Virus Surges in Dutchess, Putnam

State orders business curfew, limit on gatherings

With COVID-19 cases surging statewide, including in Dutchess and Putnam counties, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday (Nov. 11) ordered bars, restaurants and gyms to close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and restricted gatherings at private residences to 10 people as Thanksgiving approaches. 

On Monday (Nov. 16), Dutchess recorded 84 new cases, the county’s highest daily total since May 18, and the county has averaged 61 new cases a day for the last week. Dutchess has added 743 total cases so far in November, compared to 417 for all of October and 280 in September.

Putnam added 57 positive cases on Monday — the highest of any day since April 24, when Putnam was testing about twice as many people — and has averaged 24 new cases a day for the month. Total cases for November have more than tripled from September, to 382 from 124.  

Dutchess and Putnam’s positivity rates, or the number of cases divided by the number of tests, are also rising. Dutchess’ daily rate has averaged 2.1 percent in November after averaging 0.8 percent in October. Putnam has averaged 3.2 percent this month compared to 1.5 percent in October. 

On Oct. 17, Cuomo announced a “micro-cluster” strategy to identify COVID-19 outbreaks and target testing and enforcement of masks and social-distancing.

Hot spots are designated by their average positivity rate and number of cases, with metrics differing by size of the county. If cases increase, the area progresses through yellow, orange and red zones.

There were eight yellow zones in the state as of Nov. 11, including one in Orange County, and four orange zones, in Brooklyn and Rockland, Westchester and Chemung counties.

In Dutchess, a yellow designation would be triggered with a seven-day rolling average case rate of 3 percent or higher over 10 days and 12 or more new cases per 100,000 residents (i.e., about 36 cases) on a 7-day average.

In Putnam, it would be a seven-day rolling average case rate of 3.5 percent or higher over 10 days and 15 or more new cases per 100,000 residents (i.e., about 15 cases) on a 7-day average.

On Wednesday (Nov. 11), the 7-day rolling positivity rate in Dutchess was 2.4 percent and the average in Putnam was 4.1 percent. With Putnam also averaging 23 new cases over seven days, the county Health Department warned in a Facebook post on Friday (Nov. 13) that Putnam was in danger of being designated a yellow zone. 

One of the restrictions for counties in the yellow zone is a requirement that a school test at least 20 percent of its students and staff weekly. At the Garrison School, Superintendent Carl Albano said the district does not have the capability to do that, so that school would go to 100 percent virtual learning if Putnam enters the yellow zone. 

Other restrictions in the yellow zone would include limiting worship services to 50 percent capacity and restaurant dining to four people per table. The restrictions get tighter in the orange and red zones.

Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, said the county is preparing for a rapid response to any areas that appear on the verge of becoming a micro-cluster. 

“That’s what we are prepared for next: that we will have a ZIP code or two that exceeds the state threshold,” he said. 

On Tuesday, nearly 5,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 statewide, a threshold last reached in late April, although the state was testing far fewer people then. The number of people hospitalized statewide has been rising steadily since Sept. 5; the 1,677 patients admitted on Wednesday constituted the highest total since June 13. 

On Sept.14, Cuomo announced that New York had its 38th straight day with a positive rate under 1 percent. On Wednesday, the rate was 2.95 percent.

The governor and local officials say the increase has been expected as the weather cools and people spend more time indoors. 

“If you do the contact tracing, you’ll see they’re coming from three main areas: establishments where alcohol is served, gyms and indoor gatherings at private homes,” Cuomo said, explaining his restriction order.

Molinaro said during his weekly Facebook town hall on Wednesday that 30 cases have been confirmed among residents and staff at the Fishkill Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Beacon, and that two people have died. 

Marist College in Poughkeepsie is also battling an outbreak, with 80 cases, he said. The college said on Tuesday that it was extending until today a campus-wide “pause,” with all classes held remotely and all other activities, including sports, canceled. 

By Wednesday, Dutchess’ active case total had grown to 381, compared to 107 on Sept. 15. The total included 10 cases in Beacon. 

The majority of the cases in Dutchess, Molinaro said, are from “ordinary socialization,” particularly family members infecting each other. “We’re moving toward the same pace of new cases that we were experiencing earlier during the year,” he said. 

Putnam County, which updates its dashboard weekly, showed 71 active cases as of Nov. 5, compared to 20 on Sept. 25. 


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5 thoughts on “Virus Surges in Dutchess, Putnam

  1. Dutchess recorded 65 cases. There are more than 300,000 people in Dutchess. Sixty-five people getting sick is not a blip on the radar. How many people in Dutchess got the flu or were diagnosed with cancer in the same time frame?

    • That 65 is for a single day. Dutchess did not have 65 flu nor cancer cases on any day in recent memory. We’ve failed our children. They’ll have to suffer loss of schooling, just because we wanted to get drunk, feel tough and party.

    • During the week of Nov. 7, there were 7,279 specimens tested in New York state for the flu, and 162 positives (2.2 percent). Nineteen people were hospitalized. Dutchess accounted for about six confirmed flu cases that week and Putnam for five. In Dutchess, there were 1,756 diagnoses of cancer in 2016 (the most recent data available) and 537 deaths; in Putnam, there were 639 diagnoses and 165 deaths. Notably, there is a flu vaccine, and cancer is not contagious. We report when the number of cases rise because they usually translate into a higher number of hospitalizations or deaths a few weeks later.

  2. If you test thousands in a single day for anything you might get 65 cases. Young people die in greater numbers in car accidents, so take their keys away. Why don’t we employ strategies that target the older folks and those with co-morbidity issues?

    • You might get 65 cases, but everything isn’t highly contagious and potentially fatal for many people, and young people can spread the virus to the more vulnerable. The response to people dying in traffic crashes wasn’t to take anyone’s keys but to mandate precautionary measures such as seat belts, which have saved thousands of lives — although the state estimates about 30 percent of the people killed each year weren’t wearing them.

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