Follow our updates on the coronavirus pandemic

Frankie Knuckles/The Miscellany News

College announces preliminary plans for Fall 2020

April 29, 2020

President Bradley named to New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board

April 29, 2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo has named Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley to an advisory board that will shape policy surrounding the reopening of the New York State economy. 

The New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board is a working group with 116 members—Bradley is both a global health expert and one of 12 advisory board members who leads an institution of higher education. 

According to a press release sent to The Miscellany News, Cuomo has signaled that plans to reopen the state economy must be based on “factual data points” rather than emotions. The board aims to create a template for reopening that can be applied in every region of New York State. Many state governments, including those of Georgia, Montana, Colorado, Minnesota and more, have begun the process of reopening, citing economic concerns as one motivating factor. However, workers and consumers alike, particularly those who have already been classified as essential workers, worry that reopening too quickly will put them at greater risk.

Bradley commented, “I am honored to be selected as a member of the advisory group and look forward to contributing in any way I can.” She continued, “Throughout this pandemic I have been in regular contact with state and county officials who oversee our public health system, commerce, and regulatory environment, and I am confident they are working day and night to get higher education, our business sector and economy back on track.” 

According to the same press release, Bradley and other College administrators are currently creating plans to return students to campus as soon as it is safe to do so. Bradley intends to bring the thinking behind these plans to her work with New York Forward.

Vassar College and New York Stage and Film 2020 Powerhouse Season Postponed

April 24, 2020

Due to the ongoing global crisis, Vassar College and New York Stage and Film have postponed the 2020 Powerhouse Theater Season, originally scheduled to run this June and July, to 2021. New York Stage and Film will continue to facilitate virtual initiatives and provide workshops, readings and residencies throughout the calendar year. 

The Powerhouse Theater Training Program will also be postponed until the summer of 2021. 

Courtesy of Collin Knopp-Schwyn via Wikimedia Commons.

Vassar College President Elizabeth H. Bradley stated, “Powerhouse is an annual tradition for many in the Hudson Valley community, and we will dearly miss welcoming them to the Vassar campus.”

Powerhouse Theater Artistic Director Chris Burney expressed sorrow that the over 20 new projects and hundreds of artists would not be able to train at Vassar this summer, but has promised that they can participate in the 2021 season. While looking forward to next summer, Burney said, “I have been inspired by the creativity, flexibility and hope of our community. And I have been energized by the new ways we are learning to support the artistic process.”

Reporting by Taylor Stewart.

Students declare intent to strike

April 14, 2020

Nobody Fails Vassar College has organized a strike in response to the recently confirmed Universal NRO grading policy, which was approved by the faculty and later confirmed by the Committee on Curricular Policies. At 6 p.m. EDT, students from Nobody Fails VC emailed top administrators and department chairs outlining their list of demands, which include adopting a no-fail grading policy, increased financial transparency on the part of the College, and establishing an emergency fund for students in need, among others.

A document was later released to the student body via Facebook calling upon all students to participate in a sit-in and strike, the methodologies of which include not submitting assignments (but completing them), and either not attending Zoom classes or attending Zoom classes with audio turned off and the above Nobody Fail VC graphic standing in place of video.

The core organizers of the strike have given the administration 12 hours following the sit-in to begin meeting demands; if the administration does not do so, organizers plan to commence the strike at 9 a.m. EDT on Thursday, April 16.

Reporting by Jessica Moss.

Wisconsin refuses to delay election

April 8, 2020

Though multiple states have postponed their primary elections in response to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, Wisconsin Republicans blocked efforts to postpone the primary election in their own state. As a result, voting took place in Wisconsin on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. In Milwaukee, where half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have occured, over 180 polling locations were closed due to poll workers quitting, forcing voters to risk their health to vote at the remaining five locations. 

Some in Wisconsin argued that refusing to postpone the election was another attempt by Republicans to prevent Democrats and African-Americans from voting. Wisconsin already has incredibly strict voting regulations that require presenting proof of a residence or an ID with an address when voting, which prevented 17,000 registered voters from voting in the 2016 election. 

The election was particularly controversial, as it was not only for the Democratic nomination, but a position on the State Supreme Court between the current justice, Republican Daniel Kelly, and Democrat Jill Karofsky. The Wisconsin Supreme Court position was the focal point, as the incoming justice will vote on a bill that could prevent more than 200,000 people from voting in the state, thus further increasing voting limitations in the state. 

Results are expected to be released on April 13.

Reporting by Olivia Watson.

Coalition of Chinese parents coordinate PPE donation

April 4, 2020

Starting on Friday, April 3, students who have remained on campus during the COVID-19 outbreak began retrieving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits containing paper masks, disposable thermometers, hand sanitizer, tissues and Tylenol, shown above. Much of this equipment was donated by a coalition of Vassar parents in China, who have gifted funds to purchase more protective gear and made over 25 shipments of masks, gloves, Tyvek hazmat suits, thermometers, protective eye shields and other items—many of which are in short supply in the United States—to the College. 

According to the College, the parents’ effort was launched by Vassar parent Liu Ying, who consulted with Professor of Chinese and Japanese on the Louise Boyd Dale and Alfred Lichtenstein Chair Peipei Qiu about which supplies were most needed. The kits themselves were assembled by Vassar’s Facilities Operations staff members. Some of the PPE supplies came from the College’s own stockpile. 

While the College has donated masks to the Arlington Fire Department and is in conversation with the Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response to coordinate further donations, the College will determine what is available to give to local emergency responders and hospitals once it has received all of the shipments. Some N95 masks that are suitable for use in hospitals and other high-risk areas are reserved for students who wish to return to their homes in China in the coming weeks.

The same day that such equipment became available to students, the CDC recommended wearing face coverings in public. 

Reporting by Jessica Moss.

Ulster County opens new testing site

March 31, 2020

On March 30, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced the opening of a second drive-through mobile COVID-19 testing site, to be located at Ellenville Regional Hospital. The new facility will operate five days a week, alongside the first drive-through test site at TechCity, to increase the county’s testing capacity. Ryan expressed his appreciation for the hospital’s recent efforts and noted, “Our entire team will continue to work around the clock to keep every Ulster County resident safe and healthy.” Furthermore, Ulster County announced that 235 beds will be added to Mary’s Avenue campus of HealthAlliance to treat COVID-19 patients. 

To receive a COVID-19 test at either Ellenville Regional Hospital or TechCity, individuals must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Have had a phone consultation with a primary care physician.
  • Have been determined to exhibit symptoms for COVID-19 by a physician and ordered the test.  
  • Have made an appointment at the collection site. 

Ellenville Regional Hospital may be contacted for a COVID-19 test at 845-647-6400 ex. 269; any individual who does not have a primary care physician should contact the Ulster County Hotline at 845-443-8888. Ulster County currently has 215 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Reporting by Aena Khan.

Local jail’s Temporary Housing Units converted to emergency shelters for homeless

Thursday, March 26

Years ago, Dutchess County’s jail population climbed past its capacity, so much so that it boarded inmates at other jails in the state. The county built its Temporary Housing Units (PODs) at the jail site in 2015 to house these overflow inmates. According to Dutchess spokeswoman Colleen Pillus, the PODs have been vacant since January following the state’s cash bail reforms and the county’s work to reduce its jail population through restorative justice programs. As part of the county’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the now vacant PODs are being used as emergency shelters for the homeless.

Above, the PODs just before the shelter began operating. Courtesy of Colleen T. Pillus.

The dormitory-style PODs allow homeless people to practice social distancing, thus slowing the further spread of the novel coronavirus. Additionally, the extra space will increase Dutchess’s ability to respond to cases among the homeless. The facility has a capacity for up to 100 individuals, including 48 beds for women and 52 beds for men. The county has also partnered with Dutchess Outreach, a non-profit food relief organization, to provide food services.

Reporting by Tiana Headley.

New York State to consider rescheduling Democratic Presidential Primary

Tuesday, March 24

On March 24, The New York State Election Commissioners’ Association announced a series of proposals unanimously supported by the Democratic and Republican caucuses. The Board proposed the following measures to protect both the electoral process and public health in light of the COVID-19 crisis. 

  • First, to reschedule the Democratic Presidential Primary from April 28 to June 23. 
  • Second, to amend ELN § 8-400 of New York State Election law to allow for Absentee Balloting during times of declared state emergency due to infectious disease or pandemic. 
  • Third, to give the Board of Elections the freedom to consolidate polling places and election districts to allow for flexibility under changing circumstances as June 23 approaches. 

Furthermore, State Senator Jen Metzger (D-Hudson Valley) introduced Bill S8120, which would allow individuals to receive and send regular ballots via mail. These items are pending action by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, headed by Andrew Steward Cousins (D-Yonkers).

Reporting by Aena Khan.

Vassar cancels Commencement, moves classes to distance learning for the rest of semester

Thursday, March 19

All students abroad must immediately return home

Thursday, March 19

Ulster County launches Project Resilience

Tuesday, March 17

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Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced the creation of a countywide effort entitled “Project Resilience” to support residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 17. In addition to partnering with United Way, establishing an online help portal and repurposing the Ulster County Area Transit (UCAT) to distribute food, Ryan announced that $2 million had been secured over the past 24 hours for a community fund. Ulster County will also partner with various businesses, municipal governments, and non-profit organizations to provide food and other services. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The number of COVID-19 cases in Ulster County has risen to eight. Last week, Ryan declared a State of Emergency and directed the closure of schools for two-weeks, which prompted concerns about county services and children reliant on Free-And-Reduced meals. Through Project Resilience, county officials hope to relieve residents’ concerns and encourage local businesses and organizations to participate in response efforts. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ For a list of restaurants participating in meal deliveries, follow the link in our bio. Ryan praised organizations and businesses who are contributing and encouraged other groups to apply. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The County government directs anyone who wishes to apply or who may be interested in assisting with Project Resilience to visit https://ulstercountyny.gov/coronavirus. Likewise, residents may call the Ulster County COVID-19 Hotline at (845) 443-8888 or the New York State Coronavirus Information Hotline at (888) 364-3065. Reporting by Anna Khan; photo courtesy of Ulster County: (Left to right) Ulster County Commissioner of Health Dr. Carol Smith, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan

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Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Commissioner of Health Dr. Carol Smith host Telephone Town Hall on COVID-19 response

Tuesday, March 17

Long-form coverage: Ulster County responds to COVID-19.

Ohio delays election last minute; other primaries to proceed as scheduled amid coronavirus pandemic 

Tuesday, March 17

Governor Cuomo issues Executive Order to increase hospital capacity

Monday, March 16

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In a coronavirus briefing on Monday, March 16, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that will increase the capacity of the state’s hospitals, with the intention of providing 9,000 more hospital beds. “The greatest damage is going to be done by an overwhelmed health care system,” he stated. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The state will mobilize the National Guard, building unions and private developers to convert buildings—ranging from nursing homes to dormitories—into medical facilities. Additionally, in the absence of federal action, Cuomo ordered the closure of casinos, gyms, theaters, bars and restaurants by 8 p.m. Monday evening, and prohibited gatherings of 50 or more people. Bars, restaurants and distilleries may still sell their products via takeout in an effort to alleviate potential economic hardship. “Stay home and order from your favorite restaurant,” Cuomo advised. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ To prevent dense gatherings that would expedite the virus’ spread, Cuomo also directed non-essential state employees and local businesses to work from home starting on Tuesday, March 16, and authorized the State to open drive-through testing facilities. After the closure of Westchester, New York City, Nassau and Suffolk school districts, Cuomo required the counties to submit childcare and meal plans to the state by midnight tonight. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Despite the State’s extensive undertakings, Cuomo called upon the federal government to deploy more resources in response to the pandemic. “I believe we’ve had the most effective response of any state in the United States,” he said of New York. “I don’t believe we’re going to be able to flatten the curve enough to meet the capacity of the health care system. In this business, plan ahead. Anticipate what’s coming down the road and get ready for it. Expanding the capacity of the health care system for a State is virtually impossible … Again, we need the federal government to play its role.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Reporting by Jessica Moss

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Find our full coverage on today’s primary elections here.

Poughkeepsie, Arlington, Spackenkill districts switch to distance learning, provide meals following school closures

Monday, March 16

Long-form coverage: Poughkeepsie, Arlington, Spackenkill districts switch to distance learning, provide meals following school closures

Trump announces stricter public health recommendations

Monday, March 16

Tri-State Governors enact regional measures to slow coronavirus spread

Monday, March 16

President Bradley shares guidelines

Sunday, March 15

COVID-19 relief bill pends Senate vote

Sunday, March 15

Graphic by Frankie Knuckles/The Miscellany News

Early on Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a coronavirus relief bill 363 for, 40 against, 1 present, with support from President Donald Trump. Every Democratic representative present voted yes, while all 40 votes against came from Republican representatives. The lone Independent in the chamber, Justin Amash (I-MI), voted present. The bill covers free testing for the coronavirus, paid sick and family leave, stronger unemployment insurance and increased food aid. The bill cannot be signed by President Trump or implemented until it is approved by the Senate, which is currently on recess. The Senate is set to reconvene Monday evening and vote on the bill then.

If this bill is passed, insurance companies would be required to provide free testing for those covered and waive cost-sharing rules for those who are covered by Medicare and are in need of testing. For those who are uninsured, it provides $1billion of funding to provide free testing. It will also boost federal support for state Medicaid programs to relieve the burden placed on states.

The bill mandates that employers provide sick leave for those with COVID-19. Those who are sick or self-isolating due to exposure will receive 100 percent of their wages. Those caring for a family member who has contracted the disease are eligible for two-thirds of their wages for up to 12 weeks. However, the first two weeks of extended leave to care for others will be unpaid. Businesses will be reimbursed for the sick leave by the federal government through a tax credit. Not everyone will be covered under this policy, as businesses with over 500 employees are exempt from the requirement, and will not have to pay their employees during sick leave. 

Workers who are laid off because of the outbreak are eligible for existing unemployment benefits. The bill would provide $1 billion to strengthen these existing benefits and pay for the increased administrative burden to distribute these benefits. Those put on temporary leave during the outbreak but set to regain employment after the virus passes are also eligible for these benefits. 

The bill also provides $1.3 billion in food aid for senior citizens, food banks, low-income pregnant women and children. States will also be able to give food stamps to families that have children who are losing school lunches as more and more schools close their doors. $100 million in food aid will be directed to U.S. territories (The Washington Post, “Bipartisan relief bill: Free testing, paid sick leave” 03.14.20).

Reporting by Sara Lawler.

Liberty League cancels spring season

Saturday, March 14

Trump declares national state of emergency

Friday, March 13

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BREAKING NEWS: Just minutes ago, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency during a Rose Garden press conference: “To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort today, I am officially declaring a national emergency," Trump announced. The decision comes after the confirmation of 1,200 COVID-19 cases in the United States as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the plunge of the DOW by 2,000 points—the worst decline since the Black Monday crash of 1987—on Thursday. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The declaration of a state of emergency allows the president to invoke The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), which would enable him to increase funding for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) efforts, although the president did not mention the Stafford Act in his announcement. In short, the emergency declaration allows the Federal government to access greater funding to combat the coronavirus. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The administration has faced criticism over its lack of tests for health facilities as well as its recent Europe travel ban, which prevents non-U.S citizens from traveling from Europe but allows for Americans to reenter the United States, and has not restricted travel from the United Kingdom. In an effort to expand testing capabilities, Trump said the administration is working with pharmacies and private entities to establish drive-thru testing sites, reducing the risk such tests pose to healthcare professionals. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Reporting by Jessica Moss. Sources: CBS News, Foxbusiness, BusinessInsider

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Molinaro declares state of emergency in Dutchess County following first confirmed case of COVID-19

Friday, March 13

Track peer institution responses to COVID-19 and current status of the outbreak in NY counties

Friday, March 13

Bardavon, UPAC postpone events

Thursday, March 12

Bradley announces Vassar’s action plan, including moving to distance learning for at least three weeks

Thursday, March 12

Find our full article here and the College’s full March 12 statement here.

Students petition to keep Vassr open despite coronavirus fears

Wednesday, March 11

This post will be continuously updated as the situation surrounding the pandemic unfolds. Follow @themiscnews on all social media for the most up-to-date coverage.

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