State hospitalizations fall to new low
■ Some Haldane Elementary School students are quarantining because a student who was last on campus on Feb. 23 tested positive for COVID-19, Superintendent Phil Benante said on Feb. 26. The district received notice of the positive test on Friday and notified the affected students, he said.
■ Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, whose district includes the Highlands, joined U.S. House Democrats on Feb. 27 in passing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $400 a week in extra unemployment benefits and $23.5 billion for New York State and local governments. Dutchess would receive $57 million and Putnam $19 million in local aid. The package is now before the U.S. Senate.
■ The number of statewide hospitalizations on Feb. 25 was the lowest daily total since Nov. 21, Cuomo said. Hospitalizations in Dutchess County have dropped 75 percent since Jan. 27, to 43 from a pandemic-high 172. Hospitalizations in Putnam fell to nine as of Feb. 18 from 26 on Jan. 7.
■ As of Feb. 24, the state reported 2,566 new COVID-19 cases and a 4.2 percent positivity rate in Dutchess County for February compared to 6,917 new cases in January (7.4 percent rate). Total cases and the positivity rate also fell in Putnam, to 820 in February (4.2 percent positivity) from 2,447 in January (7.6 percent).
■ Quinn’s Bar in Beacon announced on Facebook that, as of Feb. 25, the business was closing for a week because some employees were under quarantine. “Because our crew is so small, we cannot run service as usual,” the post said.
■ Putnam County has its first case of the more-contagious U.K. strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, the state said on Feb. 23. The state reported the first case in Dutchess County three days earlier. In all, 154 cases had been confirmed, including 83 in New York City.
■ New York’s first case of the South African strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified in a Nassau County resident, the state said on Feb. 21. Both the South African and U.K. strains are considered more contagious than the version of the virus now dominant in the U.S. Last week, the state announced that a Connecticut resident hospitalized in New York City was found to have the South African strain.
■ The first Dutchess County resident has tested positive for the for the more-contagious U.K. strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, the state said on Feb. 20. The state on Saturday that 54 new cases of the strain had been identified, raising the total number to 136, including four in Rockland County and five in Westchester.
■ Beacon’s St. Patrick’s Parade Day of Green, originally scheduled for March 13, has been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said organizers. Entry fees and donations will be used for next year’s parade. “Although we made some preparations with hopes of going forward, the reality is that the most sensible step is cancellation,” said organizers.
■ Nursing homes can resume allowing visitors in accordance with federal guidelines, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Feb. 19, under guidance to be released on Feb. 22. The state Department of Health is recommending that visitors be screened for COVID-19 using rapid tests, and said the state will provide the tests to nursing homes for free.
■ New York City restaurants can expand indoor dining to 35 percent capacity to match New Jersey’s limit starting on Feb. 26, Cuomo said. The city’s restaurants were allowed to resume indoor dining, at 25 percent capacity, on Feb. 12.
■ Sports and entertainment venues seating 10,000 people or more will be allowed to open at 10 percent capacity beginning Feb. 23, Cuomo said on Feb. 10. Venues will have to obtain state Department of Health approval, ensure staff and spectators have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of an event, mandate mask-wearing and social distancing, and meet other guidelines. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the Brooklyn Nets, is already approved to have fans when the Sacramento Kings visit on Feb. 23.
■ The liquor licenses of 23 bars and restaurants have been suspended in February for “egregious” violations of COVID-19 health and safety regulations, Cuomo said on Feb. 17. Eighteen establishments were in New York City’s boroughs and five on Long Island, and they all face fines of up to $10,000 per violation. The state has suspended the liquor licenses of 393 businesses during the pandemic.
■ Dutchess County recorded its 399th and 400th COVID-19 deaths on Feb. 17, with half those deaths coming since Dec. 8. Twenty-one of Putnam County’s 85 deaths have come since that date.
■ Students in an eight-grade class and eight middle-school staff at Garrison are under quarantine until Feb. 22 after being exposed last week to a person who tested positive for COVID-19, Superintendent Carl Albano said on Feb. 15. The infected person was at the school on Thursday (Feb. 11) and Friday (Feb. 12), said Albano. Health guidelines require that the students and staff quarantine for 10 days from the last date of exposure. Because the staff members will still be quarantining on Feb. 22, students in grades six to eight will learn remotely that day, said Albano. Students will resume in-person learning on Tuesday, he said.
■ A Connecticut resident hospitalized in New York City tested positive for the South African strain of COVID-19, Cuomo said on Feb. 14. Both the South African and UK strains “seem to spread more easily and quickly,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To date, the state has no evidence of the South African strain spreading to New York state, said Cuomo. As of Feb. 13, 70 cases of the UK variant had been identified in the state.
■ As of Feb. 13, Putnam County was averaging 38 new COVID-19 cases a day in February, less than half the 79 average new daily cases for January. Dutchess County was averaging 118 newly confirmed infections a day in February, compared to 223 for January.
■ Along with bars and restaurants, gyms, fitness centers, casinos, pool halls and other businesses with State Liquor Authority licenses are now allowed to open until 11 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. under an order signed by Cuomo that took effect on Feb. 14.
■ Bars and restaurants can stay open an hour longer, until 11 p.m. instead of 10 p.m., beginning on Valentine’s Day, Cuomo said on Feb. 12. He cited the continued statewide decline in infection rates and hospitalizations.
■ Citing COVID-19-related staff shortages at local boards of elections. Cuomo announced on Feb. 14 that the state was extending to Feb. 16 the deadline for residents to change their party affiliation.
■ Eleven new cases of the more-contagious UK strain of COVID-19 have been identified in the state, including one in Rockland County and eight in New York City, Cuomo said on Feb. 13. The state has found 70 total cases in New York City and in 13 counties: Saratoga, Warren, Onondaga, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Ulster, Essex, Jefferson, Tompkins, Allegany and Niagara.
■ The statewide daily positivity rate fell to 3.54 percent on Feb. 10, the lowest level since Nov. 25, and the 7-day average stood at 4.16 percent, the lowest since Dec. 1. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, 7,342, was the lowest since Dec. 26.
■ Haldane canceled in-person classes for its high school on Feb. 10 after being notified the night before that a student who was on campus as recently as Feb. 5 had tested positive. The district notified staff who are required to quarantine and expected to notify students by the end of the day as part of the contact-tracing process, Superintendent Phil Benante said. He reminded parents to notify principals immediately if their child tests positive because the district is required to trace the infected person’s contacts for 48 hours preceding symptoms or a positive test.
■ The Beacon Wellness Pharmacy at 333 Main St. is offering rapid COVID-19 tests. Call 845-765-8878 to make an appointment.
■ New York’s 7-day average positivity rate of 4.38 percent as of Feb. 8 was the state’s lowest level since Dec. 1. The 7-day average for the Mid-Hudson Region, which includes Dutchess and Putman counties, stood at 5.34 percent. It was the second-highest regional rate in the state, behind Long Island, but the Mid-Hudson’s lowest 7-day average since Dec. 2.
■ New York City restaurants can resume indoor dining on Feb. 12, Cuomo said on Feb. 8. Restaurants will be limited to 25 percent capacity and subject to other restrictions.
■ On Feb. 8, Cuomo announced the launch of NY PopsUp, a months-long festival that will bring hundreds of live “pop-up” performances to venues across the state, including the Hudson Valley. Starting Feb. 20 and going through Labor Day, the festival is to be a “bridge to the broader reopening of our world-class performance venues and institutions” following the pandemic, said Cuomo. Producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal will oversee the festival, whose performers will include Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Rock.
■ A group of Haldane elementary, middle and high school students have been ordered to quarantine because a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Superintendent Phil Benante said in an email to parents on Feb. 5 that the district was notified that day of the positive test. The staff member was last on campus on Feb. 4, he said. Benante also said that six students working remotely have tested positive in the last few weeks.
■ Active cases in Dutchess have fallen dramatically since reaching a pandemic-high 2,576 on Jan. 16. The active-case count stood at 1,267 on Feb. 4.
■ New York state has identified 59 known cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19, including in Ulster and Westchester counties, the state said on Feb. 5. The variant is more contagious than the original strain and has also been found in: New York City and Jefferson, Niagara, Allegany, Tompkins, Nassau, Suffolk, Saratoga, Onondaga, Warren and Essex counties.
■ In addition to forcing the cancellation of vaccination clinics, the massive snowstorm that hit the Mid-Hudson Region on Feb. 1 appears to have also depressed COVID-19 tests for Dutchess and Putnam. Putnam tested 610 people, the county’s lowest number of daily tests since Nov. 21. In Dutchess, 1,882 people took tests on Feb. 1, the county’s smallest one-day total since Jan. 4.
■ On Feb. 1, Attorney General Letitia James said her office has renewed its suspension, until Feb. 28, of the collection of medical and student debt owed to state. She also said that residents seeking relief from the collection of non-medical and non-student debts owed to the state can fill out an application online or call the Office of the Attorney General hotline, 800-771-7755.