With Phase 3, about 90% of jobs in county will be open

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy stands next to a chart that shows county residents in their twenties have more cases of COVID-19 than any other age group. “They’re literally out there in the community, getting people sick,” he said.

ALBANY COUNTY — Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that global health experts, reviewing the coronavirus metrics required by the state, have cleared the Capital Region for beginning the third of four reopening phases on Wednesday.

“We’re going to Phase 3 in the Capital Region: Employers, be smart; store owners, be smart; employees, be smart; individuals, be smart; local governments, be smart and do your job,” said Cuomo at his Tuesday press briefing. 

Phase 3 allows restaurants and hotels to open as well as personal-care services. With the start of Phase 3, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy noted on Tuesday, about 90 percent of the county’s jobs will be back online.

According to an analysis presented in May 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.

“We’ll see more and more people out and about, which is great,” McCoy said on Tuesday.

He also went over some of the state guidelines for opening restaurants, which are outlined in detail under Phase Three Industries at the state’s website.

Restaurants can serve customers indoors at 50-percent their maximum capacity. McCoy had noted earlier that, with outdoor dining allowed, some restaurants can use that outdoor space to get near their usual capacity.

If restaurant tables can’t be distanced, five-foot barriers must be placed between them. A maximum of 10 people can sit at a table and those people must be part of the same party although they need not be from the same household.

Seating at bars must be six feet apart and workers and customers must use separate entrances and exits.

Personal-care services, which include nail salons, spas, and tattoo parlors as well as services for tanning, piercing, and waxing, must also function at no more than 50 percent of maximum capacity. Customers and staff must wear masks and stay six feet apart except where the service requires proximity.

Barriers must be erected between workstations and shared products, like nail polish, are not to be handled by multiple customers.

There are to be no shared waiting areas; rather, customers should wait outside or in their cars until their appointment time for a service arrives.

“These are set up by the governor,” said McCoy of the rules. “We have to continue to enforce them. We need your help to do that.”

McCoy said it was jarring to see seven new COVID-19 cases since the day before. “It’s all up to you whether we take a step back or not,” he said.

McCoy described a situation where a customer, told to wear a mask by a worker, “lost their cool” and spit on and hit the worker.

Cuomo has issued an order that businesses may turn away customers not wearing masks.

“I know you feel confined … It’s not easy,” McCoy said of wearing a mask. He suggested people that didn’t want to wear masks could shop online.

He also said, “Enforcement goes down to the consumers and the workers.”

Large indoor malls, like Colonie Center and Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, are not part of the Phase 3 reopening. Only mall stores with outside entrances are open.

McCoy said he wished he could open the big indoor malls, getting people back to work. “They’re big malls and they can social distance and limit the amount … People would be the same as walking down the street … You could get to restaurants and shops.”

However, air in enclosed, indoor spaces is far more likely to spread the virus than outdoor spaces. (See related story.)

 

Visits

Cuomo also announced on Tuesday that hospitals and group homes will be allowed to accept visitors at their discretion.

Any facility that chooses to allow visitors must follow state guidelines, including time-limited visits and requiring visitors to wear personal protective equipment and be subject to symptom and temperature checks.

Hospital visits have been expanded from a pilot program that was launched in May, which demonstrated that hospitals could provide safe visits for patients and families, Cuomo said. Hospitals statewide will now be able to provide visits if they so choose.

Group homes certified by the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities will be allowed to accept visitors beginning Friday, providing they adhere to state guidance and certify compliance to the office before starting visiting.

The prohibition on nursing-home visitors remains in place as the state’s health department reviews the situation. In Albany County, McCoy said earlier, more than 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths were of nursing-home residents.

Currently, McCoy said, at the county’s nursing home, Shaker Place, there are no residents with COVID-19, following a spate of earlier deaths.

“We have to be careful how we reopen up our nursing home,” said McCoy.

He also said that Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple wants to know when visitors will again be allowed at the county’s jail.

 

Numbers

Cuomo reported Tuesday that six weeks after 12,000 New Yorkers had been tested for COVID-19 antibodies, another sample of 12,000 was taken and the percentage of New Yorkers with antibodies had gone up.

“Last time we did the survey was 12.3 statewide — it’s now 13.4. So statewide, we’ve gone up a point,” said Como.

The numbers upstate were far lower than downstate. The Capital Region went from 2.2 percent to 2.5 percent.

While it was originally thought that antibodies indicated a person would not be immediately susceptible to reinfection from COVID-19, that is no longer clear.

McCoy opened Tuesday’s press briefing by announcing that a woman in her nineties had died of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the county’s death toll to 120.

He also announced that Albany County now has 1,835 cases of COVID-19 with 241 residents under mandatory quarantine and one under precautionary quarantine.

“Memorial Day weekend scared the heck out of me and so do the protesters,” said McCoy. Through the county, since the end of May, people have gathered to protest racial injustice.

During McCoy’s Tuesday morning briefing, a large group of protesters marched behind the Harold L. Joyce county office building.

Albany County’s five-day average for new daily positive cases is now 4.4.

So far, 5,447 county residents have completed quarantine, with 1,728 of them having tested positive and recovered. The recovery rate for the county now stands at 94.1 percent.

Ten county residents are now hospitalized, bringing the hospitalization rate to 0.54 percent.

To date, 37,365Albany County residents have been tested for coronavirus disease 2019, with a positive rate of 5.4 percent.

One week ago, 31,000 residents had been tested with a positive rate of 6.3 percent.

McCoy stressed again that residents in the 20-to-29 age group continue to outpace all others in the total number of positives, with 317 cases.

“They’re literally out there in the community, getting people sick,” said McCoy, adding, “It’s alarming.”

Often young patients don’t show symptoms.

Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen reiterated that, according to the World Health Organization, asymptomatic patients are less likely to transmit the disease but they are indistinguishable from pre-symptomatic patients who then do transmit the disease.

Whalen called the downward trend in county COVID-19 cases “reassuring.”

But she also cautioned, “These numbers have not gone down because coronavirus has gone away. So it is likely that the behaviors everyone has been participating in for the past few months have greatly affected not only the number of cases we would have diagnosed but the amount of people that would have been hospitalized and we would have unfortunately had many additional deaths had we not shut down when we did.”

Cuomo said at his Tuesday briefing, “As we sit here today, 21 states are seeing an increase ... Why? They reopened quickly. They did not have the same phases; they did not have the same controls … The cases are increasing and that destabilizes the market and then the market actually responds in the negative. And that actually hurts the economy.”

As cases are increasing in other parts of the country, Whalen again stressed the importance of hand-washing, mask-wearing, and avoiding large groups.

More Regional News

  • “Productions are currently seeking lower-density areas that can provide more flexibility and safety, and we can definitely do that here in Albany,” said Discover Albany Film Commissioner Deb Goedeke.

  • ALBANY COUNTY — For the first time, food and refreshment vendors will be able to sell their produ

  • “When this started,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo of COVID-19 in New York, “we had more cases per capita than any state in the country or any nation on the globe. But today, we have done a full 180, from worst to first.”

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