NY, NJ, and CT will stick to testing contacts without COVID-19 symptoms

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Classes at the University at Albany began Monday. The semester’s first COVD-19 case was announced Tuesday. 

ALBANY COUNTY — Another county resident — a man in his forties with multiple underlying health conditions — has succumbed to COVID-19, the county executive, Daniel McCoy, announced at his Thursday morning press briefing.

That brings Albany County’s death toll to 132.

“Losing somebody in their forties is alarming,” said McCoy, adding of the virus, “It’s still there.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday that the state’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests has been less than 1 percent for 20 days straight.

The Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, on Wednesday had a rate of 1.1 percent. The highest rate — 2 percent — in the state’s 10 regions is in Western New York.

“Western New York, we have a caution flag out and we’re going to fly it a little higher today ...,” said Cuomo during a conference call with the press on Thursday. “We’re going to deploy a SWAT team from the Department of Health that are going to do additional testing at eight sites.”

Both McCoy and Cuomo continued to stress the importance of diagnostic testing for COVID-19 and urged residents to get tested.

“Please get tested even if you don’t have signs or symptoms,” said McCoy on Thursday.

He reiterated that the state’s drive-through testing site at the uptown University at Albany campus is free, and again stressed that the county will pay for testing of uninsured residents who use the mobile walk-up sites in at-risk neighborhoods.

“It helps us with mapping and tracing. It helps us going forward,” said McCoy.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reversed its guidelines on testing, excluding people who do not have symptoms of the virus even if they have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Cuomo had called the reversal Donald Trump’s “re-election strategy.”

“My opinion — many public health officials have agreed with me — is that is really bad advice and it is dumb-founding, to use a word,” Cuomo said in his conference call on Thursday.

Cuomo and the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut — all Democrats — issued a joint statement on Thursday, saying, “This 180-degree reversal of COVID-19 testing guidelines is reckless, and not based on science and has the potential to do long-term damage to the institution’s reputation.”

They went on about the CDC and the federal Department of Health and Human Services, “CDC and HHS have not shared their scientific rationale for this change in policy, which substitutes sound science-based public-health guidance with the president’s misinformation …

“Health experts recommend testing close contacts of individuals with COVID-19 to identify and prevent asymptomatic spread. This type of robust testing by our states has been a key factor in our success so far to flatten the curve in the tri-state area.”

The three governors — Cuomo, Philip Murphy of New Jersey, and Edward Miner of Connecticut, said that their states will not be changing their guidance.



“We are getting a lot of questions from teachers and parents about the start of school,” said McCoy on Thursday morning.

Cuomo gave schools across the state permission to open, requiring plans from each district outlining its methods of remote instruction, in-school classes, and a hybrid plan of the two methods.

On Monday, New York State United Teachers, joined by Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for the state to make mask-wearing mandatory at all times indoors during the school day, except for appropriate break periods and in cases of medical accommodation.

Some districts, such as Guilderland, already require that as part of their plan. Other districts’ plans don’t require masks in classrooms, where desks are spaced out, but only in situations such as passing between classes in hallways.

Cuomo said on Thursday that, while he had announced earlier which high school sports teams could play locally and which high-contact sports could hold practices but not yet compete, that, within those parameters, decisions are left up to individual districts.

Tennis, soccer, field hockey, cross-country running, and swimming can start on Sept. 21. 

Athletes in close-contact sports like football, ice hockey, wrestling, and rugby will be allowed to practice but not play games.

No traveling to games will be allowed outside of a school’s region until Oct. 19.

“That does not mean that high school sports must commence,” said Cuomo. “It means they can commence. Can, not must. It’s up to the individual school districts to determine if they want to go ahead with a sports program. Different school districts are making different decisions, and that’s fine; it’s up to them.”

In Albany County and across the state, colleges and universities are opening. The University at Albany started classes on Monday and had its first positive test result for COVID-19 on Tuesday. The university announced on Wednesday that it is launching surveillance pool testing, using saliva of students, faculty, and staff, and plans to test over 5,000 individuals per week.

Cuomo said on Thursday that New York State will set a threshold for COVID-19 cases after which colleges will have to go solely to remote learning for two weeks.

“We have colleges that are reopening,” said Cuomo. “We’re seeing around the country situations where colleges reopen and then have an outbreak of cases. We’re going to set a threshold that says, if a college has 100 cases or a number of cases equal to 5 percent of their population or more — whichever is less — they must go to remote learning for two weeks at which time we will reassess the situation.”


Newest numbers

Albany County now has 2,489 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 15 since Wednesday.

“I got a little excited when we had a zero,” said McCoy.

On Wednesday, he had reported 16 new cases.

“We’re gonna jump up. We’re gonna go down,” he said on Thursday.

Of the 15 new cases, eight had close contact with positive cases, four are healthcare workers or residents of private congregate settings, and three did not have a clear source of infection detected at this time.

Currently, 509 Albany County residents are under quarantine, up from 499 on Wednesday. The five-day average for new daily positives has increased to 7.6 from 4.8 yesterday.

Albany County now has 36 active cases, up from 31 a day ago. So far, 9,307 people have completed quarantine. Of those who completed quarantine, 2,453 of them had tested positive and recovered, an increase of 10.

Nine county residents remain hospitalized with COVID-19, with one in an intensive-care unit. The county’s hospitalization rate remains at 0.36 percent.

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