With county’s 140 new cases, capacity concerns raised

ALBANY COUNTY — While Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy on Friday announced the county’s seven-day rolling average of infection rates at 3 percent, he also questioned the state’s calculations to arrive at that number.

If the seven-day average remains at or over 3-percent for 10 days the state’s department of health would define the places in Albany County that will be declared yellow zones.

Yellow zones are the least restrictive of three micro-cluster designations meant to stop the spread of COVID-19 without shutting down an entire regional economy. Red zones have the most severe infection rates and the most limiting restrictions followed by orange warning zones and yellow precautionary zones.

“Not to disagree with them, we looked at New York State Forward county by county and, starting on 11/9 to 11/25, which puts us in that rolling average, 20,215 people were tested; 604 came back positive so, according to our math, the seven-day [average] is 2.987 percent, which means we’d break out of that 10-day rolling average of 3 percent where we don’t have to go into the yellow zone,” said McCoy.

McCoy said he would discuss the discrepancy at his next control-room meeting, during which state officials hold conference calls with municipal leaders in each of the New York’s 10 regions to discuss COVID-19 concerns.

“We’re going to have that discussion with the state,” he said.

Nevertheless, McCoy also said he believes Albany County will eventually be designated as a micro-cluster zone. On Friday, he announced 140 new cases of coronavirus, the second-highest single-day tally for Albany County.

“We’re going to get there because of the numbers,” he said.

The numbers on the New York Forward dashboard are different than those announced by McCoy in his recent press briefings.

On Friday evening, the percent positive results on the state’s dashboard showed the seven-day average for Albany County as 3.6 percent. The most recent single-day average, for Thursday, showed 5.6 percent of Albany County residents tested for COVID-19 had positive results.

The state’s dashboard shows a seven-day streak of percent positive results at or over 3 percent for a seven-day rolling average, indicating a yellow-zone designation would be just three days away: 3.1 percent for Nov. 20, 21, and 22, then 3.0 percent for Nov. 23, 24, and 25, and finally 3.6 percent forNov. 26.

Yellow-zone restrictions include half capacity for houses of worship — although Wednesday’s United States Supreme Court decision may change that — indoor and outdoor restaurant dining limited to four people at a table, a limit of 25 people at non-residential gatherings, and residential gatherings of no more than 10 people — which is required statewide by executive order. 

Also, schools in a yellow zone remain open but have to test 20 percent of students and staff weekly for COVID-19.

The state sets the parameters of the zones based on data not publicly available.

Capacity concerns

Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen said the announcement of 140 new cases “is unfortunately not a surprise.”

She went on, “In the coming days and weeks, we can anticipate our numbers will be even higher.”

Whalen attributed this to mass gatherings, beginning with Halloween, continuing with celebrations over election results, and most recently with Thanksgiving gatherings as the holidays loom.

“My concern really is about capacity of the system ...,” asid Whalen. “The system does not have infinite capacity.”

She said this includes capacity for testing, for case investigation, for contact tracing, for hospitalization, for ventilators, and for beds in intensive-care units.

“Think about what might happen if you get sick and there isn’t a system to help you ...,” said Whalen. “People really need to be concerned.”

The majority of infected people don’t know where they got the disease, said Whalen.

She also stressed, “If you have a positive case, tell the truth.” She noted that the virus is spread by someone two days before symptoms show up. So someone who attended, say, a Thanksgiving gathering and later tests positive should name all the people at the gathering.

McCoy praised parents who kept their kids clear of their grandparents on Thanksgiving, and for those who didn’t, he said, “Shame on you because you’re putting everyone at risk.”

Both Whalen and McCoy urged people to shop online with McCoy emphasizing websites and curbside pickup at local stories.

Whalen said the question residents should ask themselves is: “Do you need to be out and about?” She noted that spikes in positive test results are followed by increases in hospitalizations and, finally, by more deaths.

McCoy urged businesses to have employees work remotely and urged local governments to cut back on staff as they had during the state shutdown in the spring.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel but the vaccine is not here yet,” said McCoy.

Whalen noted that the big difference between testing and vaccinating for COVID-19 is that “testing is very much dependent on demand,” which is hard to anticipate.

“The vaccine strategy is less difficult to predict,” she said. “We know the amount of county residents that will need to be vaccinated and we have planned for large-scale vaccination clinics.”

However, she also said, “The concern … is going to be about supply and how the supply comes to us and how quickly we get a large supply.”

Newest numbers

Governor Andrew Cuomo noted, for the second day in a row, a record-high number of COVID-19 tests were reported to the state on Thursday: 219,442.

The statewide positivity rate is 3.72 percent, Cuomo said in a press release announcing the latest numbers; that included a positive testing rate of 5.69 percent in all micro-cluster areas.

The current seven-day average for the Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, is 2.64 percent. The Southern Tier continues to have the lowest rate of the state’s 10 regions at 1.52 percent. Western New York continues to have the highest at 6.28.

As of Friday morning, Albany County has 5,498 new cases of COVID-19, McCoy announced.

Of the 140 new cases, 19 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, 116 did not have a clear source of infection identified at this time, and five are health-care workers or residents of congregate settings.

Currently, 2,480 county residents are under quarantine, down from 2,714. The five-day average for new daily positives increased to 99.2 from 90.6. There are now 964 active cases in the county, up from 949 on Thursday.

So far, 22,264 county residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 4,534 had tested positive and recovered.

Forty-three county residents are hospitalized with 10 in intensive-care units. The county’s hospitalization rate is now 0.78 percent.

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 151.


More Regional News

  • Albany County suffered three COVID deaths this week: a man in his seventies died on Thursday, a man in his sixties died on Friday, and a woman in her nineties died on Saturday. Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 439.

  • Figures from a year ago — Oct. 24 to Nov. 24 — before the first vaccine was authorized, show better numbers in Albany County than the same time period this year. There are 1,000 more infections and two times the number of deaths, year over year.

  • As hospitalization rates approach what they were last April, hospitals in target areas will have non-essential, non-urgent procedures limited. The Capital Region, with just 10 percent of its hospital beds available, is one of the state’s three worst regions. The other two are the Finger Lakes at 9 percent and Central New York at 8 percent.

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