Domestic violence in county worsens with pandemic

ALBANY COUNTY — Calling domestic violence a “vile crime,” Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said it persists in Albany County at “alarming rates,” made worse by the quarantine and economic shutdown.

He issued a proclamation on Thursday, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, saying that, in 2019, before the pandemic, the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services reported 1,197 cases of domestic violence in Albany County — data the proclamation called “shocking.”

McCoy reminded residents they can call the county’s 24-hour sexual assault hotline at 518-447-7716 for help from the Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center.

He also released the latest numbers on COVID-19. The county had 34 new cases of the virus since Wednesday, one of the largest single-day upticks since early August.

Statewide, the rate of positive test results from Wednesday was 1.2 percent. This includes the 3.2 percent in over-sampled micro-cluster zones; the rate for the rest of the state was 0.96 percent.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a conference call with reporters on Thursday, reiterated that the state is adjusting its focus on micro-clusters, based on 14 days of data, rearranging the restrictions in Queens and Brooklyn, and adding focus in Broome and Chemung counties.

Cuomo also spoke about news reports that the secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, is considering firing the director of the Food and Drug Administration, Steve Hahn.

“You don’t make governmental decisions based on the election calendar …,” said Cuomo. “You especially don’t decide that a vaccine is safe to take based on an election calendar. For Azar to say he’s going to fire Hahn because he hasn’t been compliant with the political gospel of the Trump administration, that is unethical.”

Cuomo urged, “Save your soul, Dr. Hahn.”

The federal government, once a vaccination is approved, is leaving it to the states to distribute and administer vaccinations.

“There is no local role in managing the vaccine process in the state,” Cuomo said on Thursday. “The state will have a statewide plan. The localities will be responsible for fulfilling their role pursuant to the state plan. They won’t have a separate plan. They won’t have a separate vaccine approval process. This is all under state law.”

Cuomo also took Donald Trump to task for his claims about “anarchist states.”

“Once again, Mr. President, read the Constitution,” Cuomo said. “There is a law, it’s the 10th Amendment: The federal government doesn’t have police power. That’s a power that is reserved to the states by the 10th Amendment.”


Molecular features affect severity of COVID-19

Also on Thursday, Albany Medical Center announced that its researchers, working with the Morgridge Institute for Research and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have identified more than 200 molecular features that strongly correlate with how severely a patient experiences COVID-19.

Their findings were published online this month in the journal Cell Systems.

“By examining thousands of molecular signatures, we have gained a clearer picture of the factors that drive the severity of COVID-19 infections,” said Ariel Jaitovich, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care physician at Albany Med and one of the study’s lead investigators, in a release from Albany Med. “This data, combined with a machine-learning analytic tool, has the potential to help predict the severity of an individual’s infection and may provide therapeutic targets to improve outcomes.”

The team analyzed 102 blood samples from Albany Med patients diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as 26 control samples from Albany Med patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome who tested negative for COVID-19.

Using methods in mass spectrometry, RNA sequencing, and machine learning, the researchers identified and quantified more than 17,000 proteins, metabolites, lipids, and RNA transcripts from the 128 blood samples. They further identified 219 molecules and genes that were highly correlated with COVID-19 status and severity. These biomolecules were found to influence blood coagulation, vessel damage, inflammation, and other biological processes in severe disease.

Ultimately, the researchers hope their data can be used to develop models for predicting COVID-19 severity, which, if conducted early in the admissions process, could help doctors prioritize patients for treatments.


Newest numbers

Based on Wednesday’s COVID-19 test results, the Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, had a positivity rate of 0.9 percent. Seven of the state’s 10 regions had a rate of 1 percent or higher. The North Country had the lowest rate at 0.5 percent.

As of Thursday morning, Albany County has 3,370  confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a release from McCoy’s office.

Of the 34 new cases, 16 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, five reported out-of-state travel, three were health-care workers or residents of congregate settings, and 10 did not have a clear source of infection detected at this time.

The county currently has 1,066 residents under quarantine, up from 1,001 on Wednesday. The five-day average for new daily positives jumped to 16.8 from 12.4. There are now 118 active cases in the county, up from 92 on Wednesday.

So far, 15,004 people have completed quarantine. Of those, 3,252 had tested positive and recovered.

Eleven county residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with two in intensive-care units. The county’s hospitalization rate ticked down from 0.35 percent to 0.32 percent.

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

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