County joins nation in mourning 400K COVID-19 deaths

— Enterprise file photo

Residents are encouraged by Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy to light candles Tuesday night in honor of those who have died of COVID-19.

ALBANY COUNTY — On Tuesday, when the nation passed the grim milestone of 400,000 deaths from COVID-19, Albany County announced four more deaths of its own.

Since yesterday, a man in his sixties and two men in their eighties died from the disease, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy announced in a Tuesday morning press release.

He also reported that a woman in her seventies had died on Jan. 1, but her death had not previously been reported to the county’s health department. By law, deaths must be reported to the state but not the county.

This brings Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll to 279.

Albany County is joining counties across the nation Tuesday night to light buildings in remembrance of people who have died from the coronavirus.

“We are encouraging residents to join us by lighting candles and ringing bells in remembrance,” McCoy said in the release.

He also announced another record-breaking number of hospitalized patients: 186. Seventeen county residents with COVID-19 were hospitalized since Monday, a net increase of six.

“January continues to be on track to be the deadliest month since the outbreak started,” McCoy said in the release.

At the same time, with the post-holiday surge leveling off, Albany County had 186 new cases of COVID-19. While McCoy acknowledged the decrease, he also said, “It’s important to note that these numbers are far higher than almost any other time in the last 10 months.”

The state opened three more vaccination centers on Tuesday — in Buffalo, Utica and Binghamton. And Governor Andrew Cuomo reports, in a release, that 79 percent of first doses of vaccine delivered across the state have been administered.

“One million eligible New Yorkers and all nursing home residents and staff who wanted the vaccine have already been inoculated with the first doses,” Cuomo said in a release.

The Capital Region, he reported, has administered 73 percent of the doses it has received — that is, 57,514 doses out of the 78,550 doses received.

New York State is following recent federal guidance on vaccines, which means over 7 million New Yorkers are eligible. This week, the state received 250,000 doses, which it distributes to regions based on population.


Teachers seek waiver

The New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers’ union, on Monday called on the State Education Department to request a federal waiver of testing requirements in grades 3 through 8 and in high school.

Such a waiver was granted for the last school year.

“Throughout this school year there has not been a standardized mode of instruction across the state,” wrote Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT’s executive vice president, in a letter to Betty Rosa, the state’s action commissioner of education.

“Schools have varying degrees of in person, hybrid, and remote instruction. Without standardized instructional modes there should not be a standardized test at the end of the year,” DiBrango wrote.

She went on, “On top of this, teachers are trying to address the social emotional needs of students caused by the pandemic and racial unrest caused by the death of George Floyd.”

Further, the union is calling on the state to delay until the 2023-24 school year implementing the Newt Generation Learning Standards, not giving the new tests based on those standards until the spring of 2024.


Newest numbers

As of Tuesday morning, Albany County has had 16,069 confirmed cases of COVID-19, McCoy’s release said.

Of the 186 new cases, 145 did not have a clear source of infection identified, 35 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, and six are health-care workers or residents of congregate settings.

The five-day average for new daily positives has decreased to 225.4 from 242.8. There are now 1,796 active cases in the county, down from 1,902 yesterday.

The number of county residents under quarantine decreased to 2,842 from 2,990. So far, 48,080 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 14,273 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 278 recoveries since yesterday.

Of the state’s 10 regions, the Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, continues to tie with the Mohawk Valley for the worst rate of available hospital beds, at 25 percent. Currently, 552 Capital Region residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, which is 0.05 percent of the region’s population.

Statewide, 0.05 percent of New Yorkers are hospitalized with the virus, leaving 32 percent of the state’s hospital beds available.

The Capital Region also continues to have the worst rate for available intensive-care-unit beds, at 19 percent. Currently 208 of the region’s 262 ICU beds are filled.

Statewide, 27 percent of ICU beds are available.

The Capital Region is one of five regions with an infection rate, as a seven-day average, over 7 percent, at 7.16 percent.

Statewide, the positivity rate is 6.34 percent.

According to the state’s dashboard, Albany County’s seven-day rolling average is 7.9 percent, as of Jan.18, the most recent date available on Tuesday night.

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