SCHENECTADY — Schenectady County has been seeing upticks in positive COVID-19 tests for the last two weeks.
The numbers each day have been relatively small, particularly compared with the height of the pandemic in the spring, but they also have been significantly higher as a percentage than the rest of the Capital Region and the state as a whole.
County officials and public health workers have been tracking the virus since it arrived here in March, and they say this latest uptick is largely due to community-based exposure as fewer people follow social distancing recommendations. Very few cases, by contrast, have been connected to exposure in workplaces of healthcare settings.
Generally speaking, these are not random transmissions — two dog owners pausing as their dogs check each other out, two people brushing elbows at a pizza counter. They are the result of sustained contact, Schenectady County Public Health investigators have been finding.
Schenectady County is working with community leaders to reinforce the importance of taking precautions against transmission of a disease that is still a health threat, even as infections and hospitalizations trend ever downward across the state, county spokeswoman Erin Roberts said Tuesday.
Twenty-four county residents were confirmed infected with COVID on Monday, the most in a single day since April 24. But that could be deceptively high, as some labs don’t report test results on weekends, resulting in a backlog coming in on Mondays.
(On every Monday except one in July and so far in August, the number of positive tests statewide has been much higher than on the preceding Saturday or Sunday.)
Nonetheless, for the last two weeks, the percentage of positive tests in Schenectady County has been elevated.
For the seven days ended Monday, Aug. 24, Schenectady County tests were 1.9 percent positive. This compares with 0.8 percent in all 62 counties of the state. The large neighboring counties in the Capital Region were lower still: Albany County, 0.6 percent; Rensselaer County, 0.5 percent; and Saratoga County, 0.4 percent.
Along with community spread, Roberts said the county is also seeing family clusters of the disease, with a young family member typically being infected first and spreading the disease to older relatives. By late Tuesday, county investigators had already found some family connections among the 24 newly reported infections.
Wearing face coverings, keeping six-feet distance, washing hands and staying home when feeling ill remain the best ways to prevent community spread of COVID-19, the county reminded residents.
Also Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that five states have been removed from New York’s travel quarantine list: Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland and Montana. The territory of Guam was added.
Travelers who have stopped in any of the other 28 states and two territories on the list for more than a brief period are required to quarantine themselves for two weeks upon arrival in New York state. Essential workers are exempt.
Statewide, 488 New Yorkers remained hospitalized with COVID-19 Tuesday and two new deaths were reported, one of them in Montgomery County, according to the state.