Decline in new cases and hospitalizations
■ On Oct. 21, the state Department of Health announced a microcluster strategy to limit the spread of COVID, based on county population. Here are the current hot spots. On Dec. 11, the state revised its criteria for the Yellow Zone. A geographic area will be eligible if it has a 3 percent positivity rate (7-day average) over the past 10 days and is in the top 10 percent in the state for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and is experiencing week-over-week growth in daily admissions. As of Jan. 12, the 7-day rolling average positivity rate in Dutchess was 8.9 percent and the average in Putnam was 8.5 percent but the counties did not meet other criteria.
■ New York’s 7-day average positivity rate had fallen for 23 straight days as of Jan. 31. The 7-day average was 5.2 percent as of Saturday, the lowest rate since Dec. 14. “The news is very good, but keep an eye on the U.K. variants and the other variants because all of them suggest more diligence will be needed,” Cuomo said.
■ Both Dutchess and Putnam are seeing their daily positivity rates, the percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive, fall over the last seven days of data reporting. After averaging 8.2 percent from Jan. 1 to 22, the positivity rate in Dutchess averaged 6.3 percent from Jan. 23 to 29. Putnam averaged 6.1 percent during the seven-day period, compared to 8.5 percent for the rest of January. Overall, new cases are declining in the state overall, a trend state officials attribute to the waning of a surge triggered by holiday travel and gatherings.
■ Brides and grooms can resume holding wedding receptions starting March 15, Cuomo said on Jan. 29. Events must be approved by local health departments and be limited to 50 percent capacity and no more than 150 people. Each guest must be tested to COVID-19 before the event, the governor said.
■ On Jan. 29, Vera’s Marketplace & Garden Center in Cold Spring announced that it will be closed temporarily after being told that a possible COVID-19 exposure took place there at the beginning of the week.
■ Cuomo said on Jan. 27 that, because of declines in new cases and hospitalization rates, all orange zone and some yellow zone restrictions have been lifted, except for remaining yellow zones in Newburgh and the Bronx, Queens and Washington Heights in New York City. Existing statewide restrictions remain for areas no longer in orange and yellow zones, including capacity limits for certain businesses and restrictions on mass gatherings.
■ Dutchess, Putnam and the five other Mid-Hudson Region counties said on Jan. 27 that they will authorize basketball, football, lacrosse, volleyball and other “high-risk” school sports to begin on Feb. 1 after discussions with local health officials. Competitive cheerleading and dance, ice hockey, martial arts, rugby and wrestling are among the other sports allowed to begin. Each district has the option of prohibiting students to play. “The health and safety of students, staff and the local community during this pandemic must be each district’s first priority,” said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell.
■ On Jan. 27, Cuomo announced that additional cases of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 have been found in Long Island and New York City, and in Westchester, Saratoga, Tompkins, Niagara, Onondaga, Essex and Warren counties. The state has found 42 cases total of the variant, which is more contagious.
■ On Jan. 26, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced that the MTA is receiving $600,000 in federal funding to study how COVID-19 is dispersed in the air on mass transit systems.
■ As of Jan. 24, the number of Dutchess County residents testing positive for COVID-19 each day was falling after hitting a high of 384 on Jan. 14 — during a nine-day period when the new cases averaged 277 per day. Dutchess was averaging 216 new COVID-19 cases a day since Jan. 14. On Jan. 22, the state reported 199 new cases in Dutchess, the county’s first day under 200 since Jan. 5. Putnam was averaging 80 new cases a day since Jan. 14, compared to 90 during the first two weeks of the month.
■ On Jan. 25, Garrison school Superintendent Carl Albano said the district’s students will remain on virtual learning through Jan. 29 because of staff illnesses and COVID-19 quarantines. In-person instruction will resume on Feb. 1, Albano said in an email to parents and guardians. “I thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate these very challenging conditions,” said Albano.
■ On Jan. 21, the state extended the open enrollment period to apply for health insurance at NY State of Health has been extended through March 31. Coverage will begin on March 1 for those who enroll by Feb. 15; on April 1 for those who enroll by March 15; and on May 1 for those who enroll by March 31. Individuals who are eligible for Medicaid, Essential Plan and Child Health Plus can enroll year-round. See nystateofhealth.ny.gov or call 855-355-5777 for assistance.
■ Haldane school Superintendent Phil Benante notified parents on Jan. 19 that he was quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19. In an email, Benante said he was told on Jan. 16 that a person he was in contact with outside of school tested positive. Anyone he was in direct contact with last Thursday and Friday have been notified, Benante said. “I share this information with you in the spirit of remaining candid about my absence from campus. My symptoms are very mild thus far and I look forward to being back soon,” he wrote.
■ On Jan. 17, the Garrison School announced that some students in the fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth grades would quarantine for 10 days because an employee who was at the school on Jan. 13 and 14 had tested positive. On Jan. 16, Haldane announced that some students would be quarantined after an elementary school staff member who had last been on campus on Jan. 13 and a member of the school services staff who had last been on campus on Jan. 14 had each tested positive.
■ On Jan. 13, the Haldane school district reported an elementary student who had been at school as recently as Jan. 11 had tested positive. As a result, a small group of elementary students and staff have to quarantine as directed by the Putnam County Department of Health, said Superintendent Philip Benante. He said that because all spaces in the school are cleaned daily in accordance with federal guidelines, Haldane schools would remain open.
■ The Beacon Highway Department and Transfer Station announced on Jan. 11 that it will be closed until Jan. 19 “due to COVID-19 protocols.” If you need assistance, leave a message at 845-831-0932 or call City Hall at 845-838-5000.
■ On Jan. 7, organizers said the Southern Dutchess Coalition Annual Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration, scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Springfield Baptist Church in Beacon, has been canceled because of the pandemic shutdown.
■ On Jan. 8, the Dutchess County health department announced it had partnered with Rumble Up, a texting platform, to communicate with residents who test positive for COVID-19. “Across the state, as the high volume of new daily positive cases continues, it has become increasingly difficult for case investigators to connect with individuals who test positive in a timely manner, even with additional staffing resources available,” the agency said in a statement. “The texting application provides those who test positive for COVID with important information about how to properly isolate and notify close contacts to prevent the spread of the virus, as well as other resources and information.” The platform also allows the health department “to concurrently alert multitudes of residents of their positive test results and offer them follow-up instructions regarding quarantining — alleviating the already-overwhelmed contact tracing and case investigation apparatus.”
■ On Jan. 5, the Putnam County Health Department said the uptick in cases in Philipstown — it reported about a fourth of its total cases since March during the week ending Dec. 31 — was “due to an isolated, contained cluster within a congregate setting,” e.g., a group residence. Shanna Siegel, a public health nurse with the county, said “the result of this cluster will be evident on next week’s dashboard, as well. This cluster is only one aspect of the overall increase in positive cases. Communities across Putnam County are beginning to see the early effects of holiday gatherings — the full impact will be felt in the coming weeks as we continue to see case numbers rise and higher rates of hospitalizations.”
■ On Jan. 6, Jonathan Hotz, a representative of the Graymoor religious order in Garrison, said there had been an outbreak at St. Christopher’s Inn, its homeless shelter for men. “On Dec. 22, a shelter resident who had begun exhibiting symptoms tested positive for the coronavirus,” he said. “This triggered a lockdown and testing among our entire resident population. Several residents tested positive and/or subsequently became symptomatic themselves.” He said all shelter residents were restricted to a single building and had no contact with the public. “In addition, we contacted the Putnam County Department of Health, which has been a great resource for us. Further, our on-site medical staff continues to monitor the condition of our residents, with daily guidance and support from the department. “The worst is behind us,” he said. “Most men in the shelter are scheduled to complete and screen out of isolation and quarantine by Jan. 10, and symptomatic residents are stable and recovering.” In addition, he said, all residents who tested negative were vaccinated on Jan. 6 and vaccinations were being offered to staff members at St. Christopher’s Inn and Graymoor who had contact with shelter residents.
■ The state announced on Jan. 4 the first confirmed case of the more-contagious UK strain of COVID-19 virus had been detected in an individual in Saratoga Springs. Two other related cases were discovered as of Jan. 9, as well as a case on Long Island. It does not appear that the strain is more deadly.