Uptick in cases in Putnam and Dutchess counties
■ The state on Oct. 31 announced new quarantine rules for travelers coming into New York to allow them to “test out” of the mandatory 14-day quarantine. For travelers who were in another state for more than 24 hours, they must obtain a test within three days of departure from the other state and quarantine for three days. On Day 4, they must obtain another test. If both tests are negative, they may exit quarantine on receipt of the second negative test. For those who were in another state for less than 24 hours, the person does not need a test or to quarantine but must take a test four days after his or her arrival in New York. All travelers must continue to fill out the traveler information form upon arrival into New York state.
■ The governor announced on Oct. 28 that counties, through their health departments, will be allowed to impose mask mandates in public and private schools.
■ The Beacon City School District said on Oct. 28 that it had a confirmed case of COVID-19 at Beacon High School and that the person was currently isolated. In an email to parents, the district did not say whether the person was a student or staff member but said he or she had not been at the high school since Friday. On Wednesday, students were learning from home and Superintendent Matt Landahl said that contact tracing had begun. “Out of an abundance of caution and to allow for further contact tracing, we are moving Beacon High School to an all-remote schedule for Thursday and Friday,” he said. “When we consider closing a school temporarily due to COVID-19, our plan is to close individual schools that are affected and not the entire district unless there is a health need to do so or we are guided to do so by the [county] Department of Health. If you or your child were in contact with this person, you will be notified first by school staff and then by the New York State Contact Tracing program with instructions on quarantining and potential testing for COVID-19. If you are not contacted, then you will not need to quarantine.” [The district later announced that Beacon High School and Rombout Middle School would remain closed to in-person learning through Nov. 5.]
■ A staff member at the Dutchess County BOCES Alternative High School in Poughkeepsie died over the weekend of Oct. 17-18 after testing positive for COVID-19, according to a report in the Poughkeepsie Journal. The employee, whom the county said worked in the nurse’s office, came into contact with students and staff immediately before a Oct. 6 diagnosis, the BOCES superintendent told the paper. No other known cases have resulted from the employee’s positive case. The individual had a pre-existing health condition, he said.
■ The nonprofit Correctional Association of New York on Oct. 22 released a report from two days it spent in July visiting the Fishkill Correctional Center in Beacon. Of its findings, it wrote, “the apparent inaccessibility of otherwise widely available public health information about COVID-19 was most striking. Many of the incarcerated people CANY representatives spoke to seemed unaware of how COVID-19 tests are administered, proper mask usage, and even the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.” It added: “The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has made some good progress in keeping people safe through a variety of policy changes, but overall, incarceration itself undermines those outcomes.”
■ On Oct. 23, the state announced that eight companies had received funds to produce supplies to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including Newburgh’s Ziel Inc., which will receive $390,000. The firm, which plans to shift production from apparel to N-95 face masks, said it would invest $1 million to make 38.5 million masks over the next five years.
■ The state on Oct. 4 suspended the liquor license of The Mahopac Inn for “egregious violations” of COVID-19 restrictions. State Liquor Authority investigators reported that on Oct. 2, “following complaints and previous warnings about social-distancing violations, SLA investigators were seated at the bar, with patrons 2 feet away on each side, and served by a bartender with a facial covering pulled below his nose. Investigators noted approximately 30 patrons were present, with four standing and drinking while listening to a band. Less than an hour later, the bar was packed with patrons, including 10 to 30 who were standing at any one time, consuming alcohol and walking freely throughout the premises without facial coverings. Investigators observed a second bartender without a facial covering, and at no time witnessed staff even attempt to enforce social distancing. This business was warned by SLA investigators in early July regarding social distancing protocols and the requirement that all employees wear facial coverings.” More than 230 bars have had their licenses yanked since March, including three in Dutchess County. The Mahopac Inn was the first in Putnam.
■ The state said on Oct. 17 that some theaters will be allowed to reopen, including in Dutchess and Putnam counties, as of Oct. 23. The theaters will be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity with up to 50 people maximum per screen. Counties must be located outside of New York City and have a positive rate of 2 percent or less with no cluster zones. “We’ve said for months that theaters could mitigate the risk and reopen safely as they have in surrounding states without incident,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in a statement.
■ Molinaro said on Oct. 21 that the outbreak at the Hedgewood assisted living facility in Beacon that led to the deaths of at least seven residents is considered “resolved,” with no new positive cases reported and no active cases within the facility.
■ Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Halloween activities would be permitted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance. “I would not ban trick-or-treaters going door to door,” he said on Sept. 15. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. You have neighbors — if you want to go knock on your neighbor’s door, God bless you and I’m not going to tell you not to. If you want to go for a walk with your child through the neighborhood, I’m not gonna tell you you can’t take your child to the neighborhood, I’m not going to do that — I’ll give you my advice and guidance and then you will make a decision what you do that night.”
■ The state said on Oct. 18 that ski resorts will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent indoor capacity as of Nov. 6. Masks will be required and outdoor capacity must be reduced by 25 percent during peak days or if multiple trails are closed due to unseasonable conditions, it said.
■ Haldane Superintendent Philip Benante wrote in an email to parents on Oct. 21 that “a member of the Haldane community” was under quarantine because an immediate family member had tested positive. The Haldane community member tested negative, he said. “While such a situation would not typically provoke a notice to the community, we have become aware that the community member shared this information with students which, in turn, caused some concern among them and their parents,” he wrote. “The district has established clear protocols in collaboration with the Department of Health and our district physician for working with our staff and families on COVID-related matters. In this particular case, I can assure you that each of our protocols was followed.”
■ New York announced that anyone traveling from a state that has a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average must quarantine for 14 days. As of Oct. 27, the only states not on the list were Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington.
■ The state noted on Oct. 27 that Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania also meet the criteria for the travel advisory, but that a quarantine on these states is not practically viable. That said, it discouraged non-essential travel to and from these states.
■ 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 Department of Health on Oct. 18 released a draft, six-phase COVID-19 Vaccination Administration Program. If a vaccine becomes available, it would be distributed to (1) high-risk populations and essential health care workers in areas with high COVID-19 prevalence; (2) those same groups in areas with low prevalence; (3) lower-risk populations/other essential workers in areas with high prevalence; (4) those same groups in areas with low prevalence; (5) the general population in areas with high prevalence; and, finally, (6) the general public in areas with low prevalence.
Within each phase, priorities would be given to: (1) health care workers in patient care, long-term-care facility workers who interact with patients and long-term-care patients at highest risk; (2) first responders, teachers, child care providers, public health workers, essential frontline workers, such as pharmacists, grocery store workers and transit employees, other long-term-care facility patients and higher-risk individuals; (3) individuals over 65 and those under 65 at higher risk; (4) all other essential workers.
■ On Oct. 14, Cuomo threatened to cut off state funding to localities and schools in COVID-19 cluster zones that fail to enforce limits on gatherings and the closure of schools. He said a warning letter would be sent to officials in New York City, Orange County, Rockland County, the Town of Ramapo and the Village of Spring Valley.
■ On Oct. 13, the City of Beacon announced that three of its employees had tested positive and had not been at work since Sept. 30 and Oct. 5, when they were placed on a mandatory 10-day quarantine. In response, the city said it hired Servpro to disinfect all of City Hall on Oct. 4 and notified the Dutchess County Department of Health and engaged state contact tracers.
■ The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the number of riders on subways, buses and railroads seen without masks has dropped from 10 percent to 5 percent since the agency began issuing $50 fines on Sept. 14. The agency said on Oct. 8 that eight tickets have been issued by agency and city police officers since the fine went into effect.
■ On Oct. 9, the state health department said it would make rapid-result tests available to every county at no charge. The initial 400,000 kits will be supplied to local health departments, hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers in areas seeing an uptick in cases. The tests provide results within 15 minutes.
■ On Oct. 6, the state raised the fine for the sponsors of mass gatherings in violation of state public health rules to $15,000.
■ The state on Oct. 1 released a free notification mobile app, COVID Alert NY, that “notifies users of potential COVID-19 exposure while maintaining user privacy and security,” according to a news release. It can be downloaded here. The apps use Bluetooth technology to notify users if they have been in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
■ Nuvance Health is looking for volunteers who have been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 and did not require hospitalization for two clinical studies examining the treatment and prevention of the virus. The studies will look at whether convalescent blood plasma therapy is effective to treat people in the early stages of COVID-19 illness or prevent infection. Nuvance Health was selected by Johns Hopkins to offer the studies at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie. For information, email [email protected] or call 845-230-1411, or see covidplasmatrial.org.
■ The state issued a reminder that unsolicited telemarketing calls are prohibited in New York state during a state of emergency, which the governor declared on March 7. Consumers who receive an unsolicited telemarketing sales call are encouraged to report details at donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222.
About a month ago, while my car was parked at the Cold Spring train station, I received a ticket from a Putnam County sheriff’s deputy for having an expired safety and emissions inspection sticker. This was in direct violation of an order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that extended renewal requirements on inspections during the pandemic state of emergency.
As an attorney, I contested the ticket and it was dismissed last week. Most people, however, are not attorneys, and are probably paying the fines. How many cars are being wrongfully ticketed by the sheriff? What is going on?
Editor’s note: The state’s inspection amnesty will end Nov. 3.
Excellent reporting! Thank you. Happy Election Day to all.
Thanks for the update that there are more than 300 more cases in Dutchess than there were yesterday. My husband and I just moved into the area, and I’m now worried that we have been exposed to the virus. Do you know how to find the closest coronavirus testing service?
You can search for testing sites at this state Department of Health page.
As we head into winter and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on humanity, it is impossible to not feel an acute sense of fatigue. A year in a life holds many special moments and to miss those has an effect that cannot be denied.
Recognizing this, while also acknowledging the fact that we are likely to be dealing with the current crisis for the next six months, I am compelled to urge people to do all that they can to protect themselves and their loved ones. The harsh reality is that without continued vigilance and a strong will to persevere we are likely to succumb to this fatigue and let down our guard at the very moment that the battle is almost won. A vaccine is on the way and I am confident that America will lead the way in recovering from all the devastation that the pandemic has wrought.
Please continue to take the actions that will not only preserve your own health but that of our entire community. Wear a mask, social distance and avoid indoor gatherings. I understand the longing to reconnect with family and friends. I recently became a grandfather and was unable to see my new granddaughter for several months. I know the desire to be with our loved ones. I also know that the last thing in this world that I would want was to cause anyone, especially a new baby, to become ill.
This crisis will end, and we will be more prepared for the future because of it. We will also appreciate the simple things in our lives so much more. I believe that we are gaining a deeper understanding that material goods are meaningless when compared to relationships and the love of friends and family. We will all be together again. Until then please stay safe and remain positive in the knowledge that we have met this crisis with resolve and will soon put it behind us.
Shea is the Philipstown supervisor.
On Nov. 11, Gov. Cuomo announced that effective Friday, Nov. 13, pursuant to Executive Law, the State of New York is limiting non-essential indoor gatherings at a private residence to 10 people.
I am not encouraging people to have large gatherings in their homes, but rather asking everyone to use their own best judgment to remain safe. Would a gathering of eleven people be a greater danger than a gathering of ten, or would a gathering of nine people be substantially less dangerous? I’m not certain of what the correct number for safety would be and doubt if anyone does.
There are a lot of factors that would come into play in determining how many people to have in your home. Are any of them at high risk? From where are they traveling? Is it more or less likely that they have been recently exposed to the disease? Are they regularly in your circle of contacts anyway? Is your home large enough that you can safely accommodate a larger number of guests? These are questions that I believe each family needs to answer themselves.
Rather than issuing orders, which are, at best, impossible to enforce, and, at worst, unconstitutional, the governor would better serve the people of New York if he encouraged our citizens to be cautious, use good judgment in weighing risk factors, protect the vulnerable, and enjoy our families and our great gathering traditions only in ways that are safe, until we can get back to normal.
As sheriff, I see a better use of our resources than to disrupt families celebrating this national holiday. I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
You speak of not wanting to separate families over the national holiday, however, it’s these similar cavalier attitudes toward the pandemic — nationwide — that have kept my wife and I from seeing our own family during these extraordinary times.
Because of our nation’s lack of better judgment, and short-sightedness toward the pandemic, I was unable to say goodbye to my own father, who passed away in September, out of fear of risking infection and spreading it to my then-pregnant wife.
Now we are parents to a newborn. Because COVID cases are once again on the rise, we’re unable to safely see my family in California, or her family, in Canada. We, as a nation, are not using our better judgment.
We look to elected officials, such as yourself, to give us the guidance to make the right call, the tough call. It is the duty of elected officials to think of the greater good. And despite how painful it is for our family, the right call is foregoing one of my own personal favorite holidays.
We need unity to survive this, we need leaders to lead. When rates in Putnam County are rising, you could have better protected our own citizens by simply saying nothing.
My spouse and I were contacted by our personal trainer at All Sport Health & Fitness in Fishkill last week, who told us by email that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was showing symptoms. We then had a virtual appointment with our health care provider, who put both of us on a quarantine. The doctor was surprised that we had heard from the symptomatic individual and not a contact tracer from the Dutchess County health department.
In this period of exponential virus growth and death toll, everyone who has had contact (club members and staff) needs to be advised as to whether they need to quarantine.
Many of the members of All Sport, and in particular those who use personal training, are of middle age or older. We are the vulnerable population insofar as virus mortality. We are doing our part by observing the quarantine. The county needs to do its part by contacting all affected parties.