Coronavirus Updates (May)

COVID update

■ Both Dutchess and Putnam counties continued to see COVID-19 cases drop in May. Dutchess averaged 22.5 new cases a day in May, compared to 82.3 in April and 124 in March. New cases in Putnam averaged 4.8 a day in May, compared to 29 in April and 38.5 in March.

■ New York state’s 7-day average positivity rate for COVID-19 tests fell to .67 percent as of Sunday (May 30), the lowest since the pandemic began, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday (May 31).

■ As of May 26, Dutchess County had gone 12 straight days without exceeding 30 new COVID-19 cases a day. The county has averaged 15.3 new positives a day during that span.

■ New York’s Rental Assistance Program, which will cover up to a year’s worth of housing and utilities arrears for people who fell behind because of the pandemic, will begin accepting applications on June 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on May 25. The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance will administer the funds, which may also cover an additional three months for people who qualify. Renters and landlords can visit the program’s webpage for more information.

■ Small businesses and for-profit arts and cultural organizations harmed by the pandemic can begin applying on June 10 for between $5,000 and $50,000 in grants to help with payroll costs, rents and mortgages, utilities and other expenses under the state’s Small Business Recovery Grant Program, Cuomo said on Tuesday. More information is available here.

■ All schools in New York state will open for full-time in-person learning in September based on the current trend in COVID-19 cases, Cuomo said on May 24.

■ The zero new cases reported for Putnam on May 20 marked the first day since Sept. 9 that no one tested positive for COVID-19 in the county and the 13th straight new cases stayed below 10. Dutchess’ 14 new cases on Thursday was the county’s lowest one-day total since Oct. 27.

■ Day and overnight camps and child care centers must collect vaccination status for children and staff and conduct daily health screenings of staff and visitors under revised guidelines announced on May 18 by Cuomo. The guidelines also require property-specific capacity limits that enable social distancing and masks for children over 2 years old and staff who are not fully vaccinated. Additional guidance can be found here.

■ New York will adopt a new federal guideline that says fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks or social distance indoors and outdoors, but is recommending that they wear masks in public places where others may be unvaccinated, Cuomo said on May 17. The revised state guidance takes effect on May 19 for most settings, but existing mask and social distancing rules will remain in place for K-12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and healthcare facilities. Businesses will still be able to require that customers wear masks, and are exempt from 6 feet of social distancing if customers present proof of vaccination, and small and large events can seat fully vaccinated attendees, without masks, at 100 percent capacity in assigned areas.

■ The state is allowing county fairs and local festivals to return, issuing guidance on May 17. Events of up to 5,000 attendees will be permitted without state Department of Health approval, which will be required for larger events.  Fairs and festivals will have to limit attendees so as to allow 6 feet of social distancing between people from different parties unless everyone provides proof of vaccination. They also may require masks for all attendees.

■ Under legislation signed by Cuomo on May 13, COVID-19 stimulus payments will be protected from garnishment by creditors, except that claims can be brought against the funds for child and spousal support, or in cases of fraud. Anyone with a judgment against their bank account will receive a notice that stimulus payments are protected, and if funds have been frozen by a creditor they can fill out a form included with the notice to get the money released, said Cuomo.

■ Low-income households are eligible for a $50 a month discount on broadband service and a one-time discount of $100 on the purchase of a laptop, desktop or tablet computer under a pandemic program being administered by the Federal Communications Commission. Visit the program webpage for income thresholds and other eligibility information.

■ Beaches and pools can operate with 6 feet of social distancing, Cuomo said on May 12. The state’s goal is that they be allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity by July 4, he said.

■ The Federal Aviation Administration said on May 10 that it is proposing a $10,500 fine for a passenger who was “abusive” and “coughed and blew his nose into a blanket” when asked to wear a mask on a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles on Dec. 27. On May 5, the agency said it was also proposing fines of $32,750, $16,500 and $9,000 against three passengers who refused mask orders during separate incidents, one in February and two in January.

■ A pandemic-high 83,100 people rode Metro-North trains on May 7, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. While it was the highest one-day total since the pandemic begin, it was still down 71 percent from the average weekday ridership total for 2019, according to MTA data.

■ Confirmed positive cases in Dutchess for the week ending May 8 totaled 265, compared to 352 the previous week and 410 for the 7-day period ending April 24. Putnam had 79 total new cases for this week, compared to 71 the previous week and 145 for the week ending April 24.

■ Mobile rapid testing will be available at Dutchess Stadium starting on May 10, the county said on May 7. ProPhase Labs, in partnership with Dutchess County, will be offering no-cost tests that give results in 15 minutes or 24 hours. Appointments can be made at the online. Walk-in testing is available. Information on testing dates and is available here.

■ Cuomo signed on May 5 a bill that authorizes the state Departments of Labor and Health to create enforceable health and safety standards that employers will have to follow to prevent airborne infectious diseases.

■ As of May 26, according to the State COVID Report Card, Haldane had reported 40 students and 15 teachers/staff who had tested positive; Garrison reported 13 students and seven teachers/staff; and Beacon reported 114 students and 45 teachers/staff. Among private schools, Manitou School in Philipstown reported six students and 1 teacher/staff as of April 6 and Hudson Hills Academy in Beacon reported zero students and 1 teacher/staff as of May 27.

■ The Mets and Yankees, in partnership with the state Department of Health, will offer vaccinations and free ticket vouchers to fans at their stadiums, Cuomo said on May 5. From May 7 to June 6, the Yankees will give vouchers worth two free tickets to the first 1,000 fans who get shots on each full day of operations and the first 700 fans who do so on half days of operation. The vouchers are redeemable for select games this year or in 2022. More information is available here. The Mets will give vouchers worth two tickets to the first 250 fans who get vaccinated from May 24 to June 17. The vouchers are good for games this year and 2022. More information is available here.

■ 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 June 16, allowing public meetings to continue to be held remotely.

■ The Small Business Administration is now accepting applications for its Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provides up to $10 million per business, and no more than $5 million per physical location, for COVID-19-related losses. The funds do not have to be repaid as long as they are used for eligible expenses by March 11, 2023. To apply visit the program’s application portal.

■ New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will be easing capacity restrictions on businesses and outdoor and indoor gatherings beginning May 19, Cuomo said on May 3 in a joint announcement with the governors for those states. The new limits are:

  • Businesses: Instead of a percentage-capacity restriction, businesses will only be limited by the space available for customers to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The change will affect businesses ranging retailers, restaurants and gyms to barbershops and hair salons.
  • Indoor/outdoor gatherings: The indoor limit will increase from 100 to 250 people. The outdoor residential gathering limit of 25 will revert to the social gathering limit of 500, with space for appropriate social distancing, and the indoor residential gathering limit will increase to 50 from 10 people. Gatherings exceeding the limits are allowed if all attendees give proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
  • Indoor/outdoor events: Large-scale indoor event venues can operate at 30 percent capacity, up from the current 10 percent capacity, and large-scale outdoor venues can operate at 33 percent. Social distancing, masks and other health protocols will still apply, including the requirement that attendees give proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test result.

■ Indoor dining in New York City can expand to 75 percent capacity starting May 7, Cuomo said on April 30. The governor also said that hair salons, barbershops and other personal care businesses can expand to 75 percent capacity beginning the same day and that New York City gyms and fitness centers can expand to 50 percent capacity beginning May 15.

■ The midnight curfew for bars and restaurants will end on May 17 for outdoor areas and on May 31 for indoor areas, Cuomo said on April 28.

■ 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.

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