New York says only a handful of states are safe for travel

— Graph from the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins 

The Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins charts positivity rates for each of the 50 states, with a line drawn at 5 percent. The World Health Organization advised governments that, before reopening, rates of positivity in testing — that is, out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19 — should remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days.

ALBANY COUNTY — Arizona and Maryland were added to New York State’s quarantine list on Tuesday, bringing to 43 the states on the travel advisory.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut also meet the criteria but are not on the list. However, non-essential travel to those states is discouraged.

“There is no practical way to quarantine New York from New Jersey and Connecticut. There are just too many interchanges. There are too many interconnections,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

He went on, “There are too many people who live in one place and work in the other. It would have a disastrous effect on the economy and remember what we’re fighting, this public health pandemic, we’re also fighting to open up the economy ….”

Cuomo said he would be speaking to the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut about controlling the spikes.

Also on Tuesday, Cuomo released a list of the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 positivity rates from Johns Hopkins. On May 12, the World Health Organization advised governments that, before reopening, rates of positivity in testing — that is, out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19 — should remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days.

The Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins charts each state with a line drawn at 5 percent. Currently, 34 states have a positivity rate over 5 percent.

The five states with the highest positivity rates are Nevada at 46 percent, South Dakota at 37 percent, Idaho at 29 percent, Wyoming at 21 percent, and Iowa at 21 percent.

The five lowest states are Maine at 0.36 percent, Massachusetts at 1.14 percent, New York at 1.17 percent, Vermont at 1.19 percent, and the district of Columbia at 1.23 percent.

The travel advisory requires anyone who has traveled to New York from areas with significant community spread to quarantine for 14 days. The quarantine applies to areas with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or an area with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. 

States from which people can visit New York without quarantining are: California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Cuomo on Tuesday again touted the success of establishing “red zones” for oversampling with COVID-19 tests in areas with micro-clusters of the disease.

“Most states would welcome the infection rate in our red zones,” said Cuomo, noting on Tuesday, based on Monday test results, that rate is 2.9 percent.

The red zones are largely in Orange and Rockland counties and in Queens and Brooklyn in New York City. The positivity rate statewide without the red zones is 1.2 percent; with the red zones included, it’s 1.3 percent.

Red zones have strict restrictions — schools must close, only essential businesses can stay open, and there can be no gatherings.

Cuomo has long complained about local enforcement. But on Tuesday he gave some tepid praise to local police.

“State enforcement is proceeding with local law enforcement,” he said. “Cooperation with local law enforcement has been better and we thank them. Not universal, but better and we thank them.”

Cuomo said he will list changes to the red zones on Wednesday.

“Nobody wants restrictions imposed — COVID-fatigue, we want open, get back to normal, but the only way to stop an ember from becoming a flame is by affirmative intervention,” said Cuomo. “That is a fact and we have done it, I believe, better than any other state, and I believe that is shown by the numbers, right?”

Also on Tuesday, Cuomo announced the extension of the commercial eviction and foreclosure moratorium through Jan. 1. That will now align with the residential eviction moratorium. The state moratorium on both residential and commercial evictions was first announced on March 20 for 90 days. The moratoriums have been extended a number of times since.

On Tuesday, the State Labor Department released preliminary area unemployment rates for September. The Albany-Schenectady-Troy area had a rate of 5.4 percent, which compares with 3.4 percent a year ago. New York City had the highest unemployment rate for September at 13.9 percent, compared to 3.5 percent a year ago.

Cuomo concluded Tuesday’s phone call with reporters by sharing his concerns that the federal government is underplaying the difficulties of distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines once they are available.

“So, it’s a long way — a long way before this is over, and to give Americans false hope about the expeditious resolution, it just plays into their denial, which has  been going on from day one and it’s why this virus has ravaged this country worse than most of our counterpart countries. Because denial doesn’t work; lying doesn’t work; the truth always catches up to you — and the truth has caught up to the federal administration, and Americans are dying because of it.”


Newest numbers

As of Tuesday morning, Albany County has had 3,323 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 13 new cases since Monday, according to a release from Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy’s Office.

Of the new cases, six had close contact with someone infected with the disease, two are health-care workers or residents of congregate settings, and five did not have a clear source of infection detected at this time.

Currently, 1,018 county residents are under quarantine, down from 1,063 on Monday. The five-day average for new daily positives dropped to 13.8 from 16.6. There are now 100 active cases in the county, down slightly from 101.

So far, 14,777 county residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 3,223 had tested positive and recovered.

One new hospitalization occurred overnight, while the number of county residents currently hospitalized due to the virus remained at 10; two patients remain in intensive-care units. The county’s hospitalization rate is still at 0.3 percent.

Albany county’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 138.

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