County is at Day One over 3% threshold

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“If these numbers continue to go up, we’re going to hit that yellow zone,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, at right, as Deputy Executive Daniel Lynch listens.

ALBANY COUNTY — “We’re there,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy at his press conference Sunday morning.

The county’s seven-day average of positive test results has crossed the 3-percent threshold set by Governor Andrew Cuomo. According to the state’s county-by-county dashboard, Albany County’s rate is 3.1 percent.

He reported 97 new cases of COVID-19 based on Saturday’s test results.

If Albany County stays above the 3-percent threshold for 10 days, it will be declared a yellow zone, the least restrictive of the three zones in the state’s micro-cluster strategy.

Cuomo, at a press briefing in New York City on Sunday, succinctly described the restrictions for each of the three zones.

“What happens if I’m in a yellow zone?” the governor asked, answering, “House of worship goes to 50 percent; mass gatherings, 25; indoor dining, 4-person max. Schools are open, but you have to do mandatory 20-percent testing in the school.

“Up one notch is an orange zone: 3 percent in New York City, 4 to 5 percent outside of New York City. Orange zones scale up the restrictions. Houses of worship goes to 33; mass gatherings go to 10; businesses, we close the high-risk nonessential, such as gyms, personal care; dining, four people, outdoor only. Schools must go to remote, no in-person, with a test-out option ….

“You go to a red zone, that’s our highest zone: red zone, 4 percent. Houses of worship, 25; mass gatherings prohibited; businesses, essential only; dining, take-out only. Schools remote, again with the test-out option ... Those are the three levels of zones. You get beyond 4 percent, you’re in a different arena altogether and you’re in serious territory.”

For both the orange and red zones, schools close for a couple of days, Cuomo said, so they can be thoroughly cleaned. Then the schools can go to remote learning or instead can remain open as long as COVID-19 testing thresholds are met.

“Even in a red zone …,” Cuomo said, “the school can be open, but you have to test the students and make sure that they are negative.”

He later explained the reasoning behind keeping the schools open.

“All the leading experts say keep K through 8 open,” said Cuomo. “The positivity rate in the schools is lower than the positivity rate in the surrounding community. It’s safer for the child to be in the school than in the community, not to mention the child is getting an education … Junior high and high [school] is a different story. There the students are less responsible and there’s generally a higher infection rate.”


Holiday dangers

Both Cuomo and McCoy on Sunday spoke about the dangers of the holiday season. 

Cuomo said there are 37 days between Sunday and Jan. 2 “of significantly increased social activity,” calling it “a dangerous period.”

“There are more parties, people are shopping, students are coming home from college in states with higher infection rates, there are more family gatherings,” he said.

Cuomo believes the rate of infection will increase during this period. But how much and how fast, he said, nobody knows.

McCoy said that Halloween was the holiday that started Albany County’s surge. “Halloween set us back,” he said, noting the county has had over 1,500 new cases in the last 21 days.

“What’s scaring us quite honestly is Thanksgiving is right around the corner,” said McCoy.

McCoy said that air travel is down from 4.5 million last year to 2.2 million this year, but noted that could still lead to spreading infection.

“It’s just a turkey; hold off four or five months …,” urged McCoy “I’m begging you … By doing the right thing, we can get out of this.”


Newest numbers

Statewide, the positivity rate, based on Saturday’s test results, was at 2.74 percent, which includes the micro-cluster zones with a rate of 4.39.

The Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, had a seven-day rate of 2.32 percent. Of the state’s 10 regions, the Southern Tier had the lowest rate at 1.16 and Western New York had the highest rate at 5.06.

As of Sunday morning, Albany County has 5,047confirmed cases of COVID-19, Mccoy announced.

Of the 97 new cases, nine had close contact with someone infected with the disease, and 88 did not have a clear source of infection identified at this time.

“It’s alarming the amount of people who say they don’t know,” said McCoy. He again urged residents who test positive to be forthcoming and honest when questioned by health-department staff.

Currently, 2,081 county residents are under quarantine, up from 2,061.

The five-day average for new daily positives rose to 97.2 from 89.8. There are now 839 active cases in the county, up from 830 on Saturday. So far, 20,743 people have completed quarantine. 

One more county resident was hospitalized overnight. Currently 41 residents are hospitalized with COVID-19; 11 of them are in intensive-care units.

The county’s hospitalization rate is now 0.81 percent.

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 148.

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