COVID-19 update: Orange County cases more than double in a day

Goshen. The county now has 18 confirmed coronavirus cases, up from seven yesterday. The state freezes medical and student debt while cracking down on fake cures and price gouging. The state is in the first day of a major shutdown of restaurants, bars, and other places, but there is something you can still do that's fun and now free: visit your state or local park.

Goshen /
17 Mar 2020 | 01:23

Tuesday, March 17

Cases continue to rise in Orange County

The number of coronavirus infections continues to rise in Orange County. It now has 18 confirmed cases, according to a Tuesday afternoon announcement by County Executive Steve Neuhaus.

That's up from the seven confirmed cases reported yesterday. The first confirmed case in the county was reported last Thursday.

Public health laws forbid Orange County to release any identifying information about patients, including their location, Neuhaus said.

Neighboring Sullivan County is also reporting its first confirmed coronavirus case. County Manager Joshua Potosek issued a state of emergency for Sullivan.

Call first, county executive says

Orange County is asking residents to call before arriving at any of its offices during the coronavirus outbreak.

Pursuant to an order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in-office staffing is being reduced across the state by municipal governments, Neuhaus said in a Tuesday press release. Cuomo has ordered that all local governments reduce staffing by at least 50 percent in the office physically.

"Accordingly," said Neuhaus, "prior to seeking any Orange County government services, please call that Department prior to arriving at that location."

Here are the numbers to some important departments:

● Social Services: 845-291-4000

● SNAP (formerly known as “Food Stamps”): Apply online at mybenefits.ny.gov

● Orange County Crisis Center, which connects people with services for mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, or who need referrals for food and hunter issues: 800-832-1200

● Department of Motor Vehicles: Goshen, 845-615-3960; Newburgh, 845-568-5230; Middletown, 845-346-1180

The county government continues to operate. Residents can monitor the county’s website (OrangeCountyGov.com) and Facebook page to be kept up to date.

New York freezes student and medical debt

New York Attorney General Letitia James and Gov. Cuomo announced on Tuesday that the state will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the state and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection, for at least a 30-day period, in response to growing financial impairments resulting from the spread of coronavirus.

"Countless New Yorkers have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by the spread of COVID-19, forcing them to forgo income and business," said James in a statement.

The attorney general will halt the collection of medical and student debt from March 17 through April 16, and then reassess the needs of state residents for a possible extension. Her office will accept applications for suspension of all other types of debt owed to the state and referred to the attorney general for collection.

“In this time of crisis, my office will not add undue stress or saddle New Yorkers with unnecessary financial burden,” said James. “New Yorkers need to focus on keeping themselves safe and healthy from the coronavirus.”

The attorney general collects certain debts owed to the state via settlements and lawsuits. A total of more than 165,000 matters currently fit the criteria for a suspension of state debt collection, including, but not limited to:

Patients that owe medical debt due to the five state hospitals and the five state veterans’ home

Students that owe student debt due to State University of New York (SUNY) campuses

Individual debtors, sole-proprietors, small business owners, and certain homeowners that owe debt relating to oil spill cleanup and removal costs, property damage, and breach of contract, as well as other fees owed to state agencies.

For more information with the attorney general's hotline at 1-800-771-7755.

Crackdown on fake cures, price gouging

Attorney General James says she has sent multiple cease-and-desist letters to individuals and companies selling and marketing certain products as treatments or cures for the coronavirus, including Alex Jones, The Silver Edge company, Dr. Sherill Sellman, and televangelist Jim Bakker.

There is currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved vaccine to prevent the disease or treatment to cure it, and the World Health Organization has also said that there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat the coronavirus, James said.

James has also issued cease-and-desist notifications to multiple businesses in New York for charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, and rubbing alcohol — a violation of New York’s price gouging statute. That statute prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers at unconscionably excessive prices during any abnormal disruption of the market.

Scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears. If a consumer believes they have been the victim of a scam or have witnessed potential price gouging, they can report these incidents to the attorney general's office at 1-800-771-7755.

Skoufis calls on governor to close outlet malls

Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) called on Gov. Cuomo to immediately close down outlet malls such as Woodbury Common Premium Outlets as a necessary public safety measure.

I'm calling on the Governor to mandate the immediate closure of outlet malls because the safety of our communities, employees, and visitors is paramount during this pandemic," Skoufis said Monday afternoon. "In speaking with retail managers and directors at Woodbury Common, it appears that a number of stores are earnestly trying to do the right thing and will pay their employees for as long as possible during a shutdown. I am calling on all stores in Woodbury Common to do the same if/when the mall closes. We are all in this together and I will continue fighting for the safety of my constituents."

The Woodbury Common website, premiumoutlets.com/outlet/woodbury-common, currently carries an announcement of its modified hours in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The modified hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Sunday; and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Parking fees waived at state and local parks

Not everything in New York State is shut down by the coronavirus outbreak. There are some great local attractions you can still visit, and they're now free: parks.

During the statewide shut-down of bars, restaurants, casinos, gyms, and other fun places that commenced last night, New York State will waive all parking fees in state, local and, county parks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that indoor recreational facilities, like nature centers, visitor centers, and historic houses are closed to the public indefinitely. But all year-round state parks, trails, and grounds of historic sites will remain open for outdoor recreation.

Visitors should, however, remember they are in a public park. While the parks department says it is increasing its efforts to sanitize its facilities, each surface is only as clean as the last person who touched it. The parks department makes the following recommendations:

● Try to keep at least six feet of distance between you and others.

● Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.

● Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

● Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment

The parks department says it is closely coordinating with state's emergency preparedness and response efforts. "As the situation continues to develop, we will take any necessary actions to protect visitor and staff health," it said in a statement.

Updates will be provided periodically on social media and at parks.ny.gov. Questions or concerns about visitation opportunities may be directed to notes@parks.ny.gov.

Hudson Highlands Nature Museum grounds are open

The Hudson Highlands Nature Museum has cancelled or postponed all of its programs through Sunday, March 29. The date may be extended, depending on circumstances.

However, both Nature Museum properties are open for hiking or walking. Keep in mind, though, and its public restrooms will be closed.

"In these times of closures and social distancing, getting outdoors can be the most beneficial thing you can do to keep mind, body and spirit fit," said Tom Bregman, executive director

He gave assurances that the museum's animals are being well cared for.

"In addition to leading that effort, Director of the Wildlife Education Center Emily Nestlerode is producing a series of short videos featuring some of our most beloved critters," he said. "Please stay tuned for an announcement and a link so you can spend some virtual time with our animals in the coming days."

The Outdoor Discovery Center is located at 120 Muser Drive, Cornwall (across from 174 Angola Road). The Wildlife Education Center is located at 25 Boulevard, Cornwall-on-Hudson. For more information visit hhnm.org.

Hikers asked to report COVID-19 to the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy urges to distance themselves from others on the trail and maintain good hygiene: "Avoid sharing food. Do not eat out of the same food bag, share utensils or drink from other hikers’ water bottles. Avoid congregating in groups along the Trail."

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 while on the Appalachian Trail, submit an incident report at appalachiantrail.org/incidents detailing when you got sick, when and where you got off the trail and any other helpful information.

For more local information on the coronavirus pandemic, please visit chroniclenewspaper.com.

Tristate tallies:
Here follows the number of positive cases in the tristate area and beyond as of March 17:
New York State: 950, six deaths
Orange County, N.Y: 18 (up from 7 yesterday)
Sullivan County, N.Y. 1
Pennsylvania: 76
Pike County, Pa.: 1
Wayne County, Pa.: 1
Monroe County, Pa.: 8
New Jersey: 178 (up from 98 yesterday), two deaths
USA: 5,218, 92 deaths
World: 190,140, 7,517 deaths