ALBANY — As an FDA panel authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine in the United States on Thursday, the pandemic maintained its grip on the Capital Region as on much of the nation:
- All of the Capital Region’s large counties now have seven-day positive test rates above 5%, and the smaller neighboring counties in the Mohawk Valley are running as high as 8%.
- Hospital census was 23% higher in the Capital Region on Thursday than on the worst day this spring, and 173% higher in the Mohawk Valley.
- A new infection cluster was reported at a Capital Region senior living facility — 17 residents and two employees in a single unit of Wesley Health Care Center in Saratoga Springs.
- Two more elderly residents of the Eddy Heritage House in Troy died, and three more tested positive.
On Thursday, the region’s largest hospital, Albany Medical Center, said it had 63 COVID-positive inpatients ranging from infancy to age 96. There are positive details within that total, however: Only two patients are so severely ill that they need to be intubated, and 13 have recovered so well that they are no longer considered infectious.
By contrast, St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam, a smaller facility, had 14 COVID-positive inpatients Thursday, five of them in the ICU.
St. Mary’s said the recent influx is the result of numerous small gatherings for Thanksgiving and is considerably worse than what it dealt with in the spring. The number of patients each day is very fluid but is expected to remain high into January.
Hospital officials said they are ready to add additional beds in the event of a further surge, and if needed will review specific procedures that could free up even more space. It has been cross-training nurses to assist if needed.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told reporters in a virtual news conference Thursday she is concerned about the financial strain being placed on hospitals by the resurgent pandemic.
She’s pressing Congress to add additional assistance for hospitals in the next coronavirus relief package, because hospitals have lost billions in revenue while making significant expenditures to prepare for and treat COVID-positive patients.
Unlike in the first wave of the pandemic, she added, there will be fewer medical personnel available to assist New York hospitals if they become inundated, because so many places are dealing with surges of their own.
New York City, which was hit hardest in the nation by COVID in the spring, now has the second-lowest positive test rate among the state’s 10 regions. The upstate regions, in turn, have lower positive test rates than many other states.
In his daily news release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t give New Yorkers his frequent plea to mask up and maintain social distance. Instead, he got right to the point: Hospitals must prepare extra capacity and flexibility to be ready when the disease does spread.
The state reported 92 new COVID-related deaths on Wednesday. These included six in the Capital Region: a Schenectady County woman in her 50s; an Albany County man in his 70s; an Albany County woman in her 90s; a Saratoga County resident and the two residents of the Troy facility.
The COVID death toll set another one-day record Wednesday, with more than 3,000 fatalities reported nationwide.
According to the federal CDC, New York state (excluding New York City) ranks 14th among the 50 states for number of COVID deaths in the last seven days but 36th for deaths as a percentage of population.
Here are the total number of infections since March 1, the number of positive tests Wednesday, and the average percentage of positive test results over the previous seven days:
- Albany County 7,392 216 6.2%
- Fulton County 742 22 7.3%
- Montgomery County 683 12 5.2%
- Rensselaer County 2,351 82 5.0%
- Saratoga County 3,065 100 5.1%
- Schenectady County 3,371 99 7.7%
- Schoharie County 279 4 8.2%
- Capital Region 19,396 558 5.5%
- Mohawk Valley 10,611 356 7.8%
- New York state 743,242 10,178 5.2%
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