NY schools closed for academic year

Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces Friday that all schools in New York state will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

ALBANY — As the state’s coronavirus COVID-19 death toll spiked overnight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized federal lawmakers for the second day in a row Thursday for passing a $2 trillion bill to fight the pandemic the governor said provides insufficient aid to state governments.

The state had 37,258 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday afternoon — up from 30,811 Wednesday. The state reported 100 additional virus-related deaths overnight for a total of 385 deaths to Wednesday’s 285.

Of the positive cases, 5,327 are hospitalized, or roughly 14%, with 1,290 patients in intensive care. Since the state outbreak began at the beginning of March, 1,517 patients have recovered and been discharged from the hospital.

U.S. senators voted to pass a $2 trillion package — the largest in American history — late Wednesday to provide federal aid in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The plan will cut financial-assistance checks to middle-class and lower-income Americans and increase unemployment benefits to a greater number of workers to be paid out for four months. The aid would also serve as relief for businesses and state governments.

“We have done very well here,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. “He [Cuomo] should be pointing his fire at [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, who was the one who was stopping this from happening — not at the New York delegation.”

Money is allocated to state governments based on their number of positive coronavirus cases, Schumer said. With more than 35,000 positive cases, New York the nation’s epicenter for the outbreak.

Cuomo said Thursday that New York’s state government stood to get about $5 billion from the federal emergency bill, which he contended can only be used to pay for COVID-19 response efforts, and does nothing to help the state’s projected 10 to $15 billion budget shortfall.

Schumer argued the Senate’s emergency COVID-19 package will deliver more than $40 billion dollars to the state, city and its citizens.

“This is not a moment of celebration, but rather one of necessity,” Schumer said in a statement Wednesday. “These critical dollars will inject proverbial medicine into our state, city and localities throughout upstate New York to deliver much-needed resources, right now, that can help combat the coronavirus. Like all compromise legislation, this bill is far from perfect, but it now does much more for this state, its people and its future than what we began with.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., voted for the package, she said, because it strengthens the nation’s health care system and prioritizes workers and families with critical funding for hospitals, expanded unemployment insurance, and more.

“It will give confidence to workers and families facing financial strain and will enable them to follow public health guidelines,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “While this economic package is a good down payment in the fight against this outbreak, there is much more to be done. In the months ahead, I will continue working to deliver resources to help our country overcome this immense challenge.”

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill Friday. U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, did not respond to questions Thursday about Cuomo’s criticisms of the bill.

Delgado said he has been focused on the needs of upstate New Yorkers in the 19th Congressional District, which includes all of Columbia and Greene counties.

“I have been working every day to make sure the needs of upstate New York and our rural communities in particular, are met during this crisis,” Delgado said in a statement Thursday.

Delgado introduced two provisions to the $2 trillion bipartisan COVID-19 relief package, including the Small Business Repayment Relief Act so every small business with a qualified loan through the Small Business Administration automatically be relieved of loan payments — including principal, interest and fees — for the next six months. Delgado sent a letter to 37 senators urging future COVID-19 relief packages include special disaster-assistance measures for small and midsize farmers, who are already experiencing severe market disruptions.

Senate lawmakers kept Delgado’s provisions, and the latest COVID-19 package includes $9.5 billion in funding to support farmers and nearly $17 billion for small business owners’ qualified loan payments, Delgado said.

“Moving forward, I will continue to assess the needs of our upstate communities and work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advocate for legislation to meet those needs,” Delgado said. “It is critically important that we pass bipartisan legislation soon to help folks get relief, and immediately start our work on phase 4.”

The state’s most dense virus hot spots remain downstate and in New York City. To date, the virus has been detected in 52 counties and the city, with 21,393 positive cases in New York City, 5,944 cases in Westchester County, 3,914 in Nassau County, 2,735 cases in Suffolk County, 1,197 in Rockland County and 166 in Albany County.

Greene County has nine positive cases of COVID-19, in Windham, Durham, Greenville, Hunter and Cairo, according to a statement from Greene County Public Health on Thursday afternoon. None of the infected people have required hospitalization. Nineteen people have tested positive for the virus in Columbia County as of Thursday afternoon, with 254 people tested. Eighty-five are under mandatory quarantine and 30 under precautionary quarantine, according to the Columbia County Department of Health website. Nine residents have suspected, untested cases.

To see the complete county breakdown of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html

The state is working around the clock to ramp up hospitals with adequate beds, staffing, equipment and ventilators before the virus apex, or peak, which is expected to hit within the next three weeks. The state needs 140,000 hospital beds, but has 53,000. Hospitals were tasked with increasing their capacity a minimum of 50%, with a goal to double it.

The state is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct temporary medical centers and hospitals at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, SUNY College at Old Westbury, SUNY Stony Brook and the Westchester Convention Center in White Plains. Cuomo announced additional plans Thursday to scout other sites for a 1,000-plus overflow facility in each of New York City’s five boroughs and in downstate counties, including Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island and Suffolk, Westchester and Rockand counties with the goal of being open to patients in early- to mid-April. The state is also preparing college dormitories and hotels for emergency beds.

“Almost any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the current health care system,” Cuomo said. “That’s what we’re working on at the same time, as well as increasing the capacity of the existing hospital system.”

An additional 12,000 health care workers, including retirees and students, have signed up to volunteer to work as part of the state’s surge health care force during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the total number of volunteers to more than 52,000. More than 8,600 mental health professionals, including from other states, signed up to provide free online mental health services. New Yorkers can call the state’s hotline at 1-844-863-9314 to schedule a free appointment.

“This is not a sprint — it’s a marathon,” Cuomo said. “This is going to form a new generation, and it’s going to transform who we are and how we think... Let’s make sure at the end of the day, we can say we are the better for it and our children are the better for it, and I believe they will be.”

The Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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