POUGHKEEPSIE — Victims can file time-barred cases under the Child Victims Act for five additional months and officials are studying evidence that shows COVID-19 may mimic symptoms of severe illnesses in children, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
The state will extend the Child Victims Act look-back window an additional five months through Jan. 14. Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act in February 2019 to allow survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice and file a case with expired statute of limitations, but only for one year. The window to file an expired or time-barred case was set to close Aug. 14, 2020.
“Many aspects of society have been closed down or are less operational during this pandemic, and the court system is among them,” Cuomo said during a briefing Friday afternoon at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. “Because of the reduction in court services due to the virus, we are extending that window for an additional five months until Jan. 14 to ensure survivors have the access to the courts that they need to file a claim and get the long-overdue justice they deserve.”
Gary Greenberg of New Baltimore spearheaded the movement to pass the Child Victims Act in New York state, which gave child sexual abuse survivors a vehicle to file civil suits against their abusers. Greenberg, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 46th state Senate District seat, led the effort through forming the Fighting for Children PAC and ProtectNYKids Inc.
Friday’s extension is historic, the local activist said.
“Victims will now have more time to file a claim and find an attorney,” Greenberg said. “I hope the Legislature takes action on creating a fund for victims who cannot file a claim in civil court and pass the Adult Victims Act.”
Child and domestic abuse reports have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, Greenberg said.
“We must continue to pass laws that help victims and stop predators from committing heinous crimes against our children,” he added.
Greenberg will face Michelle Hinchey of Saugerties, daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, in the Democratic primary June 23 for the 46th Senate seat held by Republican George Amedore Jr.
Officials are investigating evidence COVID-19 can cause severe illness in children — mimicking symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and Toxic Shock Syndrome.
A 5-year-old boy died in New York City on Thursday from similar virus-related complications.
“We thought children might be vehicles of transmission, but we didn’t think children would suffer from it,” Cuomo said. “So caution to all people who may have believed that their child couldn’t be affected by COVID.”
Seek medical attention immediately if your child has a fever lasting more than five days, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, a change in skin color such as turning pale or blue, trouble breathing, decreased amount or frequency of urination, racing heart rate or infants having difficulty feeding or drinking fluids, according to the governor’s office.
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached at least 20,324 Friday — up from 20,108 Thursday. The state saw 216 virus-related deaths Thursday, including 171 in hospitals and 45 in nursing homes. The death rate remains flat after 231 fatalities Wednesday, 232 Tuesday and 230 Monday.
The state tested 1,121,543 people as of Friday, revealing 330,407 total positive cases of COVID-19. New York’s hospitalization rates continued a downward trend to 8,196 patients Friday, down 469, according to the governor’s office. About 600 new virus patients enter hospitals statewide each day, down from about 1,000 new daily hospitalizations last week.
“We went up very quickly,” Cuomo said of the state’s virus hospitalization and death rate. “We would have hoped that we would have come down very quickly. That’s not what’s happening — it’s more flattening out.”
Minority communities remain the most impacted by COVID-19, with higher rates of infection and virus-related fatalities. Of the 21 ZIP codes with the most new COVID-19 hospitalizations, 20 have greater-than-average black or Latino populations.
Hospitals continue to provide the state detailed demographics about newly admitted patients.
“This is something we’re focused on and we’re going to address,” Cuomo said. “We’re going to address it immediately and will have more information on this in the next several days.”
Some upstate regions of New York may be ready to resume construction and manufacturing — the first of four reopening phases per state guidelines — in the coming weeks. The state’s 10-point executive NY On Pause order, which closed schools and nonessential businesses, expires May 15.
It’s unlikely downstate areas and counties will be ready to start reopening that soon, Cuomo said.
“If you look at these numbers, upstate New York — it’s entirely different,” he added. “It’s like a different state. If we react too quickly, it’s only going to be more problematic and be longer.”
The state continues to work on getting unemployment benefits to millions of New Yorkers — thousands of whom have not received benefits because of a logjam of applications with the Department of Labor since the statewide quarantine started in mid-March.
The state’s unemployment rate soared from about 2.8% to 20%, Cuomo said. Every state’s unemployment system, which is accustomed to hundreds of applications, has been overwhelmed. New York has thousands of employees addressing the state’s unemployment applications to meet demand during the pandemic.
“The volume of the calls has been so great it has literally crushed the phone system time and time again,” Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said. “We’re throwing literally everything we can at it.”
The state paid $2.1 billion in unemployment benefits in 2019. The state paid $6.8 billion to 1.6 million people in the last seven weeks. “We haven’t experienced anything like this — period,” DeRosa said. “We’re literally building the plane while we’re trying to fly it.”
Cuomo also named the 20 members of New York’s Reimagine Education Advisory Council — comprised of educators, students, parents and education leaders — to help districts reimagine schools as they prepare to reopen, how virtual learning can bridge the gap and supplement face-to-face education while enforcing social-distancing guidelines.
The council, chaired by SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras, includes Albany City Schools Superintendent Kaweeda Adams, Hudson Valley Community College President Roger Ramsammy, Guilderland Board of Education President Seema Rivera, teacher Stephanie Conklin from the South Colonie Central School District, state Education Department interim Commissioner Shannon Tahoe, former state Education Department Chancellor Dennis Walcott and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
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