Six more county residents die of COVID-19

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“To lose six residents overnight is alarming …,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy. “We have to be more vigilant now than we ever have before.” McCoy is seated with the county’s health commissioner, Elizabeth Whalen at Saturday’s press conference.

ALBANY COUNTY — Six more county residents have died of COVID-19 since Friday, Albany County’s executive, Daniel McCoy reported on Saturday morning. This brings the county’s death toll to 157.

At the same time, a reconciliation of data with Albany Medical Center and St. Peter’s Hospital found 18 new county residents are hospitalized with the disease, increasing the total of current hospitalizations to 61. Twelve of the 18 cases were newly admitted to the hospital on or after Nov. 25.

“Sadly, once again, we’ve shattered our previous record for the number of people hospitalized in part because of a new system that’s been put in place that ensures we’re getting timely, accurate data from our hospital partners,” said McCoy.

The reconciliation found an increase of 45 hospitalizations since the outbreak began in March, increasing from 474 to 519. The county’s hospitalization rate is now at 1.09 percent.

Only one of the six people who died of COVID-19 since yesterday was a nursing home resident, McCoy said. The victims include a woman in her fifties, a man in his sixties, a man and a woman in their seventies, and a man and a woman in their eighties.

“To lose six residents overnight is alarming …,” said McCoy. “We have to be more vigilant now than we ever have before.”

May 4 is the last time the county suffered six deaths in one day, he said.

McCoy also announced 67 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, down from recent highs, but noted testing sites may not have worked a full day on Friday with the Thanksgiving holiday.

As of Nov. 26, McCoy said, the seven-day rolling average for the percent of positive test results for Albany County is 3.6 percent. The state has set up a micro-cluster system where restrictions are imposed if an area is at or above the 3-percent threshold for 10 days.

If that seven-day rolling average holds, Albany County, or parts of it, may be declared a yellow zone, the least restrictive among the red, orange, and yellow micro-cluster zones.

The state mines its data to designate which areas are named as zones. “We won’t know until they tell us,” said McCoy.

He also said, “I’m begging you: Do the right thing.”

Mccoy went over a list of the leading causes of death each year in the United States. COVID-19 was third on the list with over 263,000 deaths so far this year, after heart disease, which causes about 655,000 deaths a year, and cancer at more than 599,000 deaths.

COVID-19 already is far ahead of accidents at 167,000, strokes at 147,000, and Alzheimer’s disease at 122,000.

“Every hour, an estimated 65 Americans die of COVID-19,” said McCoy.

“I’m not trying to scare you. I just want to educate you …,” said McCoy. “Get the facts straight … and you can decide … Numbers don’t lie.”

He concluded, “the bad behavior of a few people are making this worse.”

 

“Dark month”

“November was a dark month and it has positioned us unfortunately very poorly for the upcoming holiday season ...,” said Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen. “People need to know this could get a lot worse before it gets better.”

The uptick recently in hospitalizations, apart from the new methodology, means “people that have COVID are becoming more ill,” said Whalen.

As she had on Friday, Whalen again shared her concerns about hospitals not having the capacity to handle all the people who need treatment. Whalen said it is essential to get flu shots to keep flu cases out of the hospital.

She also said, “This is historically a month when people do a lot of socializing.”

She added, “We cannot afford for things to get worse.”

Although doses of a vaccine may be available as early as three weeks from now, vaccinations will be administered on a tiered basis, Whalen said, so the general public may not be vaccinated until late spring or early summer.

Referencing the six newly-announced deaths, Whalen said, “It can be prevented by you.”

She also said that the numbers being reported by Albany County are in all likelihood underreported.

She again stressed that many people don’t have symptoms and unwittingly spread the disease and others spread the disease in the two days before their symptoms appear.

The county, she noted, does not have the ability to test everyone twice a week, which would be the only way to have an accurate report of the number of residents infected with COVID-19.

Asked about Black Friday shoppers crowding into stores, Whalen advised that anyone concerned about exposure get tested four to seven days after and then later in the incubation period, between 10 and 12 days after the potential exposure.

 

Newest numbers

As of Saturday morning, Albany county has 5,558 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Mccoy said.

Of the 67 new cases, 15 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, 51 did not have a clear source of infection identified at this time and one is a health-care worker or resident of a congregate setting.

Currently, 2,311 county residents are under quarantine, down from 2,480. The five-day average for new daily positives increased to 103.4 from 99.2.

There are now 915 active cases in the county, down from 964 on Friday. So far, 22,740 county residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 4,643 had tested positive and recovered.

Statewide, the positive rate, based on Friday’s test results, was 3.98 percent, which includes the 5.65 percent in the mover-sampled micro-cluster zones.

The Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, had a seven-day average of 2.76. Ther lowest remains the Southern Tier, at 1.73 percent, and the highest of the state’s 10 regions is Western New York at 6.53 percent.

More Regional News

  • With schools slated to reopen after Christmas vacation on Monday, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy urged on Saturday that they use remote-only learning. Individual school superintendents will make the decision.

  • The latest shift in federal policy allows 7 million New Yorkers to get vaccinated — people 65 and older are now eligible — yet the state gets just 300,000 doses a week.

  • “Many, many seniors are afraid to go out,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “They will not take public transportation. They will not get in a taxi.” So, once COVID-19 vaccine is available, Mohawk Ambulance, working with the city and county, will vaccinate residents 75 and older in their homes.

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