Local officials say they’re making headway in meeting the requirements Gov. Andrew Cuomo has outlined in order to allow upstate regions to reopen.
Schenectady County has met several of the metrics, including ensuring adequate testing and contract tracing capacity and a decline in fatality rates.
As part of the roadmap for reopening, each of the state’s 10 regions must average 30 tests for every 1,000 residents over a seven-day period, which translates to 156 per day in Schenectady County.
County Manager Rory Fluman pointed at aggressive community testing now entering its third week in the city, as well as a new drive-thru site that opened last Friday at a Rotterdam WalMart.
“With all those sites, we’re very close to that capacity,” Fluman said. “I would even say that we’re at that capacity in Schenectady County.”
Based on guidelines from the CDC, regions must have:
- At least 14 days of decline in total net hospitalizations and deaths on a three-day rolling average.
- The region cannot exceed 15 net new total hospitalizations or five new deaths on a three-day rolling average.
- New daily hospitalizations must be kept to two new COVID patients admitted per 100,000 residents.
- Regions must have at least 30 percent total hospital and ICU beds available.
- Hospitals must have at least 90 days of personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiled.
- Each region must have the capacity to conduct 30 diagnostic tests for every 1,000 residents per month.
- Regions must have a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents, and additional tracers based on the projected number of cases.
The county, which hasn’t reported a death since May 2, is closing in on the hospitalization metric, Fluman said on Sunday, and is scheduled to receive a PPE drop from the state on Monday.
A key element in tracking the disease’s spread is contact tracing.
Schenectady needs 46 tracers, or investigators who track down all potential exposures stemming from interaction with someone who has tested positive.
One positive case could spawn as many as 200 outgoing phone calls, he said.
“We are there in Schenectady County,” Fluman said. “We have enough contact tracers to handle these calls.”
These positions can be funded through several funding streams, including a recently-passed federal stimulus package.
“The county anticipates future federal and state funding to help pay for these expenses as well,” said Erin Roberts, a county spokesperson.
A Saratoga County spokesperson said on Sunday they would be unable to provide an update until Monday.
But the county currently has 11 contact tracers, four of which were hired using a portion of $1 million in emergency funds previously allocated by county lawmakers.
Albany County has hit five of the benchmarks, county Executive Dan McCoy said on Sunday, and expects to pin down a sixth regarding hospitalization rate this week before submitting a plan to the state as early as Wednesday.
Bright spots are emerging: For the first time in two months, there were no new coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the county over the past 24 hours, he said, and a portable morgue set up to store bodies has been shut down.
But the county is still falling short of the estimated 90 to 95 contract tracers that will be required, McCoy said.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has committed $10.5 million to tracing efforts and the state is working with him to bolster resources.
It’s not immediately known how those funds will trickle to local governments.
While Cuomo’s executive order expires Friday, he laid the legal groundwork on Friday to extend the “pause” expiration if necessary.
The state’s phased-in reopening plan would allow low-risk sectors to reopen first, including construction and manufacturing activity
Other sectors could follow in two-week intervals as officials monitor infection and hospitalization rates.
Cuomo said on Sunday he will meet with county executives on Monday to discuss their plans.
“We’re been phone conferencing,” Fluman said. “The governor is definitely doing his due diligence in pulling together Capital Region executives.”
The Capital Region includes Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Washington, Warren, Greene and Columbia counties, while Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie are considered part of the Mohawk Valley.