrated the discharge of its 250th COVID-19 patient.

■ Dutchess County reported on May 27 that tests completed at four of its 13 licensed nursing homes of more than 280 residents identified nine residents with COVID-19 — all at The Grand at Pawling. Eight were asymptomatic and are being cared for in a separate, secure area of the facility. The ninth had already been isolated.

■ Cuomo appointed Molinaro and Putnam Executive MaryEllen Odell to an 11-person “control room” set up to monitor compliance with the metrics and oversee reopening of the Mid-Hudson region.

walkway thanks

In a COVID-19 newsletter he sends each weekday by email, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 1 named this drone shot by Scott Snell of Beacon as his “photo of the day.” It shows a message of gratitude on the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie to front-line workers in the pandemic.

■ Dutchess County Public Transit, including the Beacon Free Loop, will return to its regular schedule on Saturday, June 6. Social distancing guidelines will be enforced; drivers will wear masks and gloves; and passengers will be required to wear face coverings to board.

■ On May 22, Cuomo announced the launch of a $100 million loan fund for small businesses, nonprofits and small  landlords that did not receive federal assistance and who have 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues. See esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.

Campgrounds and RV parks will be allowed to open statewide on May 25, and veterinarian practices will be allowed to open statewide on May 26.

■ The Dutchess County health department on May 21 said school districts, including Beacon, can hold commencement exercises only if participants remain in their vehicles, such as in parking lots, drive-in theaters or convoys.

■ Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley dispersed its third round of grants from the Putnam COVID-19 Respond Fund. It distributed $26,000 to the Brewster Community Food Pantry, CoveCare Center, Mental Health Association in Putnam County, Patterson Presbyterian Food Pantry, Putnam Valley Community Food Pantry, SPACE on Ryder Farm, and St. John’s the Evangelist Food Pantry.

■ Cuomo said on May 12 that county health departments will be in charge of determining if businesses that reopen are complying with social-distancing rules. Counties will also be in charge of penalizing businesses.

■ As of May 21, the Dutchess Responds Food Connection, established in March, had received 506 requests for food and made 707 deliveries, averaging 18 deliveries per day. Each delivery consists of three meals per day for three days. Residents in need of food resources can request free deliveries of meals by filling out an online form or by calling the Dutchess County Coronavirus Hotline at 845-486-3555 and selecting Option 5. In addition, the Dutchess County Office for the Aging has delivered 34,000 meals to seniors since March 16.

■ The state said that, as of May 21, it would allow, with social distancing and masks, religious gatherings of no more than 10 people, along with drive-in and parking-lot services. After the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit, calling the order unconstitutional because it applied only to religious organizations and Memorial Day observations, on May 22 Cuomo issued a new order allowing gatherings of up to 10 people “for any lawful purpose or reason” in any part of the state, including New York City, as long as social distancing is maintained.

■ Empire State Development released an online tool to help businesses determine when they will be able to reopen.

■ The state allowed the opening of hunting and fishing clubs; single-student horseback riding; occupational and physical therapy when prescribed by a medical professional; and dog walking, animal boarding and pet grooming “to the extent necessary to ensure animal health.”

■ On May 20, the governor said antibody testing survey at churches in lower-income New York City communities and communities of color show 27 percent of individuals tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, compared with 19.9 percent of the city’s overall population. The data was collected from 8,000 individuals.

■ Cuomo announced on Tuesday (May 19) that the state would begin a pilot program at 16 hospitals, including Westchester Medical Center but no hospitals in Dutchess or Putnam, to allow visitors.

■ The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley announced the third round of grants from its Dutchess Responds fund, for $59,000, distributed to Friends of Historic Hyde Park, Hudson River Housing, Hudson Valley Hospice Foundation, Mediation Center of Dutchess County, Holy Light Pentecostal Church, Jayne Brooks Food Pantry at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah, Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Rhinebeck Reformed Church Food Pantry, Unshattered and the Wassaic Project.

■ The state on May 17 launched a website to allow residents to find testing sites. See coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-testing. The state has more than 700 testing sites, Cuomo said.

■ In a Town Hall held on May 13, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said the final two criteria the Mid-Hudson Region must meet to begin Phase 1 of reopening – 14 consecutive days of decline in new hospitalizations and 14 consecutive days of decline in deaths – will prove difficult because a single day with an increase resets the 14-day clock. He said that as a result, the region could be forced to wait longer than anticipated.

■ Cuomo added Westchester and Rockland to the list of counties that can resume elective surgeries.

■ On May 15, Cuomo extended the state’s stay-at-home order through June 13. He also added hair stylists to the list of non-essential businesses that will be able to open in Phase 2.

■ The state budget director said on May 15 that if New York does not receive funds from the federal government by the end of May, it would begin implementing 20 percent cuts in aid to schools, hospitals and local governments.

■ The governor announced on May 15 that state beaches will be open, with restrictions in place, effective Friday, May 22. The restrictions are (1) no more than 50 percent capacity by ensuring controlled exits/entrances and limiting parking; (2) no group contact activities, including sports (e.g. volleyball, football); (3) areas of social gathering closed (e.g. designated picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions, arcades, amusement rides); (4) social distancing measures for both employees and visitors; (5) masks worn by all employees and visitors when social distancing is not possible; (6) no concessions; and (7) ensuring staff levels are adequate to achieve these measures and enforce crowd control. City, town and county beaches can open under the same conditions, he said.

■ Cuomo said on May 13 that tests of 2,750 members of the New York State Police found that 3.1 percent had COVID-19 antibodies. In addition, tests of 3,000 corrections officials found that 7.5 percent had the antibodies. That compares to 12.3 percent of the general statewide population.

haldane gear nurses

The science department at Haldane High School donated 26 pairs of protective eyewear to Miller Francis (far left), a 2012 Haldane grad, and her team of intensive-care nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. The donation also included cloth masks made by Maria Finucane of Cold Spring. (Photo provided)

■ Mutual Aid Beacon is selling washable cotton masks at myshopify.com. For each mask purchased for $10, two masks are made and distributed to frontline workers, including farm and domestic workers.

■  On May 10, Cuomo announced he would issue an order mandating that all nursing homes and adult care facilities test all personnel for COVID-19 two times per week and report any positive test results to the state Department of Health by the next day. The order also will mandate that hospitals cannot discharge a patient to a nursing home unless that patient tests negative for COVID-19.

■  The Desmond-Fish Public Library in Garrison has partnered with Split Rock Books in Cold Spring to offer a limited number of books for checkout. See splitrockbks.com. Books will be delivered or picked up from the bookstore and can be kept until restrictions are lifted.

■  Cuomo on Thursday (May 7) announced that a moratorium on COVID-related residential or commercial evictions would be extended 60 days, until Aug. 20. The governor also announced the state is banning late payments or fees for missed rent payments and allowing renters facing financial hardship to use their security deposit as payment and repay it over time.

■ Cuomo extended the shutdown in New York until at least May 15. The state also established a hotline at 833-789-0470 to report violations.

■ New York is hiring contact tracers to track COVID-19 infections. For more information, or to apply, click here.

■ The Putnam County Office of Senior Resources encourages seniors to contact its staff, which is working remotely, to identify virtual programs. “Social distancing does not have to mean isolation, especially for seniors,” said Michael Cunningham, the agency’s director. The office has been offering Coffee and Conversation, book clubs, brain fitness groups, Zoom social dancing, strength and balance exercise classes, caregiver support groups, TeleBingo and robotic pets. Visit putnamcountyny.com/OSR or call 845-808-1700.

■ Sandy Galef, whose Assembly district includes Philipstown, has invited constituents to share “smart, practical public health ideas to take into consideration as we discuss a reopening strategy” that will be shared with the governor’s office. Call 914-941-1111 or email galefs@nyassembly.gov.

■ Cornell Cooperative Extension offices across the Hudson Valley are distributing free hand sanitizer and face coverings to local farms. Contact the Putnam or Dutchess extension offices. CCE Putnam will be distributing products from its Brewster office on May 13 and 14.

■ Two Dutchess County organizations on Wednesday (May 13) created programs to help small businesses. The Dutchess County Local Development Corp. established a program, in partnership with Community Capital New York, that will provide interest-free loans of up to $10,000 to independent businesses that have not been able to secure federal assistance. At the same time, the Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency created a sales-and-use tax relief program to help manufacturers expand capacity of personal protective equipment.

■ On May 1,  Cuomo ordered schools to close for the rest of the academic year and their officials to submit plans for protecting students, faculty and staff when reopening in the fall. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association also canceled the spring sports season.

George Washington mask

George Washington was gifted with a knit mask in Beacon. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■ Larry Burke, the officer-in-charge of the Cold Spring Police Department, said the Village Board has decided to close the bandstand and dock area as well as Dockside Park on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. because of a lack of social distancing by weekend visitors. The 10 a.m. closure is to allow residents to walk their dogs at Dockside earlier in the morning, he said.

■  Five of the state’s 15 prison inmate deaths from COVID-19 have occurred at Fishkill Correctional Facility, which has the most cases and deaths of any prison as of May 6, according to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. In all, 85 inmates at Fishkill have tested positive for the coronavirus, up from 61 cases and one death as of April 22. Sing Sing has had the next-highest total of cases with 51 and deaths with 4. The Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Westchester County has had 39 cases and one death. Advocates and relatives of inmates announced a two-day vigil at the prison cemetery for May 7 and 8 to demand that prisoners vulnerable to COVID-19 be released.

■ Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, in a town hall on Facebook on May 6, discussed a goal of opening summer camps by July 1, based on state guidance and approval. He said the county Department of Behavioral & Community Health is developing guidance to assist camps in developing health and safety plans, including the measures they will take to reduce the potential for the spread of COVID-19 and how they will respond to any confirmed cases. Camps will be required to submit these plans to the county with their permit applications, he said.■ The state Department of Health this week began reporting “presumed” COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes, in addition to confirmed ones. Through May 3, Dutchess had 19 confirmed nursing home deaths and nine presumed ones. The state reported nine confirmed fatalities and one presumed death at Ferncliff Nursing Home in Rhinebeck and five confirmed fatalities at Wingate at Beacon. Eight presumed deaths were reported at Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Pawling. Data for Putnam County showed 13 confirmed deaths at the Putnam Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Holmes and three at Putnam Ridge in Brewster.

cold spring street

Many Cold Spring residents did their best on Sunday (May 10) to get some fresh air, walk their dogs, wear their masks and keep their distance. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

■  Rite Aid said it would offer free COVID-19 testing through its drive-thru windows for adults with or without symptoms beginning Monday (May 11), including its location at 709 Main St. in Poughkeepsie. An online appointment is required. Rite Aid said it has the capacity to conduct up to 10,000 tests daily across its New York locations. See riteaid.com.

■  Dutchess County said that, as of May 8, its dashboard at dutchessny.gov/coronavirus will include data obtained from the state health department, such as deaths. Hospitals and nursing homes are not required to report to local health departments, and state data also includes presumed positive cases in its fatality numbers. “There is an enormous volume of data being generated daily, much of which local health departments do not have direct access to,” explained Dr. Anil Vaidian, commissioner of the county Department of Behavioral & Community Health. “The state has been impressive, providing this aggregate data, by county, on a daily basis for the public, as this kind of data is generally only reported on an annual basis. However, it will take some time, likely several months, before all of the needed specific data is reported down to the local health departments.”

■ On May 2, Cuomo announced that a study of 15,000 people at grocery stores and community centers around the state over the past two weeks found that about 12 percent had COVID-19 antibodies, indicating they had been infected at some point with COVID-19. About 14 percent of people tested in Westchester and Rockland counties had the antibodies and 3 percent in the remaining Hudson Valley counties, including Dutchess and Putnam. Twenty percent of those tested in New York City and about 11 percent on Long Island had antibodies.

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