Coronavirus Update (November 2021 to January 2022)

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■ A mother and her two daughters from Dutchess County were charged with using forged COVID-19 vaccination cards to meet employment requirements at a nursing home in Croton-on-Hudson, said Miriam Rocah, Westchester County’s district attorney, on Jan. 31. Antoinette Clarke, 48, Dzjara Clarke, 27, and Jajvia Clarke, 22, all from Poughkeepsie, were arraigned in Cortlandt Town Court on the same felony charge: second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Antoinette Clarke worked as a nurse at the facility, and the two daughters applied for nurse assistant positions, said Rocah. State law requires all health care workers to be vaccinated.

■ The federal Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 31 for people age 18 and older. The vaccine, which had been approved for emergency use on Dec. 18, 2020, will be sold under the brand name Spikevax.

■ New York State is launching a webinar series to educate workers who believe they were infected due to an exposure at their jobs, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Jan. 26. The webinars, scheduled for Feb. 23, March 19 and April 13, cover the process for filing a workers’ compensation claim, accessing available cash and medical benefits, and other topics. The series is especially aimed at people experiencing symptoms of long-haul COVID-19, said Hochul. For more information, visit the state Workers’ Compensation Board’s website.

■ New York’s indoor mask mandate for public places will remain in place while the state appeals a Nassau County Supreme Court judge’s ruling on Jan. 24 that the requirement is unconstitutional. The state Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, granted a motion to keep the mandate in place while it hears the state’s appeal of Judge Thomas Rademaker’s ruling, said Attorney General Letitia James. Rademaker said the mandate violated the state’s constitution because it was issued by the Department of Health, and not approved by the Legislature.

■ Active cases in Philipstown dropped to 84 as of Jan. 19, according to the most recent weekly data from Putnam County. The county reported 252 cases for Philipstown on Jan. 5. Beacon had 112 active cases as of Wednesday, compared to 190 on Jan. 15.

■ The statewide positivity rate (the percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive) dropped below 10 percent on Jan. 20 for the first time since Dec. 20. There were 28,296 new positives out of 290,107 tests on Thursday, according to the state.

■ Dutchess County will be distributing free at-home test kits (limit of two kits per family) during three upcoming events: Jan. 23 on the lower level of the former JCPenney at Poughkeepsie Galleria, 2001 South Road in Poughkeepsie, 10 a.m. to noon; Jan. 26 at Dover High School, 2368 Route 22, Dover Plains, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and Jan. 28 at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, 6626 Route 9, Rhinebeck, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

■ Assembly Member Jonathan Jacobson will host drive-through distributions of free at-home COVID-19 tests kits (limit of two per vehicle) on Jan. 22, 9 a.m., at the Meadow Hill School (124 Meadow Hill Road) in the Town of Newburgh; and on Jan. 27, 4 p.m., at the Family Partnership (29 North Hamilton St.) in the City of Poughkeepsie.

■ New cases are falling in both Dutchess and Putnam counties. Dutchess averaged 532 new cases a day for the 7-day period ending Jan. 18, compared to 828 during the previous week. Putnam County averaged 180 new cases a day between Jan. 12 and Tuesday, compared to 310 the previous week.

■ The Beacon school district is hosting a pop-up vaccine clinic in the Rombout Middle School cafeteria on Jan. 21, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. To sign up, visit hipaa.jotform.com.

■ New York has had 169,764 cases involving people reinfected by the virus that causes COVID-19, according to data current through Sunday (Jan. 16). A person is considered reinfected if a second positive test comes 90 days or more after the initial one. The total accounts for 3.6 percent of the state’s COVID 4.7 million infections. Of the reinfections, 139,235 (82 percent) have occurred since Dec 13, according to the state.

■ Putnam County is reducing hours for COVID-19 testing at the Philipstown Recreation Center in Garrison starting on Jan. 24. The site will open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., for all ages. The county also modified testing times at the Paladin Center, 39 Seminary Hill Road in Carmel. That location will open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Appointments for either location can be made here.

■ State Sen. Sue Serino is distributing tests kits on Jan. 19 to residents who need a negative result to visit relatives in local nursing homes. Kits can be reserved by calling 914-962-2624. They can be picked up on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Serino’s Hyde Park office (4254 Albany Post Road) or at Putnam Valley Town Hall (265 Oscawana Lake Rd).

■ Beginning Jan. 18, Haldane will launch its “test-to-stay” program, Superintendent Philip Benante said on Jan. 14. The program allows unvaccinated and asymptomatic students, teachers and staff who have a close contact with someone COVID-positive to remain in school through “serial” testing. Students will still be prohibited from sports or extracurricular activities during a quarantine period, said Benante. The district will notify the parents of children who are eligible for the program.

■ Free at-home tests can be ordered at COVIDTests.gov starting on Wednesday (Jan. 19), under President Joe Biden’s plan to distribute 500 million of them.  A maximum of four tests will be sent to an individual address, and orders should ship within seven to 12 days, Biden administration officials said on Jan. 14.

■ The state will open a COVID-19 testing site at Rockland Community College in Suffern on Tuesday (Jan. 18) and at SUNY Ulster in Stone Ridge on Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Jan. 14. Both locations will open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Appointments for Rockland can be made here and for SUNY Ulster, here.

■ Putnam County canceled testing at the Philipstown Recreation Center on Saturday (Jan. 15) because of cold weather, but will open on Sunday (from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The site will be closed again on Monday because of expected snow. Starting on Tuesday, the center will reopen with reduced hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

■ Dutchess County will begin offering free rapid COVID-19 testing at the former JCPenney in Poughkeepsie Galleria starting on Tuesday (Jan. 18). The county had already been offering PCR testing at that location. The hours are Tuesday to Friday, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Walk-ins are accepted, but online pre-registration is encouraged. Dutchess is also offering vaccinations on the first floor of the site. Visit dutchessny.gov/coronavirustesting for more information about testing.

■ Dutchess County residents who test positive for COVID-19 using an at-home test can report the results at dutchessny.gov. Putnam County is reminding residents who use the BinaxNOW test made by Abbott that the package contains instructions for reporting results. Those using other tests are asked to self-isolate and notify anyone exposed to their infection.

■ Pediatric hospital admissions of children 18 years old and younger for COVID-19, or testing positive during admission, increased from 70 during the week of Dec. 5 to Dec. 11, to 571 for the week of Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, according to a report from the state Department of Health. Combined admissions in the Mid-Hudson and Long Island regions increased from 12 to 112 per week. Statewide, 59 percent of the pediatric patients admitted during the last week covered by the report were hospitalized primarily for COVID-19, and the rest tested positive after being admitted for other reasons. Hospitalization rates were five times higher in unvaccinated children, said DOH.

■ Northern Dutchess in Rhinebeck and Mid-Hudson Regional in Poughkeepsie were the only hospitals in Dutchess or Putnam counties to have pediatric COVID-19 patients during the period covered by the report, according to state data. Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh had one pediatric patient on Monday (Jan. 10), but none during the report period.

■ Active cases in Philipstown rose to 252 as of Jan. 5, according to Putnam County’s most recent dashboard. Putnam County’s previous dashboard showed 125 active cases for Philipstown as of Dec. 29.

■ Private insurance companies will be required to cover the costs of eight at-home COVID-19 tests a month beginning on Saturday (Jan. 15), the administration of President Joe Biden said on Jan. 10. People with coverage will be able to obtain the tests from pharmacies or stores for free or be eligible for reimbursement from their insurer, said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in announcing the program. The monthly limit does not apply if the tests are “ordered or administered by a health care provider following an individualized clinical assessment, including for those who may need them due to underlying medical conditions,” said CMS. The full announcement can be found here.

■ Dutchess County’s Democratic lawmakers said on Jan. 10 that they had asked County Executive Marc Molinaro and Health Commissioner Livia Santiago-Rosado to enforce mask-wearing in the Legislature’s chambers. During the Legislature’s reorganization meeting on Jan. 4, Democrats criticized Chair Gregg Pulver for allowing fellow Republicans Mike Polasek and Will Truitt to sit unmasked at their desks in the chambers. Democrats distributed a picture of sign at the entrance to the county office building in Poughkeepsie: “Per CDC guidance, masks are recommended in substantial or high-transmission area — even if you are vaccinated.” Pulver compared the unmasked lawmakers to diners eating at a restaurant while a county representative said they didn’t need them because the meeting was livestreamed and there is an exception for film and television productions.

■ Putnam County said on Sunday (Jan. 9) that COVID-19 testing at the Philipstown Recreation Center in Garrison is canceled for Monday (Jan. 10), Tuesday and Wednesday because extreme cold is forecast for those days.

■ Philipstown and the villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville are allowing residents to pick up free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from a self-serve box in the foyer of Town Hall, 238 Main St., on weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Residents are being asked to abide by the honor system and take one box per household (each box contains two tests), according to a post on the Village of Cold Spring’s Facebook page on Jan. 7. Residents are also being asked to assist anyone who needs a test but cannot travel to Town Hall.

■ The state reported 1,102 new confirmed COVID-19 cases among Dutchess County residents on Jan. 6, a new pandemic high for a single day. For the 7-day period ending on Thursday, the state reported an average of 821 new cases a day for Dutchess County.

■ Health care workers will be required to have booster vaccine shots, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Jan. 7. The mandate will become effective once an emergency regulation is approved by the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council, which is meeting on Jan. 11, and filed with New York’s Department of State, said Hochul. Health care staff at hospitals, nursing and long-term care facilities had already been ordered by the state to complete their initial series of vaccine shots by Sept. 27 or risk being fired.

■ Visitors to nursing homes must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 24 hours and wear a “surgical” mask beginning on Jan. 12, Hochul said on Jan. 7.  The state is in the process of shipping 952,000 tests and 1.2 million masks to nursing homes, said Hochul.

■ Putnam County said this week it will be distributing thousands of rapid COVID-19 test kits to food pantries, shelters, libraries, senior centers and places of worship. County officials said on Jan. 6 that they have received 4,437 antigen tests from the state, with more expected. They also noted that newly created centers in Carmel and at the Philipstown Recreation Center in Garrison had so far tested more than 4,500 people and found 17 percent to be positive.

■ Cold Spring said on Dec. 30 that Village Hall will be open by appointment only due to the rising cases; call 845-265-3611. Nelsonville announced on Jan. 5 that its Village Hall would be open by appointment only; call 845-265-2500.

■ Haldane will limit attendance for home basketball games under a new policy announced by Athletic Director Daniel Cowan on Jan. 5. Each player will receive four laminated passes to distribute to family and friends. Spectators will be prohibited from sitting behind team benches and must still wear masks and sit at least 3 feet apart, unless part of the same family.

■ The Dutchess County Jail closed to the public on Jan. 1 in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Jail Superintendent Therese Lee told the Poughkeepsie Journal that 65 inmates out of approximately 200 had tested positive, far exceeding the facility’s previous high of 19 inmate infections at any one time. Lee also said that 71 of the jail’s 200 employees were absent because they had either come down with COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who tested positive.

■ The federal Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 3 authorized booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents between 12 and 15 years old. The FDA also said boosters for people 12 and over should be given five months after the initial two doses of the Pfizer vaccine instead of six months and authorized a third dose for some immunocompromised children between 5 and 11 years old. The announcement can be found here.

■ Haldane Superintendent Phil Benante warned that although the district is reopening on Jan. 3 for in-person classes, schools could revert to remote instruction “on any given day” because the high number of COVID-19 infections may cause shortages of staff who are home because they are sick or unable to find child care for children affected by closures in other districts. “Please be prepared for us to notify you that your child’s school may be on remote instruction on any given day, and may include a prolonged closure of multiple days,” he in an email to parents on Jan. 2.

■ Dutchess’ 838 new cases on Dec. 31 set a new pandemic high for the county.  Putnam County reported another 520 new cases that day, its second-highest daily total since the pandemic began in March 2020.

■ Active COVID-19 cases in Philipstown soared to 125, according to new cases totals released by Putnam County’s health department on Dec. 30. The town had between 11 and 20 cases as recently as Dec. 15. The new data, current as of Dec. 29, showed 2,001 active cases in Putnam and 20 COVID-19 patients at Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel, which topped all municipalities with 838 active cases.

■ Students attending State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) schools for the spring semester must have booster shots and be tested for COVID-19 before returning to classes, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Dec. 31.

■ Hochul announced a multi-faceted “winter surge” plan in response to the record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant. The plan includes distributing millions of test kits to school districts to support in-person instruction; a two-week extension, beyond Jan. 15, of an order requiring either masks or proof of vaccination at public places; and the opening of more sites for testing. For more information on the plan, read the governor’s announcement.

■ With COVID-19 cases at record levels, Putnam County’s Health Department said on Dec. 30 that its staff is unable to “individually contact all persons who test positive or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.” The department is asking those testing positive to isolate and notify anyone  exposed to their infection. The county is providing information on how to isolate and contact-tracing worksheets here. The page also includes an order signed by county Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Nesheiwat making it mandatory for people who test positive to isolate, and a form people can provide to schools or employers attesting that they or a child has COVID-19 and needs to isolate.

■ Dutchess County issued a public health alert on Dec. 29 as active cases remained at a record level (2,742) and the state reported that an additional 799 residents had tested positive for COVID-19. In its alert, the county urged all residents, businesses and visitors to wear masks indoors at public places, social-distance, arrange to get their initial vaccinations or booster shots, and get tested for COVID-19.

■ Putnam County’s new testing center in Carmel will take place at the Paladin Center, 39 Seminary Hill Road, instead of the former Dress Barn at Putnam Plaza, the county announced on Dec. 27. See putnamcountyny.com for the schedule.

Hospitalizations of children for COVID-19 have been rising steeply since the first week of December, said Mary Bassett, the state’s acting health commissioner, on Dec. 27. Between Dec. 5 and Dec. 11, the state’s hospitals admitted 70 people 18 years old and younger, said Bassett. Another 104 were admitted from Dec. 12 to Dec. 18, and 184 from Dec. 19 to 23, she said. “Many people continue to think that children don’t become infected with COVID; this is not true,” said Bassett.

■ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new recommendation on Dec. 27 shortening to 5 days from 10 days the amount of time people who test positive for COVID-19 need to isolate, as long as they are asymptomatic. After isolating, people should still wear a mask for 5 days when around others, according to the CDC. People who are unvaccinated or yet to receive a booster shot should quarantine for 5 days if exposed to COVID-19, and then wear a mask around other for 5 days, said the CDC.  New York is allowing the same shortened period  only for fully vaccinated workers whose jobs are considered “critical.”

■ Dutchess County’s 392 new COVID-19 cases on Dec. 23 set a pandemic-high for a single day in the county. The second-worst day for new cases in Dutchess came on Jan. 14, when the state reported 384 infections for the county. Active cases in Beacon totaled 133 as of Thursday, compared to 42 on Nov. 24.

■ Putnam County’s 209 new cases on Dec. 23 was its second-highest one-day total since the pandemic began in March 2020. The previous two days, Putnam had its third- and fifth-worst days for new cases, with 144 on Dec. 22 and 134 on Tuesday.

■ Starting on Dec. 27, Putnam County will offer free, walk-in rapid Covid-19 testing at the former Dress Barn in Putnam Plaza in Carmel. Testing will be available each day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The county also will begin offering free walk-in testing on Jan. 3 at the Philipstown Recreation Center in Garrison, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. Both the Carmel and Garrison locations will be open exclusively for children from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays.

■ Gov. Kathy Hochul on Dec. 22 signed legislation that criminalizes the falsification of vaccination cards or digital vaccine passports, such as the state’s Excelsior Pass. Falsification of COVID-19 vaccination records in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor, applies to anyone who “intentionally or knowingly falsifies or alters his or her or another individual’s” card or passport “to misrepresent his or her or another individual’s history  and record of vaccine treatment.” Falsification of COVID-19 vaccination records in the first degree, a Class E felony, applies when the person who alters the card or passport is a licensed medical professional. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a Class E felony by up to four years in prison.

■ The January Regents examinations for high school students are being canceled due to the pandemic, the state Department of Education announced on Dec. 21, which also said it will ask the Board of Regents to modify the assessment requirements students must meet to earn a diploma. The department also said it has not made a decision regarding the June and August Regents exams.

■ Active cases in Beacon have nearly tripled over the last month. Dutchess County reported 77 active cases in the city as of Dec. 17, compared to 26 as of Nov. 17. Cases are also rising in the Beacon school district. For the 7-day period between Dec. 12 and Dec. 18, the district reported 26 new infections, including 22 students, two teachers and two staff members.

■ Putnam County’s 119 new cases on Dec. 16 was the county’s highest one-day total since Jan. 14. A day earlier the Carmel school district announced that, beginning Dec. 17,  its high school was moving to remote learning for the rest of the year due to the level of infections among students and staff. The district plans to resume in-person learning at Carmel High School on Jan. 3, after the holiday break.

■ Putnam County’s 84 new cases on Dec. 10 was the county’s highest one-day total since 103 were reported on Jan. 23. The county’s dashboard showed between 21 and 30 active cases for Philipstown as of Dec. 8. (Putnam reports cases for municipalities in ranges.) Dutchess County’s 180 new cases on Friday was its highest one-day total since March 31. Beacon had 38 active cases as of Dec. 9.

■ State Sen. Sue Serino, whose district includes the Highlands, criticized the state’s decision to mandate mask-wearing at businesses and venues beginning Dec. 13. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement on Dec. 10 “blindsided” businesses and requires them “to police the behavior of their customers or face arbitrary fines,” said Serino in a statement. “Our small businesses are just starting to get back on their feet, and this mandate will be detrimental to all those who were looking toward the holiday season to help keep their doors open,” she said.

■ Businesses and venues must require staff, and customers 2 years old and up, to wear masks beginning Dec. 13, unless they require proof of vaccination, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Dec. 10. Local health departments will enforce the mandate and violators face civil and criminal penalties, including fines of up to $1,000 per occurrence. The decision is spurred by a significant rise on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, said Hochul, and will be re-evaluated on Jan. 15.

■ Infections among in the Haldane school district students accelerated in the one-week period between Dec. 3 and Dec. 9, with the district reporting 16 new positive cases, according to state data. Overall, the district has had 22 students and four non-teaching staff members test positive this school year.

■ The federal Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 9 authorized booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds. The FDA said it analyzed data on the immune response of 200 people, between 18 and 55 years old, who had received a booster shot six months after the second shot of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. The data showed a boost in antibody response, according to the FDA.

■ Homeowners behind on mortgage payments due to the pandemic can begin applying on Jan. 3 for repayment assistance and funding for up to six months of future payments under the state’s new $539 million Homeowner Assistance Fund, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Dec. 6.The fund will target low- to moderate-income homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments, property taxes or water or sewer bills; cooperative or condo owners behind on maintenance fees; and manufactured homeowners behind on chattel loans or retail installment contracts, said Hochul. For more information, visit the program website.

■ The Putnam County Department of Health will be offering Pfizer vaccinations to children ages 5 to 11 on Dec. 14 from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. at the Philipstown Recreation Center in Garrison, as well as Pfizer and Moderna boosters to all eligible adults from 2 to 3 p.m. Everyone must wear a mask. Visit putnamcountyny.com to register.

■ New York has identified its first Omicron variant cases, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Dec. 2 in a joint press conference with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The first case involves a 67-year-old woman from Suffolk County who had returned from a trip to South Africa on Nov. 25 and had received at least one vaccination dose, said Hochul. Two more cases were identified in Queens, one in Brooklyn. The fifth case also involved a NYC resident, but Hochul did not know which borough they resided at the time of the announcement. The governor said the discovery of the cases “is not a cause for major alarm” because “we do not have enough information.” She encouraged people to get tested and vaccinated.

■ A Minnesota man who visited New York City for the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19 to 21 tested positive for the Omicron variant, said Hochul on Dec. 2.  He experienced mild symptoms that have since ended.

■ Dutchess County recorded 135 COVID-19 cases on Dec. 1, its highest one-day total since March 31 as positive tests continue to rise locally. Putnam had 55 positives, the county’s highest daily tally since April 16. Active cases in Beacon totaled 34 as of Nov. 30 and in Philipstown, 11 to 15 as of Tuesday.

■ Hochul signed an executive order on Nov. 26 allowing the Department of Health to limit non-essential, non-urgent procedures in-hospitals or systems with lim-ited capacity to protect access to critical health care services. Limited capacity is defined as below 10 percent staffed bed capacity, or as determined by the Department of Health based on regional and health care utilization factors. The protocols will begin on Friday (Dec. 3) and be re-assessed based on the latest COVID-19 data on Jan. 15.

■ The Dutchess County health department hosted a clinic for second shots for children ages 5 to 11 on Nov. 30 at Beacon High School.

■ On Nov. 19, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for all adults. Eligibility begins six months after completing the initial doses of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and two months after receiving the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Before the announcement, booster shots had already been approved for certain populations, including people 65 and older and anyone between 18 and 64 who is either at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or at risk of exposure from their job or being in an institutional setting.

■ A federal appeals court on Nov. 6 temporarily halted a federal requirement that businesses with 100 or more worker require their employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or be compelled to wear masks or have weekly COVID-19 tests.

■ Parents and guardians of children between 5 and 11 years old who receive their first vaccine shot by Dec. 19 can enter a contest to win one of 50 scholarships covering tuition, room and board at two- and four-year SUNY and CUNY colleges and universities, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Nov. 9. Ten winners will be announced each week for a five-week period beginning Nov. 24. More information is available here.

■ The Beacon school district is holding a vaccination clinic for children between 5 and 11 years old on Nov. 10 inside the Beacon High School gym. Appointments can be made at hipaa.jotform.com. Anyone interested in volunteering to register people can email Superintendent Matt Landahl at [email protected]

■ The state has launched a new website with information for parents and guardians on vaccinating children between 5 and 11 years old, who are now eligible to receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, Hochul said on Nov. 5. The information, which includes answers to frequent questions, guidance on scheduling an appointment and information for kids between 12 and 17, can be found here.

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