Capital Region starts reopening on Wednesday

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“This is a very good day for Albany County after 69 days of being in this,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy on Tuesday afternoon, announcing the Capital Region will start the first phase of reopening tomorrow.

ALBANY COUNTY —A jubilant Daniel McCoy announced Tuesday afternoon that the Capital Region was reopening — for the first of four phases.

“It’s terrific news we got this afternoon from the governor’s announcement, we can finally open up tomorrow,” said the Albany County executive.

The region joins six of the 10 regions designated statewide — Western New York, Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley — in meeting the 10 metrics to begin reopening.

Only the regions hit hardest by the pandemic— Mid-Hudson, Long Island, and New York City — have yet to meet the metrics.

Earlier, the Capital Region has struggled in meeting the metrics for hospitalization and death rates. “We showed our hospitalization was different,” said McCoy on Tuesday, noting the state is dealing with 62 counties and hundreds of hospitals.

The last metric for the Capital Region to fulfill was to have 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people, which McCoy said the county had no problem meeting since 40 tracers were already working with the county’s health department and the volunteers in the county’s medical corps as well as the county’s emergency medical services workers stepped up.

Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber wrote in his daily email letter to residents on Tuesday, “On very short notice yesterday, more than a dozen town employees answered the county’s call for contact tracers which helped the Capital Region meet the last metric for the phased reopening of the local economy.”

“Meeting all the metrics so we can open up in a safe manner is a great thing,” said McCoy on Tuesday afternoon.

But he also cautioned, “This doesn’t mean you go outside with no mask on. It doesn’t mean that this is gone. It doesn’t mean the coronavirus has left us.”

McCoy had released the regional reopening plan on Saturday, which outlines protocols for each of the four phases. The first phase includes construction, manufacturing, retail with curb-side pickup, and farming, forestry, and fishing.

Phase 2 includes office settings, retail, and real estate. Phase 3 includes restaurants and hotels while Phase 4 includes education, arts, entertainment and recreations.

There is a two-week interval between phases to be sure that there is no spike in COVID-19.

If all the metrics continue to be met, Phase 2 could start on June 3, Phase 3 on June 17, and Phase 4 on July 1.

Every Phase 1 worker who is returning to work is to be tested. The county’s website lists local testing sites.

The regional plan asks all businesses and employees to sign a pledge that they understand what is being asked of them and are committed to doing their part to reopen the Capital Region for business and keep it open.

The plan also outlines protocols for each type of business.

According to an analysis presented earlier this month by Kevin O’Connor, the county’s director of economic development, Albany County has 21,309 jobs, or 8.7 percent of all its jobs, that fit Phase 1 categories.

The majority of Albany County jobs — 123,663 jobs or 50.26 percent — fall into Phase 2 categories. Phase 3 jobs, for food services and accommodations, number 14,453 or 5.9 percent in Albany County. And, the last to reopen, Phase 4, number 25,411 or 10.4 percent in Albany County.

People with “essential jobs” — government, health care, information, utilities, agriculture, and mining among them — have been working all along. In Albany County, there are 59,558 essential jobs or 24.4 percent of all jobs.

Right now, gatherings continue to be restricted to 10 people.

McCoy said it scares him that the regional reopening is coming just before the Memorial Day weekend and cautioned that campsites aren’t open and people shouldn’t be congregating as he witnessed last weekend driving to Thompsons Lake and Warners Lake in the Hilltowns.

“That’s what scares me,” he said. He added that people who have been isolated at home are “going to come out to a new world” where masks must be worn and people must keep their distance.

The county has been hurt badly financially, McCoy said, stating, “On Monday alone, we lost $2 million in sales-tax revenues.” 

He concluded, “You can’t put a dollar amount on anybody’s life.”

He also said, “This is a very good day for Albany County after 69 days of being in this. Trust me, everyone wants to try to get back to somewhat of a norm but we have to do this working together. And if we don’t do this working together, it’s going to be a major setback for everyone.”


COVID-19 is still here

At his morning press briefing, McCoy had announced another county resident had succumbed to COVID-19, bringing Albany County’s death toll to 70. The patient, a woman in her seventies was a resident of Shaker Place, the county’s nursing home, and had underlying health issues.

As of Tuesday morning, Albany County has 1,481 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a five-day average of daily new positive cases at 16.6. Also, 764 county residents were under mandatory quarantine and five were under precautionary quarantine

So far, 3,906 residents have completed quarantine, with 1,013 of them having tested positive and recovered. 

Thirty county residents are hospitalized with three of them in intensive-care units. The hospitalization rate for Albany County stands at 2.02 percent, up slightly from 1.96 percent yesterday.

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