During his latest briefing, the Ulster County executive delivered what he called very good news about the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, another testing site is opening in Kingston while a separate facility is offering antibody testing to first responders. Yet despite positive news in many areas, opioid overdoses have increased.
Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan says adhering to social distancing, mask wearing and more is paying off.
“I feel confident in saying that we have turned the corner here in Ulster County,” Ryan says.
He says some of the data shows the county is progressing toward reopening. There is a downward trajectory for hospitalizations, which, as of Thursday, numbered 11 down from 12 on Tuesday.
“The overall hospitalization going down is very, very good news,” says Ryan. “It’s also a critical measure towards our process of reopening as outlined in the framework from Governor Cuomo.”
He believes active cases have reached their peak and continue decreasing.
“So it’s very clear that even as we do more and more testing, we’re seeing the number of new positives go down, and that is a very, very encouraging measure for us as well,” Ryan says.
Ulster had 51 COVID deaths as of Thursday. Meantime, Ryan says about 4.5 percent of county residents have been tested.
“Absolutely critical that we keep ramping up our testing, both diagnostic testing and antibody testing,” Ryan says.
Rite-Aid on Thursday announced it will expand its COVID-19 testing by adding 46 no-charge testing sites, most of which will operate through its stores' drive-through windows, beginning May 11. Three sites are in the Hudson Valley, one on Flatbush Avenue in Kingston; another on Route 211 East in Middletown and a third on Main Street in Poughkeepsie. The Kingston location will be Ulster County’s fourth testing site. Plus, says Ryan:
“HealthAlliance Hospital, at their Broadway campus, is now offering voluntary antibody testing to first responders,” Ryan says.
The county’s economic resilience plan — recover, reopen, realign – continues to unfold. Ryan says Ulster County has seven working groups and is taking a regional approach as part of the Hudson Valley Reopening Work Group with Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam and Sullivan Counties.
“I do want to emphasize, and I’ve heard from many of you understandable concern that we can’t rush to reopen, that we have to be very careful and deliberate. And I absolutely understand that and I 100 percent agree with you,” says Ryan. “And I just want to be very clear, what we’re doing right now is we’re doing, we’re doing our homework. We’re doing the thinking, the research, the planning, the coordination, so that once we feel that it is safe both at the local level and ultimately at the state level, we’re ready to go, not just quickly, but to go in the right way, in the safe way.”
Meantime, Ryan says non-lethal opioid overdoses have increased by one-third compared to this time last year. However, he says the rate of overdose fatalities has not increased. In partnership with the Ulster County Recovery Task Force, Ryan says the county is addressing this in a number of ways, including safe distance Narcan trainings at various personal protective equipment pickup locations in Kingston.
“We have actually stood [sic] up a countywide virtual training program for Narcan. We know how critical that is to keep people alive. We’re partnering with many different local community groups to do that, and we’ve set up pickup sites, safe pickup sites around the county for anyone who needs Narcan, so details are available on that,” says Ryan. “We’ve also provided funding to two different sources to provide immediate, additional support on opioid prevention — $50,000 to Samadhi, great organization that serves Kingston and the wider area. That will provide peer support for those in recovery through the HealthAlliance emergencies, through our county jail and other entities. And then $21,000 to the Family of Woodstock, which helps provide transportation for those that may need to get to opiate court or other transportation needs.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo this week announced the extension of a moratorium on tenant evictions through August 20. Ryan says his county’s COVID-19 Tenant Protection Unit will enforce this. The unit has been reviewing tenant complaints and responded to more than 80 issues and inquiries by phone and email. Ryan says he has no tolerance for anyone taking advantage of tenants and gives an example.
“A woman in senior housing whose landlord was asking that she sign an addendum to her lease, five months into what was already an annual lease, her landlord is pressuring her to sign an addendum, and she was told that she’d have to leave by June 1 if she didn’t sign that lease,” says Ryan. “Our Tenant Protection Unit was able to get in touch with her, advise her that that’s absolutely not the case, that there’s a moratorium on evictions, and that under the terms of her original lease, she was not at all in breach for not signing and giving in to the pressure tactics of this landlord.”
And Ryan says Project Resilience, which he launched in March, has delivered nearly 150,000 meals to county residents.