COVID surge strains Albany hospitals

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“Our hospital capacity is getting to the point where we’ll be waiting for more guidance from the governor,” Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said on Monday.

ALBANY COUNTY — As Albany County continues to have high rates of infection — 236 new COVID-19 cases were announced on Monday — hospitalizations and deaths follow.
“Our hospital capacity is getting to the point where we’ll be waiting for more guidance from the governor,” Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said on Monday, after announcing two more deaths from COVID-19.

The latest county casualties were a woman in her seventies and a man in his eighties, following three deaths over the weekend.

This brings the county’s COVID-19 death toll to 208.

Based on Sunday’s test results, the Capital Region’s infection rate is 8.48 percent. Of the state’s 10 regions, only two areas are higher: the Mohawk Valley at 9.26 percent and the Finger Lakes at 8.55 percent. Statewide, the positivity rate was 5.90 percent.

“Positivity, you have Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, Capital Region, other places that we have to focus on, and places frankly that have to focus on themselves,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo at his Monday press conference. “If you live in those areas, then it’s you and your community and the behavior in your community that is affecting the numbers. And again the numbers make it plain.”

He noted that Manhattan, which is more densely populated than any place else in the state and where people use public transportation, has a positivity rate of 2.83 percent.

“You have more people on the sidewalk in Manhattan; it is the precautions that people are taking in those areas,” said Cuomo of the lower infection rates.

“It is unlikely that December is the worst month we’ll have,” said Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen at Monday morning’s press briefing. “It is likely that January will be worse. Given the amount of travel that people have had, given the fact that not everybody adhered to suggested guidance to stay with their immediate families, we do anticipate an additional surge.”

She also said, “There are hospital systems being stressed … You can prevent it.”

For New Year’s Eve, Whalen urged, “Have a Zoom party.”

McCoy opined that partying at restaurants or bars would be safer than at homes since those establishments enforce rules for mask-wearing and staying six feet apart. An executive order forces bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. 

“You don’t have that at house parties,” said McCoy of regulations; he also said the many underground parties he’s heard of remind him of the Prohibition era.

Whalen noted there was more air traffic for Christmas than Thanksgiving and with New Year’s on the horizon she called it a “double whammy” since the county is now starting to see flu cases, too.

“It could add up to a strain on our hospital system,” she said.

State numbers already show the Capital Region as among the worst for hospital bed availability.

The Capital Region has a total of 210 intensive-care-unit beds, of which 167 are currently occupied, leaving 19 percent of the region’s ICU beds available. That is the worst rate of any of the state’s 10 regions. The number had dipped to 18 percent on Friday, Christmas Day.

Statewide, 31 percent of ICU beds are currently available.

McCoy noted the “steep drop” in ICU bed availability, which went from 45 percent on Dec. 10 to 19 percent on Dec. 26.

On hospital beds, the Capital Region has the third worst rate of availability.

Currently, 394 Capital Region residents are hospitalized, which is 0.04 percent of the population, and leaves  26 percent of hospital beds available — a tie with Long Island. Central New York has the lowest percentage of beds available, at 24 percent — a rate that the Capital Region hit on Christmas Day.

Statewide,  0.04 percent of New Yorkers are hospitalized with COVID-19, leaving 31 percent of hospital beds available.

For 12 days in Albany County, over 100 residents have been hospitalized with the virus. Forty percent of all hospitalizations for COVID-19 have taken place in December, said McCoy, adding, “And we’re not quite done yet.”

Currently, 188 county residents are hospitalized, breaking Sunday’s record. Twenty-two of those patients are under intensive care.

Albany County also had 236 new cases of COVID-19 since Sunday, bringing the tally since March to 10,764, McCoy said.

Of the 236 new cases, 189 did not have a clear source of infection identified,  29 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, and 18 are health-care workers or residents of congregate settings.

The five-day average for new daily positives increased to 223.2 from 219.6. There are now 1,512 active cases in the county, up from 1,436 on Sunday.

The number of county residents under mandatory quarantine increased to 3,167 from 3,087. So far, 35,646 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 9,252 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 151 recoveries since Sunday.


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