Numerous banks cutting in-person transactions across Capital Region as COVID threat grows

STAN HUDY/STAFF WRITERNurse Latisha L. Nasse administers a COVID-19 test at the drive-thru testing center at St. Mary's Healthcare on Route 30 in Amsterdam on Nov. 23, 2020.

Nurse Latisha L. Nasse administers a COVID-19 test at the drive-thru testing center at St. Mary's Healthcare on Route 30 in Amsterdam on Nov. 23, 2020.

Multiple financial institutions in the greater Capital Region are shutting down most on-site transactions for customers amid increasing COVID infection rates.

Ballston Spa National Bank, Berkshire Bank, NBT Bank and Pioneer Bank all say they won’t be reopening their branch lobbies to walk-in transactions on Friday, though drive-ins will remain open in most cases and in-person appointments will be available. Community Bank NA went the same route Tuesday night. SEFCU has closed small branches at hospitals and colleges while encouraging customers at other branches to use remote-banking options.

The voluntary moves are reminiscent of the business landscape this past spring: Gasoline sales plummeted as people stayed home or close to home and non-essential businesses shut down in compliance with state directives aimed at slowing escalation of the pandemic.

Also this autumn, grade schools and colleges are wavering between in-person and remote learning as COVID is detected among students and faculty; gym, restaurant and bar hours have been curtailed; and movie theater operators have mostly opted to not reopen since gaining permission to do so.

Increased limitations and closures will be imposed to deal with the second wave of COVID-19 if it gets substantially worse in New York state.

Assorted public health officials and elected leaders have been warning for weeks about a spike in infections that could develop in early December if New Yorkers aren’t careful with their Thanksgiving celebrations.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, the news wasn’t great:

  • Montgomery County recorded a one-day positive test rate of 8.6 percent, further pushing it toward restrictions imposed by the state under its micro-cluster strategy; County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said Wednesday officials are preparing for a potential yellow-zone designation.
  • Albany County reported two new COVID deaths, a woman in her 60’s and a man in his 70’s, neither of them nursing home residents.
  • New York state hit a statewide positive test rate of 3.6 percent Tuesday, the highest daily total since May and the fifth time this month that one could say “highest daily total since May.”
  • Nearly 3,000 New Yorkers were hospitalized with COVID, marking an even 30 days since the patient census last decreased.
  • Rensselaer County recorded 43 new cases of COVID, its most ever in a single day; 14 of those infected are residents and two are employees at the Eddy Heritage House nursing home in Troy.
  • The number of students and teachers in Capital Region schools who’ve tested positive for COVID since the start of the school year reached 577 by the state tally; three of the newest were in the Saratoga Springs City School District, two at the high school and one at Lake Avenue Elementary School.

Looking at the glass as half-full, the Capital Region had the fewest new hospitalizations per capita among the state’s 10 regions on a seven-day average, the second lowest number of new infections and the third-lowest percentage of positive tests. And federal data show new infections and deaths in New York over the last seven days among the lowest per capita of any state in America.

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