ALBANY — The COVID-positive patient census in Capital Region hospitals remains just shy of an all-time high, the state reported Wednesday — 525 on Tuesday, down from 529 on Monday.
While the number of patients is now much higher than during the springtime surge of the pandemic, the illnesses appear to be less severe now — a much smaller percentage of patients are in an intensive care unit.
Of the 529 people hospitalized Monday, just 76 were in an ICU, or about 14%.
On the worst day in the spring, 205 COVID patients were hospitalized in the Capital Region, 96 of them in an ICU, or about 47%.
The situation is similar statewide: About 17% of the 8,929 COVID-positive inpatients were being treated in the ICU Tuesday.
Leaders of the Capital Region’s largest hospital, Albany Medical Center, said Wednesday that of the 139 COVID patients on-site, 18 were in the ICU, or 13%.
Seven were on a ventilator, CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna said — “A very low percentage compared to what we would have expected back in April and May.”
As the virus has been surging in late autumn and early winter, explanations offered for the less-severe nature of infections have included better therapy, more experienced medical personnel, and smaller amounts of virus being transmitted from person to person, thanks to so many people wearing masks.
“We’re doing a number of things that perhaps may be helpful,” Albany Medical Center Hospital General Director Dr. Fred Venditti said during a video update Wednesday. These include high-flow oxygen, turning patients onto their stomachs, and convalescent plasma therapy — pumping antibody-rich plasma from recovered COVID patients into those still battling the infection, which appears to be particularly effective.
In other COVID-related developments Wednesday:
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported that the known number of highly contagious UK COVID variant cases has grown to 15 statewide. The first case was confirmed Jan. 4 in Saratoga Springs, and several of the newer cases are nearby. Cuomo listed them Tuesday as: four in Saratoga County and two in Warren County identified as part of a cluster surrounding the original case at N. Fox Jewelers in Saratoga Springs; three more Warren County cases that are being investigated for connections to the Saratoga cluster; and a downstate cluster of fives cases spread across Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties.
- The state reported 165 new COVID-related deaths across 41 of the state’s 62 counties. The death toll for counties in and around the Capital Region was Albany 4, Fulton 2, Greene 2, Montgomery 1, Rensselaer 3, Saratoga 3, Schenectady 3, Warren 2 and Washington 1.
- Schoharie County health officials told their 31,000 constituents via Facebook there is no vaccine for them yet: “We at the Health Department could not be more enthusiastic about making sure that people who want to be vaccinated are able to schedule an appointment and get started as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, although we requested vaccine, there were no doses at all allocated for the county this week (that includes the hospital, the health department, and pharmacies). Last week we only received half of what we requested but were able to procure a small additional amount from another facility. We are putting in an even larger order with the state for next week. When we have vaccine available, we will begin scheduling people.”
- The seven-day average positive test rate stood at 7.1% statewide, 8.7% in the Capital Region, and 9.2% in the Mohawk Valley on Tuesday; that metric has been on the decline for five straight days. The Mohawk Valley retains the highest positive rate among the state’s 10 regions.
- At the county level, the seven-day average positive rate was Albany 8.7%, Fulton 12.2%, Montgomery 12.8%, Rensselaer 8.4%, Saratoga 9.8%, Schenectady 8.6% and Schoharie 9.9%.
- The Albany County Department of Health said several hundred people signed up for vaccinations Thursday through a bogus link created by an employee at a local school district. These appointments are invalid and only people who signed up through the official link provided by the Albany County DOH should schedule themselves for shots.