Capital Region

Yellow? Orange? Albany, Schenectady counties await guidance on COVID micro-cluster designations

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday. Credit: Governor’s Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday. Credit: Governor’s Office

Categories: News, Schenectady County

ALBANY — Despite a surge in hospitalizations and cases, Albany County isn’t in the yellow zone — for now.

The county was scheduled to reach the threshold, which would carry a new set of business restrictions, on Monday.

But the positivity rate dropped to 2.987 percent on Nov. 25, which reset the clock to Nov. 26, county Executive Dan McCoy said on Wednesday.

“The county is not in a cluster matrix zone, but we are headed in that direction,” McCoy said.

To reach yellow zone status, the seven-day average positivity rate must be at least 3 percent for 10 consecutive days.

While McCoy warned the county could potentially leapfrog yellow and go directly to orange — positive rates have now surpassed 4 percent for three consecutive days — officials are unclear as to when, or if, that would happen after the state announced it would factor hospitalizations and other metrics into the new formula; that means positivity rates will no longer be the lone factor in governing designations.

“We’re still waiting on guidance and how they will become part of the overall evaluation,” said Deputy County Executive Dan Lynch on Wednesday.

Schenectady County, which has been over 3 percent since Nov. 25, is also awaiting guidance.

A call with the Capital Region Control Room on Wednesday afternoon didn’t yield any clarity, said county Interim Public Health Director Keith Brown.

“At some point, the whole state could very well be at 3 percent,” Brown said. “My sense is that is probably why they’re re-evaluating measurements.”

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Statewide, the positive infection rate was 4.6 percent on Tuesday with a seven-day rolling average of 4.12 percent. Sixty-eight New Yorkers died overnight, and 3,924 were hospitalized, an increase of 150 overnight.

The state’s micro-cluster strategy creates yellow, orange or red zones based on zip code, which means all of Albany or Schenectady counties wouldn’t necessarily be included in the restriction, which would also require some business closures and increased testing.

“We’re awaiting clarity from the state on how or why they draw those specific zones,” Lynch said.

Cuomo said Monday the state aimed to set those numbers by the end of the week once the impact of Thanksgiving can be accounted for.

Healthcare staffing levels, bed availability and fatality rates will also be added to the revamped formula.

The virus continues to smash records in Albany County, which logged its highest-ever positivity and hospitalization numbers on Tuesday, including 167 new cases and 17 new hospitalizations, bringing the total number to 84 — nearly double the 45 hospitalized on Nov. 20.

One man in his 90s died, bringing total deaths to 161.

Schenectady County reported 60 new positives overnight; Saratoga, 43; Montgomery, 12; Fulton, 9 and Schoharie, 4.

Community spread continues to drive the infection rate.

The state on Wednesday said contact tracing revealed 70 percent of new cases originate from households and small gatherings, and released a new PSA highlighting the dangers of “living room spread.”

McCoy said those gatherings in homes are caused, in part, by the 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants that simply drive people indoors.

“We are not seeing transmission happening in schools, which is encouraging,” Brown said. “Other than that, this is community spread at this point.”

Cuomo announced Wednesday the state will receive 170,000 vaccines by Dec. 15 pending federal approval.

The first doses will be reserved for nursing home residents and health care workers.

Cuomo warned overall numbers likely won’t stabilize until mid-January and it could take anywhere from June to September for the vaccine to be widely distributed.

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The Daily Gazette is committed to keeping our community safe and informed and is offering our COVID-19 coverage to you free.

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