COVID-19 cases grow at UAlbany

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

“From an epidemiologic point of view and from a logic point of view,” said Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen at a Sept. 15 press briefing, “it really makes sense to look at this from a rolling time.” She disagrees with the University at Albany’s method of counting COVID-19 cases in discreet two-week periods.

ALBANY COUNTY — Over the weekend, the count of COVID-19 cases at the University at Albany continued to grow.

Saturday morning, the county announced 22 new cases of COVID-19 overall; presumably two of them were related to Altamont Elementary School.

The Guilderland schools superintendent, Marie Wiles, emailed a letter to the school community Friday when the first case was announced and then again Saturday after the second case, in a different household, had been announced on Friday evening.

“At this time, all schools remain open for in-person instruction,” Wiles wrote. “Students who are directed to self-quarantine will temporarily switch to remote learning until their quarantine has ended and they are cleared to return to campus for in-person instruction. Here is a helpful resource provided by the Albany County Department of Health of protocols for COVID-19 screening and quarantine.”

Fifteen of Saturday’s new cases were associated with UAlbany, which has had a recent outbreak. By executive order, state campuses must move to remote learning for two weeks if they have 100 or more positive tests for COVID-19 in a two-week period.

Of the 18 new cases county-wide announced on Sunday morning, 10 were associated with the University at Albany.

On Monday, the county announced eight new cases with five of them related to UAlbany.

According to the State University of New York COVID-19 Tracker, set up to monitor the state’s 64 campuses, as of Monday evening, UAlbany has just 52 cases so far in the period beginning Sept. 12 and ending Sept. 25. The day before, the tracker reported 71 in that slot.

On Monday evening, the tracker reported a total of 120 estimated cases so far, with 52 between Aug. 28 and Sept. 11, which would mean the current two-week period should still have 71 confirmed cases.

The university is counting in discrete, rather than rolling, two-week periods. The county’s health commissioner, Elizabeth Whalen, said earlier that, from an epidemiologic and logic point of view, using a rolling period makes more sense.

The county’s health department is tallying the cases of students, staff, or faculty that work or live or attend classes on campus.

Seventy-eight of 230 rooms that the university has set aside for quarantine and isolation are in use, the tracker said on Monday evening.

Monday morning, the county executive’s office reported 2,830 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of the eight new cases, seven had close contact with someone infected with the disease and one reported out-of-state travel. 

The number of county residents under quarantine increased to 791 from 776. The five-day average for new daily positives decreased slightly to 21 from 21.6. There are now 115 active cases in the county, down from 117 on Sunday.

So far, 11,266 county residents have completed quarantine. Of those who completed quarantine, 2,715 of them had tested positive and recovered.

Eight county residents remain hospitalized with COVID-19 and the county’s hospitalization rate remains at 0.28 percent.

The county’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 134.

After the initial release with the day’s tallies, the county executive’s office sent out a second press release on Monday, stating, “Albany County did not issue any permit nor give any verbal permission allowing for this past Saturday’s 2Hot4U Talent Show which was held at the Arbor Hill Sports Complex. Guidelines advise against mass gatherings because they pose a significant risk of transmission of COVID-19.”



Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that 0.98 percent of Sunday's COVID-19 tests were positive and there was one death from the virus in New York State, matching the lowest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic.

“Only one New Yorker passed away, and we won't stop until that number is zero,” said Cuomo in a release, announcing the latest tallies statewide.

The infection rate for the Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, was at 1 percent. Other regions also at 1-percent or higher were: Central New York, Mid-Hudson, New York City, and Western New York. 

Of the state’s 10 regions, the North Country, as usual, was the lowest, at 0 percent.

Also on Monday, Cuomo announced an executive order extending the state’s moratorium on COVID-related commercial evictions and foreclosures an additional month, until Oct. 20.

This measure extends protections already in place for commercial tenants and mortgagors, including retail establishments and restaurants. The moratorium on residential and commercial evictions was first announced on March 20, then the commercial eviction and foreclosure moratorium was extended through Aug. 20 and later through Sept. 20 by executive order.

Cuomo signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act on June 30, which became effective immediately and additional legislation to provide financial assistance to residential renters and homeowners has extended the moratorium for those tenants until the emergency has expired.

“The pandemic remains far from over, and we need to continue protecting the business owners supporting their families amid restrictions necessary to protect the public health,” Cuomo said in a statement, making the announcement. “That’s why it's the right decision to extend the eviction ban for commercial tenants another 30 days.”


New tool

Finally, on Monday the state’s Office for the Aging announced the launch of CV19 CheckUp, billed as “a free, anonymous, personalized online tool that evaluates an individual’s risks associated with COVID-19 based on their life situation and individual behavior and provides recommendations and resources to reduce those risks.”

The state developed the new tool in partnership with BellAge Inc. and the Association on Aging in New York.

“This tool, which we will make available to all New Yorkers, helps individuals understand their risk based on their life situation and personal behavior and offers recommendations to reduce those risks while also connecting people to services, if needed,” said Greg Olsen, the acting director of the Office for the Aging in a release announcing its launch.

CV19 CheckUp employs artificial intelligence to analyze data each person provides by completing an online questionnaire. It is designed for those who are considered high risk, including older adults, low-income individuals, ethnic and racial minorities, and LGBTQ communities.

The tool’s algorithms are driven by science and medicine, using data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, according to the release. CV19 CheckUp is free to users. It is anonymous and does not require a name, email address, or identifier of any type.

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