County colored ‘green’ by CDC — for ‘low’ COVID transmission

— Map from CDC
Albany County, like most of the rest of the nation, is now colored green by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning it has a “low” level of community transmission of COVID-19.

ALBANY COUNTY — For the first time since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention switched to a three-tiered system to track coronavirus transmission, Albany County is labeled “low” — and colored green on the CDC map.

The only county in the state labeled “high,” and colored orange, is Franklin County in the North Country. CDC guidance calls for mask-wearing indoors in counties labeled “high.”

Albany County, since the system started on Feb. 25, had, until Thursday, been labeled “medium,” and colored yellow — masks not required.

The levels are “determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area,” the CDC says.

On Friday morning, the county executive’s office provided an update on virus-related numbers. The reports from Daniel McCoy’s office had been daily but are now issued on Tuesdays and Fridays as the cases continue to decline from the Omicron spike in January.

McCoy reported two previously unreported COVID-related deaths — a man in his sixties, and a man in his seventies — bringing the county’s death toll from the virus to 533.

He also reported 107 new infections since Tuesday, bringing the county’s seven-day average to 36  per day.

Albany County’s most recent seven-day average of COVID cases per 100,000 is now at 9.5 and its infection rate is at 2.6 percent.

There have been nine COVID-related hospitalizations since Tuesday and 21 county residents are now hospitalized with the coronavirus — four of them are in intensive-care units.

“Our overall trends are moving in the right direction,” said McCoy in the release. “Our infection rate and hospitalizations are down and new deaths remain rare.

“I continue to encourage everyone to either get the vaccine if they haven’t or the booster if they have. Getting the shot is still the best weapon in our arsenal to prevent the worst illnesses caused by COVID, especially for those with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions.”

As of Thursday, 81.2 percent of all Albany County residents have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, and 73.9 percent are now fully vaccinated.


Masks required for travelers

The federal Transportation Security Administration announced on Thursday that, at the CDC’s recommendation, it would extend the security directive for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18.

“During that time,” the TSA said in a statement, “CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor.

“This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science. We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change.”


School leaders in NYS surveyed

School leaders across the state were surveyed by the School Administrators Association of New York State on the effects of the pandemic.

Of the 676 respondents, 85 percent report that their traditional professional duties have been sidelined to fulfill COVID-related work while 86 percent report an increase in student behavioral issues this year.

Also, 28 percent believe that there has been significant learning loss across the general student population and 33 percent indicate that their retirement plans have been accelerated because of the pandemic.

The report on the survey concludes, “Our members are tired, overworked, and stressed about so much. Student mental health and wellbeing, academic supports, staffing shortages and morale, keeping up with ever-changing COVID rules and regulations, and the sheer time and energy it continues to take for school administrators to manage it all weighs heavily.”

The report goes on, “The survey shows that school administrators are most definitely ‘Under Pressure’ and need support from all levels, especially now, so that they in turn can support the many needs of their school communities. One respondent summed it up: ‘I would like to get back to the job of education, both with staff and students.’”


More food help

New Yorkers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, formerly food stamps, will receive the maximum allowable level of food benefits for March.

All households participating in SNAP — including those already at the maximum level of benefits — will receive a supplemental allotment this month, which will result in New York State's economy receiving roughly $232 million in federal funding.

“No New Yorker should struggle to put food on the table,” said Governor Kathy Hochul in a statement, making the announcement on Thursday. “Ensuring eligible New Yorkers get the maximum level of food benefits will bring much-needed relief to millions of New Yorkers, ensuring no one gets left behind as our economic recovery moves forward.”

SNAP households in all counties outside of New York City should see these extra benefits posted between now and the end of the day Thursday, March 17.

The emergency assistance supplement is to be provided to households that do not ordinarily receive the maximum allowable benefit per month on SNAP — a federally funded program overseen by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Those households already near or at the maximum benefit level — $835 for a household of four — will receive a supplemental payment of at least $95.

New Yorkers continue to rely heavily on SNAP, with about 1.6 million households throughout the state enrolled in the program in January, a nearly 1 percent increase over the previous month. Roughly 2.8 million New Yorkers received benefits in January, the most since June 2021.

OTDA began issuing the emergency supplemental benefits in April 2020 to those SNAP households receiving less than the maximum monthly benefit amount. When New York State’s emergency declaration expired in June 2021, the agency successfully worked with the federal government to secure the maximum allotment for all SNAP households until the expiration of the federal declaration, currently expected to be extended into May.


More jobs

The number of jobs increased as unemployment decreased over the month of January, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted figures released Thursday by the state’s labor department.

The number of private-sector jobs in New York State increased over the month by 20,600, or 0.3 percent, to 7,858,000 in January 2022. Similarly, the number of private-sector jobs in the United States increased by 0.3 percent.

    New York State’s private-sector jobs (not seasonally adjusted) increased by 466,100, or 6.4 percent, over the year in January 2022. By comparison, the number of private-sector jobs in the U.S. increased by 5.2 percent over the year.

    New York State’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 5.4 percent to 5.3 percent in January 2022.

The Albany-Schenectady-Troy area had a net gain of 14,100 jobs or 3.3 percent.

The sector with the largest increase over the year was leisure and hospitality with an increase of 219,900 jobs, or 40.3 percent.

Only construction saw a decrease — of 2,000 jobs or 0.6 percent.

An analysis by the Empire Center noted, “New York has been rising towards a full recovery from the pandemic crash somewhat faster than previously indicated — while continuing to fall well below the national trend ….

“New York in January had recovered nearly 75 percent of the post-pandemic decline, while employment in the U.S. as a whole exceeded 90 percent of the February 2020 level. At January’s growth rate, however, New York still won’t fully recover until the end of 2023, while the nation is on track to hit the pre-pandemic level within this year.”

More Regional News

  • The World Health Organization has released six policy briefs outlining the key actions governments must take based on the evidence and experience of the last 32 months of what works best to save lives, protect health systems, and avoid social and economic disruption.

  • The goal with the executive orders for both poliovirus and monkeypox, as stated also in the lapsed COVID order, is to help municipalities and counties test for the disease and vaccinate against it “to prevent the disease from continuing to spread.”

  • The answer as to why it’s taking so long for some to receive their mail is the same whether it’s the official line from United States Postal Service, local postal employee answering complaints directly on Facebook, Congressman Paul Tonko, or anyone who follows the news: There just aren’t enough workers to get the job done. 

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