Albany County in third week of ‘medium’ rate of COVID hospitalizations

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-spencer

Households in the United States can order up to four free tests — shipped in two boxes by the United States Postal Service — by going online to

ALBANY COUNTY — For the third week in a row, Albany County is designated as having a “medium” rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Throughout the summer, Albany County, like most of the rest of the nation, was labeled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having a “low” rate.

Three weeks ago, Albany was marked “medium” along with three other counties in New York — Fulton, Montgomery, and Rensselaer — based on data from Sept 13. Now, nearly a third of New York’s counties are so designated.

A “low” level means fewer than 10 hospital admissions per 100,000 of population while “medium” is between 10.0 and 19.9, and “high” means there were for than 20 hospital admissions per 100,000 of population

Albany County three weeks ago had 53 new hospital admissions with confirmed cases of COVID-19, or 10.6 per 100,000, which was an increase of 29.3 percent from the week prior, according to the CDC.

The week before, Albany County had 36 hospital admissions of patients with confirmed COVID cases, up 24.1 percent from the previous week for 7.3 hospitalizations per 100,000 of population.

Two weeks ago, Albany county saw a 41.5-percent jump in COVID hospitalizations to 15 admissions per 100,000 of population.

Now, based on data through Oct. 7, posted on Oct. 16, there were 78 admissions of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Albany County, an increase of 4 percent, bringing the cases per 100,000 to 15.6.

At the same time, among New York’s 62 counties, 20 are now designated as have “medium” COVID-19 hospitalization rates:

— Seneca, Yates, Ontario, and Wayne, all at 10.1 per 100,000;

— Green and Columbia at 10.8;

— Oswego, Onondaga, and Cayuga at 11.5;

— Chenengo, Delaware, Otsego, and Schoharie at 12.6;

— St. Lawrence, Lewis, and Jefferson at 12.7;

—Albany and Rensselaer at 15.6; and

— Montgomery and Fulton at 17.5 per 100,000 of population.

This is more than double the eight counties so designated last week; besides Albany and neighboring Rensselaer counties, the other six were in western New York. The 20 counties with “medium” hospitalization rates have now spread north and into central New York.

Still, the hospitalization rates are nowhere near the surge caused by Omicron or before vaccinations were available. And the majority of counties in other states, except for Idaho, have “low” rates of hospitalization.

February was the last time the number of new cases was this high in New York State, according to information reported by the state’s health department. Data last updated on Oct. 4 shows the total number of new cases statewide in New York for the two weeks ending Sept. 23 was 626,220.

This compares with a low of 98,336 reported for the two weeks ending July 1. The number of cases has been climbing steadily since with the graph mirroring the steep decline from winter through spring into summer when the curve flattened before an equally steep ascent.

A graph on the department’s website shows that, while the dominant Omicron sublineage in February was XBB.1.5, at over 87 percent, the dominant sublineage now is XBB.1.9 at 63.1 percent. Nationwide, EG.5 leads the way at 23.6 percent.

Since the system for recording positive COVID tests has fallen by the wayside, tracking hospitalizations and deaths becomes the method for charting the course of the virus.

For deaths, the CDC reports New York state, with data as of Oct. 12, posted Oct. 16, had 3.2 percent of its deaths in the past week due to COVID-19, a decrease of 8.6 percent from the week prior.

This groups New York with 16 other states — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado — that have had 2.0 to 3.9 percent of their deaths in the past week from COVID-19.

Colorado, New York, Minnesota, and Oklahoma are the only states in that bracket with over 3 percent of deaths caused by COVID-19.

Only two states or territories have a higher death rate: Alabama at 4.2 percent and Mississippi at 4.8 percent.

The great majority of states have had fewer than 2 percent of their deaths in the past week from COVID-19.


Tests and shots

On Sept. 20, the Biden administration announced it would once again set up a system so that free at-home tests for COVID-19 can be delivered through the United States Postal Service.

Households can order up to four free tests by going online to

The original program was launched near the start of 2022 as the Omicron variant caused infections to soar.

When the public health emergency in the United States ended in May, Medicare coverage for the tests ended. Also private insurers were no longer required to cover eight at-home tests per month.

At the same time, the CDC is urging everyone six months or older to get the new COVID shots made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both messenger RNA vaccines. The new vaccine was formulated to combat recent strains, similar to annual flu shots.

The updated COVID-19 vaccines are “formulated to more closely target currently circulating variants and to provide better protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” said the Food and Drug Administration in approving the new shots.

Similar to tests, the United States government in previous pandemic years paid for COVID shots, but with the federal emergency ending in May, Medicare and private insurers are now expected to pay for the shots.

In July, the CDC said it would launch a “Bridge Access Program” this fall “to help ensure that millions of uninsured and underinsured American adults continue to have access to no-cost COVID-19 vaccinations.”

A July 13 release from Health and Human Services said, “There are an estimated 25-30 million adults without insurance in the U.S., and there are additional adults whose insurance will not provide free coverage for COVID-19 vaccines after these products transition to the commercial market for procurement, distribution, and pricing, later this fall.”

HHS went on, “Under the management and oversight of CDC, the Bridge Access Program – for a limited time – will allow adults who are uninsured or underinsured to receive free COVID-19 vaccinations.”

The bridge program is scheduled to end in December 2024.


Workers’ comp

The Workers’ Compensation Board is continuing its webinar series next week to help workers who believe they contracted COVID-19 on the job, especially those who have missed time from work or are suffering from ongoing or “long-haul” symptoms.

A one-hour online session, on Monday, Oct. 23, from noon to 1 p.m., will provide information on workers’ rights when it comes to filing a workers’ compensation claim and the cash or medical benefits they may be eligible to receive.

Workers have two years from the time they contracted COVID-19 to file a claim.

Registration is not required. Join by clicking on this link: Join webinar

More information on COVID-19 can be found on the board’s website, including information on how to file a COVID-19 workers’ compensation claim and a link to search for a board-authorized health care provider.

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