ALBANY — In a further sign the COVID-19 pandemic is easing in New York, the number of people hospitalized with the virus dropped for the first time since its presence was confirmed in the state, March 1.
It was a very small drop from the day before, statistically insignificant, but it was the first, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning during his daily briefing.
“We think we are at the apex,” he said.
But once again there was the terrible flip side of the coin: 778 New Yorkers dead in the previous 24 hours, among the highest single-day death toll the state has seen during the crisis.
Schenectady County had its worst day yet, four deaths in 24 hours. That brings to a dozen the county residents — six men and six women, all older than 70 — who have died of COVID-19. Four non-residents also have died from the virus in Schenectady County.
Albany County reported two more deaths Tuesday, while Warren and Washington counties each reported one.
As of midday Tuesday, New York state had tested 499,143 people and confirmed infections in 202,208. Statewide, 10,834 had died, the great majority in and around New York City.
Cuomo said there is solace in the fact that fewer people are testing positive each day and the net hospitalization rate is decreasing. In the preceding 24 hours, 1,600 new patients were hospitalized, but just as many were discharged.
“There’s also a caution flag,” the governor said, explaining that shutting down the economy to stall the pandemic is unsustainable.
“We are, in some ways artificially, controlling that curve,” he said. “We’ve taken all these extraordinary actions and we are reducing the rate of infection.”
Also Tuesday, Cuomo said nursing home deaths are an issue of increasing concern for New York.
Family and other visitors have been locked out of New York’s roughly 600 elder-care facilities for the last month. However, Cuomo said that staff members come and go several times a day, and all it takes is one employee who is infected but doesn’t show symptoms to introduce the virus to a cluster of senior citizens with underlying health problems. This is the most vulnerable population and the demographic group accounting for two thirds of New York’s nearly 11,000 COVID deaths.
“You cannot hermetically seal a nursing home,” Cuomo said. “You can’t put it in a bubble.”
Asked why New York is tallying deaths at adult-care facilities by county rather than by facility name through its online COVID-19 Tracker, an aide to Cuomo said the goal is to identify facilities without compromising anyone’s privacy, and the data are being reviewed to find a way to accomplish this.
In other COVID-related developments across the Capital Region Tuesday:
- As of midday, Albany County had 535 confirmed cases of the virus, Fulton County 22, Montgomery County 32, Rensselaer County 120, Saratoga County 224, Schenectady County 235 and Schoharie County 20.
- The region’s largest hospital, Albany Medical Center, said it had admitted only one COVID-19 patient in the previous 24 hours, and had reduced its count of patients with the virus from 66 to 61. In a particularly good bit of the news, seven of the most critically ill COVID patients had improved to the point that they could be taken off the ventilators that helped keep them alive.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the Federal Aviation Administration would award $411 million in grants to 76 New York airports as part of the federal CARES Act, a roughly $2 trillion package of subsidies and stimuli passed in response to the pandemic. Albany International Airport will get $15.28 million DOT said. The money will be used to fund operation costs and debt obligations at the airport, where passenger traffic is down 95 percent and revenue streams have dried up, CEO Philip Calderone said. The Schenectady and Saratoga county airports will get $69,000 each and the Fulton County Airport $30,000.
- MVP Health Care and Media Logic announced the launch of a new telemedicine website: www.trytelemedicinefirst.com. It is a directory of information on telemedicine websites and can be searched by name of insurance company or by ZIP code, which will provide information on hospitals and health care providers that offer these services. Telemedicine, practiced remotely via voice line or video link, has been promoted during the pandemic as a tool to limit in-person contact and potential disease transmission.
- As it works to meet a surging demand for the food assistance during the COVID-19 crisis, the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York is getting assistance from the business community: The Rosenblum Companies donated use of a Latham warehouse and fitted it out; Pengate Handling Systems is providing rent-free use of pallet jacks, forklifts and chargers; and AE Rosen Electrical Co. is installing the chargers at no cost. The Food Bank has increased its distribution of donated food by 40 percent in the last month.
- The town of Wilton canceled all activities and rentals, including Summer Camp and ParkFest. Its Gavin Park will remain closed until further notice.
- Mayor Michael Cinquanti extended Amsterdam’s Declaration of Emergency through April 30.