Uptick in cases in Putnam and Dutchess counties
■ State health officials said that, as of Tuesday (Nov. 24), 2,553 (+34 from the day before) people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Putnam County; 6,867 (+56) in Dutchess; 47,964 (+332) in Westchester; 20,942 (+118) in Rockland; 3,141 (+32) in Ulster; and 16,228 (+135) in Orange. Statewide, there have been 613,266 (+6,265) positives, including 300,191 (+1,916) in New York City.
■ Statewide, 26,482 (+41) people had died as of Nov. 24, including 64 (0) residents of Putnam County and 185 (0) from Dutchess.
■ Beacon had 24 active cases as of Nov. 23 and Putnam had 160 for the two weeks ending Nov. 19, with 21 new cases reported in Philipstown, which has had 169 since March. There were 140 new cases in Carmel, 44 in Kent, 54 in Patterson, 40 in Putnam Valley and 99 in Southeast. Four people were hospitalized at Putnam Hospital in Carmel.
■ In Dutchess County, there were 1,726 tests conducted on Nov. 24 and 56 positives reported, and in Putnam, there were 550 tests and 34 positives reported. The percentage of positive results in the Mid-Hudson Region was 3.82 percent.
■ Statewide, there were 173,085 tests conducted on Nov. 24 and 6,265 positives, or 3.62 percent.
■ Dutchess had conducted 275,394 tests as of Nov. 24 and had 2.5 percent positives, while Putnam had conducted 78,186 tests and had 3.3 percent positives.
■ The number of people with COVID-19 who are hospitalized in New York state as of Nov. 24 stood at 2,982 (+126); the number in intensive care was 596 (+37); and the number of intubations was 277 (+14).
■ On Oct. 21, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a microcluster strategy to limit the spread of COVID, based on county population. Dutchess falls into Tier 2, where restrictions are triggered if the 7-day rolling average positive rate exceeds 3 percent for 10 days and the county has 12 or more new cases per 100,000 residents on a 7-day average. Putnam falls into Tier 3, where restrictions are triggered if the 7-day rolling average positive rate exceeds 3.5 percent for 10 days and the county has 15 or more new cases per 100,000 residents on a 7-day average. Here are the current restricted areas.
■ One of the restrictions for counties in the yellow zone is a requirement that schools test at least 20 percent of the 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 the county enters the yellow zone. Other restrictions would limit worship services to 50 percent capacity; gatherings to 25 people; and restaurant dining to four people per table.
■ As of Nov. 24, the 7-day rolling average positivity rate in Dutchess was 3.1 percent and the average in Putnam was 5.8 percent.
■ On Nov. 13, Putnam County issued a statement: “The state dashboards indicate that Putnam County cases remain at a level that if sustained for an additional week, could initiate county designation as a yellow zone. We have met these metrics for 4 days (including today) and according to the most recent guidance, if sustained for 10 days, we would be designated a yellow zone. This guidance is subject to change. The Putnam County Department of Health has requested from New York State test positivity rate breakdowns by ZIP code to further inform both mitigation and preparedness efforts. In the interim, we must prepare for the potential that the entire county could face this designation, rather than just a ZIP code or a town.”
■ On Tuesday (Nov. 24), Putnam County said it is trying to get more guidance from the state about whether the county will be designated as yellow or orange or if it will apply only to specific areas or ZIP codes. The county also noted that while it has qualified for restrictions using two measures — the positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average and the number of cases per 100,000 residents — the state also considers other metrics such as hospital admissions; population density; the age of those testing positive; the effectiveness of contact tracing; whether outbreaks involve facilities such as nursing homes, colleges or prisons. “The governor’s mention [on Nov. 23] of Brewster ‘nearing yellow-zone designation’ confirms that our request to view Putnam County on a hyper-local level is a necessity,” said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell in a statement. Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, the county health commissioner, said Putnam “has seen a sharp rise in positive cases related to social gatherings and parties. The spike that is occurring locally is a result of our actions. Whether you are in closer proximity to Brewster, or you are further west, nearer to Peekskill, it is clear that our numbers are rising, and we all must make responsible choices to keep our families and our neighbors safe.”
■ Despite a COVID-19 upswing, Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea said at the Nov. 18 meeting of the Town Board that he hadn’t heard anything from the county. “I don’t see any action or public announcements,” he said. He encouraged residents to continue taking precautions. “It’s not going to be good if people start flouting” the restrictions designed to contain the spread of the virus. “And I feel that on the other side of the county there’s been some of that,” he said. “I know there’s fatigue out there,” he said, “but you get tired of being dead, too.”
■ On Nov. 19, Putnam Deputy County Executive Tom Feighery joined the county executives from Dutchess, Orange and Ulster on a teleconference to urge residents to avoid congregating with people outside their immediate households, which they said has helped spread the virus. According to Feighery, Putnam saw a link between casual social gatherings at Halloween and a doubling of COVID-19 cases six days later.
■ Specialist Bakim Alijaj of Beacon was among the members of the New York Army National Guard recognized this month with a commander’s challenge coin for staffing 15 COVID-19 drive-through test sites from Long Island to Buffalo over the past seven months. Alijaj, who is assigned to the medical command, worked at the SUNY Albany site.
■ The state on Nov. 16 introduced a web application, created with Google, to direct New York residents to benefits.
■ Cuomo announced that, effective Friday (Nov. 13) at 10 p.m., bars, restaurants and gyms or fitness centers will be required to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. Restaurants will be allowed to provide curbside, food-only, pick-up or delivery after 10 p.m. In addition, indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences will be limited to no more than 10 people.
■ The governor extended his state of emergency order through Dec. 3, allowing public meetings to continue to be held remotely.
■ Dutchess County has seen an uptick of COVID-19 cases because of outbreaks at Marist College and a rehabilitation center in Fishkill. “We’re not seeing a spillover into the community,” said Dr. Anil Vaidian, Dutchess’ health commissioner, in a video posted on Nov. 9.
■ The StoryScreen Beacon Theater in again showing films. Tickets are available only online and patrons must wear a mask whenever they are not seated and social distancing will be maintained between each party attending the movie together.
■ Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie said it would limit visitors for adult patients effective Nov. 6 because of an increase in COVID-19 cases in the Hudson Valley.
■ 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.]
■ The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley on Tuesday (Nov. 3) announced it had awarded $258,600 in Pivoting to Respond grants to nonprofits contending with COVID-19. Some regional services also received funds from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Regional recipients were Arts Mid-Hudson, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Mid-Hudson Library System and the Worker Justice Center of New York. In Dutchess, the recipients included The Arc Mid-Hudson, Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Common Ground Farm, Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County, Dutchess Outreach, Hudson River Housing, Mental Health America of Dutchess County, Rebuilding Together Dutchess County and Unshattered. In Putnam, recipients included Camp Herrlich, CoveCare Center, Ecological Citizen’s Project, Garrison Art Center, Mental Health Association in Putnam County and Second Chance Foods.
■ Cuomo on Nov. 2 questioned a requirement by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all states agree to provide the name, address, date of birth, ethnicity, race, gender and a unique personal identification number for anyone who receives a COVID-19 vaccination if and when one is available.
■ 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.
■ 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.
■ After allowing vehicle owners to put off getting their annual inspections done, the state said that the extension would end on Nov. 3. Under an earlier executive order, the governor said inspections that expired after March 1 would remain valid. He initially set a deadline for Oct. 5, then pushed it to Nov. 3 and on Thursday (Oct. 15) said that would be the last extension. The deadline also applies for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations that expired after March 1 and haven’t yet been renewed.
■ 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 COVID19plasmaStudy@nuvancehealth.org 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.
■ The state has established a COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 844-863-9314 for mental health counseling and resources. Health care workers can text NYFRONTLINE to 741-741 to access 24/7 emotional support services. For more information see omh.ny.gov.
What If I Feel Sick?
You’re feeling ill, with a cough, fever, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. What should you do?
“It’s important to emphasize that the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 remains low,” the Putnam Hospital Center advises patients on its website. “Most infected people will experience mild upper respiratory symptoms.
“Some people, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and heart disease, are at greater risk and may require more intensive care and/or hospitalization.”
If you feel ill, the hospital says the first step is to contact your doctor. Many offer “virtual” visits by teleconference. If you visit your doctor’s office or an urgent care, call first to let them know of your symptoms. Only go to the emergency department or call 911 if you are in urgent distress, and let the dispatcher know that you may have been exposed to COVID-19.
If your doctor believes you have COVID-19, he or she can order a test, which allows you to make an appointment by phone at a drive-thru facility. At the facility, a sample will be collected and sent for testing.
For general questions about COVID-19, Putnam Hospital Center operates a hotline staffed by nurses daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 888-667-9262. A representative for the hospital said that most callers (1) ask about symptoms and what to do if exposed to someone who has COVID-19; (2) believe they have symptoms, in which case they are referred to their doctor; or (3) ask how they can donate equipment such as masks, anti-bacterial soap and, in one case, a pediatric ventilator.
The hospital has a list of commonly asked questions and responses posted at bitly.com/covidvirus-faq. The state Department of Health also has a hotline at 888-364-3065 that is open around the clock to answer general questions or for information about testing sites.
■ Questions? Dutchess County posts updates at dutchessny.gov/coronavirus and has a hotline at 845-486-3555. Putnam County posts info at putnamcountyny.com/health. New York State has a hotline at 888-364-3065 and a webpage at ny.gov/coronavirus. The state also created an email list to provide updates. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts updates at cdc.gov. To find a test site, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov.