Coronavirus Updates (September)

MTA says it will fine riders $50 for not wearing a mask

■ The governor issued an executive order on Sept. 28 reminding travelers to New York state from all but 31 countries or places (which include Cambodia, Greenland, Laos, New Zealand, St. Lucia, Taiwan and Thailand) that they are required to quarantine for 14 days.

■ The state on Sept. 29 announced it had suspended the liquor licenses of 217 bars and restaurants — including three in Dutchess County — for violations of orders about social distancing since the shutdown began. Businesses found in violation of COVID-19 regulations face fines up to $10,000 per violation, while egregious violations can result in the immediate suspension of a liquor license, the state said. On Sept. 26, the State Liquor Authority pulled the license of Quartchetti’s Roadside Cafe at 387 Route 9 in Fishkill (which had just received its license on Aug. 27); on Sept. 19, it pulled the license of the Craft 302 Restaurant on Main Street in Poughkeepsie; and Sept. 12 it pulled the license of Mahoney’s Irish Pub near the train station in Poughkeepsie. No other bars or restaurants in Dutchess or Putnam have been cited.

■  In response to an uptick in cases, the state said on Sept. 28 it would deploy 200 rapid-testing machines to the ZIP codes in Orange County, Rockland County, Brooklyn and the Southern Tier.

After Cuomo ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to develop a plan to bolster mask compliance on subways, buses and railroads, the MTA announced it would fine riders who refuse to wear a mask $50. This measure followed an April 17 order by the governor that all customers and employees must wear a face covering while riding public transit. The MTA said its surveys have found that about 10 percent of riders do not. Compliance will be enforced by agency and city police officers, not MTA employees. The MTA has launched Operation Respect, a program in which 4 million masks have been offered free at stations and installed vending machines with personal protective equipment.

■ On Sept. 28, Cuomo extended the moratorium on COVID-related commercial evictions and foreclosures until Jan. 1.

Graphics by Teresa Lagerman, showing the numbers on April 22 (left) and Sept. 23

■ The state extended the open enrollment period in its Health Plan Marketplace to Dec. 31.

■ The state DMV said on Sept. 18 that it would expand its online services to include a pilot program to offer the written learner permit test for passenger cars and motorcycles. A parent or guardian must supervise the road test for anyone 16 and 17 years old, and must accompany the applicant to the DMV to complete the application process and certify that they performed these duties. The DMV is also launching a pilot process to allow customers who reside in counties with state-run offices (which doesn’t include Dutchess or Putnam) to register vehicles online.

State health officials on Sept. 15 eased visitation restrictions for nursing homes, which had been allowed to have visitors if they had no cases of COVID-19 in the previous 28 days. Under that restriction, only about 25 percent of the state’s 613 nursing homes were eligible; under the new limit, health officials expect about 500 will be able to have visitors. Among other restrictions, the state said visitors must test negative for COVID-19 within the previous seven days and see residents only outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. Also, only two visitors will be allowed at one time per resident, and only adults will be allowed to visit.

■ In response, state Sen. Sue Serino, whose district includes the Highlands and who is the ranking member on the Senate’s Aging Committee, said the guidelines were causing confusion. “I am hearing from loved ones who cannot find a testing site that will take them without COVID-19 symptoms, many who are being told there is no chance they will receive their results in seven days and even more who are wondering why they are being forced to cover the costs,” she said in a statement. She called on state officials to set up rapid-test sites near nursing homes, provide priority results for visitors and pay for testing.

The New York State United Teachers on Sept. 15 sued the state over reductions in school aid. The union argued that the cuts “deprive students of their right to a sound basic education” guaranteed by the state constitution. “We can’t just keep waiting for action at the federal level to fund our schools,” said the union’s president, Andy Pallotta, in a statement. The state has been withholding about 20 percent of state aid payments each month since June, said the union, which called on New York to draw upon about $7 billion it has in reserves and settlement funds.

Cuomo said on Sept. 9 that New York City restaurants could resume indoor dining at 25 percent capacity beginning Sept. 30. In addition to spacing tables 6 feet apart, restaurants will be required to check diners’ temperatures and get contact information from at least one person in each party. They also will have to close no later than midnight.

The governor on Sept. 7 enacted a law requiring all local and state public employers, including school districts, to create plans to protect workers in the event of another state disaster emergency involving a communicable disease. The plans must be submitted to unions and labor management committees by Feb. 4 and finalized by April 1. The bill passed the state Senate, 58-2 (Serino voted yes) and the Assembly, 141-0 (Sandy Galef, whose district includes Philipstown, and Jonathan Jacobson, whose district includes Beacon, each voted yes). The Department of Labor will also create an online portal for public employees to report violations of health and safety rules for communicable diseases, including COVID-19.

More than 2.4 million unemployed workers in the state may receive an extra $300 per week for at least three weeks under the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, according to the state Department of Labor. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent funding for the weeks ending Aug. 2, Aug. 9 and Aug. 16.

■  Dutchess County announced on Sept. 9 that it would make $430,000 in federal grants available to assist for-profit businesses with five or fewer employees (including the owner) that have been affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. The program is being administered by Community Capital New York. It will provide grants of up to $10,000. Beacon is also committing $150,000 for businesses in the city. Among other criteria, businesses must retain, rehire or create at least one job that pays less than $54,950 annually and must have been in operation before March 15, 2017. See communitycapitalny.org.

■ Cuomo announced that, beginning Sept. 8, school districts will be required to provide the Department of Health with daily data on the number of people who have tested positive. The data will be posted at schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov. The state also launched a dashboard at suny.edu/covid19-tracker to track infections at the 64 State University of New York (SUNY) campuses.

■ The state said that casinos would be allowed to reopen as of Sept. 9 at 25 percent capacity with enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards in place, at least 6 feet between machines and barriers between table game players.

On Sept. 3, the state said it would allow salon and tattoo services such as facial massages; facials; face waxing around lip or nose areas; face tattoos; facial makeup; cosmetic lip tattooing; lip or nose piercings; and beard trimming or shaves that require a customer to remove their face covering, provided that the employee is wearing a face shield in addition to a face covering. The guidance also requires employees to test negative for COVID-19 at least once on or after Sept. 3.

■ On Sept. 1, New York said local farms can operate “agri-tourism” activities at up to 33 percent capacity. Apple, pumpkin and other produce-picking is permitted, though individuals picking apples may not eat fruit in the orchard. Wagon rides and haunted hayrides, corn mazes and haunted houses are permitted with face masks and social distancing. Live music and petting zoos are not permitted.

■ Dutchess County created the Dutchess Frontline Award to honors residents who have assisted their communities during the pandemic. Nominations can be made at dutchessny.gov. Honorees will receive a certificate from County Executive Marc Molinaro.

■ Dutchess County has allocated nearly $200,000 for a COVID-19 Childcare Relief Scholarship to benefit families who need childcare for their school-aged children. The scholarship, which will allow parents to work, look for work or attend college, is intended to fill the gap between the number of days students will be in school and learning virtually. Scholarships will be awarded beginning Oct. 1 through the end of the academic calendar year by a random selection process and will cover 75 percent of the childcare costs for each child. Families with children who have special needs will be prioritized. Click here for info.

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19 thoughts on “Coronavirus Updates (September)

  1. Thank you for keeping up with all local updates and sharing them in bullet points for easy reference. I appreciate it.

  2. We are being told about people leaving work, school, etc., putting off functions and get-togethers for two weeks in order to stop the spread. My question is, if I stay home for two weeks, then go to the store, where I perhaps breathe the virus in in or touch a surface that has it, and then touch the surface in my home, does that not mean the two-week incubation or contraction period is once again in effect? Or I’m home for two weeks but the grocery store clerk isn’t, being in contact with him is no longer a factor? Or are you saying that after staying home for two weeks, I won’t contract or spread the virus anymore?

  3. Anyone, or anyone they know, spending more or all of their time indoors nowadays, particularly those not much outdoors and in the sun during the recent winter, should consider if they have sufficient vitamin D. Inadequate vitamin D levels apparently (it is fairly well documented) degrade the immune system generally, and are associated with a number of other health concerns. One sign of a deficiency is fatigue.

    Vitamin D levels can be checked via a blood test. However these tests and, and similar routine tests, lacking a critical need, are probably going to be difficult for most to get just now, in many states, due to the current emergency regulations.

    Vitamin D levels can be increased by oral supplementation. These supplements are widely available, in pharmacies and in health food and grocery stores, without prescription.

    However, I am not a doctor and therefore I cannot offer medical advice to anyone. If there are any questions on this, or similar ideas, best consult a medical doctor and/or reputable sources of medical information for these sorts of decisions for specific individual cases.

  4. The nurse in your first photo is not wearing the face mask properly, severely reducing its effectiveness. It is important for the press to review all published photos so that they act as models for the public to follow, or point out the defect so readers may learn.

  5. I am perplexed at the lack of so many people taking the current situation seriously.

    On Tuesday (April 7), I got off the train in Cold Spring around 5:40 p.m., returning from my job at a hospital in the Bronx. As I walked up Main Street on my way home I encountered around 25 people on the sidewalk, not one wearing a mask. A few were individuals or couples. But more than half were in groups of three to five people (most appeared to be teens). Two cars cruised by, each full of teens. A small group of young adults were having “happy hour” on a front porch. And all this was be-ing observed by a Cold Spring police officer parked on Main Street, with no response.

    This may not be the end of the world, but it is a serious public health issue. Neighbors should be thinking of each other, taking responsibility for reducing the spread of the virus. It would be good if our local government (e.g., the police) were on the same page as the state. Politely reminding citizens that there are restrictions on being out in public, or even fining the most egregious offenders, is the responsibility of local law enforcement.

    We are all in this together. Let’s try to act accordingly.

  6. Dutchess County is now hot with 1,395 confirmed cases (New York Times) or 1,303 (Dutchess County COVID-19 page). As of today, April 8, the Putnam County COVID-19 page shows only 484 cases in Dutchess County and most of other counties numbers are not being updated as well. Can anyone update us on the numbers of tests conducted in Putnam? It seems that cases are now growing in counties outside of New York City and we all would appreciate more accurate information.

    • As of April 9, at 11:02 p.m., the putnamcountyny.com/covid19 website shows:

      Putnam County 456 cases
      Philipstown 37 cases
      Putnam Valley 45 cases
      Dutchess County 1,395 cases
      Westchester County 15,887 (!) cases
      Orange Country 3,865 cases

      whereas, according to https://www.dutchessny.gov/Departments/DBCH/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm

      Dutchess County 1378 “active” cases
      City of Beacon 79 “active” cases

      The same website reports 10 deaths in Dutchess county from or related to Covid 19.

      Another source reports 107 deaths from Covid 19 in Orange County.

      The numbers of deaths in New York State and city I will not report here but they are increasing are record rates. We were told by the governor and others this would likely be the most difficult week.

      I am can imagine the editors of this and other publications and media, let along the vast majority of the medical industry in the state, are at or near or exhaustion levels (needing to take a break but not able to do so). Whatever is going on, this is not a drill. Take no chances!

  7. Viewing the daily numbers of incidence of virus in Putnam County, I have become increasingly troubled by the seemingly disproportionate numbers with respect to Southeast, Kent and Carmel.

    There has been increasing concern that members of minority communities are experiencing incidence and death rates in excess of that of the general population. Underlying health conditions compounded by poverty rates appear to be factors. Putnam County is not isolated from this issue: 14 percent of its population is Hispanic and 2 percent African American and we have a poverty rate of about 5 percent.

    Certainly, the appeals from the Putnam Community Action Program, the involvement of churches in housing the homeless, food banks, et al., attest to the necessity for attention to this matter. As of this date, the ethnic breakdown of incidence of the virus and deaths among our minority populations has not been published.

    This is a matter that should be of urgent concern — both for the county Legislature and the Department of Health.

  8. Re: “On Wednesday (April 15), Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that all people in New York wear a mask or a face covering when out in public”: I believe I noted that this was well practiced in the village of Cold Spring until just a few days ago I saw only about 50 percent of those outside following the order, and this morning, Saturday, only about 25 percent or less properly doing so.

    The infection rates in Philipstown and Putnam County reported by this paper elsewhere are (at least in the print edition) much lower than most of the nearby counties. (Putnam with 6.1 per 1,000 residents confirmed cases, Westchester with 25.4 per 1,000, Dutchess with 7.9 per 1,000, Orange with 17.4 per 1,000.) Has some form of complacency developed just this week?

    By the way, the confirmed infection rate in Putnam may actually be artificially low due to limited testing opportunities in this county, compared with others. Perhaps the lower reported rates make Philipstown, and Putnam generally (and also Dutchess County) more attractive to tourists and day visitors? If so, it may all even out in the end.

    Possibly as a consequence expect a surge in cases locally and nearby in two to three weeks.

  9. Just in the last few days, some key information is coming out on just how different and more dangerous this covid-19 virus is, compare to earlier types of coronaviruses.

    An article from the Washington Post indicates one key effect of the virus is to cause unusual and repeated blood clotting in various parts of the body, resulting in strokes when they occur in the brain, but presumably resulting in potential long-term organ damage when they occur elsewhere, even among apparently healthy and among young people with little or nor medical histories.

    Recently there are other articles covering similar or otherwise notable episodes and cases, for example that of the healthy woman in California, Patricia Dowd, who is now thought to be the first death in this country.

    Strange episodes like this were leaked out, perhaps anecdotally, in China earlier this year, but were not well documented or were, understandably, for various reasons, discounted.

    Once the above information sinks in it should underscore just how critical it is to not get, and to not transmit, this virus, if at all possible. Undoubtedly as a consequence the medical systems are adjusting their understandings and accordingly the treatments and protocols of monitoring of patients.

    There also have been hints that human antibodies may not last as long or be as effective as expected for this covid-19. If true this would indicate explain reinfections, relapses, and perhaps false negative test results upon recoveries are occurring.

    In short, I think it is fair to say this is going to take a while before it’s resolved and fully understood.

  10. While the suffering and sacrifice we are witnessing can only be described in superlatives, life will return to normal, for many of us, in time. But COVID-19 will be the final straw for many people who were already living on the edge, teetering above the gap-filled safety net, untended for decades, that has placed us all at risk. Is there any reason to hope?

    While our leaders dot the i’s and cross the t’s on relief legislation, the response in our communities has been immediate. From sewing face masks; to donations of food, time and money; to volunteer doctors and nurses; to neighbors looking in on neighbors; to arts organizations like ours sharing their talents to buoy the spirit, the kindness has been unstinting, targeted and sustained. Together, we are building new bridges across old divides.

    Even in the midst of a ravaging storm, we can see ahead a quiet, clear morning.

    Hoekstra is vice president of the Tompkins Corner Cultural Center.

  11. Has anyone noticed that the graph published by the Putnam County Department of Health shows a disturbing incidence of the virus among the middle-aged and presumably male and not as would be expected in the senior category?

    This fact has been consistent since the DOH deigned to publish data in late March and yet there has been no explanation forthcoming from the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Neshiewat, for this curious occurrence. I have filed a FOIL, the second one, the first being to extract the incident data, requesting that the commissioner issue a statement accounting for this phenomenon. Should health factors be associated with this swelling of numbers, then it is incumbent upon him to divulge them to the general public so that they will be prompted to take appropriate measures.

  12. Every day I watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s news conference and I think of him as the captain of the Titanic assuring the passengers that everything will be OK if they help rearrange the deck chairs.

    I am 73 and smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for more than 50 years. I am who the governor considers a “vulnerable person” and, while I am flattered about his concern for my well-being, I do have some concerns about the cost of all this to my grandkids.

    The average life span of a male in the U.S. is around 78.5 years, so I question how much it will cost the state and the country to keep me alive for another five years. My grandchildren, who are being home-schooled, looked forward to playing base-ball and softball in high school this year. The country is spending enormous amounts of money, which we don’t have, during this pandemic, which I believe 80 percent of the population would survive without a shutdown of society.

    I am old enough to remember when the local bar offered a “free lunch,” but there is no longer any free lunch. Next year all the schools will be on austerity budgets and there will be no sports, band or clubs. The malls will be shuttered and the movie theaters will be closed, and our towns will have many empty storefronts and God knows what the unemployment and quality of life will be going forward.

    If you asked me to make a choice between taking my chances of living another five years or having my grandkids have the kind of life I have had for the past 73, I would step on that ice floe like the Eskimos of the past. I also believe many of my fellow seniors would make that choice to prevent a bleak future for our children and grandchildren.

    • I must respectfully disagree to the assertion that if we did nothing to slow the spread of COVID-19, 80 percent of the population would survive. With 331 million people living in the U.S., that could mean a death rate of 66 million people. So far, it’s about 100,000. Even President Trump, who considers 100,000 deaths a great success, believes that 1 million deaths would be too much.

      The problem with Mr. Goggin’s argument is that the choice is not an individual one — “I am willing to die for my grandchildren’s future.” Every senior who willingly puts him or herself at risk also puts at risk everyone with whom he or she comes into contact. And because the virus spreads from people who are not symptomatic, the only way to keep such folks from giving the virus to others is through widespread testing, contact tracing and isolation of those who test positive. Until that occurs (or until there is a well-tested vaccine), without social distancing, mask wearing and lockdowns whenever cases start to spike, we might very well be looking at deaths well past 100,000, threatening 1 million or more.

      The argument that these deaths are worth it because the economy is too important ignores the fact that if deaths start to spike, the economy will not come back. Instead, lots of people will vote with their feet and refuse to risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones in order to participate in economic activities. Even worse, absent strong controls on interactions such as were imposed in Washington state, California and New York, the health care system will be overwhelmed and lots of preventable deaths from other (non-COVID) causes will occur.

      There is no binary choice between fighting the disease and protecting the economic livelihood of our fellow citizens. If we don’t keep taking the steps necessary to stop the disease from repeat surges, the economy will not come back.

      • My argument is not about economics it is about choice or rather my right to choose to go out of the house and support business that choose to be open. (With masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing.) In the medical world, when choosing a therapy, the doctor and the patient do a risk/benefit analysis, but in the end the patient get to make the choice of the therapy. It is like that old joke, the doctor tells the man, “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, watch what you eat, and exercise every day.” The man says, “Then I will live longer?” The doctor replies, “Not necessarily, but it will seem a lot longer.”

        A vaccine is a year away and even at that like the flu vaccine it will be only about 50 percent effective. When I was growing up. my father had a bumper sticker on our BIG Chev “Better Dead Than Red.” It was a statement about the choice between two economic systems, not about democracy or communism. Before Covid-19 hit the U.S. on Jan. 14, an article in Newsweek stated that across the U.S., more people are dying from so-called “deaths of despair” — suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning, and alcoholic liver disease — than at any other point in recorded history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

        It was estimated that 159,000 people died in 2017 from deaths of despair. In the book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, the authors writer, “Destroy work and, in the end, working-class life cannot survive. It is the loss of meaning, of dignity, of pride, and of self-respect that comes with the loss of marriage and of community that brings on despair, not just or even primarily the loss of money.”

        In my opinion the protests and the riots we are seeing this week are not about Mr. Floyd (his death was the catalysts) but about the economic disparities that now exists. People are “choosing” to gather in large numbers without social distancing out of despair about their future and the future of their children and grandchildren. I support their right to choose (but not to loot) and to gather to protest an erosion of their rights and a lack of choice in their everyday lives.

  13. There is a statewide stay-at-home order in place. More than 23,000 people have died in New York, including 132 in Dutchess County and 58 in Putnam, and several here in Cold Spring — people we care about, people we love.

    And yet many people want to ignore this. They want us to be friendly and welcoming to visitors, for the sake of local businesses.

    Gov. Cuomo made this decision because there is a pandemic still happening. That means a highly communicable disease can make you sick and, in some instances, kill you.

    The Mid-Hudson region must meet specific criteria in order to reopen, including a 14-day decline in total hospitalizations, a 14-day decline in deaths, fewer than two new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents on a three-day rolling average, at least 30 percent of hospital beds available, at least 30 percent of ICU beds available, average daily diagnostic testing over the previous seven days must be sufficient to conduct 30 tests per 1,000 residents per month; and contact tracing capacity of 30 per 100,000 residents.

    The region has not met that criteria. So why am I hearing that we should be catering to commerce right now? Why should we encourage visitors to disobey the stay-at-home order and put themselves and others at risk?

    We can certainly plan for the future, once the criteria have been met, but right now it is every citizen’s responsibility to protect one another and to try not to spread this disease. Sometimes that means reminding people that they are living through a deadly pandemic, even if they’d prefer to ignore it.

  14. Numbers in Dutchess County are on the rise. Would love some reporting on this: 237 cases today. 169 on July 9. The more disturbing # is called “Pending Address Confirmation” which means we don’t really know what the numbers are for a particular town, even though the Dutchess County Dashboard makes it look like most of the county is doing great, with 5 or fewer cases. That number just jumped from somewhere in the 50s to 107 in a day or two.

    • Here is a story that looks at the jump in infections in Dutchess. According to the county, “pending address confirmation” includes inmates; cases reported to the county health department with no address; and cases that the state reports and counts in Dutchess totals before county officials have received information on them. As of Thursday (Aug. 6), there were 232 active cases in Dutchess being monitored by health officials, according to the dashboard; that number appears to include 101 pending address confirmations.

  15. The Howland Library in Beacon was closed and had a sign on the front door on Friday that this was due to a possible Covid-19 situation (I not remember the precise wording of the sign).