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WGXC Weekend Coronavirus Report: 20200412

Apr 11, 2020 11:59 pm
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Sat., Apr. 11, said during his daily briefing the decision on when, or if, the schools will reopen statewide has not yet been made. His comments came hours after New York Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that schools in the New York City would be closed for the rest of the academic year. Cuomo said only he, as governor has the legal authority to make that decision and it is still too soon to say when the schools will open back up. He said once schools do reopen it will be coordinated across the metropolitan area and he will talk to schools in Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Nassau counties. “It will be coordinated with the business decision and the rest of the state,” Cuomo said. Law enforcement officials are increasing efforts to force compliance with the executive orders signed last month by Cuomo banning social gatherings and requiring non-essential businesses to shut down. The state attorney general's office this week said it has fielded more than 7,100 complaints alleging employers are ignoring the executive orders signed last month requiring non-essential businesses to shut down. Many businesses, from bars to construction and excavation companies, have ignored state-issued restrictions and protocols during the pandemic. Just over 4,000 of those complaints were referred to the state Department of Labor for investigation. Under one of the earliest orders Cuomo issued, it is considered a violation of Public Health Law for a non-essential business to stay open, and those fines start at $2,000 per incident and can reach as high as $10,000. Ulster County has launched a new online chat tool to give residents an interactive platform to ask questions or express concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. The online chat tool is accessible via the county’s COVID-19 virtual center. Residents are able receive information 24/7 with the tool, which was developed in partnership with IBM using the company’s Watson Assistant for Citizens. “In Ulster County, we have stepped up our game and we will continue to push boundaries and explore even more ways to help our community during this trying time," said County Executive Patrick Ryan. IBM Watson Assistant for Citizens supports both chat and speech interfaces, and is pre-loaded to understand and respond to common questions about COVID-19, based on the most current CDC information and other local sources. Greene County reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case in a nursing home April 10. Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger said a resident of The Pines at Catskill Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation is now in the hospital, but the New Baltimore Republican said he did not know where the patient was admitted. Linger said the person had been isolated since they started showing symptoms, was tested April 9, and received the results within 24 hours. Linger denied that anyone else at the facility is showing signs of illness. Greene County recently received 100 test kits from the state, which it planned to use in nursing homes, Linger said. “It worked out well because the health department was already on their way there,” he said. The county health department tested 57 of the facility staff and 32 residents, Linger said. In his April 11, daily press release, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murrell said county residents are doing a poor job of following social distancing guidelines. Citing Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports, the County Department of Health said the numbers indicate a large number of county residents continue to work, many are visiting grocery stores and pharmacies, and others continue to visit friends and relatives. “Social distancing is still the biggest weapon we have in our arsenal right now,” said DOH Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Chuck Kaiser. Murrell advised residents to follow the restrictions despite the impulse to hold family gatherings over the holiday weekend. "I ask that all of us do so for the well-being of everyone,” he said. Hannaford Supermarkets is donating $750,000 to various hunger relief and homeless outreach organizations in the Northeast during the pandemic. The New England-based supermarket chain’s donation includes a total of $550,000 to food banks in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Massachusetts. This includes $300,000 in new funds, in addition to a $250,000 donation to the food banks. Hannaford's gift includes a total of $200,000 to organizations that work with homeless people. New York organizations will receive $180,000. “...We hope that this donation...will help the most-vulnerable of our neighbors meet their fundamental needs of staying fed and healthy, during this difficult time,” said Hannaford President Mike Vail, in a press release. Hannaford also updated store policies for shoppers: They no long allow reusable bags and are waiving fees on their plastic and paper bags. The grocery chain is also limiting the number of customers in their stores, depending on the square footage, and have installed floor signs designating one-way traffic flow. Columbia County announced a seventh death from coronavirus on April 11, someone at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson who came from from outside the Twin Counties. Columbia County has 87 total cases, with eight in the hospital, while Greene County has 43 total cases with five in the hospital. At Albany Med on April 11, nurses staged a protest about the lack of proper personal protective equipment. Lenore Granich-Berghela, a critical care support service stat nurse, said she was told to wear the same N95 mask 20 times before she got a new one, even though they are meant for one-time use, the Albany Times Union reported. Gov. Cuomo was asked about the protest at his daily press conference and claimed there was enough protective personal equipment for medical personnel, and chalked the protest up to a breakdown of communication between administrators and hospital staff. “We ask every hospital every day: What do you need? We’ve been getting every hospital what they say they need,” Cuomo said. “If there is a disconnect between the nurses and their hospital administrator, I can’t help with that right now, but they should talk to their hospital administrator.” But others agreed with the nurses about the shortage of equipment. “During daily statewide conference calls, it’s become apparent that many counties are frustrated with the lack of medical emergency Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) deliveries coming from the New York State stockpile,” Columbia County Director of Emergency Management David W. Harrison, Jr., said in an April 11 press release from Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Murrell. “Counties are working to purchase PPE on their own, but vendors differ and the delivery times are extended. In the meantime, as top level New York State and federal officials say there is enough PPE for everyone, the counties are not seeing this and our hospital, nursing homes, emergency services personnel and other healthcare providers are still in great need of PPE.... The last very small bulk emergency delivery of medical PPE to Columbia County was on April 1. Our county leadership, which has been strong in their support during this COVID-19 pandemic, is again reaching out to our state and federal representatives to make sure they are aware of what’s really happening on the front line,” said Harrison. Cuomo also briefly addressed the growing dire situation with corrections officers and convicts in the state prisons, before wrapping up his press conference. He said that the state "prisons have total capacity to quarantine," and said he had nothing new to say about granting clemency to any prisoners to create more space in the facilities. The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that Rhinebeck-based artist Tom Blackwell died April 8 in a local hospital from complications of COVID-19. He was considered one of the pioneers of Photorealist painting, a style in which an artist attempts to replicate an image as realistically as possible. His works is in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other large institutions.
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