Ulster County Exec Discusses New Testing Site, Hospital Capacity
A second COVID-19 mobile testing site has opened in Ulster County, New York. And the county executive is praising Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement about expanding hospital capacity in Kingston. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne spoke with County Executive Pat Ryan about these developments and more.
Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan toured the new testing facility at Ellenville Regional Hospital Monday.
“This will add additional much-needed testing capacity for us in the county,” Ryan says.
The Ellenville location will be open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., by appointment only. It joins the county’s first drive-through COVID-19 collection site that Nuvance Health opened at Tech City in Kingston. Nuvance Health also opened a site across the river at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill. You need a physician’s order before scheduling an appointment.
“We knew we needed testing here. I’ve been pushing hard for this and we’ve been really trying to lean forward and get ahead of the surge that we think we’re a few weeks behind what’s happening in New York City and Westchester,” Ryan says. “So we have an opportunity and an obligation to get ahead of that. So that’s really what we’re doing here.”
“And how’s it going at Tech City in Kingston?” Dunne asks.
“Yes, it’s going really well. We’ve had over 600 tests completed there now. We’re just starting to see the results start to come back, which is why we have seen our total positive case numbers go up. Ultimately, that’s good news though because it gives us a better sense informed by actual data of what’s happening with COVID-19,” says Ryan. “So I’m very pleased with how things are going at the Tech City site. No issues, everyone has just been great, from our team to Nuvance to everybody that’s coming to the site to be tested.”
“Now you did have unfortunate news over the weekend reporting the county’s first death,” Dunne says.
“Yeah, yeah. It, it’s, really it’s just heartbreaking and we… my wife and I and our whole team here and just the whole, all the 180,000 residents of the county send our love and our prayers and our thoughts to the family of this gentleman. And there’s really no words that can capture how heartbreaking this is,” says Ryan. “And I think it’s a reminder, a very sad but important reminder, of the seriousness of what we’re dealing with here, and that’s why we’re pushing so hard to build hospital surge capacity, to get more testing up, to ask everyone to do their part to stay at home and slow the spread for everyone’s sake and health.”
A 76-year-old Plattekill man died at Vassar Brothers Medical Center on Sunday. Also over the weekend came news about increasing hospital capacity in Kingston.
“So for over a week, we have been asking, I’ve been asking for help from the state to add more hospital capacity here. We project in Ulster County that we needed to quadruple our capacity, so from about 100 beds 400 beds; from about 20 ICU beds to 80; and 25 ventilators to 100,” Ryan says. “So we were very pleased and thankful over the weekend when the governor, Governor Cuomo and the state announced that they’ll be helping to add 235 beds to the Mary’s Avenue campus of HealthAlliance in Kingston. That will more than triple the capacity there. It’ll take some, a little bit of time to get that up, of course, but, again, we’re hopeful that if we start work on this now, we can be ahead of the potential wave of patients and not find ourselves in a situation like some of the hospitals in New York City.”
“And so when does work actually start? Is there a start date on when state people might… who’s starting the work there?” Dunne asks.
“The teams from the Army Corps of Engineers and the state had, have already been on the site and scouting it. I was there on Saturday with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Doyle. The good news is many of the rooms in the old, it’s really the old Benedictine Hospital, they’re virtually ready, some number of the rooms. So it’ll be relatively quick standup to get some of those 235 up and then there’ll be multiple phases, but work is starting immediately. We obviously don’t have time to waste here, and we’re moving as quickly as we can,” says Ryan. “And the other point that I do want to emphasize on the hospital capacity that’s very important: This is to build regional capacity for Ulster County and for the surrounding counties. We know we need this here and the intent is that these additional beds will serve the people of Ulster County and the surrounding counties. And so I just think it’s important that people know that, and that’s what we will continue to push for, and I’ve been assured that that is, in fact, the plan.”
And he’s looking to add another level of care.
“We are scouting sites throughout Ulster County for even more step-down bed capacity, almost think of a field hospital type of model. We want to be ready if and when needed to add even more capacity. So my team has been scouting sites and we’ll keep everyone updated on the progress there. But we’d look at another up to 200 beds, for non-critical, non-ICU care, but to add more capacity,” Ryan says. “So again we just want to keep leaning forward, plan for the worst and, of course, hope for the best. But I just everyone to know that we are absolutely planning and readying ourselves for that, and I want people to be reassured to the readying ourselves for that and I want people to be reassured to the best degree possible.”
Any individual who does not have a primary care physician, should contact the Ulster County COVID-19 Hotline at 845-443-8888.
To contact Ellenville Hospital regarding a COVID-19 test, call 845-647-6400 ex. 269.