■ A newly released book, Our Darkest Hours: County Leadership and the COVID Pandemic, includes reflections from Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who lost his father to the coronavirus. The book was commissioned by the New York State County Executives Association to “share the hard lessons learned” during the pandemic. The first part of the book is written or oral histories submitted by county executives and also includes a chapter by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, while the second part looks at the “fractured federal and state response.” Copies are available at Amazon for $19.99 in softcover or $4.99 for the ebook; proceeds benefit Feeding New York State. In the book, Molinaro recalled his father’s death:
My father went downhill at a terrifying speed. The doctors decided to put him on a ventilator, and it wasn’t long before they informed me that it wouldn’t be safe to take him off. Those two weeks remain a blur to me. I remember praying every day that I’d get 5 more minutes with my dad.
On April 9, a Friday, at 1:59 p.m., a nurse texted me to say that she thought my father didn’t have much time left and asked if I wanted to call him. I thought how strange it was, in this circumstance, not to be there in person, but I was anxious to speak with him. The nurse held the phone to his ear. I told my father that I loved him and I wished we’d been able to talk about so many things. I promised that I’d stay close to my sisters, and that he should know that, despite the problems of years gone by, he was loved. My father, Anthony Molinaro, died at 2:04. I am grateful that I got my 5 minutes.
■ The Putnam County Legislature announced, with the lifting of the governor’s emergency order as of June 24, it would again hold its meetings in person, rather than by audio connection, beginning with an Audit & Administration Committee Meeting scheduled for June 28. Committee meetings are held in Room 318 of the County Office Building and full legislative meetings at the Historic Courthouse.
■ New York will end on June 24 the statewide COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration issued on March 7, 2020, now that more than half the state is vaccinated and infections have plummeted, said Cuomo. Federal guidelines, including mask requirements for unvaccinated people, riders on public transportation and people in health care, nursing homes, prisons and other settings will remain in effect. State and local governments still have authority to enforce those mask rules and other health precautions in those settings, he said.
■ Essential workers whose income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($79,500 for a family of four) can apply for child care scholarships under a $25 million federally funded program, said Cuomo on June 23. People receiving child care scholarships under the federal CARES Act can apply for the new program. Applications will be processed and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and can be found here.
■ New cases in Dutchess County totaled 17 and in Putnam 17 for the 7-day period ending June 19, compared to 25 in Dutchess and 10 in Putnam for the previous week.
■ Six of Dutchess County’s eight senior centers, including the one in Beacon, have reopened for the first time since the pandemic started, County Executive Marc Molinaro said on June 18. The centers are open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, and offer a hot lunch each day was wells as recreational activities and fitness and health programs.
■ Two more Garrison students have tested positive for COVID-19, and both were in school last week while infectious, Superintendent Carl Albano said on June 17. Four additional students who were “in close or proximal contact” with the positive individuals are under quarantine, said Albano. The school district also said on June 14 that a student who tested positive had been in school on June 11 while infectious. Two students in contact with that person had to be quarantined, said Albano.
■ The Haldane school district is accepting public comments on its plan for using $194,212 in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan approved in March and $86,476 from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act approved in December. The district’s plan includes funding an elementary school “interventionist” position for two years. A draft of the district’s plan is posted here. Comments may be emailed to Superintendent Philip Benante at [email protected] by June 30.
■ With 70 percent of adults having received at least one vaccine dose, the state is lifting mandatory pandemic restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on June 15. The decision affects a range of businesses, including agriculture, construction, gyms, manufacturing and retail, said Cuomo. Those businesses will no longer face mandated capacity limits and requirements that included social distancing, contact tracing, and cleaning disinfecting, although they can chose to continue those practices. Limits on social gatherings are also being lifted, said Cuomo. Masks will still be mandatory for pre-K-12 schools, public transit and healthcare settings.
■ The COVID-19 testing site at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area off the Palisades Parkway in Rockland County is one of four state-run locations that will close on June 18, Cuomo said on June 15. Another five sites are scheduled to close on June 25.
■ Dutchess County had just 25 new COVID-19 cases in total for the 7-day period ending June 12 and Putnam County 10. Dutchess had 58 new cases the previous week and Putnam 21.
■ Children eligible for free school meals will receive $132 in food benefits for every month they worked remotely 12 days or more during the 2020-21 school year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on June 14. Children who learned remotely for at least one school day but no more than 12 in a month will receive $82 for that month. The $2.2 billion program is being funded by the federal government. Families do not have to apply. They will have the benefits posted to their EBT cards or receive a letter telling how to access the payments.
■ The New York State Fair will open at 100 percent capacity from Aug. 20 to Sept. 6 in Syracuse, Cuomo said. Indoor spaces will be subject to capacity limits to allow for social distancing, he said.
■ New York started the process on June 11 of shutting down the state’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites as demand has fallen by 88 percent between January and May and vaccinations drive down new positive cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on June 10. The initial sites to be shuttered are in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Rome, Staten Island and Wantagh.
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.
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.
■ School districts must still require that students wear masks indoors, but can choose to let face coverings be removed outdoors, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on June 7.
■ New York will not lift on June 7 its mandate that masks be worn by students in K-12 schools, a policy that state said it intended to end in a letter sent by Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 4. School districts were told that the existing policy on masks will remain in an email sent to them on June 6 by the state Department of Education, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
■ New York plans to lift its indoor mask mandate for K-12 schools starting on June 7, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in a letter to Rochelle Walenskey, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Masks will be “strongly encouraged” indoors for students, teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated, said Zucker. The same guidelines would also apply to summer camps, he said. Masks would be “encouraged” outdoors for people who are unvaccinated in high-risk situations. Both schools and camps would be able to implement “stricter standards,” said Zucker.
■ While Haldane is waiting for an official notice, Garrison intends to continue requiring masks indoors in response to the state’s announcement that it plans to lift its mask mandate starting June 7. Carl Albano, Garrison’s superintendent, said on June 5 that “the reward of easing our mask requirement does not outweigh the risk.” The district will offer students masks breaks indoors and outdoors until the school year ends, said Albano. Phil Benante, Haldane’s superintendent, said the district will notify staff and parents when new guidance is officially issued.