COVID-19 update: Pantries are replenished, local resident makes face masks

Goshen. On Monday, New York State reported 20,875 cases of COVID-19, slightly more than half of the U.S. total. 60,000 pounds of nonperishable food were delivered to replenish local pantries. Motor vehicle offices close statewide. Goshen Chamber members will meet on Zoom. A Chester resident makes face masks as NYS "scours the globe" for supplies. Assemblyman urges unemployment filings by phone and internet. Governor says more than half of patients are under 50 years old. Parks department urges visitors to leave if they encounter crowds. Attorney general urges vote-by-mail for primaries and compliance with funeral guidelines. Cuomo signs sick leave law. Find these stories and more local news about the novel coronavirus, below.

23 Mar 2020 | 06:33

Goods delivered to replenish food pantries

A tractor-trailer delivered more than 60,000 pounds of nonperishable food to the Encounter Church in Rock Tavern on Friday.

“It is gratifying to see so many people from the community coming together to help our neighbors,” said Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus. “It is our moral obligation to continue to provide food and other essentials to those in Orange County who need it."

On March 16, Encounter Church Pastor Anthony Mugnano reached out to NYS Assemblyman Colin Schmitt for help feeding the growing number of families in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kaplan Family Foundation and ShopRite made donations to purchase food, while Neuhaus approved Orange County funding. J.B. Hunt Transport Services provided discounted transportation to deliver the goods to various food pantries. Personnel from the county’s department of public works helped unload the food upon delivery.

“I will continue working with the county executive and our partners in government, non-profit and private sectors to see Orange County through these trying times," said Schmitt.

If you or your family is in need, call the Encounter Church at 845-497-0142 to arrange a pickup time. If you cannot pick up the food yourself, call the Orange County Crisis Center at 1-800-832-1200.

Orange County has 389 cases of coronavirus as of Monday.

DMV closes

In compliance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles announced Sunday that all of its offices and auto bureaus statewide are closed until further notice.

Expiration dates for driver licenses, non-driver IDs, and registrations set to expire on or after March 1, 2020, will be extended. Road tests will be suspended until further notice.

“These are extraordinary times and at the direction of Governor Cuomo we are taking broad action to protect the health and safety of the public and our workers,” said DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder. “We will continue to offer a wide selection of online transactions during this shutdown so New Yorkers can continue to do business with the DMV.”

This extension does not apply to insurance coverage requirements.

More than 60 online transactions remain available to customers, including pleading or paying New York City traffic tickets, renewing a license or registration, ordering a custom plate, obtaining a driver record (abstract), changing an address, and more. Customers can also return their license plates and complete many other transactions by mail.

Before the governor’s order, the DMV reduced the number of customers in its offices by implementing a reservation-only policy, reducing its hours, and postponing traffic hearings, among other measures.

For more information, visit dmv.ny.gov or follow DMV on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Goshen Chamber to meet on Zoom

Barbara Martinez, the executive director of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, said its members will continue to meet via Zoom and Facebook Live.

Goshen Chamber Connects on WTBQ/WGHT radio will continue as scheduled.

"We are getting creative," Martinez said. "Stay tuned!"

The chamber's networking breakfasts have been temporarily cancelled. However, Martinez said, "we are still on target" to open the annual farmers market on Friday, May 22.

"We we hope you will all join us for this local highly anticipated tradition," she said.

"COVID-19 has forced everyone to pause and shift our way of conducting business," said Martinez.

"We promise to support all of our members, small and big, non-profit and for profit, now more than ever we need to work together," she added. "We look forward to continuing building relationships and making connections with our members because we are all essential."

For more information, email Martinez at barbara@goshennychamber.com.

Unemployment filings by phone and internet

New York Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt (R-New Windsor) on Monday urged Gov. Cuomo and NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Readon to allow the unemployed to file for benefits by phone and internet.

“As we face the immense economic impact caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, New York State must rapidly increase its phone and web based unemployment filing capabilities," Schmitt said. "I believe non-essential state employees from other agencies should be brought on via telework technology to increase phone filing capabilities until further notice.”

Local resident makes face masks as NYS 'scours the globe'

Cindy Becker of Chester is making face masks for her sister, who is a nurse.

"Every bit helps," she said on Facebook.

She is married to Chester town councilman Tom Becker.

"Please make some if you can," she said.

Deaconess Hospital in Indiana offers a tutorial in making face masks at deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask. The website also allows organizations to request masks. For example, the Town of Newburgh EMS is asking for 45 adult-size masks through the Deaconess site. The Newburgh EMS contact person is Carrie Massari at 845-648-7800.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that New York is scouring the globe for desperately needed medical supplies and is scouting field hospital locations in New York City and its suburbs as confirmed coronavirus cases soared statewide, according to the Associated Press.

The goal is to quickly boost the state's hospital capacity from around 50,000 beds to 75,000 beds, Cuomo said at a news briefing. The state has already hospitalized 1,600 people due to the outbreak.

The governor said the state is looking to see if Manhattan's spacious Javits Center could be suitable for 1,000 requested beds supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a "tent configuration" with equipment and staff. Possible locations for temporary hospital structures built by the Army Corps of Engineers include Stony Brook University and SUNY College at Old Westbury on Long Island, and the Westchester County Center north of the city.

Officials have identified 2 million face masks that can be sent to hot spots, Cuomo said, and apparel companies are pivoting to make masks. One million masks were sent to New York City hospitals Saturday, and 500,000 to Long Island. And with hospital gowns in short supply, the state is trying to obtain gown material for apparel makers, he said.

The state is also rounding up critically needed ventilators from around the state and purchasing 6,000 to deploy to the most critical areas, Cuomo said. And they are investigating whether multiple patients can be served by a single ventilator.

"We are literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies," Cuomo said. The state also will immediately conduct trials of an experimental treatment with hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax.

Attorney general urges compliance with funeral guidelines

New York Attorney General Letitia James asked New Yorkers on Monday to comply with new guidelines published by the New York State Department of Health for funeral firms and families planning funerals. Highlights include:

All large gatherings should be avoided. Otherwise, gatherings must be limited to no more than 50 percent of the maximum capacity of the funeral home or 50 people, whichever is lower.

There is no known risk associated with being in the same room with the body of someone who died from COVID-19. However, people should not touch the body. People in close contact with the person before their death may be infected and should not attend funeral services, where they may infect others.

Funeral home workers should follow their routine infection prevention and control precautions when handling the body of someone who died of COVID-19, James said.

The state’s guidelines closely match guidelines provided by the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Our country is facing a unique state of crisis with the spread of the coronavirus," said James. "While we all may want to celebrate our loved ones’ lives and memorialize them, at this time, we must continue to practice social distancing and limit large public gatherings, including at funeral services. Our number one goal should be to limit the spread of this disease and stop more New Yorkers from getting sick.”

Cuomo: More than half of patients are under 50

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday that more than half of all coronavirus cases in New York state are patients who are under 50 years old.

Of the state’s 10,356 cases as of Saturday, 54 percent were in people 18 to 49, Cuomo said in a news conference. This counters earlier assumptions that the virus mainly affected those over 60 with underlying health conditions.

"You’re not superman and you’re not superwoman, you can get this virus and you can transfer the virus and you can wind up hurting someone who you love or hurting someone wholly inadvertently,” he said in a message to Millennials. “It has to be stopped.”

Later on Saturday, the state began its full lockdown of nonessential businesses.

A full lockdown order will come into effect on Saturday night. The Trump administration task force indicated earlier this week that, , information from Europe showed that some millennials were in ICUs with severe cases of coronavirus.

On Monday, New York State reported 20,875 cases of COVID-19, slightly more than half of the U.S. total of 41,708 cases.

Avoid crowds, parks department says

Last week, the New York State Parks department invited people cooped up during the pandemic to take a break and hike some trails, even suspending parking fees at trailheads. This week, the parks department was more nuanced:

"If you do plan on visiting, it should be for a solitary nature break. Please limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact, and avoid activities where you may come in close contact with other people. If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, choose a different park, a different trail or return another time/day to visit. We appreciate your support and patience as we navigate this public health crisis together."

The parks department tells visitors to stay at least six feet away from others.

All indoor visitor facilities at state parks, such as nature centers, visitor centers, and historic houses, are closed, as are all playgrounds, athletic courts, and sporting fields.

Primary vote-by-mail urged

(AP) New York Attorney General Letitia James called on the state Sunday to suspend in-person voting and send every eligible voter an absentee ballot for the April 28 Democratic presidential primary.

"Let's make it easier for every voter to cast their vote without spreading the coronavirus and jeopardizing public health," James said in a statement. "Democracy should not be suspended if there is a safe alternative."

The Erie County Board of Elections released a special absentee ballot application almost two weeks ago listing "public health emergency (COVID-19)" as an option for voting absentee in the special election to fill the open seat in the 27th congressional district. James said the executive order she's seeking goes further by ensuring every eligible voter is automatically sent an absentee ballot.

Orange Regional offers guidelines

Orange Regional Medical Center in Middletown on Monday offered the following guidelines for people who believe they may have been infected with the novel coronavirus:

If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have traveled internationally or were in close contact with someone with coronavirus in the 14 days before you began to feel sick, alert your health care provider before going to an already scheduled appointment or the emergency department. Orange County residents who have recently traveled outside the U.S. and have questions regarding coronavirus should call the county health department at 845-291-2330.

If you become sick:

● Take over-the-counter medications that you normally use for cough/fever.

● If under age 15 do not take aspirin or aspirin containing products.

● Continue to take your regular medications unless your health care provider advises you otherwise.

● Stay at home until you have no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.

● Avoid close contact with others.

● Cover your mouth when sneezing, blowing your nose or coughing.

● Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

● Wash hands frequently and always after coughing/sneezing, etc. Use soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

● Do not share glasses, cups, utensils, toothbrushes.

● Clean hard surfaces (especially in commonly used areas: bedroom, kitchen, bathroom) with standard household disinfectants.

● Contact your health care provider if you have any further questions or if your condition worsens. If it is an emergency, call 911. Upon first contact with any health care provider (physician, ambulance, emergency room, clinic) inform them immediately that you have a cough/fever so that they can treat you promptly and appropriately.

The public may contact the New York State Department of Health coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065 to speak with a expert who will answer questions, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Or visit ny.gov/coronavirus to get more information.

Cuomo signs sick leave law

(AP) Gov. Cuomo signed a law on March 18 allowing New Yorkers under quarantine or isolation orders to receive sick leave and paid leave benefits to make up for lost wages.

Businesses with 100 or more employees would provide workers who get sick or are quarantined with at least 14 days of paid sick leave under the bill, which requires unpaid sick leave or at least five paid sick days for other workers.

FDIC warns of scams saying banks are in trouble

(AP) One of the nation's bank regulators is urging Americans not to withdraw large sums of cash and to beware of fraudsters claiming that banks are limiting customers' access to their money.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued a statement on March 18 warning about an increase in scams trying to sow distrust in the U.S. financial system while the nation is dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Many banks have shortened branch hours or are pushing customers to use online banking exclusively to avoid transmission of the virus. This has led more Americans to pull cash out of ATMs in some communities.

The FDIC says it has seen an uptick in calls, text messages, letters and emails from scammers pretending to be FDIC employees, using names of people who actually work at the FDIC. The scammers falsely claim that banks are limiting access to deposits or that there are security issues with bank deposits.

The scammers, along with trying to sow distrust, are also after bank account and other personal information.

The FDIC insures every depositor up to $250,000 in each bank where they hold deposits. No depositor has lost money since the FDIC was created in 1933, in response to the large number of bank failures and bank runs in the early years of the Great Depression. While the stock market has fallen sharply and the U.S. economy could potentially fall into a recession, banks are not at risk of failure. The FDIC's ``troubled bank'' list is at an all-time low, and bank capital at every bank is higher than it was prior to the Great Recession.

Most renters won't receive protections under Trump proposal

(AP) Most Americans who rent their home, many of whom have lost their jobs in the sudden economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak, will not be eligible for eviction protections, despite what President Donald Trump said last week.

Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development's plan released on March 18, foreclosures and evictions would stop for 60 days on single-family homes with loans through the Federal Housing Administration. That would apply to roughly 8 million units, according to HUD. Only FHA homes lived in for at least a year can be rented out. That's compared with the roughly 43 million households who rented in 2019, according to the U.S. Census.

Roughly half of renters rent their home from an individual investor, while the other half rent from a business or multi-unit property owner. The ones renting from a business will not receive any protections according to HUD's proposal.

"That's the problem with (HUD's proposal). It only impacts a very small amount of people. We need big-scale solutions," said Andrea Shapiro of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, a New York-based housing advocacy organization.

Shapiro said the best solution at the moment would be a national moratorium on both rental payments and mortgage payments.

"Everyone needs protections right now," she said.

Vital but vulnerable, cleaners hold the line against a virus

(AP) Cleaning workers are often the first line of defense against the global COVID-19 pandemic, cleaning and disinfecting homes, medical facilities and public spaces where the novel coronavirus could spread. But the people doing this all this cleaning earn low wages, often lack sick leave and paid days off, and can lose their jobs with no warning. All this under the constant fear that they could come in contact with the virus themselves, despite what many say are diligent precautions. Overall demand for cleaning has been heavy in the early days of the pandemic, though that's starting to change as cities enter lockdown.

$10 toilet paper? Coronavirus gouging complaints surge

(AP) Across a country where some shelves are empty and patience is thin, authorities are receiving a surge of reports about people trying to cash in on the coronavirus crisis with outrageous prices, phony cures and other scams. An Associated Press survey of attorneys generals in all 50 states found the number of complaints has already exceeded 5,000. One store advertised hand sanitizer at $60 a bottle. Chain stores were accused of selling $26 thermometers and face masks at $39.95 a pair, while a convenience store offered toilet paper at $10 a roll next to a sign reading, "This is not a joke."

Tristate tallies:
Here follows the number of positive cases in the tristate area and beyond as of March 23:
New York State: 20,875
Orange County, N.Y: 389
Sullivan County, N.Y. 23
Pennsylvania: 644
Pike County, Pa.: 3
Wayne County, Pa.: 3
Monroe County, Pa.: 43
New Jersey: 2,844
USA: 41,708