Active cases in Dutchess fall to 2-month low
■ State health officials said that, as of Saturday (April 17), 10,217 (+31 from the day before) people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Putnam County; 27,982 (+80) in Dutchess; 125,726 (+239) in Westchester; 45,700 (+49) in Rockland; 13,039 (+67) in Ulster; and 46,133 (+112) in Orange. Statewide, there have been 1,984,929 (+5,704) positives, including 892,275 (+2,688) in New York City. For the latest numbers, click here.
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■ Statewide, 41,485 (+35) people had died as of April 17, including 91 (+0) residents of Putnam County and 435 (+0) from Dutchess.
■ Beacon had 21 active cases as of April 16 and Putnam had 145 as of April 15, with 6 active cases in Philipstown, 59 in Carmel, 22 in Kent, 21 in Patterson, 16 in Putnam Valley and 21 in Southeast. Five people were hospitalized at Putnam Hospital in Carmel.
■ In Dutchess County, there were 3,511 tests conducted on April 17 and 80 positives reported, and in Putnam, there were 933 tests and 31 positives reported. The percentage of positive results in the Mid-Hudson Region was 2.5 percent.
■ Dutchess had conducted 669,243 tests as of April 17 and had 4.2 percent positives, while Putnam had conducted 206,607 tests and had 4.9 percent positives.
■ Statewide, there were 243,171 tests conducted on April 17 and 5,704 positives, or 2.35 percent.
■ The number of people with COVID-19 who are hospitalized in New York state as of April 17 stood at 3,754 (-80); the number in intensive care was 849 (-17); and the number of intubations was 520 (-15). In the Mid-Hudson Valley, 44 percent of hospital beds were available and 39 percent of ICU beds.
■ Active cases in Dutchess stood at 931 as of Friday (April 16), the county’s first time below 1,000 since March 9 and the lowest daily total of active cases since 878 on Feb. 17.
■ Putnam County’s average daily positivity rate (the percentage of daily tests confirmed for COVID-19) fell by a full percentage point for the 7-day period ending Friday (April 16), to 3.8 percent compared to 4.8 percent for the week ending April 8. Dutchess County averaged 4.2 percent for both 7-day periods.
■ New York’s Office of Children and Family Services is now accepting applications from essential workers and first responders for the state’s Empire Pandemic Response Reimbursement Fund, which has $26.6 million in grants available to reimburse workers for out-of-pocket expenses incurred during the pandemic. Households earning up to 500 percent of the federal poverty level, $125,470 for a family of four, are eligible to apply for up to $1,000 for expenses like child care, lodging and transportation. Visit the fund’s website for more information.
■ The Fishkill Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Beacon had not had a resident test positive for COVID-19 in 105 days as of Monday (April 12), according to data posted on the facility’s website. The nursing home also had gone 40 days without a staff member testing positive case. Overall, the Fishkill Center has had 80 residents and 88 staff test positive, and 14 residents die from COVID-19.
■ An average of 963 people a day have been getting COVID-19 tests in Putnam County this month, as of Friday (April 9), compared to 808 tests a day in March and 857 in February. The county averaged 1,039 in January, during the height of pandemic’s second wave in New York state.
■ Payments made to families through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority COVID-19 death benefit program will be exempt from state taxes as part of the newly approved budget for the 2022 fiscal year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Friday (April 9). Started in April 2020, the program has approved $62 million in payments to families of MTA employees who died of COVID-19, said Cuomo.
■ A 23-member Essential Workers Advisory Committee will oversee the design, locating and construction of a monument to honor the service of essential workers during the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday (April 6). The monument will be built in New York City and be dedicated to essential workers in 17 categories: nurses, doctors, hospital staff, teachers, transport workers, police, ambulance/EMT, firefighters, corrections, sanitation, National Guard, store employees, government employees, building service workers, utility workers, delivery drivers and construction / manufacturing.
■ The Beacon Bread Co. at 193 Main St. is closed “until further notice” due to a possible COVID-19 exposure, the store announced via Facebook on Monday (April 5). “We will keep you updated as we take all proper precautions to ensure we safely open back up, including clearing our staff with negative test result,” the post said.
■ The tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases for Dutchess County in March increased by 24 percent over February, to 3,843 from 3,091, according to state data. Putnam County saw an increase of 17.5 percent, to 1,194 cases in March from 985 in February.
■ Split Rock Books in Cold Spring said that it will mark Independent Bookstore Day on April 24 with a return to walk-in browsing, initially just on Saturdays. Leading up to that day, the store will test-drive walk-ins on select weekdays, to be announced on its Instagram page. Customers will be required to wear mask and only eight will be allowed in at one time. Split Rock also said the decision is contingent on a continued decline in COVID-19 cases.
■ The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will begin taking applications on April 12 for assistance with COVID-19-related funeral expenses up to $9,000 incurred after Jan. 20, 2020. In addition to providing a death certificate attributing the death to COVID-19, applicants must be a U.S. citizens, non-citizen national or qualified alien, according to FEMA. There is no legal requirement that the deceased be a U.S. citizen. More information can be found here.
■ Colleges can resume allowing spectators to sports events on April 2, with capacity limited to 10 percent at indoor venues holding 1,500 or more and 20 percent at outdoor venues holding 2,500 or more. Attendees will have to provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination. Smaller college venues used for intercollegiate, intramural or club sports will be limited to 2 fans per player, 100 people indoors or 200 outdoors, but can expand to 150 indoors or 500 outdoors if attendees give proof of a negative test or vaccination.
■ Hudson Beach Glass in Beacon plans to reopen on April 10, according to a post on the company’s Facebook page on March 29. Its staff will be fully vaccinated, mask and social-distancing policies will be enforced, and the number of people allowed inside will be limited, said the company.
■ Mid-Hudson Animal Aid in Beacon reopened to the public on March 24, with adoptions and volunteering by appointment only and social-distancing and mask requirements. Email [email protected]
■ Nursing homes can now allow visitors at all times, except for unvaccinated residents in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases and lower vaccination rates, or residents who are infected or in isolation or quarantine, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on March 25. Cases have fallen more than 80 percent since peaking in mid-January during the post-holiday second wave of the pandemic, said Cuomo.
■ Banks, creditors and debt collectors have been notified that the $1,400 stimulus checks being sent to people under the American Rescue Plan Act are exempt from garnishment under New York state law, Attorney General Letitia James said on March 24. Banks are also prohibited from seizing the payments to recoup debts owed to them, said James.
■ The state, in partnership with Cornell University, is launching a free eight-hour, 16-session online Citizen Public Health Training Program for residents who would learn about how to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies and volunteer in their communities. “It gives you a sense of knowledge, gives you a sense of control, and puts you in a position to protect yourself and your family and your neighborhood, and, God forbid there is another emergency, you can volunteer to help,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 24. Information on the program can be found here.
■ As of April 13, according to the State COVID Report Card, Haldane had reported 35 students and 14 teachers/staff who had tested positive; Garrison reported nine students and seven teachers/staff; and Beacon reported 96 students and 44 teachers/staff. Among private schools, Manitou School in Philipstown reported six students and 1 teacher/staff and Hudson Hills Academy in Beacon reported zero students and 1 teacher/staff.
■ Both the Beacon Veterinary Associates and Glazed Over Donuts in the city announced that they are closed temporarily because of a COVID-19 exposure. Beacon Veterinary plans to reopen on March 30 and Glazed over donuts on April 1.
■ The percentage of COVID-19 tests that were positive in Dutchess on March 22 was 6.9 percent and in Putnam, 6.8 percent, as both counties saw increases in their daily positivity rate over the previous four days. Dutchess’ positivity rate averaged 5.9 percent between March 19 and March 22, compared to 4.5 percent the previous seven days. Putnam averaged 5.4 percent, compared to 5 percent the previous week.
■ New York has its first confirmed case of the more-contagious Brazilian variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, Cuomo said on March 20. The case, involving a Brooklyn resident in their 90s with no travel history, was identified by scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said Cuomo.
■ With the Beacon school district expanding in-person instruction to four days in April, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation is accepting registration for its after-school program. The program will operate from dismissal to 6 p.m. Visit the program’s webpage for information and to register a child, email [email protected] or call 845-235-4202.
■ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on March 19 that 3 feet is sufficient for social distancing in elementary school classrooms where mask-wearing is “universal,” regardless of COVID-19 levels in the surrounding community. The same distance is sufficient in middle and high schools when community transmission is “low, moderate, or substantial,” but 6 feet should be required in those schools when transmission is “high” unless students are grouped in cohorts during the day, said the CDC.
■ Commercial landlords in New York City, Buffalo, the Capital Region, Rochester and Syracuse will provide space for the regular testing of their tenants’ employees under the state’s New York Forward COVID-Safe Offices initiative, Cuomo said on March 19. Eight office-building owners in the city and 13 in the other areas of the state have committed to the program, said Cuomo.
■ Marist College in Poughkeepsie has put students in its Champagnat and Marian residence halls under quarantine and is restricting outside gatherings, suspending Division I athletics and instituting other measures in response to an uptick in COVID-19 cases, school officials said on March 17. Classes in-person will continue, and cases at the school are below the threshold that would require remote learning, said officials. The restrictions are in place through 2 p.m. on March 23. The school has had 158 total cases for the spring semester and 151 active cases as of March 18, including 66 on-campus.
■ Dutchess residents at risk of being evicted can call the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region’s 211 helpline, or 800-899-1479, County Executive Marc Molinaro said on March 18. Staff can provide tenants with a list of programs they are eligible for or, if needed, refer them to Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. Tenants needing help can also answer questions using an online tool and receive a call back from 211.
■ Beginning March 29, statewide travel for sports and recreational activities will be permitted,” Cuomo said on March 18. Travel for sports and recreation is currently limited to contiguous counties and regions.
■ Indoor fitness classes can resume at 33 percent capacity beginning March 22, with health screening and contact information required at sign-in, Cuomo said on March 17. In addition to requiring that owners clean and disinfect between sessions, the state is mandating that local health departments inspect businesses before they open or within two weeks after they open.
■ Effective March 22, the state is lifting yellow-zone cluster designations for Newburgh, New Windsor, the East Bronx, West Bronx, Manhattan and Kew Gardens/Forest Hills in Queens. Those areas had been under additional restrictions because they had high numbers of COVID-19 cases.
■ Beginning April 5, the current 11 p.m. curfew for billiard halls, bowling alleys, casinos, fitness centers, gyms and movie theaters will be lifted, Cuomo said on March 17. The 11 p.m. curfew for food and beverage establishments and the 12 a.m. curfew for catered events will remain in effect.
■ The state Department of Education on March 15 adopted emergency regulations to cancel the Regents exams in August and, if the federal government does not grant a full waiver of testing requirements, to give limited 3-8 assessments and Regents exams in only four subjects — Algebra, Earth Science, English language arts and Living Environment — in June. The emergency revisions take effect on March 16. The Board of Regents will vote on permanent adoption at its June meeting. If the federal Department of Education grants New York a waiver, all assessment tests and the June Regents exams will be canceled along with the August Regents.
■ After reaching a pandemic-high 172 on Jan. 25, hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Dutchess County stood at 43 as of March 13.
■ The Quest Diagnostics locations in Peekskill, White Plains and Kingston are now booking appointments for rapid COVID-19 tests, which return results within 30 minutes. Cuomo said 26 new rapid-testing sites are opening over the next week to aid businesses as the state loosens pandemic restrictions on venues that, in some cases, requires that people attending events test negative. Testing locations can be found here.
■ Travelers entering New York from other states or from U.S. territories will no longer have to quarantine for 14 days, Cuomo said on March 11. The state still recommends that people quarantine, and they must still complete a Traveler Health Form. The quarantine requirement remains in place for international travelers.
■ New York City and New Jersey will expand indoor dining capacity to 50 percent beginning March 19, Cuomo said on March 10. Restaurants in New York City are currently limited to 35 percent capacity for indoor dining.
■ Cuomo on March 9 signed legislation protecting small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and landlords with 10 or fewer units from evictions and foreclosures. Cuomo also said that he has reached agreement with the state Legislature on a bill to expand the protections to businesses with 100 or fewer employees, and to any business with 500 or fewer employees whose in-person operations were ordered close for two or more weeks between May 15, 2020 and May 1, 2021.
■ Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie began allowing patients to have limited visits starting March 9 because of declining COVID-19 cases. Patients without a suspected or confirmed infection are allowed one visitor a day for up to four hours between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Visitors have to remain in the patient’s room and follow personal protective equipment guidelines. The full visitation policy can be viewed at patients.healthquest.org.
■ The Haldane school district, which has been operating under a hybrid model, will reconvene members of its School Reopening Task Force to explore having more high-school students regularly attend classes in-person, Superintendent Phil Benante said in an email to parents on Friday. The task force will also examine how classrooms and other spaces within each school can be adapted to the most recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Health, said Benante.
■ Restaurants outside New York City can operate at 75 percent capacity, instead of 50 percent, beginning March 19, Cuomo said on March 7. Restaurants in the city will remain restricted to 35 percent capacity.
■ Essential workers and first responders are eligible for up to $1,000 in reimbursement for child care, housing, transportation and other expenses through the state Office of Children and Family Services’ Empire Pandemic Response Reimbursement Fund program. Households earning up to 500 percent of the federal poverty level, $125,470 for a family of four, are eligible to apply. Workers should be referred by employers, unions or social service providers who can verify employment during the COVID emergency.
■ Beginning April 2, event, arts and entertainment venues can reopen at 33 percent capacity, with up to 100 people indoors and up to 200 people outdoors, Cuomo said on March 3. Venues can increase capacity to 150 indoors and 500 outdoors if all attendees give proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entering. Venues will still need to require masks and social distancing.
■ While indoor house gatherings remain capped at 10 people, residential gatherings of up to 25 can be held outdoors beginning March 22, said Cuomo on Wednesday March 3. The state is also allowing non-residential social gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and up to 200 outdoors.
■ Travelers to New York who have been fully vaccinated no longer have to quarantine or test out within 90 days of their full vaccination, said Cuomo on March 3.
■ Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said on March 3 that she is canceling her “State of the County” address for the second straight year due to COVID-restrictions. The address, scheduled for March 11, was to be themed “2021, A Year of Hope and Health,” said Odell. The Legislature will still hold its special meeting planned for that day, said Odell.
■ State Sen. Sue Serino is collecting new and used chargers for Android, Apple and Samsung phones to donate patients at local hospitals, in partnership with the organization 518 Powerup. Donations can be dropped off at Serino’s Hyde Park office, 4254 Albany Post Road, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, until March 12. Residents who want to donate can also call Serino’s Putnam Valley Office at 845-528-0417. “In a time where we feel more isolated than ever, being able to stay in touch with loved ones is crucial,” said Serino.
■ 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.
■ New York is extending the open enrollment period for its health insurance exchange to May 15. Residents needing coverage can find plans and enroll at NY State of Health, call 1-855-355-5777 or contact a free enrollment assister. Residents eligible for Medicaid, the Essential Plan and Child Health Plus can enroll year-round.
■ The governor extended his state of emergency order through March 16, allowing public meetings to continue to be held remotely.
■ Indoor family entertainment centers and places of amusement can open at 25 percent capacity beginning March 26, and outdoor amusement parks can open at 33 percent capacity beginning April 9, Cuomo said on Feb. 17. Each site will have to submit reopening plans and health protocols to local health departments. Cuomo also said that day and overnight summer camps in can begin planning for reopening.
■ 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.
■ 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.
■ The state on Dec. 29 announced new quarantine guidelines: Individuals exposed to COVID-19 can end their quarantine after 10 days without testing, instead of 14, as long as they do not have symptoms.
■ The federal government extended a temporary moratorium for most evictions until May 31. To be eligible, renters must have experienced a “substantial” loss of household income, a layoff or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses and can’t expect to earn more than $99,000 in 2020 (or $198,000 for married people filing their tax returns jointly). A declaration form is required.
■ 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 nuvancehealth.org. 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 and has a hotline at 845-486-3555. Putnam County posts info at putnamcountyny.com. New York State has a hotline at 888-364-3065 and a webpage at coronavirus.health.ny.gov, which is also where you can find a testing site. The state also created an email list to provide updates. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts updates at cdc.gov.