Capital Region

Don’t let up because COVID vaccine is near, Saratoga County official warns

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

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

CAPITAL REGION — With the number of COVID-19 cases growing at a record pace, Saratoga County’s new public health leader on Friday urged people to continue to take protective measures while awaiting arrival of vaccines and immunization of the general public.

“That is going to take time,” said Dr. Daniel Kuhles, the county’s commissioner of public health services. “Masks, social distancing and other public health measures are extremely important going forward to prevent spread of disease.”

On Friday, the county set a new one-day record, reporting 93 new confirmed cases, according to the state Department of Health, after reporting 75 new cases the day before. Saratoga Hospital said Friday it has gone from zero to 10 COVID-positive patients this week, and six of them are in the intensive care unit.

Preventing continued spread of the viral illness will require 70 to 80 percent of the population to be immunized, according to Kuhles, a former state Department of Health official who joined Saratoga County government just two weeks ago.

At this point, there is no clear picture yet of when the general public will have access to vaccines, since their supply will be limited for months. While the initial doses are expected to arrive around Dec. 15, they will go to health care workers and nursing home residents.

Kuhles became the county’s first public health commissioner after the county upgraded its Department of Public Health Services from a nurse-led department to one headed by a medical doctor.

Kuhles noted that Saratoga County’s 7-day and 14-day testing positivity rates show the virus is spreading at a rate roughly in keeping with what other Capital Region counties have experienced, but lower than the state as a whole.

The county’s seven-day average test positivity is 3.93 percent, but the trend has been upward. The Capital Region positivity rate on Friday was 4.1 percent, while the statewide average was more than 5 percent.

“The region and the county have done well overall compared to rest of the state, but you can see the overall trend is upward, in the direction we do not want it to go,” Kuhles said during a Facebook Live presentation to the public on Friday.

The total number of people across the state hospitalized for COVID now exceeds 4,200, or almost 10 times higher than this past summer, when the virus hit a low point.

During a conference call on Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the statewide death rate for people hospitalized with COVID has dropped from 23 percent last spring to eight percent, and hospital stays have been cut in half as medical professionals have learned more about how to treat the virus.

Cuomo said 80 percent of cases are now coming from small household gatherings which are largely beyond government’s ability to control, but he also again faulted local government for not enforcing restrictions on bars and restaurants. “There’s COVID fatigue, people are resentful, I get it,” Cuomo said. “Local government doesn’t enforce the restrictions, that’s a problem.”

Albany County, meanwhile, reported 185 new cases on Thursday, and one additional death — a woman in her 70s who was not in a congregate facility. There were 13 new hospitalizations.

“We continue to move in the wrong direction when you look at the data,” Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said during his daily briefing on Friday.

Schenectady County, meanwhile, reported 120 new cases. The county’s one day positivity rate was 7.6 percent, and its seven-day rolling average is now 6 percent.

The virus continued to spread at the Schenectady County-run Glendale Home in Glenville, after eight residents and nine staff members tested positive last week.

“With the results of continued testing, we’re up to 13 residents and 12 staff members,” county Manager Rory Fluman said on Friday.

Two of the staff members were in contact with the dental hygienist who initially brought the virus into the facility, Fluman said. The positive patients remain in an isolated unit and none have required hospitalization.

Residents will continue to be tested three times a week, said Fluman, and the facility has enough testing kits.

While staffing levels have been stretched, resident care hasn’t been affected, Fluman said.

Elsewhere, public health officials in Montgomery and Fulton counties reported three new potential exposures at popular shopping destinations, including two in the Route 30 commercial corridor in Amsterdam.

One potential exposure was at the Target at 100 Amsterdam Commons, between 3:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29.

The other Amsterdam exposure was at the NBT Bank, 106 Hannaford Plaza, between Friday, Nov. 27, and Wednesday, Dec. 2. The employee involved worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when the bank was open, and until noon on Saturday, Nov. 28.

County public health officials advised those who may have been exposed at those locations to monitor themselves for symptoms for 10 to 14 days, and seek testing if they experience symptoms such as fever, a cough, headache, loss of taste and smell, and flu-like symptoms.

In Fulton County, the Public Health Department said there was an exposure at the Price Chopper supermarket on North Comrie Avenue (Route 30A) in Johnstown from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29.

Staff writer Pete DeMola contributed to this story.

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