Saturday, April 4, 2020

COVID-19 Update

Here is the latest news from the Columbia County Department of Health. There are now 61 positive cases of the coronavirus, four more than yesterday. There has been one more death and two more recoveries.
As of 3:45 p.m., April 4, 2020, Columbia County has confirmed 61 positive cases of COVID-19. Three of the positive cases have passed away. Five of the positive cases are hospitalized, two of those are in the ICU. We have received 440 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 60 under mandatory quarantine and 22 under precautionary quarantine. There are 9 residents with suspected, not tested cases. Twenty-four Columbia County residents have recovered from COVID-19.

A Little Perspective

In his daily briefing this morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo noted that it has been 30 days since the first case of COVID-19 in the State of New York. Checking back, I realized it has been 15 days since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Columbia County.

As of yesterday, the Columbia County Department of Health was reporting 57 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of 5:30 a.m. today, the NYS Department of Health is reporting 49 cases in Columbia County. The discrepancy in the numbers is attributed to NYSDOH not counting people who have retreated to second homes in Columbia County and now test positive for the virus as county residents. By comparison, there are now 938 confirmed cases in Dutchess County.

The NYSDOH has introduced a COVID-19 Tracker on its website, which can be accessed here or by clicking on the marigold colored "Coronavirus Update" tab at the right.

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Friday, April 3, 2020

Events Postponed

While it's unlikely any of us believed Donald Trump when he predicted back in February that the novel coronavirus would disappear by April, we may still harbor the hope that things will be back to normal by summer, and the summer events we've been looking forward to will still happen. Unfortunately, big events require planning and fundraising--two things that are difficult, if not impossible, to carry out in the present circumstance. 

At the beginning of last week, the Hudson Festival Orchestra announced the decision to postpone its inaugural performance "Hudson in Concert: A Community Celebration," scheduled to take place in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park on August 1, until the summer of 2021.

In announcing the postponement, Gary Sheffer, president of the HFO Board, stated:
We are very disappointed to postpone our inaugural concert, but it is the right thing to do given coronavirus concerns. The concept of a musical performance that celebrates Hudson's cultural diversity has been well received by the community. . . . Believing that music and culture can bridge divides and build community, the mission of the Hudson Festival Orchestra remains to bring diverse area residents together through a musical celebration of our shared American and diverse cultural heritages.
Today, OutHudson announced the annual Pride Parade, which typically happens on the third Saturday in June, will be postponed until September 26.

The theme of the parade this year is "Out of This World." The strange and unsettling world we are currently experiencing may provide those planning to be part of the parade inspiration and time to conceptualize and create their costumes for the parade--provided they can obtain the materials they need without leaving their homes.
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COVID-19 Update

Here's the latest word from the Columbia County Department of Health. The essential news: there are five more positive cases today than there were yesterday.
As of 3 p.m., April 3, 2020, Columbia County has confirmed 57 positive cases of COVID-19. Two of the positive cases have passed away. Five of the positive cases are hospitalized, two of those are in the ICU. We have received 427 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 60 under mandatory quarantine and 22 under precautionary quarantine. There are 9 residents with suspected, not tested cases. Twenty-two Columbia County residents have recovered from COVID-19.

HDC to Hold Special Meeting

The Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) has announced that it will hold a special meeting on Monday, April 6, at 3 p.m. It will be a virtual meeting on ZOOM. Information on how to attend the meeting (virtually) can be found here. The agenda for the meeting is not yet available, but when it is, Gossips will publish it.  

Hudson, a Climate Smart Community

The Register-Star reported the Hudson is working to become a Certified Climate Smart Community: "Hudson seeks Climate Smart Community certification." It's a process that began last April, when, at the initiative of Rich Volo, then a Fourth Ward alderman, the Common Council passed a resolution adopting the New York State Climate Smart Community pledge. The resolution outlined these elements of the pledge:
  1. Build a climate-smart community
  2. Inventory emissions, set goals, and plan for climate action
  3. Decrease energy use
  4. Shift to clean, renewable energy
  5. Use climate-smart materials management
  6. Implement climate-smart land use
  7. Enhance community resilience to climate change
  8. Support a green innovation economy
  9. Inform and inspire the public
  10. Engage in an evolving process of climate action
Adopting the pledge was the first step. Now the City is moving on to the next steps, the first of which is to "appoint a Climate Smart Community coordinator, a Climate Smart Community task force, and an internal 'green team.'" The roles of these groups are described in this way on NYS Department of Conservation website: "The Climate Smart Community coordinator and task force assess community resources and issues and galvanize community support. The internal green team focuses on municipal operations and facilities."

The Register-Star article reports that Michael Chameides, mayor's aide, will serve as Climate Smart Community coordinator--this role added to his role as ADA coordinator and his position as Third Ward supervisor. The Climate Smart Community task force has also been appointed, made up of Kam Bellamy, president of the board of Camphill Hudson and executive director of the Foundation for Agricultural Integrity; Michael O'Hara, member of the Conservation Advisory Council and Hudson's representative to the Columbia County Environmental Management Council; John Rosenthal, Fourth Ward alderman and chair of the Common Council Public Works Committee; Briggin Scharf, founding member of Rolling Grocer 19 and manager of the ReGen program at Kite's Nest; and Tony Stone, co-founder of Basilica Hudson and River House Project. 

There is no indication, at least not from the article, that an internal "green team" has been assembled.
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Things Are Looking Different in the Morning

The Journal of Accountancy reported this morning about the new guidelines for the Paycheck Protection Program released late last night: "SBA issues details for Paycheck Protection Program loans." Among the most important new information is this:
The new rule provides greater clarity on several issues and changes the interest rate on loans made under the program from 0.5% to 1%, a change the American Bankers Association said would encourage banks of all sizes to participate in the program.
Also of interest is this information:
Small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for PPP loans beginning today. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply beginning April 10.

Troubling News about CARES Act Program

On Wednesday, April 1, Gossips published a press release from Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) about the Paycheck Protection Program, a $349 billion program created by the CARES Act to help small businesses sustain their businesses and keep their workers employed. The program would be managed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Also on Wednesday, an officer of a local bank indicated on the Hudson Business Coalition list serve that his bank was partnering with Pursuit Lending, one of the largest small business lenders in the state, to run the program. 

On Thursday, April 2, the Albany Business Review reported that Pursuit, which had previously indicated it was allocating $400 million to fund the Paycheck Protection Program and was prepared to allocate more, decided it would not be able to offer Paycheck Protection Program loans "due to the uncertainty around the program and lack of capital": "One of New York's largest SBA lenders says it won't offer loans as part of $350B Paycheck Protection Program." According to the article, the decision came after the U.S. Department of the Treasury said the interest rates for the loans would be set at 0.5 percent, and banks started pulling out of their commitments to contribute to Pursuit's loan fund. Patrick MacKrell, CEO of Pursuit, is quoted in the Albany Business Review as saying, "As a result of the limit on the interest and term, major sources of funding that had been available to us to capitalize a fund are no longer available. I am told by many banks that they are reconsidering participation in the program." MacKrell is further quoted as saying, "We are a couple days away from the supposed start of this unique program and all that we have available in terms of guidance is press releases, FAQs and an application form. We certainly cannot run a government loan program on press releases and FAQs."

Shortly after midnight, Key Bank released a statement indicating that, late Thursday night, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released updated guidance and an updated application. The application process is expected to begin today, Friday, April 3.
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Unstoppable Stewart's

The Altamont Enterprise reported today, with the comment "Not even a pandemic could keep Stewart's from receiving its variances," that, in a video conference, with thirty-six remote attendees, the Altamont Zoning Board of Appeals granted Stewart's Shops the variances needed to build its new gas station and convenience store: "Majority rules: Altamont ZBA officially signs off on Stewart's variances." Stewart's plans in Altamont involve the removal of a row of century-old pines, as well as the demolition of a two-family house.

Photo: Carol Rothenberg
Photo: Michael Koff|Altamont Enterprise
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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Money for Test Kits

Matt Murell, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, made this announcement earlier today.
COUNTY RECEIVES TEST KIT DONATION
Columbia County has received a donation of $10,000 for the purchase of coronavirus test kits, county Board of Supervisors Matt Murell said Thursday.
The donation, made by Jack Shear of Spencertown, is to be dedicated to the purchase of test kits for use by the county Department of Health.
"Jack came to me and asked where he could help," said Austerlitz Town Supervisor Rob Lagonia. "When he learned of the need for funds to purchase test kits, he was more than willing to help."
In addition, Murell said the county is currently looking at its resources to determine if there are county funds that can be put toward purchase of the kits. . . .

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health has reported today's numbers. There are now 51 positive cases of COVID-19, up six from yesterday. There has been a second death from the virus, and four more Columbia County residents have recovered, bringing the number who have recovered to 22.
As of 3:45 p.m., April 2, 2020, Columbia County has confirmed 51 positive cases of COVID-19. Two of the positive cases have passed away. Five of the positive cases are hospitalized, two of those are in the ICU. We have received 401 results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 61 under mandatory quarantine and 25 under precautionary quarantine. There are 10 residents with suspected, not tested cases. Twenty-two Columbia County residents have recovered from COVID-19.

More About Food

Last night, at the Housing and Transportation Committee meeting, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) spoke about "low-income tenants who now have to feed their kids." Typically, students in the Hudson City School District get free breakfast and lunch at school from Monday through Friday, and many students who live in Hudson get a free daily supper at the Youth Center. The implication was that, now that the schools are closed and the Youth Center is closed, parents need to provide three meals a day for their children.

When the schools closed on March 18, HCSD announced on its Facebook page that it continue the school breakfast and lunch program.


Garriga's comment made it seem that the program had stopped. It hasn't. Meals are provided in "grab-and-go style" at four locations in Hudson--Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School, Hudson Junior High School, the former John L. Edwards School building, and the Chamber of Commerce parking lot--from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch and the next day's breakfast are distributed Monday through Friday.


To compensate for missed suppers at the Youth Center, the Youth Department, with funding from Friends of Hudson Youth, is distributing free groceries to anyone in Hudson who requests them. Groceries are delivered every Tuesday and Friday to pickup sites at Bliss Towers, Schuyler Court, Providence Hall, and Hudson Terrace.  


There's a lot of effort going on in Hudson to make people food secure.
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Food News

The Red Dot is offering food to go again this Friday, with a menu that's a bit larger than last week Friday's. Orders must be placed, by phone (518 828-3657) or email (reddot321@gmail.com), before 4:00 p.m. on Friday for pick between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.


Chef Dana at Relish Delights is once again offering dinner to go on Tuesday, April 7: Asian slaw, chicken vindaloo, coconut rice, and chocolate espresso mousse. Orders must be received before Monday, April 6, at 9:00 a.m., and picked up between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7. Click here to place your order.


Chef Danyell of Georgia Ray's Kitchen is offering chef prepared "heat & eat" meals--both comfort food and haute cuisine, innovative and traditional. The menu below lists this week's specials. Georgia Ray's Kitchen is open from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, at 9 Ginsberg Lane, just off Route 66 in Claverack. Call to place an order: 518 828-3245.


On Saturday, April 4, the Hudson Farmers Market will once again be open from 10:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. outdoors at 601 Union Street.


Letterbox Farm Collective is accepting orders for pickup at the farm on Saturday, April 4. Place your order online here before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 3, and pick it up at the farm on Route 9 just south of Hudson when you are notified by email that your order is ready.


On Sunday, April 5, there is Food Hub: Hudson. Order from eight collaborating farms--Yundwell Pastured Poultry, Tivoli Mushrooms, Roxbury Farm, Ardith Mae Farmstead Cheese, Chaseholm Farm & Dairy, Beth's Farm Kitchen, Ironwood Farm, Hudson Valley Charcuterie at Raven and Boar Farm. Place your order before noon on Saturday, April 4, and pick it up in the parking lot at Rivertown Lodge, 731 Warren Street, between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. To order, fill out the form found here, copy it, and email it to contact@ravenandboar.com.


As a reminder, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued this statement about food and COVID-19 transmission:
Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.
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About that Field Hospital

On Monday, Gossips reported that, according to Jack Mabb, director of the Columbia County Department of Health, eleven buildings in Columbia County had been identified as possible sites for temporary medical facilities. The one mentioned specifically by Mabb was the old ShopRite building on Healy Boulevard. According to the Register-Star, the state may be considering a different site: "C-GCC on field hospital list." 

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Last Night's Committee Meeting

The Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee met electronically last night, with three of the four members of the committee participating: Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who chairs the committee; Rebecca Wolff (First Ward); and Tom DePietro, Council president, who appointed himself to the committee a couple of months ago, replacing Malachi Walker. The fourth member of the committee, Shershah Mizan was absent from the meeting. The meeting was live streamed on WCXG. 

The meeting began with Garriga proposing that the committee draft a resolution calling for landlords to waive rent payments during the current health crisis. Many of her arguments in support of the action seemed to echo information presented that morning on NPR's Morning Edition: "Its the 1st of the Month. Renters Are in a Much Tougher Spot than Homeowners," but the specific motivation for the initiative was a letter that had been distributed to tenants at Bliss Towers.


Click on the image to enlarge, or read the transcription below.
Dear Residents,
At this time, no law has been passed either Federal or in New York State with regard to wavering [sic] of rent during the COVID-19 crisis. Tenants are expected to pay rent and landlords will be tracking this on a monthly basis for loss.
HUD in the recently released FAQ, addressed only evictions, not rent being waived, reprieved, suspended, or canceled as follows:
Q: Does the recently announced HUD ban on evictions apply to public housing and the HCV program?
A: The CARES act includes a temporary moratorium (120 days) on evictions for nonpayment of rent, as well as a moratorium on fees and penalties related to nonpayment of rent. HUD will issue additional guidance.
New York State has put a moratorium on evictions only, during the crisis and all courts will be abiding by that order.
We know that there are many kinds of rumors out there and we know that there have been talk and proposals, but nothing has materialized into legislation. At the end of the 120 days (Fed), 90 days (State) rent will still be due and payable.
We think it wise to address our tenant population with the information so as not to set anyone up for failure going forward. Additionally we would like to remind you that are you paying 30% of income for rent. If you have lost income you are eligible for a rent reduction. Please call the office to discuss changes in your income immediately. We will be waiving late fees this month due to the crisis.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation with all the changes going on at this time. If there is anything we can do for you or help with, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are all in this together.
Stay Well,
-Administrative Staff   
Wolff raised some questions about what Garriga was proposing. Would it be rent forgiveness or rent suspension? Would the request be directed to the governor or local landlords? It seemed to be decided that the resolution would ask landlords to forgive rent for 90 days. Wolff then questioned if this would apply to all landlords and all tenants, noting that some people were still working. Garriga responded, "We cannot make landlords do it. We are asking." Wolff suggested that the resolution specifically apply to tenants whose jobs have been suspended. Garriga wanted to include low-income tenants "who now have to feed their kids" because they aren't going to school where they get free breakfast and lunch. 

DePietro suggested that Garriga work with Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, to draft a resolution in time for the informal Council meeting on April 13. Wolff balked at the notion of supporting a resolution that has not yet been drafted, protesting, "I don't see how we can vote on something we cannot see." She said she would support a motion to have Garriga confer with Baker on the matter but not a resolution because "we have no language." When Garriga appealed to DePietro for comment, he said he was trying to write a motion they could vote on. At that point, Garriga, abruptly and with obvious exasperation, called for a motion to adjourn. Although Wolff protested that she didn't want to meeting to end, DePietro made the motion, and Garriga declared the meeting, which had lasted just a little more than fifteen minutes, adjourned.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID-19 Update

Today, the Columbia County Department of Health is reporting 45 positive cases of COVID-19, four more than yesterday. And there's some good news. CCDOH is reporting that eighteen Columbia County residents have recovered from the novel coronavirus.
As of 3:30 p.m., April 1, 2020, Columbia County has confirmed 45 positive cases of COVID-19. Seven of the positive cases are hospitalized, four of those are in the ICU. We have received 387 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 59 under mandatory quarantine and 20 under precautionary quarantine. There are 9 residents with suspected, not tested cases. Eighteen Columbia County residents have recovered from COVID-19.

News of the Point

In the current issue of Hudson Valley Magazine, there is an article about The Point, the historic house in Staatsburg which was designed by Calvert Vaux and was the home of Lydig Monson Hoyt and this wife, Blanche Geraldine Livingston Hoyt: "Restoration Is on the Horizon for Staatsburg's Historic Point House."

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The Fate of the Proposed Merger

The proposal to merge the New York State Bridge Authority, which oversees five Hudson River bridges--Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson, Kingston-Rhinecliff, and Rip Van Winkle, with the New York State Thruway Authority has been defeated. 


Read about in Mid-Hudson News: "Bridge Authority meager proposal defeated."
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Meetings Tonight

Two Common Council committee meetings are scheduled to take place tonight: Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation and Housing and Transportation. Because the city calendar lists them both as "Tentative," Gossips asked the respective chairs of the committees, Malachi Walker and Tiffany Garriga, if the meetings would take place or not. Walker has not responded. Garriga, however, has confirmed that the Housing and Transportation Committee will be meeting, but the meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. rather than 6:45 as indicated on the city calendar. 

It is assumed that the Housing and Transportation Committee meeting will be live streamed on WGXC at 6:30 p.m., as will the Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation Committee meeting, should it happen, at 5:30 p.m. Click here to listen.  

Update: Gossips just learned (not from the chair of the committee) that the Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation Committee meeting scheduled for tonight has been canceled. That leaves only the Housing and Transportation Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. 
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What About the Church?

On Friday, February 28, the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the designation of the church building at 241 Columbia Street, originally the location of Shiloh Baptist Church, as a local landmark. 


After hearing public comment--some erudite, some impassioned, some taking a bit of dramatic license with history, but all in support of the designation--Phil Forman, who chairs the HPC, announced the hearing would remain open and he would accept written comments until the next meeting. The next meeting was to take place on Friday, March 13, but concern about the coronavirus caused the meeting to be canceled. 

The HPC was able to meet in a "non-public, virtual/electronic session" on March 27, for the purpose of taking a formal vote on five certificates of appropriateness for projects that had previously been reviewed. During that meeting, Forman said he was being pressured by advocates for the designation of the church building. Victoria Polidoro, counsel to the HPC, noted that, because of the COVID-19 state of emergency, there was a moratorium on demolition, "so there is no risk to the building." At the public hearing on February 28, Victoria Milne, the owner of the building, made it clear she planned to restore the building and had no intention of demolishing it. 

Mayor Kamal Johnson's original State of Emergency Proclamation, issued on March 16, ordered that all nonessential city meetings be canceled or postponed. HPC meetings, as well as Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings, are considered nonessential. Forman expressed the desire to hold another electronic meeting on April 10, to act on the matter of the designation and to "clear the HPC docket." There are, according to Forman, six certificate of appropriateness applications "in the queue." He said he would continue to accept written comments up until the meeting, and the comments would be read into the record at that time.
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Paycheck Protection Program

Gossips just received this press release from the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC):
The CARES Act establishes a new $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program. The program will provide much-needed relief to millions of small businesses so they can sustain their businesses and keep their workers employed.
This legislation provides small businesses job retention loans to provide eight weeks of payroll and certain overhead to keep workers employed. The Small Business Administration expects to have this program up and running by April 3rd so that businesses can go to a participating SBA 7 (a) lender, bank, or credit union, apply for a loan, and be approved on the same day. The loans will be forgiven as long as the funds are used to keep employees on the payroll and for certain other expenses.
The new loan program will help small businesses with their payroll and other business operating expenses. It will provide critical capital to businesses without collateral requirements, personal guarantees, or SBA fees--all with a 100% guarantee from SBA. All loan payments will be deferred for six months. Most importantly, the SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll costs, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest. The new loan program will be available retroactive from Feb. 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees through June 30, 2020.
More information is available at SBA.gov/Coronavirus and at the CEDC website columbia.com.

Addendum: Gossips has been advised that the definition of a small business under the CARES Act is very broad, to include self-employed and gig workers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

An Hour Later

At 3:30 p.m., the Columbia County Department of Health updated its daily update. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose from 39 to 41.
As of 3:30 p.m., March 31, 2020, Columbia County has 41 positive cases of COVID-19. Six of the positive cases are hospitalized, four of those are in the ICU. We have received 371 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 68 under mandatory quarantine and 18 under precautionary quarantine. There are 9 residents with suspected, not tested cases.

COVID-19 Update

The Columbia County Department of Health is now reporting 39 positive cases of COVID-19, an increase of three from yesterday. Today's update also includes a statement about why there is a discrepancy between the numbers reported by CCDOH and the numbers reported by the New York State Department of Health, which reports that, as of 3:28 p.m. today, there are 30 positive cases in Columbia County.
As of 2:30 p.m., March 31, 2020, Columbia County has 39 positive cases of COVID-19. Six of the positive cases are hospitalized, four of those are in the ICU. We have received 366 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 70 under mandatory quarantine and 20 under precautionary quarantine. There are 10 residents with suspected, not tested cases.
It may be confusing to compare the numbers we report here to the numbers reported by NYSDOH and other news platforms. We suspect the discrepancy comes from dual homeownership. While we get results on people who report having addresses in Columbia County, there may be people with more than one address and the state attributes their results to their other address (likely downstate). The numbers we report are the cases we are monitoring and the homes we visit to ensure compliance with Isolation  Quarantine. We continue to monitor our numbers closely and make it a priority to report information as accurate as possible to our residents.
Regardless of who gets tested, where a person is from, essential or non-essential work, it is important now more than ever to STAY HOME. We recommend staying 6 ft away from everyone but that still leaves a risk of surface transfer. Touching countertops, doorknobs, shopping carts, etc. allow the transfer of the virus. Keep your hands clean, don't touch your face, use virtual platforms to socialize. STAY HOME.

A Message from the Hudson Area Library

Gossips was asked to share the following message.

Out of concern for the well-being of our community, the Hudson Area Library is temporarily closed and all library programs are suspended. Programs will be rescheduled or offered as virtual programs when possible. Please check our website, Facebook, and Instagram pages for library updates, access to online resources, and for virtual program announcements.
Patrons are encouraged to hold on to any materials that they have borrowed from our library until we are back in service. We will waive any overdue fines that accrue during this time.
For reference and tech support, please contact reference@hudsonarealibrary.org.
For program questions and ideas, please contact programs@hudsonarealibrary.org.
For all other inquiries, please contact info@hudsonarealibrary.org
Our library team misses seeing you at the library. We look forward to connecting with you online during the library closure. Stay safe and be well.

About Those Numbers

Gossips provides links, at the right, both to COVID-19 updates from the Columbia County Department of Health and to the county by county breakdown of COVID-19 cases throughout the state maintained by the New York State Department of Health. The numbers for Columbia County from NYSDOH have been consistently lower than the numbers reported by the CCDOH. For example, yesterday CCDOH reported 36 confirmed cases, whereas NYSDOH reports just 26. Some may have assumed that NYSDOH was not keeping up with the numbers, but in his interview with WGXC yesterday, Jack Mabb, Director of Public Health for Columbia County, revealed the reason for the difference. The New York State Department of Health is recording cases by place of origin. So New York City residents, who have come to second homes in Columbia County and are diagnosed here, are being recorded as cases in New York City not in Columbia County. Given that, it can be extrapolated that 10 of the cases in Columbia County are people who also reside in New York City.
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And Now This

Many of us consider this stay-at-home time the perfect opportunity for spring cleaning and decluttering, but maybe not. This message appeared yesterday on the City of Hudson website.
The DPW has reported that the City's average weekly tonnage of trash has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic. Prior to March, the City generated approximately four tons of trash per week. Last week City residents generated nine tons of trash, or more than double the usual amount, most likely because more people are home and others are cleaning out closets and doing early spring cleaning.
We encourage you to consider your waste generation. Are there ways you can reduce, recycle or reuse, find a recipe for those leftovers, or use a dish, rather than paper towel for that sandwich? Everyone can make a difference and even small efforts matter. Conserving resources and reducing trash will not only save money and help the environment but will give our overworked and potentially reduced DPW staff a break.
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Monday, March 30, 2020

Upstate, Downstate

In his press briefing early this afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo stressed the need for "the entire statewide healthcare establishment" to work together during the COVID-19 crisis. "This is a statewide battle," said Cuomo. "If there is division at this time, the virus will defeat us." He spoke of balancing the load of COVID-19 patients across the state and suggested, as he has before, that upstate hospitals may have to relieve downstate hospitals.

This morning, Jack Mabb, director of the Columbia County Department of Health, in an interview on WGXC, expressed his concern that transferring patients from downstate hospitals could impact his ability to keep county residents safe. The interview inspired an article that appeared in the Times-Union this afternoon: "Columbia County health director concerned about downstate patients moving upstate." 

During the course of the interview, Mabb stated that a third of the positive cases in Columbia County were residents of New York City who have second homes in Columbia County. He also revealed that the Columbia County Office of Emergency Management has identified eleven buildings that could be converted into temporary medical facilities, should the need arise, and one of those eleven buildings is the old ShopRite on Healy Boulevard.
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State of Emergency Extended

Today, Mayor Kamal Johnson issued State of Emergency Order No. 6, extending State of Emergency Order No. 4 and State of Emergency Order No. 5 until noon on April 4, 2020. 

State of Emergency Order No. 4 limited public access to city buildings, canceled all nonessential city meetings, banned the public from Common Council meetings, closed city parks, suspended alternate side of the street parking and parking meter fees, and waived late payment fees for parking fines. State of Emergency Order No. 5 allowed the Hudson Dog Park to remain open, provided that no more than six humans were in the park at one time and that humans remained at least six feet apart at all times.

COVID-19 Relief Funding in Columbia County

Assemblymember Didi Barrett just announced two community funds, established in partnership with the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) and the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), to help Columbia County not-for-profits and small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Columbia County COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and the Columbia County Business Continuity Fund will provide direct relief in the form of grants both to nonprofit community efforts and to local small businesses affected by the pandemic. In announcing the funding, Barrett said: 
Those of us who live in Columbia County know what a very special place it is. In this time of crisis, protecting the small local businesses and not-for-profits that are the backbone of our communities is absolutely imperative. Our small shops and businesses are the innovators and energizers of the Columbia County economy, and we will need them more than ever during our recovery from the impact of COVID-19. These two funds will be a lifeline to the friends and neighbors that we all rely on every day, and I am proud to have played a role in their creation. . . . 
The Columbia County COVID-19 Emergency Respond Fund has been established by BTCF to provide flexible resources to nonprofit organizations to meet the needs of individuals and families who are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. The fund will prioritize human services and community-based organizations with experience helping individuals and families stabilize their lives in times of crisis. Donations to the fund and applications from eligible nonprofits can be made at BerkshireTaconic.org/ColumbiaCOVID19.    

The Columbia County Business Continuity Fund has been established by BTCF and CEDC, in partnership with the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and the Hudson Business Coalition. It will provide cash grants to small businesses in our city and town centers with fewer than ten full-time employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue. These businesses can apply for grants from $1,000 to $5,000 to cover costs related to retaining employees, paying rent, and other fixed operational costs. Donations to the fund can be made at BerkshireTaconic.org/BusinessContinuity. Applications for funding can be made, beginning on April 1 until April 15, at www.columbiaedc.com.

A group of partners has committed more than $360,000 to these two funds. One hundred percent of the money contributed to each fund will go directly to nonprofits and businesses.

Progress on the DRI Continues

Since March 18 and going forward through the month of April, the calendar on the City of Hudson website indicates that meetings of the DRI Committee are "CANCELLED." With three projects in the works and a fourth getting ready to begin, Gossips asked mayoral aide Michael Chameides this morning for an update. Here's what was learned.

Although the calendar indicates it was canceled, the March 18 meeting of the DRI Committee did take place by phone. The notes on that meeting, prepared by Caren LoBrutto of Chazen Companies, assistant to project manager Chris Round, are available on the City of Hudson website. Of interest is that there will be another meeting by conference call this Wednesday, April 1. Unlike other city meetings, it appears no provision has been made to allow the public to listen to or participate in the conversation. By way of explanation, the notes from the March 18 include this statement:
This meeting is taking place during the NYS, Columbia County, and City of Hudson State of Emergency where social distancing procedures are in place. This committee, which does not a define quorum [sic], is not subject to open meetings law. Meeting notes will continue to be distributed and public comment sought.
Gossips will share pertinent information from the notes on the March 18 meeting, along with other information gleaned along the way.

Promenade Hill  
The "kick-off site walk," which was supposed to happen a week ago, on March 23, has been postponed for at least two weeks. How long the postponement will last is to be decided at the April 1 meeting. The contract with Starr Whitehouse is still being reviewed by the mayor's office.


BRIDGE District Connectivity
The contract with Arterial|Street Plans Collaborative has still not been fully executed. The "public engagement piece" of the project has been postponed for at least two weeks. It was noted at the March 18 meeting that if public engagement doesn't begin until June there would be "no substantive change to the overall schedule."

Dunn Warehouse
The repairs to the roof, which should have been completed already, had to be postponed because the metal deck needed was not available. That element was supposed to be produced last week and delivered this week, and the project was to be completed within five days of delivery. It's likely the creation of the deck is not considered essential manufacturing, or that the work to install the deck and repair the roof is considered emergency construction. Gossips has contacted Peter Bujanow, Commissioner for Public Works, to ask about the status of the project, but so far there has been no response. 


The revised request for expressions of interest (REI) was issued on March 5, with the deadline for submitting proposal set for April 10 at 4:00 p.m. A walk-through scheduled for Wednesday, March 18, was canceled. So far, there have been just two responses, both declining the invitation to make the site visit. 

Furgary Fishing Village
Public comment on the draft RFP for the fishing village, known familiarly as "the Shacks," was being accepted by mayoral aide Michael Chameides until Monday, March 16. The notes from the meeting that took place by phone on Wednesday, March 18, report: "RFP approach being reconsidered to adjust scope and intent to better reflect DRI Committee consensus." The notes also indicate: "Chris [Round] to obtain and share the DRI Application description, review comments from the public and share a draft in advance of April 1 meeting."

The 2020 Hudson River Access Plan released by Scenic Hudson last week includes the Furgary site and describes it in this way:
EXISTING USE & FACILITIES ON SITE The small fishing village has 17 shacks remaining of the many that were used over the last century. Fishermen and hunters called these home while they fished and hunted in the bays and surrounding areas. The village was going to be torn down by the City when New York State stepped in to maintain this link to the river.  
The Hudson River Access Plan makes the following recommendation for the site:
Preserve this historical resource as a historic site paying tribute to the Hudson River fishermen and their families who resided there. Re-open access to the Hudson River for fishing and recreation in this area. 
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

COVID-19 Update

Today's numbers from the Columbia County Department of Health: the number of positive cases has increased from 33 to 36 since yesterday; the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 increased from four to six; two of those hospitalized are in the ICU.
As of 3 p.m., March 30, 2020, Columbia County has 36 positive cases of COVID-19. Six of the positive cases remain hospitalized, two of those are in the ICU. We have received 357 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 69 under mandatory quarantine and 17 under precautionary quarantine. There are 9 residents with suspected, not tested cases.

Something to Remember on the Next Fine Day

The weather forecast for the next ten days appears to be one of unrelieved gloom. But if the sun ever does break through the clouds, you may want to consider heading out to Meadowgreens in Ghent--whether you're a golfer or not.

After it was determined last week that golf courses in New York could stay open during this period of social distancing, Carmen Nero, the owner of Meadowgreens, decided to open his golf course not only to golfers but to nongolfers as well. For a very small fee, you can walk the golf cart trails, which meander past ponds, beside stone walls, and around stands of trees, enjoying the outdoors and taking in views of the Catskills and the Berkshires. You can even rent a golf cart--just one person to a cart, please--and drive yourself around the course. Dogs are welcome, so long as they are on a leash and their humans clean up after them. 

For more information, call 518 828-0663.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The End of an Experiment

In July 2016, the Warren Street Academy was inaugurated with great celebration and ceremony. Dan Udell was there to document the proceedings. The image below is a screen capture from his video.

Appearing in the picture above, from left to right, are Bruce Potter, superintendent of the Berkshire Union Free School District; Maria Suttmeier, superintendent of the Hudson City School District; Dan Kent of Galvan Initiatives Foundation; and Michael Sadowski, director of Bard in Hudson Civic Academy.

A week ago, on Friday, March 20, it was announced that the Warren Street Academy would cease to exist on June 30, 2020. In a letter to parents and guardians, Daniel Kalbfliesh, principal of WSA, explained:
On behalf of the staff at Warren Street Academy and the Berkshire Union Free School District I am writing to inform you that the Berkshire Union Free School District will be closing on June 30th. We had hoped that a takeover by our BOCES, Questar III, would have been possible to help continue the Warren Street Academy. Unfortunately, that is not the reality, Warren Street Academy will also be dissolving June 30th. Questar III has assured us that programs would be offered to meet the needs of the students in our program.
The letter can be read in its entirety here.

Of course, this raises the question of what's in store for 11 Warren Street. In February, it was reported that the Galvan Foundation, which owns the building, had reneged on its offer to create a new facility for the Salvation Army in the building. Did Galvan not know a month ago that the Warren Street Academy would soon cease to exist? Perhaps the plan is to relocate Bard Early College Hudson, now at 364 Warren Street, to the space now occupied by the Warren Street Academy as well as the rest of the building. Only time will tell.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

This Warms My Heart

Governor Andrew Cuomo's email briefing, which went out half an hour ago, included something that he didn't mention in his press briefing at noon. 
Tonight's "Deep Breath Moment": Self-isolation is hard, but the companionship of pets makes it easier. According to reports, animals shelters across the United States are receiving a surge of applications to foster or adopt pets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Appeal to the Community

In Hudson, we live with the comforting assurance that there's a hospital up on the hill, and medical help, should we need it, is only minutes away. 

On Friday, HudsonValley360 reported that Columbia Memorial Hospital was preparing for "an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases." At noon today, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke about hospitals and the possibility that upstate hospitals might have to be a "relief valve" for the downstate hospitals that are being overwhelmed. At 1:30 p.m. today, the Columbia County Department of Health reported that four positive cases of COVID-19 in the county are now hospitalized.

In the midst of this crisis, Columbia Memorial Health Foundation has established a COVID-19 Defense Fund to enable people to help in different ways. Click here to learn more about what you can do. Of interest for those who have dusted off their sewing machines and raided their remnant stashes to make masks is this message from the CMH Foundation website:
Hand Sewn Masks: While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not suggest cloth material as a first-line defense against the coronavirus causing COVID-19, cloth masks work well for other conditions and can help conserve previous reserves of N-95 respirator masks. Please contact us.

COVID-19 Update

Here are the latest numbers from the Columbia County Department of Health. There are three more confirmed cases since yesterday.
As of 1:30 p.m., March 29, 2020, Columbia County has 33 positive cases of COVID-19. Four of the positive cases remain hospitalized. We have received 344 test results completed for Columbia County residents. There are 77 under mandatory quarantine and 31 under precautionary quarantine. There are 8 residents with suspected, not tested cases.

Chocolate in the Time of COVID-19

For many of us, chocolate is the ultimate comfort food, and despite the closings, social distancing, quarantine, and anxiety, excellent chocolate is still available to us in Hudson. 

Vasilow's, 741 Columbia Street, is open for pick up and by appointment. With Easter Sunday just two weeks away, we are assured that Easter candy is available. For details about the delectable bunnies and chicks, send a message on their website, call 518 828-2717, or send an email to jim@vasilows.com.


Verdigris Tea & Chocolate Bar, 135 Warren Street, is giving new meaning to the term window shopping. Images of the shop's chocolate offerings are now being displayed in the shop windows. You can choose what you want and place an order by phone (518 828-3139) or email (verdigristea@gmail.com) or, when the shop is open, which it is every day from noon until 5:00 p.m., through the door. Your merchandise will be bagged and delivered to you on the sidewalk or by mail.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK

Things Are Getting Worse

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) issued this travel advisory late yesterday:
Due to extensive community transmission of COVID-10 in the area, CDC urges residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately. This Domestic Travel Advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply. These employees of critical infrastructure, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, have a special responsibility to maintain normal schedules. The Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will have full discretion to implement this Domestic Travel Advisory.
Reacting to Donald Trump's announcement earlier on Saturday that he was considering a short-term quarantine of "hot spots" in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with CNN that he didn't believe a possible New York quarantine was plausible or legal and it would be "total mayhem." A travel advisory is not a quarantine.

Update: Minutes ago, in his daily briefing, Cuomo called the travel advisory "nothing that we haven't been doing." He also announced that last night Rhode Island had repealed its executive order to stop cars with New York State license plates at the border.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CAROLE OSTERINK