COVID-19 spikes add 3 more states to quarantine list, clusters at two restaurants

— Photo from the Albany County Executive’s Office

Temperature checks are part of the protocols for kids in Albany County who this week are attending the Summer Fun in Cohoes program. More programs will be offered at Green Island and Watervliet.

ALBANY COUNTY — On Tuesday morning, in the midst of the county’s COVID-19 press briefing as the health commissioner was reading a list of states from which travelers must quarantine, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy received a text that the governor had added three more states to the list.

Such is the ever-evolving nature of government regulations attempting to contain the coronavirus.

As COVID-19 spikes in other states, New York, along with New Jersey and Connecticut, have been requiring people traveling from those states to self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival here.

“Our entire response to this pandemic has been by the numbers, and we’ve set metrics for community spread just as we set metrics for everything,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in announcing that Delaware, Kansas, and Oklahoma are added to the list.

Cuomo went on, “New Yorkers did the impossible — we went from the worst infection rate in the United States to one of the best — and the last thing we need is to see another spike of COVID-19.”

The quarantine applies to anyone arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.

There are now 19 states on a list that started two weeks ago with eight. Those states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

On the heels of the Fourth of July weekend, Albany County Health commissioner Elizabeth Whalen said the county has been receiving complaints of residents who are returning from visits to listed states. Whalen urged those residents to contact the health department, to follow the 14-day required quarantine, and to get tested.

McCoy also urged testing and noted that if residents do not have health insurance, the county will pay for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Testing sites are listed on the county’s website.

McCoy said that “winter people” are now driving back from Florida and have to quarantine. “They owe it to the residents,” he said, urging, “Do the right thing when you come back.”

Albany County now has 1,953 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 234 residents under quarantine. The five-day average for new daily positive cases is now 7.6, down from 9.4 yesterday.

There are currently 52 active cases of COVID-19 in Albany County. So far, 5,869 residents have completed quarantine, with 1,901 of them having tested positive and recovered.

Three county residents are hospitalized with one in an intensive-care unit. The county’s hospitalization rate is 0.15 percent.

There have been no new COVID-19 deaths reported since June 24, keeping the death toll for Albany County at 121.

While Whalen called the numbers encouraging and commended residents for wearing masks, washing hands, and maintaining social distance, she said, “I offer a warning that that work can be undone very quickly. We have seen exponential growth, starting from small numbers of cases in other states. And we don’t want to go there.”

 

Restaurants

On Friday, COVID-19 outbreaks at two restaurants in Albany County were announced.

Delmonico’s on Central Avenue in Albany had three employees who tested positive for the virus, two from Schenectady County and one who lives in Albany County.

McCoy said on Tuesday that 63 Delmonic’s employees had been tested and five of the tests came back positive; two were for Albany County residents. “That’s on top of the three individuals that were identified last week,” he said.

Philly Bar and Lounge at 622 Watervliet-Shaker Road in Latham initially had three employees who tested positive for the virus, two from Albany County and one who lives in Rensselaer County.

Thirty-five Philly’s employees were then tested and four of the tests came back positive; three were Albany County residents, McCoy said. He noted that is in addition to the original three.

Most of the restaurant workers were in the 20-to-29 age group, McCoy said, warning as he often has, that people with COVID-19 in that age group frequently have mild symptoms or no symptoms and so can unwittingly spread the disease.

Currently, the 20to-29 age group has more cases than any other age decade in the county: 352.

“The concern again is that you can unknowingly transmit this infection to someone who could suffer much more severe consequences,” said Whalen  “We want to keep our numbers low. We want to keep our hospitals open to the public that needs them for other reasons. And we want to keep open.”

Whalen said that the owners of both Delmonico’s and Philly had been compliant. 

She made an appeal to all restaurant owners: “Mask-wearing is essential,” she said.

Whalen said the complaint hotline transmits many messages on masks being worn improperly. A mask, to be effective, must cover both mouth and nose.

“To have your nose hanging out is not wearing a mask. To have it under your chin is not wearing a mask,” said Whalen, noting she has seen this in restaurants herself.

She urged owners and managers to monitor their staff.

Whalen said she had recommended to the state’s health department that both Delmonico’s and Philly be closed for two weeks.

“We think the risk to customers was very low,” said Whalen. To spread the disease, “prolonged contact” is needed, she said.

Anyone who is concerned they were exposed, she said, should get tested.

McCoy said that most complaints about people not wearing masks are at the big-box stores or grocery stores.

“It’s up to the consumers to do the right thing. It’s up to the consumers to let us know when they’re not [wearing masks] and it’s up to workers to to say, ‘Hey, look … I want to go home and not spread it to my family.’”

Whalen noted that the county’s health department is responsible for granting permits to restaurants.

“We’ve been responding to complaints and send out inspectors to offer education,” she said. If there are repeat problems, Whalen concluded, “We will be looking at enforcement.”

More Regional News

  • The statewide school boards association as well as the state’s largest teachers’ union supported the reopening of in-person learning but with caveats.

  • Michelle Hinchey

    Michelle Hinchey, the Democratic candidate for the State Senate’s 46th District, paid for the lawyer of Hébert Joseph, chairman of the Rensselaerville Democratic Party, who submitted a challenge against Democrat Gary Greenberg’s nominating petition, which resulted in Greenberg’s removal from the primary ballot. Hinchey had distanced herself from Joseph’s challenge when asked about it by The Enterprise in March. 

  • “The homeless tend to be very vulnerable to COVID and that’s because there’s a good percentage of them that are older and also have pre-existing conditions — diabetes, heart problems as well as issues with substance abuse and mental health and behavioral issues,” said Albany County Department of Social Services Commissioner Michele McClave.

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